5 Best Master’s in Information Systems 2021

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Information systems professionals manage, plan, and analyze computer and information systems activities for organizations. A master’s in information systems prepares graduates to become computer and information systems managers, computer systems analysts, information security analysts, and computer and information research scientists.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that computer and information systems managers earn a median annual salary of $151,150, projecting faster-than-average growth for this career from 2019-2029. The BLS links this promising outlook to an increased demand for cybersecurity measures and cloud computing. Organizations need skilled computer and information technology professionals to help transition their operations online.

This guide explores reasons to earn a master’s in information systems, what to expect from a typical program, and job opportunities for graduates.

Why Get an Information Systems Master’s?

Information systems professionals work in many computer and information technology jobs, but the BLS reported 461,000 computer and information systems managers working in America in 2019. Other potential careers include information security analyst, computer and information research scientist, and computer systems analyst.

The BLS projects faster-than-average growth from 2019-2029 for computer and information technology occupations in general, driven by the demand for information security, cloud computing, and data collection and storage.

Prospective students may wonder, “Is a master’s degree in computer information systems worth it?” Earning a master’s in information systems takes energy, time, and money, but it also helps graduates stand out from the competition. A graduate degree can launch a new career for students with different academic or professional backgrounds.

Popular among people seeking a fast route to careers in computers, coding bootcamps take less time to complete than a master’s degree. However, bootcamp graduates rarely qualify for the specialized jobs open to master’s degree-holders. Below, we describe the benefits of earning a master’s in information systems.

  • Career Growth: A master’s in information systems qualifies students for advanced technical positions using specialized skills. It also opens the door to management and administrative positions with greater responsibilities.
  • Salary Potential: A graduate degree in information systems can lead to higher salaries. PayScale reports information systems master’s degree-holders earned an average salary of $84,650 as of May 2021, compared to $76,540 for those with bachelor’s degrees in information systems.
  • New Skills: Master’s in information systems programs develop in-demand enterprise data management, analytics, and information security skills. Many programs also provide a foundation in general business and management.

What to Expect From Master’s in Information Systems Programs

Master’s in information systems programs focus on information security, data analytics, business strategy, and cloud-based systems. Students gain decision-making, critical thinking, analytical, and technical data management skills.

How many years is an information systems master’s degree? Most programs take two years or less to complete, typically requiring 30-45 credits. Cost expectations for the degree vary depending on school type, residency status, program length and format, and prestige. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that graduate students paid an average of $19,314 for tuition and required fees in the 2018-19 academic year.

A typical curriculum includes core, elective/concentration, and project/capstone courses in enterprise data management, data mining for business intelligence, big data technologies, and strategic management of information systems. Some programs offer concentrations like business intelligence and analytics, security and information assurance, managing business operations, and project management.

Keep reading to learn more about what to expect from a master’s in information systems degree.

Read About Master's Degrees in Computer Science

Admission Requirements

Admission criteria for master’s in information systems programs vary by school. Each applicant typically needs a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. Programs may specify that candidates must possess undergraduate degrees in information systems or other related fields, with some requiring students to complete prerequisite courses.

Taking undergraduate information systems classes can increase applicants’ chances of admission even if the program does not explicitly require them. Some schools prefer applicants with relevant professional experience in information systems.

Other common requirements include a minimum 3.0 GPA and acceptable GRE scores. Master’s in information systems programs often request college transcripts, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a resume or CV. Some programs require each finalist to complete an in-person or telephone interview.

Degree Options

Most master’s in information systems programs offer a master of science (MS) in information systems. Some schools offer master of arts (MA) or master of business administration (MBA) degrees. MA and MS programs usually apply similar curricula to prepare learners for the same careers, while MBA in information systems programs focus more on business skills and theory.

Many master’s in information systems programs offer concentrations in security and information assurance, business intelligence and analytics, and managing business operations. Some students pursue master’s degrees in general computer science instead of specializing in the subfield of information systems. A general computer science master’s degree offers a broader foundation in the field.

Comparing Information Systems and General Computer Science Degrees

While master’s in information systems and general computer science master’s degrees share some similarities, they also differ in some key ways. Computer science and information systems both fall under the computing discipline.

Students interested in a practical program focused on data organization, analysis, and storage may benefit from an information systems degree. A computer science degree provides a general foundation in advanced computer theory and may offer more varied career opportunities.

Below, we compare master’s in information systems and master’s in computer science programs to help prospective students choose the right degree.

Master’s in Information Systems Master’s in Computer Science
Length About 2 years About 2 years
Admission Requirements Bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field, minimum 2.5-3.0 GPA, acceptable GRE scores Bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field, minimum 2.5-3.0 GPA, acceptable GRE scores
Types of Classes Big data, data management, data mining, management of information systems Software architecture, machine learning, artificial intelligence
Skills Data analysis, data management, information systems management Programming, algorithms, software development
Potential Careers Computer and information systems manager, computer and information research scientist, information security analyst Computer and information research scientist, computer and information systems manager, software developer, programmer

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Popular Information Systems Courses

The curriculum for a master’s in information systems degree varies by school. Most require core, elective/concentration, and project/capstone courses. Some common information systems classes include:

Data Mining for Business Intelligence
This class teaches data mining techniques to extrapolate valuable knowledge from big data. Topics include association rule mining, classification, visualization, and prediction using WEKA and XL miner software.
Enterprise Data Management
Students learn the foundations of database analysis, design, and execution. The course covers relational design, SQL, the entity-relationship model, and web-based database design using Oracle. Learners develop practical experience with database management systems and tools.
Strategic Management of Information Systems
This class explores strategic information systems knowledge in corporate settings. Students learn about strategic decision-making and analysis, along with critical and creative thinking for businesses.
Big Data Technologies
This practical course develops big data collection, storage, management, and processing skills. Issues include data management with SQL and NoSQL, distributed data storage, machine learning systems, and big data collection for business.
Information Systems Master’s Project
Master’s candidates research and write faculty-supervised reports relevant to current problems in the information systems field. Students can work with local organizations and may need to give oral presentations.

How Much Will a Master’s in Information Systems Cost?

Prospective students may wonder, “Is a master’s degree in computer information systems worth it?” Earning a graduate degree usually requires a significant financial investment. Each student needs to decide if earning a master’s aligns with their personal, professional, and financial goals.

Master’s in information systems tuition varies by school. Factors to consider include type of school (public or private), residency status (in state or out of state), program format (online, hybrid, or on campus), and level of prestige. Attending a public university and paying in-state tuition usually delivers the most affordable option. Private, prestigious schools often charge the highest rates.

When creating a budget, consider costs other than tuition, like textbooks, technology upgrades, and housing and transportation. Financing options for master’s in information systems degrees include scholarships, grants, fellowships, and loans. The following link provides more information about financial aid for computer science.

Scholarships and Financial Aid for Computer Science

Jobs for Master’s in Information Systems Graduates

A master’s in information systems prepares students for in-demand, well-paying computer and information technology jobs. Computer and information systems managers earn a median annual salary of $151,150 and computer and information research scientists earn $126,830.

The BLS projects a 31% growth rate from 2019-2029 for information security analysts, another career path for master’s in information systems graduates. Projections also indicate that computer systems analysts should see faster-than-average job growth for 2019-2029.

The following careers require a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Earning professional certifications can also lead to career advancement.

  • Computer and Information Systems Managers

    These professionals coordinate and oversee organizations’ computer-related issues. Each candidate needs a bachelor’s degree at minimum, but many employers prefer applicants with graduate degrees. Computer and information systems managers need excellent business, analytical, decision-making, and organizational skills.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree | Job Outlook (2019-29): +10% | Median Annual Salary: $151,150

  • Computer and Information Research Scientists

    These positions require master’s degrees in computer science or related fields. The BLS projects faster-than-average job growth for computer and information research scientists from 2019-2029. Typical duties may include solving advanced computing problems, developing software systems, designing and analyzing software experiments, and publishing research findings.

    Required Education: Master’s degree | Job Outlook (2019-29): +15% | Median Annual Salary: $126,830

  • Computer Systems Analysts

    Professionals in these positions study computer systems and find ways to improve them. Sometimes called systems architects, computer systems analysts design new systems, analyze costs and benefits, test systems, and continually devise ways to improve efficiency. Many hold bachelor’s degrees in computer-related fields.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree | Job Outlook (2019-29): +7% | Median Annual Salary: $93,730

  • Information Security Analysts

    The BLS projects faster-than-average growth for these professionals from 2019-2029. Information security analysts protect computer systems and networks from cyberthreats and cyberattacks. They need expertise in data encryption, security trends, and penetration testing. Major industries include computer systems design, finance, and insurance.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree | Job Outlook (2019-29): +31% | Median Annual Salary: $103,590

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is a master's degree in computer information systems worth it?

    It takes time, effort, and money to earn a master’s in information systems, but it can pay off. PayScale reports that graduates with MS degrees in information systems earn an average annual salary of $84,650.

  • Can a master's in information systems degree get you a mechanical job?

    A master’s in information systems prepares graduates for information technology and computer jobs. Mechanical engineering graduates can pursue careers in information systems, but information systems graduates typically do not qualify for mechanical engineering positions.

  • What can I do with a master's degree in information systems?

    Earning a master’s in information systems prepares students for computer and information technology careers as computer and information research scientists, information security analysts, computer systems analysts, and computer and information systems managers.

  • How many years does it take to earn an information systems master's degree?

    The time it takes to complete a master’s in information systems varies by school, but a typical program takes two years or less. Some degrees take as little as 12 months.


2021’s Top Five Master’s in Information Systems Schools

Our ranking of the five best master’s in information systems (MIS) degrees for 2021 provides an excellent starting point in finding the ideal program. Each listed school holds national or regional accreditation. This guarantees it has met the minimum requirements established by a third-party accrediting agency. Some programs also hold industry-specific accreditation. Here are the accreditations included in this ranking:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)

Our Ranking Methodology

  1. University of Florida
    Location

    Gainesville, FL

    Tuition

    $11313

    Located in Gainesville, Florida, UF operates on a 2,000-acre campus with over 900 buildings. Recently, U.S. News & World Report ranked UF in the top 10 of U.S. public schools.

    UF’s Warrington College of Business offers a master of science in information systems and operations management for students seeking to apply technology to business strategies. This master’s in information technology has four concentrations: data science, information technology, supply chain management, and business analytics. With instruction from faculty who are experts in artificial intelligence (AI), students learn the latest developments in AI, analytics, and machine learning. Graduates can pursue positions as information systems specialists, IT managers, and data analysts.

    Applying to UF

    UF master’s program applicants must have a bachelor’s, master's, or doctorate from an accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA. In addition, they must submit an official transcript, a resume, and a minimum 550 GMAT or 300 GRE score.

    Program at a Glance

    School Type: Public | Accreditation: SACSCOC | Tuition: $12,740/year (in state) ; $30,134/year (out of state) | Required Credits: 36 | Program Length: 10-24 months | Delivery Format: On campus

  2. California State University, Los Angeles
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    Tuition

    $15002

    Operating within the heart of Los Angeles since 1947, Cal State LA is a nationally ranked university with 26,000 students and 1,700 faculty. In addition, the university is a federally designated minority-serving institution, Hispanic-serving institution, and Asian American, Native American, and Pacific Islander-serving institution.

    The master of science in information systems at Cal State LA attracts students working in the information technology field and new entrants. This master's program equips students with the advanced technical and managerial training needed for the IT industry. Students can take courses in business intelligence, big data, cybersecurity, and cloud computing.

    Applying to Cal State LA

    To apply for the master's in information systems program, prospective students must submit GMAT or GRE scores, proof of at least two years of work experience, two letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and an unofficial transcript.

    Program at a Glance

    School Type: Public | Accreditation: WSCUC | Tuition: $14,998/year (in state); $24,502 (out of state) | Required Credits: 30 | Delivery Format: On-campus

  3. Harvard University
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Tuition

    Unconfirmed

    The roots of the Harvard Extension School date back to 1835. Today, HES enrolls 14,000 working professionals, distance learners, and adult learners. All HES degrees and certificates bear the Harvard University insignia. Additionally, all HES graduates become Harvard alumni members.

    HES’ information management systems graduate program teaches students to construct, improve, and support intricate information management systems. Students will learn risk and opportunity assessment, emerging technology strategy, and web-based business solutions. They will also be able to understand and apply cloud computing, databases, and communication protocols. Upon completion, graduates can continue to a Ph.D. program in computer science and information system engineering or pursue IT careers.

    Applying to HES

    Applicants must possess a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution in the U.S. or foreign equivalency. Students must submit an application and official transcripts showing at least a B grade in all required prerequisites.

    Program at a Glance

    School Type: Private | Accreditation: NECHE | Tuition: $2,980/course | Required Credits: 48 | Program Length: 5 years maximum | Delivery Format: Online

  4. University of California, Berkeley
    Location

    Berkeley, CA

    Tuition

    $17862

    Berkeley’s School of Information is the newest addition to the university and enrolls over 600 student professionals online and on campus. The school emphasizes information and computer services, law, policy, and design.

    Within two years, Berkeley’s master of information management and systems program prepares students to become successful IT professionals in private, public, and academic settings. Students learn to evaluate design decisions, prioritize vital stakeholder information, comprehend the tenets of information law, and utilize information economics. This master’s program provides paid summer internship opportunities to give students real-world practice.

    Applying to Berkeley

    Prospective students must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with a 3.0 GPA or above. They must also submit three letters of recommendation, college transcripts, essays, and a statement of purpose concerning professional goals.

    Program at a Glance

    School Type: Public | Accreditation: WSCUC | Tuition: $14,440/ year | Required Credits: 48 | Program Length: 2 years | Delivery Format: On campus

  5. University of Washington
    Location

    Seattle, WA

    Tuition

    $9765

    Located in Seattle, UW maintains close proximity to major companies like Boeing, Starbucks, Amazon, and Microsoft. The UW Foster School of Business currently enrolls over 2,500 students. According to a survey, UW business school alumni have founded 3,000 companies, created 300,000 new jobs, and earned $82 billion in annual revenue nationally.

    The master of science in information systems program at UW’s Foster School of Business offers a convenient way for busy individuals to advance their information management careers. The program's accelerated and flexible design allows working professionals to pursue their education while working. With courses such as executive leadership, business data analysis, and advanced business data mining, students acquire the complex knowledge and skills needed to manage digital records and further technological innovation.

    Applying to UW

    Prospective students must submit an official online application, a personal statement, transcripts, GMAT or GRE scores, and letters of recommendation.

    Program at a Glance

    School Type: Public | Accreditation: NWCCU | Tuition: $39,880/year | Required Credits: 44 | Program Length: 1 year | Delivery Format: On campus


Featured Image: Maskot / Maskot / Getty Images

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