As technology continues to advance and diversify, the need for effective information systems management is all the more pressing. The field demands someone who is detail oriented, highly skilled with computer related activities, and who has business skills. That's because this position asks not only that you understand the whole information technology landscape, but also requires that you be able to communicate and even negotiate with non-IT professionals.
This page was created to help inform current IT workers and those for whom an IT career is a goal. Here we discuss the profession including detailed steps for achieving your career goals. Continue reading to learn how to become an information systems manager.
What is an Information Systems Manager?
An information systems manager is a computer technology who oversees a company's IT policy, products, and software. They often report to a chief technology officer (CTO), a chief information officer (CIO), or even a chief information security officer (CISO), depending on the corporate structure. In this role, they act as a director for software development, system design, hardware rollouts, and all of the IT workers. Essentially, if it's computer related, the information systems manager is likely responsible for it.
Steps to Become a Systems Manager:
The road to become an information systems manager involves several steps. However, the first step is often the most important. For this career path you need to first establish a real love and passion for computing technology. If you are a gadget guru and your hobbies include electronics, computer programming, and logic puzzles then you might be on target for a career in information technology (IT).
If you have not yet ventured into a bachelor’s degree program you might get started by investigating computer programming languages. You can also start reading up on computer hardware. If you are a gamer, you might be familiar with evaluating the specifications of your hardware to ensure that you get the best gaming experience. You can also find affordable or even free computing courses online that will provide an introduction to subjects like cyber security, networking, coding, and database technology.
Your second step should be to find a degree program. You could start with an associate degree in information technology, computer science, or management information systems. Make sure that your program has regional accreditation at the least. You should also seek out associate degree programs that have received national certification from agencies such as ABET. MIS programs might be accredited by AACSB or ACBSP.
While you may be able to launch a career with a two-year degree from a community college, your best bet is to make your first academic milestone a bachelor’s degree. A four-year degree is a standard for most employers and will enable you to take classes such as project management, systems management, and soft skills such as business writing and interpersonal communication. You will also be able to apply directly to a graduate program when the time comes. However, you might instead find a program that provides a 5-year plan that culminates in a master’s degree. That option is optimal from both the short-term cost and the long-term career outlook perspective.
While you pursue your degree, you should consider accruing practical experience in an information technology department or some other computing environment. Thus, if you need to work while you seek a degree you should try to land a part-time job in your field. Another option would be to find a program with a co-op program where you may spend a few months working for a firm and then cycle back into full-time studies.
Many full-time students seek out an internship with a local or national firm. Sometimes internships are part of a larger fellowship program that may involve a scholarship or other financial incentives. Regardless, internships are a terrific way to gain experience in the IT field while still in school. Alternatively, you might seek out internship opportunities that let you develop your business skills. Internships also help you network in your industry and may even lead to a job opportunity later on.
If you want to ensure a position as an information systems manager, you should strongly consider a master’s degree. If management and the C-suites are in your sights, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) may be the best choice. Most MBA programs allow you to concentrate in a specialty field, such as management information systems, information technology, or computer science. Another option is a Dual-MBA program where you combine two graduate degrees into around 3-4 years, depending on your program. This way you can complete a full technology degree alongside your business training.
After you complete this step towards becoming an information systems management professional, you will have a far better chance of landing a managerial position after graduation. Even if you don't start off in systems management, your salary is sure to be healthy and you will likely move up quickly. Once you land in an information systems manager position, you may soon start receiving calls from executive recruiters.
What Does an Information Systems Manager Do?
An information systems manager is responsible for overseeing the entire information technology life of an organization. Depending on the size of the organization, they might be responsible for multiple departments or they might oversee a small help desk department, but then be responsible for hiring and managing any outside contractors. IS managers typically work in an office and have steady business hours. However, they might need to travel if their organization has satellite branches or other offices.
They must be in constant touch with the rest of the organization because they need to ensure that the IT resources they oversee are able to meet the goals of the rest of the company. That is, if they work for a financial services company, they should make sure that their software and hardware is capable of transmitting real-time price information, be secure enough for large, sensitive transactions, and also handle desktop applications for spreadsheets and word processing. This function may take the form of sending surveys to various departments or they might receive technology request in some other form.
On a daily basis, the IS manager needs to ensure that their team is able to handle small problems such as a computer crash or someone losing their password. They also need to evaluate the organization's network stability and project how they will handle growth or sudden changes, such as the workforce suddenly working from home, as in the COVID pandemic.
Information Systems Manager Skills to Acquire
Since an information systems manager sits between their organization's business and technology functions, they need to have a broad set of skills. Since this position is largely administrative, it's imperative to have strong leadership skills. On the other hand, you will need strong a technological background. When you have a firm grasp of what it takes to roll-out a new set of security protocols you can communicate those needs to your information security department. You should be able to recognize that numerous operating systems may be involved as well as any potential software conflicts, programming needs, and hardware specifications. Though it may not be necessary for you to be specialized in all of those areas, you should be cognizant of the fundamental issues involved.
Other abilities such as project management, organizational skills, and logistics will also come in handy. You'll be overseeing numerous computer professionals whom you will need to organize and hold accountable for meeting deadlines. To be most successful, you will need to have a strong grasp of issues related to human resources, communication, and the analytical skills necessary problem solving any potential conflicts along the way.
While the traditional route to becoming an information systems manager may include four to seven years achieving academic success, there are alternative paths to succeeding in this career. These ways include starting with an associate degree, transitioning into the position from a non-technological job, and self-teaching the needed skills and working your way up.
With an associate degree in management information systems, information technology, or computer science, you can land an entry-level position. If you excel in your job, you are more likely to move up into a managerial position. Along the way you may want to take additional courses from your community college or from an online university.
On the other hand, you might start a career with a business degree and work in management for a firm. Along the way you might become interested in the IT side of the organization and start a transition into an IS management position. After all, if you are a strong leader with a terrific staff you can do anything.
Finally, some start an IT career by teaching themselves various computer skills such as programming, networking, and even InfoSec skills. You can even earn certifications online that attest to your knowledge. With such a skill set you can land a job in an IT department and then move up into management.
Information Systems Manager Career & Salary
Where Might You Work?
Given that every sort of organization relies on its IT solutions, there are positions for IS managers throughout the economy. You could specialize in special industries, however. For instance, healthcare IS managers need to have special knowledge related to the various medical devices on the network, as well as the business side of a health system. In fact, you can earn a health information technology degree that will position you perfectly for success in healthcare.
Your managerial skills can also come in handy working for a consulting firm. You could work as a project manager and oversee a team of consultants as they seek to solve problems for your client. You'll need to coordinate with the staff at the client firm as well as the various professionals you work with. In fact, you could start your own consulting firm with yourself as the principal administrator and thus be the director of a team of top tech specialists working on your contracts.
You can also find work with a government agency or a non-profit. However, many of these firms rely on contractors. Nevertheless, large non-profit and agencies will surely need a manager on staff to oversee the consultants when necessary. Otherwise, a government IS manager is also needed to oversee the day-to-day needs of the software and hardware they manage.
Like many professions in computer technology, the outlook for the information systems management sector is looking better all the time. Since every company relies on its IT solutions to function and thrive, once you reach the management level you will find that you are an indispensable part of any organization. Currently, employment statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predict very good things.
For starters, the BLS shows that the median salary for computer and information system managers is over $146,000, which doesn't account for bonuses, benefits, and other non-salary compensation. Meanwhile, Glassdoor.com reports that the average base pay for IS managers is $73,000. Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the typical entry-level education for this job is a bachelor’s degree, you'll find that most employers strongly prefer to hire workers with a graduate degree.
Finally, the BLS' statistics project that this sector is due for solid growth through 2029. Their numbers show that information systems management is due to expand by 10% in the ten-year span of 2019-29. Thus, students who are starting off in software development, management information technology, or healthcare information systems are sure to find gainful employment for years to come.
No matter what area of the technology sector you search, there are loads of well-paid job openings waiting. Since these job openings are all necessarily tech dependent, you can find many opportunities that allow you to work remotely so you needn't move if you don't want to. When you review the opportunities, you'll find them in all sorts of environments, from higher education to the US Border, working alongside federal agents.
Here is a short review of the job opportunities available for a professional with skills equivalent to an IS manager. Though some may be a little removed from your career goals, it is always helpful to explore what opportunities are available. Happy hunting!
- Software Developer:
This position will ask that you rely on your programming and database skills. Job listings often ask that applicants have a bachelor’s degree in a related field and 3-5 years of experience. Software development positions are sure to lead to management within an organization.
- Cyber Security Manager:
This position may allow you to work remotely and allow you to take responsibility for an entire cyber security program. Employers often look for workers with bachelor’s degrees and up to 5+ years as a director of security operations. Pay can be in the six figures and companies may also offer a bonus package.
- Computer and Information Systems Manager:
In this position you'll oversee various computer related activities such as data processing, systems analysis, and information systems. Both your organizational skills and business skills will be vital to success. You may work in an office or have the chance to work remotely, letting you live anywhere in the world.
- Information Technology Specialist:
You may hold this position with a federal law enforcement agency or a private company, and the pay can extend past $100,000 per year. Employers are looking for someone who can exhibit a wide range of skills in an IT network.
- Technical Cybersecurity Manager:
This job is available with a variety of institutions including colleges, health facilities, and more. Your work will keep the company’s databases safe from cyber-attacks. Many employers prefer that you hold a cyber security certification such as: CISM, CISSP, CISA, and/or GIAC and may also require a bachelor’s degree and up to four years of experience in cyber security management.
Find Information Systems Manager Jobs Near You
Advancing from Here
Once you become an information systems manager, you will be near the peak of your field. However, there is still room to grow. For one thing, you might set a goal to reach the status of chief information officer (CIO) within a major corporation. For such a position you'll need loads of experience with equivalent firms. You should also consider a master’s degree, even a Master of Business Administration. After all, if you're in top management you will need refined business skills.
Computer Career Paths