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BS in Information Systems to MS in Management Information Systems: Which one (or both) is right for me?

Technology is dominating nearly every aspect of our world and completely transforming the way businesses today operate. Never before has there been a better time for students to earn a tech-related degree, especially if it provides them with key competencies in areas that pertain to both technology and business.

As organizations of all size and scale become more digitally driven, professionals who possess skills in computer science and information systems are – and will continue to be – in high demand. And thanks to the robust opportunities this field of study offers, management information systems, in particular, is a good major for undergraduates.

Compared to most other tech-related programs, MIS degrees emphasize the business and financial aspects of computer science – focusing not just on what technology is and how it works, but how it’s used in specific organizational environments.

However, although making the decision to study information systems is often an easy one, deciding between the variations and levels of degree programs can be a bit trickier, especially at the undergraduate level.

 Earning a Management Information Systems Degree.

Bachelor of Science in Information Systems vs. Master of Science in Management Information Systems

Some common types of IS degrees college students pursue are a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and a Master of Science in Management Information Systems, depending on where the individual is in his or her educational career and his or her desired career outcome.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in IS positions students to assume a wide range of professional roles – from web developer to network administrators – which are needed across nearly every industry. Majoring in information systems, or a related field, also puts undergraduates in a good position to further specialize their educations by earning an MS MIS degree.

While the BS in Information Systems degree is mainly centered on the tech side of information systems, an MS MIS is geared more toward the managerial aspects of tech teams. The combination of these programs provide professionals with extensive and applicable capabilities needed to handle both critical business functions and technical instruction, from analyzing and administering networks and computer systems to developing, managing and coordinating IT departments.

To get a better idea of which path will set you on the best trajectory for success – be it a BS in Information Systems, MS MIS or both – it’s important to first understand the differences.

Curriculum overview

It typically takes four years for students to earn a BS in Information Systems degree. This program provides students with foundational yet extensive technical knowledge in how information systems are generated, delivered and secured, as well as how they are implemented and utilized.

MS MIS degree programs, which can be completed in under two years, allow students to build upon their knowledge, hone in on a specific area of expertise, engage in a rigorous and innovative curriculum and learn the communication, business and leadership skills needed to hold C-suite or other managerial positions. The degree program is offered to those holding a BS in Information Systems degree, as well as students who earned a bachelor’s degree in another area.

Job functions and career outlook

Although you do not necessarily need a master’s degree to pursue some of the many career opportunities in management information systems, it does qualify you for positions at higher levels and with different sets of responsibilities. Put simply, if the bachelor’s degree in MIS program teaches students about the technology, the MS MIS program teaches students how to manage that technology.

Many jobs held by BS in Information Systems degree-holders are mainly data, network and security-related roles. Common positions include:

• Computer Network Architect
• Computer Systems Administrator
• Computer Systems Analysts
• Database Administrator
• Information Security Analyst
• Software Developer

Earning this degree is also a stepping stone for those interested in obtaining an MIS degree at the master’s level – which prepares graduates to take on jobs that deal more with business, strategy, research and leadership responsibilities. Some titles may require a master’s degree, including:

• Chief Information Officer
• Chief Technology Officer
• IT Director
• IT Security Manager
• Computer and Information Research Scientist

Not only will earning an MS MIS degree open up a wider range of potential employment choices and opportunities, it also increases the chances of candidates earning a higher salary.

Information systems salary ranges

Some of the most in-demand skills today are ones that an MIS degree prepares you for. In fact, Forbes included management information systems in its list of top 10 valuable college majors, citing the average starting median pay as $51,000 and mid-career median pay at $88,200. Of course, the salaries of information systems professionals vary depending on a whole host of factors, including position, education, experience and job duties.

But, because senior and managerial roles are often tasked with overseeing a broader scope of operations across both business and tech departments – as well as applying specialized expertise in said areas – they are generally compensated at a higher rate.

For example, according to data gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and, the annual median pay for Computer Systems Administrators with a bachelor’s degree is $79,700 whereas the median salary of Chief Technical Officers with a master’s degree is nearly double that.

Cost and convenience

There are many career opportunities a bachelor’s degree in MIS prepares graduates for that can contribute to a long and rewarding professional pathway – which is partly why making the decision to continue your education beyond this level can often be so difficult.

Some wonder if the difference between the graduate and undergraduate programs is large enough to justify the expense of tuition for earning the second degree. However, it’s important to keep in mind that usually the higher level of education a person reaches, the more specialized job prospects they have and, in turn, the higher compensation they qualify for. More professionals with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree are more attractive to employers, regardless of the position they are hiring for, than those who only have an undergraduate degree.

By continuing your education, you will be better positioning yourself to advance your career in ways that are most meaningful and beneficial.

UAB’s Information Systems Degrees

Earning an information systems degree has never been more convenient, as both degrees can be earned entirely online. No matter what particular field of study you wish to pursue – or at what level – earning an IS degree 100 percent online allows you to continuously evolve and accelerate your skills and experience to meet the technological and business demands of both today and tomorrow. The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business offers both a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Management Information Systems degree 100 percent online so you don’t have to sacrifice your personal and professional responsibilities. Contact an Enrollment Advisor today to learn more.

Recommended Readings:
How One Degree Can Prepare You For a Variety of Careers
3 Ways an MS in Management Information Systems Degree Can Make You an Asset to Any Company


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