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Overview of an Associate Degree in Computer Information Systems (CIS)

The technology field is one of the best fields in which to earn an online degree. A computer science online degree also lends itself well to an associate degree in computer information systems (CIS). As this field is on the cutting edge of new technology, it’s a good time to start gaining experience with these new technologies. While you can do this by earning a higher-level degree, new technologies are easily accessible in blossoming fields through on-the-job training and online certification options, as well. You might find that, in the end, hands-on experience and improving your skill set as a computer support specialist are what will make the difference in this field, not the level of degree you hold. Even so, it's not a bad idea to gain enough certification to find a job and then attend courses online in order to expand your education.

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  • Speed of completion
  • Get right to work
  • Earn more than someone without an associate degree
  • You can pursue online certifications in computer information systems, general computer systems, software development, and other skill sets
  • There are numerous entry-level jobs you can obtain with a computer information systems associate degree
  • You can advance to a bachelor’s degree
  • You can earn a fast-track degree online
  • There are not many prerequisites or eligibility requirements to enroll in an associate degree
  • The program is common among many colleges and universities


  • Some certifications require a bachelor’s degree
  • Better employment opportunities, beyond entry-level jobs, may require a bachelor’s degree
  • You can only earn online certification for some jobs in this field with an associate degree in computer information systems
  • You will need a strong knowledge of math, certain types of computer system, and more
  • Experience is required to enroll in some colleges or universities for this program

Certificate vs. Associate Degree

Completing an traditional or online degree in computer information systems program is different from getting a certificate in that you will also have general courses to take such as math and writing when studying for an associate degree, whereas certificate training only trains students in one specific area such as software development, as computer support specialists, etc.

There are a number of online and in-person certification programs that are geared toward specialized training in areas such as programming languages, operating systems, security system protocols, computer system safety, software development and technology, information systems consulting, network administration, and more. Some certifications may require at least some experience along with a high school diploma or an online associate degree as eligibility requirements, where a CIS bachelor’s degree may be needed for others.

What Computer Information Systems Associate Degrees are Available?

  • Associate of Science (AS) in Computer Information Systems
    An Associate of Science in Computer Information Systems degree offers students the opportunity to learn computer architecture, database management, programming languages, system design, and more. Classes often include hands-on training with software applications and computer hardware and are less accessible to online learners.
    Upon completing the degree program requirements, students will receive an AS, which is an academic transfer degree program that has been specifically created for those who will be attending a four-year college or university to earn a Bachelor’s of Science degree.
  • Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Computer Information Systems
    An AAS computer information systems associate degree helps students develop the abilities to design, service, and conceptualize information systems. Graduates will meet most eligibility requirements for entry-level jobs within the field of information technology (IT).
    An AAS degree allows students to choose what they wish to major in and is specially designed for adults in their mid-career interested in obtaining their degree in a wide range of applied fields.
  • Associate of Arts (AA) in Computer Information Systems
    An Associate of Arts in Computer Information Systems program provides the networking, programming, and troubleshooting training needed for entry-level employment in the IT field. These programs are very accessible for those learning online as they do not have as much hands-on work.
    The AA is basically a transfer degree that indicates you have completed a study course equivalent to your first two years of studying for a bachelor's degree; however, you will also be qualified for a number of entry-level jobs within the field of information technology and specifically in information systems or computer system security. This way, you can choose to work and earn a degree online while making a living.

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Admission Requirements

Whether applying for an on-campus or online computer information systems program, a high school diploma or GED equivalent is required and most schools will ask that you provide all of your official high school and postsecondary transcripts. In addition, when applying right after completing high school, you will also be required to submit your ACT/SAT scores and the minimum number of credits or units acquired in specific areas like one unit of advanced algebra or a related course. Also, you must have a strong knowledge of computers and math.

How long does it take to earn an online Computer Information Systems Associates?

To earn an online associate degree in computer information systems in the traditional college campus setting can take roughly 2 years. However, by choosing an online accelerated program, you can get the same degree in a much shorter time frame. In fact, if you keep up the pace, it can take just 12 months and you can be holding this associate degree. If you are working and want to go to school part-time, you may be able to earn an online associate's in computer information systems in as little as 2 to 4 years through online education, as this program requires 60 to 67 credits to complete.

Potential Careers in Computer Information Systems with an Associates

  • Web Developer
    Web developers create, design, and modify websites as well as analyze user needs to implement performance, content, capacity, and website graphics. They may also use other web applications to integrate websites and convert video, audio, graphic, and written components to compatible web formats using software designed to simplify the creation of multimedia and web content.
    Average Annual Salary: $59,900
  • Computer and Information Systems Manager
    Information system managers or IS managers are the leaders of the information technology (IT) department responsible for managing a team while ensuring they are productive and functioning properly. They also ensure that applications — or modifications of applications — run smoothly.
    Average Annual Salary: $83,800
  • Applications Software Developer
    Computer applications software developers not only develop software, but they also create and modify specialized utility programs, as well as computer applications software. These developers also analyze user needs to develop, design, and/or customize software solutions and databases for clients to optimize operational efficiency. They may work individually or with a team.
    Average Annual Salary: $63,300
  • Computer Systems Analyst
    Computer systems analysts analyze business, science, engineering, and more data processing problems to improve and implement computer systems. They also analyze procedures, problems, and user requirements to review computer system workflow and capabilities while improving or automating existing systems and scheduling limitations. Additionally, system analysts may also recommend or analyze commercially available software.
    Average Annual Salary: $69,500
  • Computer Programmer
    Computer Programmers design, modify, and test scripts, forms, and code that allow computer applications to run. They use specifications drawn from software developers or others. These programmers may also design software solutions and analyze user needs to assist software developers as well as write and develop computer programs to retrieve, locate, and store specific data.
    Average Annual Salary: $64,200
  • Best Paying Jobs with an Associates

Options to Advance

While an online associate degree in computer information systems is great to have, as it prepares students for many entry-level positions, earning a bachelor's degree will lead to even more opportunities, with higher salaries as well.

In 2012, there were nearly 487,000 computer systems analysts, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). BLS also states that positions within this industry are estimated to rise by over 26% within the next ten years. This industry is excellent for aspiring technology professionals looking to advance their career, as they will have better job stability and earn higher wages than those in many other professions.

You may also consider enrolling in a professional process or product certification program that you can obtain from various institutions such as product vendors, vocational schools, or other training programs.

Best Associate of Science in Computer Information Systems (CIS) Programs

  • Ferris State University
    Big Rapids, MI

    Ferris State University students have a number of student housing options available to them. They can live on either the 880-acre campus in family apartments or in a special needs room. Although after their freshman year, most students move off campus, many spend their first year in the dorms.
    The Computer Information Technology Systems programs are designed for those interested in providing technical assistance for computer users and systems. Graduating with these degrees can lead to an entry-level position such as computer security specialist, computer support specialist, computer and network systems administrator, and help-desk technician.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate Degree in Computer Information Systems
    • Associate Degree in Information Security and Intelligence
  • Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)
    Rochester, NY

    The online associate in science in applied computer technology is a combination of an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree program designed for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing to successfully complete an online bachelor's degree.
    Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences’ AS degree is specifically designed for students to enroll in one of the following majors: web and mobile computing, human-centered computing, and computing and information technologies.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Science in Applied Computer Technology
    • Applied Computer Technology AAS
    • Applied Computer Technology AOS
    • Applied Computer Technology AS
  • Monroe Community College
    Rochester, NY

    Information technology professionals process, protect, store, retrieve, and transmit an organization’s information, which is the most critical asset of a business. Monroe Community College’s AS degree program in computer IT is for those who love the challenges that come along with today’s technology. If this sounds like you, then you are the perfect candidate for a long, rewarding IT career. The curriculum is based on the latest trends in the industry and instruction at Monroe combines extensive hands-on projects with classroom learning. Graduates are prepared to transfer to a bachelor’s program.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Computer Information Systems AAS
    • Computer Information Systems AS
    • Computer Science AS
    • Computer Systems Technology AAS
    • Information and Network Technology AAS
  • Oklahoma State University
    Oklahoma City, OK

    Computer information systems offers many opportunities for students who are proficient in business problem-solving and software applications. In this program, students will acquire the skills needed to solve problems encountered while working in this growing and ever-changing field.
    The use and development of computers in industry and business creates an increasing demand for professionals who are highly qualified to solve and formulate both today's and future problems that involve software applications, computer operations, and programming languages.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Computer Information Systems AAS
  • Mesa Community College
    Mesa, AZ

    Computer information systems focuses on applying technology to solve operational problems and manage a business. In the CIS program at Mesa Community College, students learn how to develop, design, maintain, and manage business technology infrastructure while specifying technology solutions for business needs. They will also be trained to create web pages that are dynamically driven with the use of databases, and more. A career in CIS will allow graduates to work in just about any business aspect in virtually any industry.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate in Applied Science - Computer Programming
    • Associate in Applied Science - Digital Media/Multimedia Technology
    • Associate in Applied Science - Game Technology
    • Associate in Applied Science - Programming and System Analysis
    • Associate in Applied Science - Web Designer
    • Associate in Applied Science - Web Developer
    • Associate in Applied Science - Web Server Administrator

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Traditional Schools Offering an AS in Computer Information Systems

  • Strayer University
    Washington D.C.

    At Strayer University you will get the support you need to finish your education. Not only do they have 70+ traditional campuses where you can study in a classroom environment, but they also offer online classes. In addition, even if you study online, you can choose to meet with advisors, your personal coach, and other faculty by visiting a campus where you can also have a quiet place to study.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate in Information Technology
    • Associate in Information Systems
  • Herzing University
    Menomonee Falls, WI

    Herzing provides flexible online programs so that those who work and have a busy lifestyle can still get an education. As a technology management student at Herzing, you will build a strong foundation in the field of computer science while learning from faculty who are experts in the industry, as well as gaining business and networking management skills in the area of study you choose. Graduates are prepared for entry-level positions in a technical environment.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate in Information Technology Administration & Management
    • Associate of Science- Technology Studies
  • Purdue University Global
    Fort Lauderdale, FL

    At Purdue University Global, students learn about various platforms that include Microsoft Imagine, Atomic, and Sandbox by experiencing real-world settings in virtual labs. Through optional internships, you will learn first-hand about the industry and gain some experience in the IT technical field, which you can use to build your resume and prepare to pursue additional certifications.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Applied Science Information Technology
  • Ivy Tech Community College
    Indianapolis, IN

    At Ivy Tech Community College, the online degree program is offered by Guilford and was created to provide you with a smooth transition to the bachelor level degree program. In addition, you will also be qualified for an entry-level position immediately after graduating. Some of the courses that students will take while earning this degree are visual basic programming, JAVA programming, database concepts, data structure and algorithms, C++ programming, and security and network fundamentals.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate’s in Information Technology Support


Frequently Asked Questions

Is an associate degree in this field worth it in the long run?

The short answer to this question is yes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is expecting there to be an increase in jobs in this field by at least 11% in the current decade, which means that the available roles in this field will be increasing more quickly than those in many other fields. That means that employers will be looking to get as many professionals in this field as possible into vital roles. So, if you want to get into the field right away, you should be able to find roles with an associate degree and advance either through experience or future continuing education. As these roles increase, there will be many more entry-level roles created than supervisory roles, so you should have no trouble getting your foot in the door with an associate degree.

What are the key skills that I will need to learn in this field?

Key skills are those that you will need, not only to be successful at lower levels in a field, but also those that you will need to continue to advance through the ranks. The most important skills in this field are technical in nature because you need to be able to perform the basic functions of whatever role you end up in. However, there are also soft skills that you should be ready and willing to improve so that you can be a useful member of a team, a company, etc. These include analytical thinking, problem-solving skills, teamwork, written and verbal communication, and much more.

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