What is a Master's in Management Information Systems Degree?
A student in a master's program in management information systems (MIS) has the chance to learn how to use technology in an administrative role to help a business meet its needs. Though often associated, the difference between a master's in management information systems and an MBA is that the master's in MIS focuses on businesses' technical and technological use: how technology fuels their growth, how it tracks their data, and how it can be greater utilized to promote business success. Some programs offer a dual degree program where students complete both a MS in MIS and an MBA.
A master's program in management information systems will usually require 30 to 36 credit hours to complete. An MIS degree is designed to prepare graduates for a range of tech careers and leadership opportunities in the business world.
Common Undergraduate Degrees for Management Information Systems
Technology-related bachelor's degrees, such as a Bachelor of Science in MIS or Computer Science, are often the best choice of undergraduate degrees for students looking to do graduate study in management information systems. While not all programs require specific undergraduate degrees, some programs will require that students have either a degree in some technology field or experience working in a technology field, which means that a relevant technology degree will open the door to a wider choice of programs for students who don't have substantial relevant work experience.
Admissions Requirements for Management Information Systems Master's Programs
Most master's programs in management information systems will require a completed bachelor's degree for admission, sometimes with a GPA of 3.0 or better. As noted above, if the bachelor's degree is not in a technology field, the program may also require prior experience (usually at least two years) working in a tech field, such as an IT position. Some programs require this work experience even for applicants with a relevant degree. (Fortunately, there are a number of jobs that use a bachelor's degree in management information systems.) This makes your resume and a letter of recommendation from your employer important parts of your application. The GRE or the GMAT examination is often required; some programs accept either exam, while others prefer the GMAT.
How to Choose a Master's in Management Information Systems Program
Many applicants to master's programs in management information systems will already be working in technology fields, which can help inform their decisions about what they're looking for in an MIS master's program. Students who already have a good idea of what they would like to do with their degree can look for programs that offer concentrations or areas of specialization that align with their interests. They can also look at what students in the program go on to do after graduation: a program that has a lot of graduates working in the student's area of interest is likely a program that emphasizes and excels in this area.
Management Information Systems Master's Degree Courses
The courses that students will take during a master's program in management information systems fall under two main categories. The first is management: graduates will need to develop a good business sense as well as leadership skills, and they will need to understand what makes businesses operate successfully. The second category is technical skills: they will need to understand how to use, manage, and create the databases used in MIS work. Additionally, some courses will combine both aspects of the degree, such as courses that cover data analytics: graduates will need to understand the data presented by the information systems as well as how to analyze it in a business context.
Management Information Systems Foundational Courses
Courses that will be required in most MIS master's programs include:
- Information Technology Management. A course in IT management typically covers the role of technology in the industry and how ongoing technological changes are impacting business models and markets.
- Database Management. MIS graduates will be responsible for managing databases and even creating new ones for their business to use, and this course teaches them how to do so.
- Systems Design. This course teaches students about the systems development life cycle, the process by which new information systems are created, including how and why they're created as well as the functions they serve.
- Business Intelligence Systems. Students in a business intelligence systems course often learn how to use these systems to draw large quantities of information from data warehouses and identify the meaningful information the data contains as well as its business applications.
Management Information Systems Specialist & Elective Courses
These or similar courses will likely also be offered:
- Auditing in Information Technology. In this course, students have a chance to learn how to properly prepare for and conduct IT audits. These audits will include ensuring that the systems in use are secure and analyzing any risks that using the system may incur.
- Ethics. A course in business and internet ethics usually covers ethical issues that arise due to the use of technology in the business world, including areas of government regulation around the world.
Additionally, students may be expected to complete coursework from some of the concentrations discussed below, such as project management, even if they do not specialize in any of these areas. (For example, all students will likely take at least one course in business analytics, even if they choose supply chain management as a concentration.)
Concentrations Offered for a Master's in Management Information Systems Degree
Many management information systems master's programs will have students select a concentration, or area of specialization, upon application or enrollment. Common concentration options include:
- Business Analytics. Business analytics focuses on looking at raw business data (such as sales or past growth) and analyzing it to identify what has or hasn't been successful, what potential problems may be on the horizon, and what can be done to steer the business in the best direction in the future.
- Project Management. Project management involves leading and assisting project team members. It takes both leadership skills and an understanding of the actual responsibilities of the team members, both of which will be taught in this concentration.
- Supply Chain Management. Technology is used to track every step of the supply chain; this concentration teaches students how to ensure the supply chain flows smoothly as well as trains them to be able to see how it can be improved.
- Security Assurance. Security assurance is the role of verifying that the systems, databases, and networks a business or other entity is using are secure from threats such as cyber-attacks and data vulnerabilities.
Licensure & Certification in Management Information Systems
There are a number of certifications that can be helpful for those pursuing careers in management information systems. One of the most prominent is the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), which is a testament to your professional ability to manage and audit management information systems. Another is as a Project Management Professional (PMP), which shows that you are an excellent leader who can guide a team to successful project completion.
Certification as a Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) indicates that you are an expert in business data analysis. Each certification requires thousands of hours of professional MIS work and an exam, but they can be more than worthwhile for those looking to advance in the MIS industry.
Work Experience in Management Information Systems Master's Programs
There's a reason that many management information systems master's programs require certain work experience of their applicants: MIS programs are essentially an academic form of on-the-job training. In fact, many MIS master's programs will require that students complete a work experience, such as an internship, during their master's program, usually toward the end of the program (as their capstone course) or over a summer. The student will work with a real company in an MIS capacity both to gain practical, hands-on experience and to display the skills that he or she has developed over the course of the program. The student's work performance will usually be assessed for a grade. The work experience is valuable for the student as both a resume strengthener and a networking opportunity; these opportunities can turn into a job after graduation.
Post-Graduate Options After a Master's in Management Information Systems
A PhD in Management Information Systems offers students who have successfully completed a master's program in MIS an avenue to continue their education should they choose to do so.
Unlike master's programs in MIS, which focus primarily on data analysis, tech skills, and business leadership, a PhD in MIS will include student research, particularly behavioral research. This research aims to bolster the field as a whole, improving the function and use of information systems. Research skills, the ability to use multiple programming languages, and advanced math skills may be required in addition to a prior degree and work experience. Management information systems PhD careers can take place in academia as well as the business and professional research sectors.
What Can I Do with a Management Information Systems Master's Degree?
The focus of master's programs in management information systems on workplace skills and preparation means that graduates are looking at a very defined space for their career aspirations. Most graduates will be looking for careers in the information technology industry (managing a business's information databases, for example). They will likely be working in an office, spending a large portion of their day at a computer (or several computers), but they'll also interact with other colleagues who work on and use these databases. Higher-level positions will likely include more administrative roles while other positions will likely bear more of the responsibility for the actual system management.
Job Outlook for a Master's in Management Information Systems
Careers for a master's in management information systems have good news in terms of job outlook. These careers tend to be high-paying. They also show promising growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the careers discussed below have an expected 2019-2029 job outlook of 10%; this means that positions in these job areas will grow at more than twice the job growth rate of the overall economy (4%).
Not everywhere in the country is equal when it comes to MIS careers. For information systems managers specifically, one state stands out. California has a little more than twice the ISM job quotient (ISM jobs per total jobs) of the second-highest state (Texas). California also has the highest average pay for ISM jobs. This prominence is largely driven by Silicon Valley, though other areas of the state also do comparatively well.
How to Become a Database Administrator
Database administrators are the primary people responsible for the work that involves information systems and databases. They are the ones who organize these systems, ensure that they are kept up-to-date, and review them to make sure they are error-free and secure. If a problem arises in the system, they are the ones expected to resolve the issue. Any hands-on needs related to the information system, the database administrators handle. In other words, they do exactly what they learn to do during a master's program in management information systems.
That isn't to say that a master's degree is necessary upfront to get a job working as a database administrator or a similar position: typically, a bachelor's is sufficient for entry-level. This makes a starter database administrator position a great fit for prospective students applying to an MIS master's program that requires work experience. Students whose programs require a work experience while enrolled may do so as a database administrator as well.
The BLS gives the average database administrator salary as $98,860 a year (as of 2020).
How to Become an Information Systems Manager
Computer and information systems managers are responsible for making decisions about which information systems and databases to use, deciding how tech resources will be allocated, and planning an IT agenda. Their other responsibilities include managing the IT and MIS staff and overseeing the security efforts for their information systems and intellectual property. Their role is primarily administrative but requires a solid understanding of all the responsibilities and needs of those they manage.
The BLS reports that information systems managers make $151,150 a year on average (reported in 2020). Though entry-level information systems management careers will not necessarily require a master's degree, advancement will likely require a master's degree in addition to years of work experience. The highest-level positions in this field would be a chief technology officer (CTO) or a chief information officer (CIO); these positions will require considerable experience in the field and possibly a PhD in MIS.
Master's in Management Information Systems Program Financial Aid & Scholarship Resources
Federal financial aid for graduate students is accessed by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Some master's programs in management information systems will offer merit-based financial assistance, and others may have need-based assistance.
Because of the close connection between an MIS master's program and the workplace, and the number of MIS master's students working during their program, good MIS master's programs are generally designed to help their students find profitable work during the program, which will help students to cover their educational expenses.
If you've done an excellent job during your work experience prior to your MIS master's program, your employer may also be willing to cover part of your educational expenses if you guarantee that you'll remain with your employer for a set amount of time after completing your degree.
Scholarships are also available. To find one designed for graduate students in an MIS program, check out CareerOneStop's Scholarship Finder