Is a Masters in Information Systems (MIS) Degree Worth It?
A master’s degree in management information systems (MIS) recognizes achievement in a challenging integrative and innovative area of technology, management, and employee relations.
It promotes cross-disciplinary thinking that changes organization lives and culture with emerging technology. Leaders in management information systems strategize what others must deliver.
What MIS does differently than computer science
Graduate MIS professionals combine people skills and tech skills to influence and change organizations. Academic work in computer science education focuses on programming logic and deliverable application. However, your MIS education would focus on technology as a people process. It is a real world and holistic approach to organization, process, and analysis. And, you can look forward to a strong job market with attractive salaries.
MIS graduate students know that computer science makes things possible. But, management information systems seeks to tie things together. It bridges gaps and makes the technology perform in the business’s interests.
For example, it might see the need to link incoming customer complaints with sales management software, connect sales with inventory management and shipping/handling, or integrate business practices with supply chain management.
What you will learn in an MIS program
The University of Texas McCombs School of Business is only one of the many schools offering a master’s degree in MIS “to develop leaders who leverage information technology for strategic business value.”
But, you should notice the emphasis on leadership and strategic business value, you can appreciate a typical curriculum with courses including:
- basic programming
- business problem solving theory and practice
- database creation and management
- principles of project management
- strategic information technology
- telecommunications technology
- web app development
- data analytics
- network administration
In addition, students might take courses in organization development, marketing, finance, and operations. The idea is to master a depth in information systems to integrate tools in service of different organization silos.
What a typical MIS student brings to the program
Graduate schools look for certain abilities, experiences, and qualifications. Their admissions experience favors applicants with core values:
Motivated: Graduate students need persistence and motivation to see them through academic and personal challenges. Lectures courses, labs, and practicums challenge students used to the more formal structure of undergraduate school.
In-depth courses demand more research and individual accountability of students who may struggle with finances and schedules, especially when they are balancing work, family, and school. So, persistence and motivation remain important throughout their studies.
Flexible: Graduate professors differ in their approaches and expectations. They assign papers, quizzes, and tests. But, they may also require deep research into topics and methods. More importantly, you may have to adjust your learning style to their varied teaching methodologies.
This takes a directed work ethic. Applicants for graduate school obviously have ambition, but sticking to the commitment can be an individual challenge. You need the energy and the commitment to work steadily and diligently through reading and writing assignments. In fact, students do best when they enjoy and embrace competitive challenges.
Optimistic: Good applicants apply with self-confidence and self-possession. They have a moderate to high emotional IQ and bring their best to every assignment and opportunity.
As a graduate with an MIS master’s degree, you will lead people and engage teams. So, you may be a good candidate if you are characteristically curious, cooperative, and communicative. Any position in information services needs better than average social skills.
Consistent: Information systems students are reliably consistent in spirit and performance. They stick to their objectives with earnestness and willingness. Their energy positions them as amiable and inspiring.
Consistency is a primary principle of organizational leadership. It is both a character trait and a behavior. In addition, graduate instructors and fellow students will notice and respond.
Independent: Employers seek MIS graduates who take risks and deliver solutions. So, graduate admissions appreciate a demonstration of independence. When faced with problems, it often takes innovative approaches to resolve team conflicts or take alternative directions.
In an organization, “independence” still describes your ability to work within a system. But it stresses your insight and willingness to leverage the system for the organization’s benefit.
What a qualified applicant brings to MIS
Most graduate schools of business require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree in some business or IT major. They will accept students who have majored in Human Resources, Organizational Development, Corporate Finance, and the like. However, they prefer students who have performed well in undergraduate courses, including those listed at Washington State University’s Carson School of Business.
- Web Technologies & Innovation
- Managing Information Technology
- Enterprise Business Process Analysis
- Enterprise Business Development
- Data Management
- Business Intelligence
- Global IS Project Management
Graduate students in information systems will design and develop organization information systems. So, they are expected to have backgrounds that develop their people and collaborative skills more than their interest in engineering and computer science.
Graduate schools offering the MIS generally have different admissions planes. They may have a different set of requirements for military veterans, international students, transferring students, and students now in their undergraduate school.
Still, they generally ask for:
- Personal Information
- Academic Transcript
- Test Score (GRE, GMAT, and/or Test of English Language Proficiency)
- Resume (for working adults)
- Essay Statement of Goals
- Letters of Recommendation
The most elite programs expect the highest undergraduate GPA and test scores. But, they also place great emphasis on the student essay and references.
What makes you a good fit for the information systems field?
The admissions essay is the place to show why and how you present a great fit for the field. Communications are central to managing information systems. The essay, of course, indicates your ability to write well in terms of grammar and punctuation. However, your writing must also demonstrate your ability to organize, explain, and persuade.
Adding to these formal elements of good writing, you must write about your experience and plans in judgment making and problem solving. Readers focus on experienced behaviors that demonstrate your skills in active listening, critical thinking, and time management.
They want to know how you negotiate and solve problems. Admissions decision makers do look for your history with mathematics, engineering, programming, and systems. However, they also value your service and community interests, your ambition and passion, and your procedures and outcomes insights.
According to The University of Tulsa Collins College of Business, “MIS professionals are the bridge between the technologies deployed by companies and the non-MIS employees in the organization.” Additionally, graduate schools and employers look for your ability to build those bridges.
What you can do with your MIS master’s degree
Schooling in management information systems opens doors to different career futures. Depending on the organization and industry sector, some lead to more accountable options or higher paying positions. Aerospace, healthcare, finance, and heavy manufacturing, for instance, employ more people in management information services.
Some steps in career paths common to management information services
Computer and Information Systems Analyst: Analysts are usually entry work positions, employees who work with their organization’s current computer and informations systems. They work to support their information technology teams in doing their jobs in the service of organization goals.
They coach IT on creating data models, doable processes, and applicable metrics. They examine existing capabilities for performance, efficiency, and power, and they determine what needs doing within the system or what growth is necessary.
In larger organizations, analysts may fall into categories determined by experience or seniority, but Payscale puts the median income at $66,876. With benefits and bonuses, that can add up to almost $95,000.
Computer and Information Systems Manager: Where the analyst does the legwork, the computer and information systems manager will plan and oversee the architecture and installation of information systems.
The manager coordinates the work of computer systems analysts, computer support specialists, information security analysts, and software developers. They manage short- and long-term organization needs from a strategic and cost-effective perspective. And, they negotiate with vendors for cost-effective solutions so they can persuade stakeholders of procurement value.
Indeed shows a median salary of $85,930 and top demand for computer and information systems managers in New York, Chicago, and Houston.
Computer and Information Systems Director: A director position is an executive level accountability for oversight of all computer-related functions in an organization. The position is responsible for reports involved in the analysis, design, and implementation of information systems.
However, it provides leadership in defining the organization’s technology needs and designing the strategies to meet and exceed the goals. The Computer and Information Systems Director represents the corporate interests in developing metrics and monitoring performance. They communicate effectively with other principals in problem solving and process management.
Payscale puts the average salary at $107,000. But, large organizations may assign different titles and specific lines of responsibility, including Chief Information Technology, Director of IT Operations, Vice President of Technology, and more.
Network Systems Analyst: Analysts monitor and sustain information systems’ hard- and software. They focus on network system performance to discover problems and weaknesses in serving organization goals. It’s their job to report and resolve performance issues to improve outcomes.
Network Systems Analysts will research costs, replace technology, and request upgrades in software and hardware to facilitate team and departmental achievement. Glassdoor lists the average salary at $53,276, but Analysts often move onto higher paying positions.
Network Systems Manager: This career opportunity supervises people in network operation and support functions. Depending on the size and complexity of an organization, the functions may specialize in financial, operations, or security networks.
Managers assign employees and deploy accountabilities in routine or unique assignments. Management may include hands-on work, training, team building, and more.
You will develop and assess employee performance, participate in hiring and corrective action, and continue your own learning. But, the job certainly requires communications between techs and end users.
The average salary reported by Indeed is $94,365, and the largest demand is by companies in New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.
Network Systems Director: The Network Systems Director assumes responsibility for the quality and strategic response of network systems employees. It’s a leadership position demanding accountability for guidance and support for stakeholders in information systems.
Depending on the industry sector and organizational complexity, this title is often combined with other silo functions like engineering and operations. It is not an administrative position. Rather, it directs policy, people, and procedures in network systems dedicated to the organization’s goals and performance.
The director will oversee design and development of network infrastructure to best serve end user needs and expectations. They directly monitor performance of managers and teams responsible for delivery of hard and software support across organization functions. And, they will integrate department performance with the overall budget design and maintenance.
Payscale prices the position at a median of $97,239 media with a potential near $175,000, based on industry sector, scope of position, and years of experience.
Information Organization & Management Analyst: While other analysts focus on technology and tools, the IO&M analyst studies data on execution. The job works on the integration of people with function and objective,
Such analysts recommend systems and procedures to simply work and match employees with process needs. They design best practices for keeping employees and teams engaged and productive.
Management Analyst salaries vary across the board with the scope and span of responsibility. But, Glassdoor averages the salary at $59,302.
Information & Organization Management Manager (I&OM): Hierarchical organizations risk limited coordination and communication. Isolated functional silos work independently without corporate benefit.
I&OM install and monitor processes to improve performance across those barriers. With input from their analysts, managers install processes that facilitate integration and collaboration on information systems inputs and outputs. And, they supervise and assess the performance of staff that identify the problems and affects the change.
Salaries for manager positions in Information and Organization Management on market, experience, and longevity. Different industries define the position as tied to their business infrastructure, so you can expect a great range in pay with a median over $85,000.
Information Organization & Management Director: This senior position provides strategic leadership for those occupied in Information Organization & Management. They are directly accountable to stakeholders for development and maintenance of the organization’s portfolio of information systems and services.
The IO&M Director designs and promotes a vision of the organization with integrated, efficient, and cost-effective information systems. The job provides leadership to those who analyze and assess the meaningful role of emerging technology on the organization, connect technology and business goals, and manage the people and budget that support this accountability.
Titles for this position vary, but salaries for director positions in Information Technology come in at $61,000 to $184,000 according to Payscale. Of course, director positions often benefit from substantial bonuses and profit shares.
Information Architecture Analyst: Information Architects focus on improving user performance with easy and efficient access to required data. The information architecture analyst is an entry position in this career path.
It’s the analyst’s duty to assess the current end user and identify where those problems originate in the current information architecture. The analyst is the “go-to” person when problems arise in network systems and configurations. They fix what they can and recommend revisions where identified.
Payscale posts a median salary for entry-level information architecture positions at $69,272 with some industries paying a much higher dollar, and, many people do this work on a freelance basis.
Information Architecture Manager: The IA manager is a mid-level position on the career path to information architect. The job pursues organization goals by identifying, defining, and upgrading an integrated information system architecture.
IA managers train, develop, and assess staff supporting IA. They supervise system audits, seek remedies in emerging technologies, and recommend strategic solutions to meet organization goals within budget.
Large organization’s designate levels for information architecture managers or assign them to specific areas like finance, human resources, or engineering. Salaries usually exceed $100,000 and trend towards $125,000.
Information Architecture Director:The information architect uses data to design the layout of information systems and networks to optimize end user experience.
However, the information architect director will analyze usability tests and input from analysts to identify patterns, workflow, and processes. With this data, they evaluate performance and needs in the context of organization goals and budget expectations. They communicate with corporate leadership to assess current and future needs and with reporting managers and staff on their roles in problem solving and execution.
Information architecture directors may work as freelancing consultants, and in some organizations, they serve without staff. Salaries available to Glassdoor put the base range at $205k - $225k.
What you can earn with a master’s in management information systems (MIS) degree
The average salary for graduates with MIS master’s degrees lies between $50,000 and $112,000 according to Payscale. Both ends of the scale are considerably higher in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Boston.
Well-known employers, like, Ernst & Young, Amazon, IBM, Accenture, and GM employ graduates with MIS master’s degrees at higher than average rates.
However, you can compare the expected income with the cost of completing an MIS master’s degree at some representative schools cited by Payscale.
- Carnegie Mellon University - $77,419 - $87,429
- Bellevue University (NE) - $93,500
- University of Maryland (UMBC) - $95,500
- University of Maryland - College Park - $82,893
A master’s in management information systems is worth it, especially for those with the right personal characteristics and personal fit. The degree supports those with the ambition and passion for technology and its value to organizations and the purposes that drive them.
The management of information systems offer a rather firm career path from analyst to director accountabilities and earnings. The work provides personal satisfaction despite its emphasis on teamwork.
It encourages the focused attention of an engineer, requires analysis and achievement, and favors the people and communication skills to interact with end users, managers, and vendors.
MIS careers present opportunities for innovation and recognition. Management information systems have become the driver in contemporary organizations. MIS defines the circulation systems, energizes performance, and filters toxic data. And the MIS personnel bridge the gaps between system architecture and the organization’s producers.
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