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.

Do I Want to Be 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.

Job Requirements

The senior management position associated with the field of information systems is Chief Information Officer (CIO). The following table summarizes common requirements for entry-level positions.

Common 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*
Computer Skills Programming, database applications, systems design**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Boston College Carroll School of Management

Information Systems Specialist Requirements

Step One: 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 Two: 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 Three: 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 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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