CIS Degree Programs and Career Information

Students seeking a career in computer information systems have a variety of educational opportunities available to them. Degrees are available at the associate's, bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. levels. These undergraduate programs teach students how to design, install and maintain computer systems. At the graduate level, education is centered mostly around research.

Essential Information

CIS degree programs are available at the associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. Undergraduate programs provide training in the basic principles of designing, installing and maintaining an organization's computer system, while graduate level programs are more focused on researching and developing systems for specialized fields. Depending on the students experience and educational background, graduates with CIS degrees may be able to work as support technicians, network administrators, computer system analysts and applications programmers.

  • Program Levels: Associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctorate
  • Prerequisites: A high school diploma or its equivalent is required for an associate's and bachelor's; a bachelor's degree in a related field for a master's; a relevant master's degree a Ph.D.
  • Program Length: 2 years for an associate's, 4 years for a bachelor's, 30-35 credit hours for a master's and 4 years for a Ph.D.
  • Other Requirements: Internships are often required; a thesis or dissertation may be required for a master's degree or Ph.D. respectively.

Associate in Computer Information Systems

Individuals pursuing a CIS associate degree develop analytical skills as well as written, verbal and graphic communication abilities. They also learn about trends affecting the CIS field and acquire techniques for creating and maintaining computer systems. Concentrations may be available in applications support, Web development, network administration and programming.

In order to enroll in a 2-year CIS program, applicants should typically possess a high school diploma or GED. Students are often required to take college placement tests, i.e. COMPASS, before being able to register for classes. Basic computer skills and typing proficiency is helpful.

CIS associate-degree students take general education classes in addition to core coursework. Topics of study include:

  • Computer systems networks and security
  • Strategies in technical support
  • Basics of website creation
  • Operating system fundamentals
  • Programming techniques

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Information Systems (CIS)

At the bachelor's level, CIS programs are often designed for individuals who are knowledgeable about information systems. Students learn general business concepts as well as computer networking and system development techniques. Theories are put into action as students demonstrate their knowledge through labs and special projects.

CIS bachelor's degree program applicants must have a high school diploma or a GED certificate. High school graduates or college transfers typically need a 2.5 GPA for admissions consideration, and ACT scores are necessary. Candidates with a computer background are preferred. Students who do not have technological experience may be required to take pre-entry courses in basic applications and programming.

Completion of a CIS capstone project and work portfolio may be required before graduation. Internships are available if not necessary. Classes include:

  • Programming formulas and languages
  • Designing computer systems
  • Developing software applications
  • Fundamentals in managing information systems
  • Applied studies in CIS

Master's Degree in Computer Information Systems (CIS)

CIS master's programs generally require 30-35 credits for completion. CIS students may be able to specialize in health information systems, database administration, applications engineering or information technology management. Students learn advanced techniques in CIS and gain research-building and critical-thinking skills.

CIS master's program applicants must have a bachelor's degree with, typically, a 3.0 GPA or higher. An educational background in computer science or work experience in computer information systems is generally preferred. Applicants must submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores.

CIS students typically complete a master's thesis or project and may have to complete a final master's exam. CIS courses include:

  • Programming language semantics
  • Developing databases
  • Methods for testing applications
  • Simulated systems
  • Industry innovations in database administration

Ph.D. in Computer Information Systems (CIS)

Doctoral CIS programs focus on developing a student's research and critical-thinking skills, since Ph.D. courses are typically preparatory programs for future scholars and university educators. Programs take about four years to complete, often requiring an additional 30 credits beyond a master's degree.

Most CIS programs prefer applicants who have a related master's degree or, at the minimum, a bachelor's degree with related work experience or advanced technical knowledge. GRE scores must be submitted.

Upon department approval, students begin research and preparation for their dissertation, which they will have to successfully defend in order to graduate. Doctoral CIS studies often consist of:

  • CIS formulas analysis
  • Operating systems
  • Database systems
  • Software development
  • Theories in programming language

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

CIS 2-year degree-holders are qualified to work in support roles or as network administrators. Systems support personnel are expected to experience an 17% rise in employment from 2012-2022, and in May 2014, these professionals earned a median annual salary of $61,830, notes the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). In contrast, system administrators are anticipated to see a 12% spike in employment over the aforementioned decade. In May 2014, they earned a median wage of $75,790 annually.

CIS 4-year graduates are often qualified to work in management roles, as well as in systems analysis and development and programming. Computer systems analysts earned a median salary of $82,710, in May 2014, and are expected to experience a 25% increase in employment from 2012-2022. In contrast, computer programmers, who made a median salary of $77,550 annually in May 2014, may experience a 8% rise in employment for that decade. All statistics quoted are from BLS.

In May 2014, computer and information systems managers earned a median salary of $127,640, and most managers worked in California, New York and Texas, notes the BLS. Additionally, CIS managers are expected to experience an 15% rise in employment from 2012-2022 (BLS statistic).

Many CIS doctoral graduates go on to work as professors or researchers. College professors are projected to have a 19% climb in employment over the 2012-2022 decade, indicates the BLS. What's more, these professionals earned a median annual salary of $62,330 in May 2014.

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