How to Become an Information Systems Specialist

Learn how to become an information systems specialist. Research the education and career requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in information systems.

Should I Become an Information Systems Specialist?

Information systems specialists develop and support an organization's computer technology and database systems. Most information systems personnel are either programmers or analysts. Analysts examine business problems, translate these problems into information systems solutions, develop prototypes, and troubleshoot the systems they've designed. Programmers implement and maintain the designs created by analysts. In addition to maintaining a firm's information systems operations, information systems specialists are responsible for interacting with related consultants and vendors and for assessing and protecting against threats to information security.

Both computer systems analysts and programmers usually work full-time. Telecommuting is possible as an information systems specialist; programmers can write code from anywhere but analysts may need to travel to clients' locations to gather the information they need. Employment as an information systems specialist may be with one corporation or as a consultant, either self-employed or assigned to projects by a information technology firm.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Typically, bachelor's degree; graduate degree for some management careers
Degree Field Computer science and information science
Certification Available, not required
Experience 5-10 years to move into management
Key Skills Decision-making, analytical, communication and organizational skills, programming knowledge, working knowledge of database applications and systems design
Salary (2014) $77,550 per year (Median salary for computer programmers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2014), Boston College Carroll School of Management.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Common degrees held by information systems specialists include Bachelor of Science in Computer Science or Bachelor of Science in Information Systems. In addition to general education coursework, students are exposed to system and software development, operating systems and information systems applications. Students in information systems programs are also introduced to project management, business technology and research methodology in their courses.

Step 2: Earn Certification

Certification for information systems analysts and programmers is voluntary, but can demonstrate skills and knowledge to potential employers. The Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals and the Center for Computing Education Research jointly offer the Information Systems Analyst (ISA) credential. To earn the credential, an applicant must have completed a bachelor's degree program in information systems and pass an exam.

Step 3: Gain 5-10 Years of Experience

According to the BLS, you may need only a few years of experience to move into a lower-level management position. However, to become an information systems director, you'll typically need 5-10 years of experience. Jobs at upper management levels, such as a Chief Information Officer (CIO) generally require at least 15 years of experience.

Success Tip:

Earn the Certified Information Systems Manager (CISM) credential. The Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) offers the CISM credential, which focuses on the security and risk management aspects of information systems design and maintenance. The requirements include five years of work experience (up to two years can be waived), agreeing to a code of professional ethics, pursuing continuing education and passing an exam.

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