Are you considering a career in information systems? If you have an interest in both technology and management, pursuing this degree is likely a good idea. Most programs help students develop expertise in a variety of business topics, management theories, and information technology. Graduates will be able to help businesses and organizations improve efficiency by designing, executing, and overseeing new or enhanced information technology systems. They will also have experience with strategic planning and implementation, as well as data collection and analysis. These skills are essential for successfully competing in the global economy market and are highly coveted by many employers.
What is an MBA in Information Systems?
While many other degrees involving information technology and computer science focus on the creation of systems and software, management information systems is less technical. Graduates are more likely to spend time studying ways in which information systems can be utilized to accomplish specific goals. Often considered more human-centered, the study of information systems is less about technology creation and more about how technology can produce needed organizational outcomes.
What Can You Do With an MBA in Information Systems?
Business analysts utilize information technology to improve the overall operations of a company or organization. They work with management to improve efficiency by evaluating the current hardware, software, and IT services being used, and recommending alternatives where necessary. Because these professionals stay informed about the latest trends, companies rely on them for suggestions regarding information technology policies, structure, and operations. It’s also their responsibility to monitor how effective changes are, analyze resulting data, and share the results with upper management. According to PayScale, the average salary for information technology business analysts is $68,844.
Data analysts collect, analyze, and report data to ensure the needs of customers and clients are being met. This usually involves conducting surveys, interpreting results, and configuring the information into charts and reports to be shared with company management. In some cases, they are also responsible for uploading findings into online databases. It’s also their responsibility to identify new potential sources of data, as well as improved methods of data collection, analysis, and reporting. Good communication skills are essential as all information collected must be relayed to company stakeholders in a concise and actionable format. According to PayScale, the average salary for information technology data analysts is $60,562.
Information Technology (IT) Consultant
Information technology consultants often work with multiple companies at the same time. They are responsible for providing advice regarding how information technology can best be used to accomplish business goals. Once these professionals become familiar with company information technology systems, they can work with management to improve the overall structure by installing new hardware and software, troubleshooting issues, and solving problems as they arise. Information technology consultants travel often and must adjust to meet the specific needs of their clients. According to PayScale, the average salary for information technology consultants is $78,994.
Information Technology (IT) Director
Information technology directors manage a company’s information technology operations. They are responsible for leading and providing technical advice to related departments. In many cases, this job also requires developing effective technology strategies, testing new hardware, presenting results to management, and overseeing employment. Additionally, information technology directors often strive to build good working relationships with external vendors and service providers who may offer solutions that can improve a company’s system infrastructures. These professionals also perform regular systems performance reviews, determine operating costs, establish productivity levels, and prepare for security audits. According to PayScale, the average salary for information technology directors is $120,059.
Information Technology (IT) Project Manager
Information technology managers oversee the planning and execution of company projects related to information technology. They are responsible for ensuring the process remains on-track and is completed on schedule. In many cases, this requires leading, motivating, and evaluating other employees assigned to the project. These professionals are responsible for distributing individual duties while also making sure everyone involved has the same overall vision in mind. They must also ensure budgeting goals are met and solve any problems that cause the project to go off track. After completion, these professionals often evaluate the process, determine whether or not follow-up projects are necessary, and recommend any potential changes. According to PayScale, the average salary for information technology managers is $88,822.
Online vs. On-Campus for an MBA in Information Systems
If you believe an MBA in information systems is right for you, then you must decide what kind of program best suits your lifestyle and career goals. You will find there are numerous colleges and universities that offer advanced business degrees of this kind in two primary formats: on-campus for traditional students and online for distance learners.
On-campus MBA programs include coursework taught at the college or university and students are expected to attend classes in person. Online programs, on the other hand, can be completed anywhere there is internet access. Because distance learners participate in classes online, they never have to set foot in an institution facility.
Both program options have benefits and drawbacks. While an online MBA program can provide flexible scheduling, traditional programs allow for valuable in-person interaction with faculty and peers. Since networking is a major component in business, distance learners may be at a disadvantage in the future. On-campus programs, however, are often an unrealistic solution for professionals working full-time.
It is important to choose a program and concentration that works best for your unique situation. If you are able to attend classes traditionally, you will undoubtedly gain a lot from the experience. If you already have a job and/or responsibilities that limit your time away from home/work, enrolling in an online degree program will likely be the better option.
Types of Information Systems MBA Degrees
While specific degree titles can vary from institution to institution, most colleges and universities offer a several options in the field of information systems. All degrees help prepare graduates for future employment, but there are a few distinct differences you should be aware of before enrolling.
Postgraduate or Post-MBA Certificate in Information Systems
Postgraduate and post-MBA certificate programs are designed for professionals who already have an MBA degree and plan to pursue career advancement opportunities, such as promotion to management or an executive-level position. This option also supplements previous education to help boost skills and future hireability. Most programs can be completed in less than a year and result in a moderate pay increase that is dictated by job advancement prospects.
Master of Science (MS) in Information Systems
A Master of Science (MS) in Information Systems is generally designed to provide students a standardized introduction to the field. These programs help establish and hone the technical expertise and business knowledge that will be necessary for career success. Graduates learn how to analyze, initiate, maintain, and manage information systems in a variety of settings. The duration of a program depends on whether students are enrolled full-time or part-time; most take one to two years to complete. According to PayScale, the average salary for someone with an MS in Information Systems is $82,898.
Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Information Systems
A Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Information Systems is meant to combine core business principles with a specialization in information systems management. These programs usually help students develop fundamental knowledge and skills in business administration while simultaneously advancing an understanding of information technology. While most MBA programs are completed in two years for full-time students, there are some accelerated degree options available. Part-time students should expect to graduate in three to six years. According to PayScale, the average salary for someone with an MBA in information systems is $110,949.
Sample Curriculum & Courses for Information Systems
While specific course titles can vary significantly between programs, most master’s degrees in information systems offer a similar curriculum. As is the case with many MBAs, strong focus is generally placed on statistics, economics, business ethics, project management, and accounting.
Some common course offerings include:
- Project Management Fundamentals
These courses examine the potential difficulties associated with project management, with special attention placed on operational and conceptual issues. Students will be better prepared to define, initiate, monitor, and evaluate future projects.
- Information Systems Principles
These courses look at various information operation requirements, as well as control, organization, and planning methods. Students will learn how to use information systems to achieve company/organization objectives.
- Database Management Systems
These courses often introduce the theoretical and practical aspects of file and database management systems. Among other things, students will learn about storage structures, devices, and data access and security.
- Database Systems and Decision Support
These courses provide information about information systems modeling and design and how they apply to decision support. Students will gain an understanding of how these concepts can be applied in real-world settings.
- Information Systems Design and Development
These courses establish an understanding of business case analysis, requirements modeling, data and process modeling, and strategy development. Students will also learn about design, architecture, implementation, operation, support, and security, as well as how to utilize this information for better project management.
As with most MBA programs, graduates should expect to develop and hone skills in:
- Business Statistics
- Corporate Finance
- Global Business
- Business Administration
- Supply Chain Management
- Systems Analysis
- Strategic Decision Making
There are, however, some topics specific to a graduate degree in information systems. While coursework will vary between schools, a few of the most common focus areas include:
- Business Analytics
- Data Management
- Data Visualization and Decision Making
- Enterprise Systems
- Legal and Ethical Perspectives in Cyber Security
- Security Controls
Professionals with a Master of Business Administration in information systems are likely to have a variety of career opportunities, including but not limited to:
- Business Analyst
- Business Intelligence Developer
- Data Analyst
- Financial Analyst
- Information Technology (IT) Consultant
- Information Technology (IT) Director
- Information Technology (IT) Project Manager
- Management Information System Manager
Frequently Asked Questions
What certification should I get in addition to an MBA in Information Systems?
In addition to earning an MBA in Information Systems, new and seasoned professionals may benefit from seeking related certifications. In many cases, these serve to help individuals stand out among competition in the field and may also lead to higher salaries.
There are several computer information systems certifications available for professionals at every development level. Depending on your situation and personal interests, one or more of the following may be beneficial:
- Associate Computer Professional (ACP)
- Project Management Professional (PMP)
- Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
- Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
What are the differences between an MBA in Information Systems and a regular MBA?
While many of the core courses overlap, it’s important to understand the differences between a general MBA and an MBA in Information Systems. Whereas a standard MBA tends to be more business-centered, information systems MBA programs usually focus more on the technical side of business. In most cases, these online school and degrees strive to show students how technologies may be utilized to achieve the desired organizational and stakeholder outcomes. Additional focus is placed on the importance of team and technology cohesion. Graduates should be able to identify appropriate information system tools, rally a team around them, and ensure the two aspects continue to work efficiently together in the future.
Who should consider getting this degree?
An MBA in Information Systems Management can be incredibly valuable, but it’s not necessarily the ideal solution for every student. Take time to consider whether or not it is a good fit for your interests and career goals prior to enrolling in a program. People best suited for careers in this field include:
- Those who prefer the technology side of business
These professionals work extensively with various information systems and ensure the integrity of control, organizational, and planning methods. They must become familiar with a variety of options and be able to determine which is most applicable.
- Those who want to be part of organizational decision-making
These professionals are instrumental in determining which information systems are best for completing designated tasks, making them instrumental in organizational decision-making processes.
- Those who enjoy blending interactions with people and technology
These professionals must find ways to seamlessly blend interactions with people and technology. They are often responsible for leading or managing teams who must assess, initiate, and/or maintain various IT systems.
- Those looking for further specialization
These professionals can diversify their portfolios while also opening up an entire world of career options. They will be competitive in the hiring market and able to find employment with almost any kind of business.
How to Choose the Right Program
Do you have time to go back to school?
In most cases, it will take a full-time student at least two years to complete an MBA in Information Systems. Students taking classes part-time will require even longer. As a result, it is important to seriously consider whether or not you have the time to go back to school right now. Keep in mind your responsibilities at work and in your personal life, as both can significantly impact your ability to pursue a degree of any kind. Once enrolled, your academics will demand a significant amount of your attention. Online programs can, however, offer flexible scheduling options for busy students.
Is this a long-term career path for you?
An MBA in Information Systems is considered a terminal degree. This means that it’s one of the highest available degrees within the academic discipline. While earning such a degree can lead to many occupational opportunities within the field, it does not leave much room for alternative career paths in the future. Because completing an MBA in Information Systems program requires significant dedication, time, and money, it’s important to determine whether or not this is the best long-term career path for you in advance. Consider your goals carefully before enrolling and, if possible, discuss your options thoroughly with an academic advisor.
What kind of networking opportunities are available?
Networking plays a significant role in the business world. As a result, most traditional MBA in Information Systems programs incorporate a number of opportunities to network with other students, professors, and professionals in the field. Students can establish potentially influential relationships through coursework, campus events, internships, industry conventions, and job fairs. While somewhat limited due to distance, even online programs often offer some sort of networking. When deciding which program is best for you, find out what opportunities are available and give preference to institutions that build networking into the curriculum.
Does earning this MBA provide a significant return on investment (ROI)?
As with any degree, it is important to consider the return on investment (ROI). This will require you to compare your current pay prospects with the earning potential of those with an MBA in Information Systems. If earning this degree will lead to a significantly higher income, it may be worth investing in additional education now. Additionally, those interested in switching to a new position, department, or specialty might benefit from pursuing an MBA in Information Systems. A new or additional degree can give you the edge you need to compete with other professionals for promotions and/or transfers that lead to better pay in the future.
Consider the student outcomes for each program
As previously mentioned, most full-time students can complete an MBA in Information Systems in two years. Some programs, however, may take longer. Rigorous academic requirements can result in graduation delays. Fortunately, most colleges and universities provide prospective students with anticipated graduation timeframes. In most cases, this information can be found online by visiting institution overview webpages. Those who have trouble locating it, however, should contact the school directly to ask for recent graduation statistics. Additionally, it is a good idea to research program graduation rates. This will tell you how many students complete their education versus how many transfer or drop out in a given period of time. Most colleges and universities also provide employment statistics, which can help prospective students better understand potential career opportunities after graduation.
Make sure the program is accredited
Another important consideration is the accreditation status of the college or university you are interested in. While academic institutions can choose whether or not to have their programs accredited, the process verifies that the institution meets certain established field standards and requirements. Students who graduate from unaccredited degree programs may face several complications, including difficulty transferring credits to other institutions, gaining employment, and reaching their full salary potential.
It’s best to enroll in a degree program that is accredited. Colleges and universities may have either national or regional accreditation. Additionally, individual academic programs can attain accreditation through specialized accrediting agencies.
The top three accrediting agencies for MBAs include:
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
- Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
- International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE)
Current students and professionals working in information systems should strongly consider joining a professional organization. These are available at the state, national, and international levels and offer many advantages to their members. While benefits vary, most offer exclusive access to field resources, discounts, training, certification programs, and networking opportunities. Some of the most prominent professional organizations, associations, and societies in the information systems field include:
- Association for Information Systems (AIS)
AIS works to advance knowledge about information systems and promote the excellence of professionals within the field. It is the premier professional association for those dedicated to the research, practice, and study of information systems.
- International Association for Computer Information Systems (IACIS)
IACIS is a leading organization for information systems and technology professionals. It provides a forum for networking and research sharing.
- Information Systems Security Association (ISSA)
ISSA supports cyber security professionals dedicated to advancing individual growth, managing risk, and protecting critical information. As a not-for-profit organization, ISSA supports practitioners around the world.
- Association for Women in Computing (AWC)
AWC strives to promote the advancement of women in all computing professions. By offering programs and networking opportunities, the association promotes professional growth and high standards of competence.
- Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T)
ASIS&T seeks to bridge the gap between research and the practice of information science. Members include professionals involved in information science, computer science, management, information architecture, and more.
Potential Scholarships to Consider
Paying for your MBA in Information Systems can seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, there are financial aid options available to help. The best kind of aid is scholarships which, unlike loans, do not need to be repaid after graduation.
Some great scholarship options include:
(ISC)² Graduate Scholarships
(ISC)² is the world’s leading cyber security professional organization. It offers up to 20 scholarships for graduate students each year, valued between $1,000 and $5,000 each. Applicants must be pursing or plan to pursue a degree with a focus on cyber security or information assurance.
Alice L. Haltom Educational Fund Scholarship
The Alice L. Haltom Educational Fund offers financial support for US and Canadian students pursing an education for a career in information and records management. The scholarship amount for four-year programs is $2,000, while recipients enrolled in two-year programs get $1,000.
Women Techmakers Scholarship for Computer Science
Google seeks to further the vision of Dr. Anita Borg by providing a $10,000 scholarship to a female who intends to enroll or has already been accepted as a full-time student to study computer science, computer engineering, or a related technical field. Applicants must be a member of Google’s Women Techmakers.