When thinking about how to further their careers, it’s only natural for professionals to consider earning a master’s degree. In these cases, it’s important to find a relevant major, one that relates to the applicant’s interests and the types of skills companies need most.
In an era of technology saturation, with every industry transforming, it makes sense to focus on high-tech degree subjects. This is where the Master of Science in Management Information Systems comes in.
Graduate students who enter an MS in MIS program receive a thorough grounding in the way business and technology interact. By the time they graduate, they will have learned how concepts such as data storage, analytics, information security and digital communications fit in with corporate strategy.
The employment value of technology knowledge
Technology’s constant advancement and development can spur demand for employees. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the debut of new systems will drive job growth in multiple sectors — professional, business, and scientific services. Computer systems design and consulting services are set to grow especially quickly over the 2020 to 2030 period.
Coping with a field such as tech that is always in flux requires a strong knowledge base. Companies can’t rely on employees with only a vague knowledge of core IT concepts when their future operations may be tied to how well they implement new systems.
Because tech skills have become so universally applicable, MIS students can seek roles in a wide variety of industries. What can they contribute to their companies? What sets them apart from degree holders in other technology disciplines? The answers to these questions and more can help prospective students decide which master’s program is right for them.
What is an MS in MIS degree?
Management information systems combines business strategy with technical know-how. Businesses that have made technology an inseparable part of their corporate strategies may be on the lookout for leaders who understand how to work technology into their decision-making calculations.
The BLS noted that areas such as network infrastructure and information technology security have never been as important to companies as they are today. The embrace of remote work across industries and regions has made connectivity a core knowledge area at businesses of all kinds, even those that had previously been hesitant to embrace telework.
When seeking to rise through the leadership ranks today, professionals may find themselves held back by one-dimensional expertise. Someone who only understands the business or IT side of a company may not have the same appeal as an individual skilled in both disciplines.
Skills imparted by an MIS degree
The core classes involved with earning an MS in MIS involve widely applicable technology concepts such as performing analytics, practicing cyber security, and managing IT projects. This is a subject where the curriculum is constantly evolving, because technology’s role in business management never stays stagnant.
Students in MIS programs learn how to incorporate emerging technology trends into their workplaces, ensuring their employers aren’t left behind as the business landscape shifts. With a grounding in IT’s role in business strategy, they also learn how to guide their departments and organizations to success.
Beyond the core courses, participants can suit their specific interests by choosing a concentration. At the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business, the MS in MIS concentrations are Cyber Security Management, IT Management, and Business Analytics. Each of these points toward a different application of core strengths:
- Cyber Security Management prepares students to become IT security leaders. The curriculum includes courses on recognizing and counteracting threats, maintaining business continuity following data loss incidents, and performing digital forensics. Every company with a digital presence has a use case for IT security skills, and these abilities may find especially high demand among businesses dealing with tight data privacy regulations.
- IT management is the purest expression of MIS concept: It is all about the intersection of leadership and technology. IT expertise in the C-suite is a must for businesses hoping to stay abreast of useful innovations and developments. Students who select this concentration will learn about planning and budgeting for IT deployments, as well as performing governance tasks and leading teams in an IT-saturated era.
- Business Analytics is a concentration dedicated to the ways information can improve decision-making. The included courses are designed to produce savvy, informed leaders. By learning to make effective use of business intelligence and big data systems, students discover how fast-moving information can become a vital resource with tangible value for modern organizations.
MS in MIS students are each able to follow their own paths, all studying the intersection of IT and leadership but still focusing on the concepts most relevant to their professional lives. As for the types of industries, roles, and positions that may make use of these new skills, the list is long and varied.
Professionals well suited to an MS in MIS program
There are numerous roles at the intersection of leadership and IT. These are positions where MS in MIS students can find real-world applications for their knowledge. Since industries of all kinds are becoming more dependent on technology — both third-party and internally developed systems — such jobs exist across sectors and verticals.
The following are just a few of the titles that involve IT knowledge and leadership skills. These are high-growth roles in demand among today’s companies, and they tend to have room for advancement.
At first, becoming a computer programmer may seem to restrict professionals’ employment to software development organizations. In today’s tech-infused workplaces, however, companies of all kinds are creating their own software tools. Businesses need custom software to manage their internal workflows and interact with customers, and they’re keeping development teams on staff to create these solutions.
Writing and testing new code are major duties for programmers. The increasing use of agile and DevOps methods in recent years has changed the way these tasks work. Development and operations teams now function together, working quickly to continuously iterate new versions of code.
The technological skills that come with a MS in MIS can apply to the technical side of development work. The strategic and leadership aspects of the program can prepare graduates to handle the teamwork aspects of modern dev work. With a background in IT project management, MIS students learn how to take charge of development.
PayScale data from October 2021 reports that computer programmers earn an average salary of $64,807. Staying in the industry can be lucrative for programmers, with experienced professionals making 35% more than the average for all tenures.
With companies’ reserves of data only growing in size and complexity, database administrators’ duties are constantly evolving, but always important. These professionals are responsible for storing and accessing corporate data in secure and effective ways, using specialized software and unique workflows.
Databases today should be safeguarded against intrusion or improper user access, and they need recovery protocols in place in case the systems suffer downtime. Employees who excel at database administration will be able to troubleshoot these systems and help other individuals and departments get access to the data they need.
There are courses in the MIS curriculum directly relating to database management, so MIS students will graduate with exposure to the ins and outs of administration. They can combine this technical expertise with their strategic know-how to spearhead new data management approaches and effectively delegate work to their teams.
According to October 2021 PayScale data, the average database administrator salary is $73,163. Professionals skilled in the use of specific database technologies tend to be the highest earners in the field, and there is a clear promotion path to senior database administrator roles.
Information security analysts
Considering the range of cyber threats facing companies today, information security analysts always have to be on their toes, prepared to fight off the latest attack types. This includes malware of all kinds, as well as social engineering attacks designed to trick employees into giving up valuable information.
The expansion of remote work and bring-your-own-device policies has only increased the need for skilled and versatile information security analysts. What threats are being introduced to companies’ networks as new endpoints connect to their vital systems? These organizations need security personnel who can answer that question and develop proper countermeasures.
MIS students who select Cyber Security Management as their concentration study a curriculum that tackles threat prevention from multiple angles. There is also a security course in the core curriculum, ensuring all MIS students understand IT protection best practices. Graduates can take a strategic leadership role in coordinating security measures and threat responses.
Information security analysts earn an average of $73,087, according to PayScale data. Auditing is the most important skill for analysts hoping to maximize their salary potential. Information security analysts who excel in their roles can be promoted to information security manager or engineer positions and advance in their careers.
Computer network architects
Network architects’ roles are evolving constantly, necessitating constant education and curiosity about emerging technologies. While in the past companies were overwhelmingly dependent on network infrastructure they owned and maintained, today’s businesses are investing in cloud technologies and creating hybrid networks.
The widespread adoption of remote work has accelerated the change in computer network architects’ roles, increasing the speed of cloud migration. Now, it’s up to these professionals to create reliable and secure infrastructures connecting employees who may be scattered around the globe.
Network upkeep is a highly technical job description, but there is also value in administrative and leadership skills. An MIS student will graduate with the know-how to direct complex IT projects and commit to new strategic initiatives. These abilities can help ambitious network projects seem more manageable.
Because networking is such a specialized and in-demand skill set, PayScale reports an average salary of $121,090 for network architects as of October 2021. The overarching role these professionals have in determining the direction of companies’ IT efforts has put them in this six-figure salary bracket. With this earning power comes the responsibility of assessing new technologies and troubleshooting the resulting deployments.
Web developers’ job is to set up and maintain company websites. As such, they represent an essential link between customers and the business. These professionals must understand the applications and development frameworks that are the building blocks of user-friendly websites.
If a website is broken in any way — such as inadequate search engine optimization or an unfriendly user experience — it can harm the business’s customer outreach. In extreme cases, a poorly coded website can be an IT security threat. Web developers must create sites that don’t fall prey to these pitfalls.
An MIS student who takes on a web development role can put their strategic knowledge to use in service of the company’s overall communication approach. Rather than simply being responsible for the code, professionals with this experience and knowledge can see the big picture of site development.
PayScale data shows that as of October 2021, the average web developer salary is $60,307. There is value in keeping up with website development work — experienced web developers who stay in this space for the long haul can earn 37% more than the baseline.
How an MS in MIS can help advance a career
Earning a master’s degree in management information systems can represent a turning point in a career. Rather than aiming at students who have just finished their undergraduate education, online MS in MIS programs can accommodate professionals who are already established in their roles but are interested in deepening their knowledge of IT, management, and the intersections between the two.
The expert faculty at the Collat School of Business understands that the information technology space is constantly changing and evolving, and the curriculum is based on the latest thinking by an information systems advisory panel. These instructors deliver a quality of education equal to in-person programs, but with a course schedule designed to accommodate MIS student availability. It’s possible to work full time and still participate fully in the online MS in MIS program.
In addition to providing high-level knowledge and skills, an online management information systems degree program has another important function: Students can network with their peers and instructors to form connections in the worlds of business and IT. Though work is carried out 100% online, learners are not isolated — they work and study together through digital portals.
The process of becoming an MS in MIS student
What level of experience should an applicant have when enrolling in an MS in MIS program? There is no one answer. The online program at the Collat School of Business is designed to accommodate both longtime IT experts seeking to add management experts and up-and-coming tech professionals.
Although the courses assume a level of familiarity with IT concepts, it is possible to enter the MS in MIS program with a bachelor’s degree in another subject area. In this case, an applicant simply enters through the bridge program, a set of courses designed to bring an MIS student up to speed with the necessary information systems background.
The subjects included in the bridge program are:
- Business Programming
- Database Management
- Business Data Communications
- Information Systems
- Systems Analysis
- Business Communications
Each of those courses includes essential knowledge to be built upon in the core courses and concentrations of the full MS in MIS program. By developing expertise in both basic and advanced IT and management concepts, an MIS student can create a comprehensive resume tailored to today’s fast-moving tech world.
In addition to the bridge program for students without a previous technological education, there are a few other requirements applicants must meet to pursue an MS in MIS at UAB.
Because this degree is aimed at professionals pursuing their careers, applications must include a current resume and three letters of recommendation, at least one of which must be a professional reference. Students must also have an IT-related bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 grade point average unless they are entering through the bridge program. The MS in MIS does not require GMAT or GRE test results.
An accepted MIS student at the Collat School of Business gains access to an institution accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Learning about the fast-moving world of management information systems at an AACSB-accredited business school is a way to show current and potential employers a candidate is serious about the intersection of technology and management.
From database managers to information security analysts, coders to network administrators, there are positions across industries and departments perfectly suited to combining IT know-how with management expertise. Technology and strategy have become inextricable, so professionals should make sure to understand both.
If you are on one of these management information systems career paths or are interested in joining one in the near future, visit the UAB online MS in MIS program page to learn how this degree can fit your ambitions.