Overview of a Bachelor’s in Computer Information Systems
A bachelor’s degree is usually considered the entry-level degree for a position working with computer information systems. This can cover a wide variety of positions such as web and application developers, programmers, network architects or administrators, and more. Your bachelor’s degree will qualify you for positions within nearly any industry, whether you’re interested in anything from healthcare to manufacturing. At this point, every sector relies on computers, networks, and databases. As a specialist in these areas, you should never lack for work opportunities. A bachelor’s will also give you access to a variety of certification programs, which you can use to specialize even further.
Computer Science Degrees & Career Paths
According to Peterson's, employees with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems (CIS) will earn a higher income than peers who have completed coding bootcamps in order to earn certifications.
Also, CIS professionals who have bachelor’s degrees are able to see the bigger picture of algorithms and CIS, so they are more versatile and are capable of being placed in more diverse types of computing situations. They are able to adapt to working with diverse types of coding and software design. The bootcamp graduate will likely be constrained to work within their narrow certification.
As Peterson's stated, someone with a bachelor’s in CIS is also more likely to be placed in a position of management and design of software systems than a bootcamp coding certification graduate, because the employee with the bachelor's degree has a more holistic and comprehensive understanding of the field.
The largest con with a CIS bachelor’s degree is the length of time required for completion. Graduates are taking an average of a full four years to complete their bachelor’s in CIS. As explained by the Wall Street Journal, coding bootcamps tend to be around three months in duration. Those who are admitted to the bootcamps and survive each make-or-break test are often able to command an impressive salary.
FreeCodeCamp.org states that another potential con of a bachelor’s in CIS is that the job market in this country has been uncertain since the Great Recession. What the job market will look like in four years can change dramatically, even though the current trend has been a surplus of unfilled jobs in CIS. It’s possible that all of the coding bootcamps that have sprung up in the years since the Great Recession may end up flooding the industry with too many potential software candidates.
Dan Wang, a contributor to Bloomberg Opinion, cited one other negative of choosing a bachelor’s in CIS; students who attend one of the top 50 CIS departments in the country will likely find it easy to land a position upon graduation. The same is not true for students who attend lesser-known programs.
According to U.S. News and World Report, a detriment to those who are choosing to simply get a bachelor’s in CIS, rather than going on to a graduate degree in the field is that some of the positions offered to graduates with a bachelor’s in CIS - such as computer information systems manager or analyst, database administrator, or information security analyst – tend to have a bachelor's as the minimum requirement. Thus, for some, it may be better to get your bachelor's and take the two additional years to pursue a master's in order to ensure certain employment in certain positions in the field.
Certificate Vs. Bachelor’s
Certifications will allow a candidate to seek employment in a narrower range of the CIS field. They also tend to prohibit a candidate from software design and management opportunities, at least in the first years of employment in the field. Those with a bachelor's, having a broader understanding of their field, will be able to command a larger salary and be able to work in positions in software design and management.
Forbes Magazine explains that certification programs lead to jobs as web developers, software engineers, entry-level cyber security analysts, mobile app developers, and software engineers. Often, these jobs tend to involve less management or design. Certification programs are offered for products by Google, Adobe, Cisco, Apple, and many others.
What CIS Bachelor’s Degrees are Available?
The bachelor's degree with this major is often called a Bachelor's of Science in Computer Information Systems. Some students choose to take a concentration in a particular sector of the field. Some concentrations offered for a CIS bachelor's degree include cyber security, digital forensics, geographic information systems, robotics, web design and development, information systems management, network systems administration, and data analytics.
Candidates who would like to enroll in a bachelor's program in Computer Information Systems are usually required to have at least a 2.5 to 3.0 GPA. If your GPA is lower, two options are to take some community college classes or see if the school will accept your application under the condition of being on academic probation. All candidates will need to submit letters of recommendation from teachers and others who know their academic ability. If you have any work experience at all in the information industry, you definitely will want to have an employer submit a letter of recommendation on your behalf. You’ll also need to shoot for the top 30% in the nation on your ACT or SAT scores.
How long does it take to earn a Computer Information Systems Bachelor's?
Generally, it takes a student four full years to complete this degree program. Factors that can change the time of completion include the student’s need to work while attending school and the student’s ability to take more coursework during summer sessions. Often, independent students, who do not live with their parents while attending college, will take longer to complete their programs as they juggle the demands of work and school. Applying for many types of scholarships and grants that allow the aid to be used for living expenses can help independent students complete their programs within the four-year window.
Potential Careers in Computer Information Systems with a Bachelor’s
Programmers create software. They also help their employers or clients tailor off-the-shelf software to work in a specific environment. Also, programmers ensure that software can work across a variety of computing platforms. A programmer will likely know a variety of programming languages in order to be competitive in the job market. The median salary for a programmer is $100,700 yearly.
- Computer and Information Systems Manager:
This position is also labeled as Information Technology, or IT Manager. They work to plan and direct all computer technology use in one business. They begin with the IT goals needed by the organization and create a design that they implement to fulfill those goals. The median salary for an IT manager is $149,700 yearly.
- Database Administrator:
Database administrators are responsible for the information a company collects. They must keep data safe and private, as well as create and administer systems to retrieve, maintain, and manage that data. They need to know how to use sophisticated database software and how to adapt the software to meet the needs of their particular organization. They are responsible for migrating data to other platforms, troubleshooting the database system, and providing for backups and recovery of lost data. The median income for database administrators is $87,000 yearly.
- Network Administration Specialist:
A network administration specialist is responsible for the maintenance, troubleshooting, security, and management of both cloud-based networks as well as networks that physically exist on site. They are responsible for installing, monitoring, and improving performance of all network systems that exist in an organization. The median income for network administration specialists is $82,100 yearly.
- Information Security Analyst:
Information security analysts are charged with keeping networks safe. They become experts on how hackers and malware infiltrate networks and computers. They have to constantly learn about and prevent the newest and latest forms of cybersecurity threats. The median income for information security analysts is $98,400 yearly.
Options to Advance
Computer information systems professionals can advance in their field after initial employment in several ways. They can earn advanced certifications that allow them to work with certain software or on certain proprietary systems, such as the Oracle database platform. They can also rise in their field through years of experience. Finally, they can earn a master's degree or other graduate certifications in their field.
Graduate degree programs appropriate for computer information systems professionals include a Master's of Science in Information Systems, a Master's of Science in Computer Science, or a Master's of Science in Information Technology. As with bachelor's degrees, there are programs that allow students to work on concentrations within the field, such as database management and analytics, business analytics, computer networks, or computer security.
Best B.S. in Computer Information Systems (CIS) Programs
Ithaca, New York
Cornell has some unique options in that their bachelor's programs in information science are offered through three different colleges of the school, allowing the student to concentrate on a particular field. The College of Engineering offers a bachelor's in science and allows the student to work where information science, management, and technology meet. Students choose two tracks to help them specialize and concentrate their learning. Each of the programs has an emphasis on real world and social use of information technology.
- Bachelor's of Arts in Information Science
- Bachelor's of Science in Information Science Systems and Technology
Lehigh has Bachelor's of Science or Bachelor's of Arts in Computer Science and Computer Science and Business. Lehigh allows students to pursue hands-on research in real world applications. There are laboratories and institutes that have been created on campus to focus on different areas of computer information systems research, such as AI and robotics, computer pattern recognition, database and information system technology, networking, and web systems.
- Bachelor's of Science in Computer Science and Business
- Bachelor's of Science in Computer Engineering
West Lafayette, Indiana
Purdue has created programs that allow students to work in labs and perform research right alongside their professors. There are several different concentrations of the main degree in computers and information technology, including network engineering technology and systems analysis and design. The students in the latter concentration are shepherded to minoring in another field in order to enable them to work in their chosen industry.
- Bachelor's in Computers and Information Technology with multiple concentrations
San Diego State University
San Diego, California
San Diego State has a Bachelor's Degree in Information Systems it offers through its College of Business Administration. There is a heavy emphasis on concrete skills, such as problem-solving and interpreting information, because that is a major emphasis in systems analysis and business analytics. Students also receive courses in business finance, management, and marketing.
- Bachelor's in Management Information Systems
University of Texas at Dallas
One of UT at Dallas' Information Science programs works at the intersection of STEM and business. Students are engaged in hands-on problem solutions for business and the creation of unique technology. Some of the students work on double majors. Corporate employers tend to regularly recruit students from this school for both internships and full-time employment.
- Bachelor's of Science in Information Technology and Systems
- Bachelor's of Science in Software Engineering
Traditional Schools Offering a BS in Computer Information Systems
Arizona State University
ASU has one of the most robust online degree program offerings in the country. Their Bachelor's of Science in CIS helps students learn system analysis; web, mobile, and business applications programming; and database design. U.S. News and World Report rates this ASU program as one of the most innovative in the nation.
- Bachelor's of Science in Computer Information Systems
Washington State University
Washington State University is also highly rated as an online provider of bachelor's degrees by U.S. News and World Report. There are two CIS bachelor's degrees offered. One is in management information systems and focuses upon the intersection of business, management, and technology. The faculty is ranked 12th in the nation in terms of research output, and they maintain ties with business in creating solutions to problems faced in the real world. The data analytics online degree is unique in that WSU's degree is for the purpose of preparing students for leadership roles in data analytics. Of all of the research universities in the country, there is only one other that offers such a degree program.
- Bachelor's of Science in Management Information Systems
- Bachelor's of Science in Data Analytics
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado
CSU is another university that has online degree programs with high rankings from U.S. News and World Report. Their bachelor's program is taught by a faculty with a strong research tradition. Some of the focuses of their research include networking, object-oriented modeling, database research, e-commerce, data privacy, and data analytics.
- Bachelor's of Science in Computer Information Systems
George Mason University
Mason is one of the most respected universities in the nation. Recently they’ve begun to offer online degree programs. They offer a general IT bachelor's, as well as two programs that offer concentrations in cybersecurity technology and innovation. The concentration programs are only offered to students with an associate of science and are degree completion programs.
- Bachelor's of Science in Information Technology
- Bachelor's of Science in Applied Science, Cybersecurity Concentration
One might be inclined to discount this for-profit, online university, but the Department of Homeland Security does not, nor does the N.S.A. Walden is designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Education. Thus, those who would like to gain employment in cyber security would be wise to give this option some serious consideration. Their Bachelor's of Science in CIS meshes business and technical know-how and offers five different concentrations – general, cybersecurity, healthcare information, IS management, and applications design for web and mobile platforms.
- Bachelor's of Science in Computer Information Systems with multiple concentrations