Associate's degree programs in computer information systems usually feature concentrations such as programming, graphic design, or network management. Graduates may pursue entry-level positions as junior programmers and assistant systems managers.
Bachelor's degree programs in computer information systems usually include coursework in computer science and business and focus on solving business problems with technology. Students can expect to learn about programming, database administration, computer theory, and management information systems. Graduates may work as web developers, software developers, network administrators, or computer support specialists.
Students in master's degree programs in computer information systems usually take business and computer courses at an advanced level. Many programs are available online or with a combination of on-campus and online classes.
Both undergraduate programs will require students to have a high school diploma or GED to enroll, with the bachelor's degree also specifying a high GPA and standardized test scores. A master's degree will require students to have earned a computer science or related bachelor's with a background in computer science and discrete mathematics.
Associate Degree in Computer Information Systems (CIS)
Associate degrees in computer management are designed to prepare students for entry-level jobs in CIS. A number of programs first offer basic training in information systems and computer technology. Following this students choose a concentration in areas such as computer programming, CADD programs, or database management.
Because of options for concentrations, program coursework can vary greatly between programs. However, the core courses often address:
- Programming with generic language and design
- Basic computer networks and data communication
- Visual basic programming
- Basics of data modeling
- Basics of structured query language (SQL)
- Relational database management systems (RDBMS) and technology
Bachelor's Degree in Computer Information Systems (CIS)
A bachelor's degree in computer management is often interdisciplinary - computer science plus another field, often business - which allows student development in management. Some programs are heavily weighted toward the computer side, while others give almost equal weight to computers and business. Programs often emphasize using computers as complex tools for problem-solving. In a business setting, focuses can include solving problems from a department in a small business to a multi-national corporation.
Since some programs focus almost entirely on computers and others include a number of business courses, there is a lot of disparity between programs. Computer courses often include:
- Object-oriented programming, C++ programming language, Java programming
- Discrete structures
- Computational theory
- Planning processes of information systems
- Database administration and client-server systems
- Decision support systems (DSS)
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Master's Degree in Computer Information Systems (CIS)
The two primary reasons individuals might need a master's degree in computer management are if a job requires it or if they have a bachelor's in another area but want the CIS-focused training. The focus of such programs is generally the same as bachelor's degrees. Some master's degree programs offer concentration options, such as information security. Core courses often cover:
- Advanced software development and implementation
- Artificial intelligence, data mining and business intelligence
- Cyberlaw and intellectual property
- Managerial quantitative methods
- Overview of programming languages
- Small and large system hardware
In computer management, an associate's degree is primarily the stepping-stone to a bachelor's degree program, because, for most computer management jobs, a bachelor's degree or a master's degree is a minimal requirement. Beginning entry-level jobs for those with an associate's degree include:
- Programmer trainee
- Junior programmer
- Computer systems assistant manager
There are many more computer management jobs available to those who have bachelor's or master's degrees than those with a lower degree. Some of the starting positions are:
- Application programmer
- Computer support specialist
- Network administrator
- Software developer
- Web developer
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists a number of the potential careers of CIS specialists and gives separate statistics for each. Two of their most prominent ones are computer and information systems managers and computer programmers. The BLS reports that jobs for computer and information systems managers are expected to grow 15% from 2014-2024, which is much faster than the average for all occupations; programmer jobs are anticipated to decline 8% during that same time (www.bls.gov). As of May 2015, computer and information systems managers earned a median annual wage of $131,600, while computer programmers earned a median annual wage of $79,530.
Because computer technologies are in a constant flux, computer systems information specialists need to attend seminars or webinars and take courses or read journals from professional societies on a regular basis to stay current. The primary professional societies for computer specialists are the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP) and ISACA.
There are many certifications that could benefit a computer systems manager, but individuals need to determine exactly which one(s) fit their needs. Companies that offer appropriate certifications include the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP), ISACA, CompTIA, and Microsoft.
Associate's, bachelor's, and master's degrees are available to students wishing to enter a computer management career. Continuing education will be necessary due to the nature of the field, often through seminars or webinars, and professional certification is also available from various organizations.