Best Online Bachelor's in Computer Information Systems

Mar 04, 2021

Online Computer Information Systems Degree Overview

An online degree in Computer Information Systems (CIS) gives students the opportunity to learn about technical topics such as operating systems, computer organization, and coding. Additionally, these online options often offer more flexibility than traditional campus programs.

Online Associate Degrees in Computer Information Systems

Students pursuing an associate degree in this field can typically expect to commit two years, or 70 credits, to its completion. Given the hands-on, technical nature of computer science, these degrees are typically Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) as opposed to an Associate of Science (A.S.) or an Associate of Art (A.A.). The brief nature of the course means that most classes will be focused on fields within or relating to computer science, however, some schools will also require less related courses such as English for a more well-rounded education. Students who earn this degree can likely expect to be considered for entry-level IT positions. Additionally, there are many programs that will accept transfer credits from an associate degree.

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Computer Information Systems

For a bachelor's degree in CIS, students should expect a program to be comprised of about 120 credits, taken over the course of 4 full-time years. Some schools may offer accelerated options for their online options. Most degrees offered at this level in this field are Bachelor of Science degrees due to the high technical focus. Students who choose to pursue a bachelor's on this topic will likely find that their education will include not only deeper examinations of computer principles, but also some surveying of liberal arts topics as well depending on the general education requirements of the institution. Given the longer duration of this program, bachelor's degrees tend to be more expensive and rigorous than associate tracks. However, students who earn a bachelor's may find that they have more options for employment. Some jobs will require applicants to have a bachelor's degree in order to be considered, such as the position of an information systems manager.

Online Master's Degrees in Computer Information Systems

A master's degree is typically around 40 credits and can take between one and two years. While bachelor's degrees are often mostly instructional classes, students in a master's program might expect to complete more independent research. Additionally, the courses at this level typically cover more sophisticated material. Some programs may also require an internship experience for graduation. A diploma on this level may be required by some employers for certain positions or promotions, such as an information systems security manager. Students who are interested in a master's degree will very likely need to have a bachelor's to be considered for entry.

Online Doctoral Degrees in Computer Information Systems

This degree requires several years of commitment, typically within the range of 3-6 years depending on program and student. Some institutions enforce a 10-year limit. Doctoral degrees focus closely on individual research efforts and highly sophisticated topics, building on knowledge gained from a bachelor's degree. Additionally, it is typical for students to be required to complete a dissertation, a specialized research effort usually conducted with guidance from faculty. This includes a proposal and the dissertation itself, each of which may also require a student defense. This might consist of students answer questions or supporting their findings in front of a committee of faculty experts created for the purpose. There may also be additional requirements, such as acting as a teaching assistant for undergraduate students, depending on the institution.

Data from PayScale suggests that the investment of a doctoral degree can set students up for high paying jobs such as a government program manager. In nearly every case, students must have a bachelor's degree for admittance. They may want to consider a master's degree as well to prepare for the doctoral workload.

Online Certificates in Computer Information Systems

Undergraduate certificates typically act as an introduction to the field and can be as short as two courses. These may be useful for students who are interested in an associate degree but are not ready to commit to the time and cost needed. A high school degree or equivalent G.E.D. is typically required to attend.

Graduate certificates are typically meant for students who have either accrued a few years of professional experience or taken several academic courses already. Usually around 18-20 credits, these certificates tend to be more specialized and offer students the opportunity to build their technical expertise in a chosen area, such as healthcare cybersecurity or digital forensics, with general education requirements or introductory courses related to other parts of the field generally absent.

Students might find it helpful to think of certificates of both types as steppingstones. With typically shorter lengths and cheaper prices, they can help students prepare for future education or employment without the commitment required by some other degrees.

Computer Information Systems Specializations/Concentrations

Given the general nature of CIS, online bachelor's degrees usually offer students the opportunities to specialize in their studies. Some examples of common concentrations include:

  • Artificial intelligence: where students can learn how machine learning integrates into information technology
  • Network systems and administration: a focus that gives students the opportunity to learn the best practices for supporting technological infrastructure
  • Website development: which allows students to specialize in the building and maintenance of online web pages

As technology is a rapidly evolving field, students might want to consider choosing a concentration that will support their career growth as well as one they have competency in.

Curriculum/Coursework for a Computer Information Systems Degree

While students should generally expect their education to consist mainly of computer and technology-related courses, general education requirements of an institution may require them to take liberal arts classes such as English or philosophy as well. The specific curriculum for an online CIS bachelor's degree will vary with concentration, but there are several courses that students can expect to be present at most institutions. These may include:

  • Coding: which may cover some or all of the languages of Java, C++, and Python.
  • Cyber security: which may offer education regarding the best preventative technology for safe business practices and help students pursue a career as an information systems security officer.
  • Electronic commerce: where students have the opportunity to learn the technical requirements of doing business over the internet.

Other examples may include business information systems and software development.

How Long Does it Take to Get an Online Bachelor's in Computer Information Systems?

An online bachelor's degree taken full-time typically consists of a four-year commitment or more if taken part-time. Students should generally expect that half of the required 120 credits will be specifically focused on computer and internet technology, with the rest being general education requirements. Accelerated options are typically available. In an institution that offers 18 credits per semester and 7 per summer terms, for example, a student taking on the full course load could conceivably finish the required credits in just under three years. Online learning tends to be more flexible in this area. Asynchronous and self-paced options are oftentimes available, though some courses have required log-in times or time spent online. This will include a higher workload, however, and as such potential students should carefully consider this option.

Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Computer Information Systems Degrees

A school becomes accredited when it has been officially approved by non-governmental private organizations that have themselves been recognized by either the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), the Department of Education, or both. Students may want to attend an accredited school as a way to demonstrate to employers or future educational opportunities that they have attended a program of acceptable caliber. Furthermore, students who want to apply for federal aid must attend an accredited program to be considered eligible. As such, any students who are considering an unaccredited school should carefully consider how this will impact their educational and career prospects.

Additionally, specific programs can be accredited by independent bodies. For example, the Association Board of Engineering &Technology (ABET) is a respected accreditation board for computer programs. Much like regional accreditation, this represents that ABET has vetted a certain CIS program and deemed it up to a professional standard. It may be a useful tool for students deciding on a quality online degree.

Computer Information Systems Licensure & Certification

CIS degrees may qualify students for a variety of careers, none of which typically require a license. However, there are options for workers in the computer industry to earn certification from professional organizations to demonstrate their capabilities in certain areas:

  • The Institute of for Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP): This organization offers certification at several levels of experience and education. Some examples of titles that students have the opportunity to obtain are Public Sector Data Governance Professional and Cyber Security Professional. These titles offer benefits such as professional development as well as respect from informed colleagues and possible employers. Applications depend on level of expertise but will require at least two examinations and a fee.
  • The Certified Analytics Professional Program: This program offers the opportunity to become a Certified Analytics Professional. They also offer the opportunity to become an Associate Certified Analytics Professional for those with more education but less experience. Applicants must have either a bachelor's degree with five or more years of experience or a master's degree with three or fewer years of experience respectively. These certifications each require the applicant to submit professional documents, pay a fee, and pass an exam. The program advertises that those who acquire either of these certifications are demonstrating the credibility of their skills as well as expanding their abilities.
  • Transforming Data With Intelligence (TDWI): TDWI is a group that offers the Certified Business Intelligence Professional (CBIP) credential. This certification is intended for those in senior positions who want to demonstrate their proficiency in business intelligence. At least two years of experience are required to apply. A bachelor's or masters is also required; however, it may be substituted with experience. A fee is also required to sit the exam process. TDWI states that obtaining this certificate will assist those certified by improving the business opportunities available to them, as well as fostering professional adaptability.

Computer Information Systems Career Information

An online bachelor's degree in CIS can give students the opportunity to pursue several careers. Schools offering these programs highlight the necessity of CIS professionals in any organization that needs to bridge their business and technological requirements. Industries ranging from healthcare to higher education are seeking out holders of CIS bachelor's degrees for jobs as network administrators, web developers, and systems analysts.

How to Become an Information Systems Specialist

Information systems specialists are professionals who create, maintain, and adjust an organization's IT and databases. They are responsible for creating business solutions with the technology at their disposal and generally overseeing the smooth operations of day-to-day needs. They will typically spend most of their time working behind computers, although visits to on-site technology may be required from time to time. There is no required licensure or certification for this position, however, certification may be valuable for higher-level positions or to demonstrate additional education in this area. These professionals must be organized, logical, and maintain a deep knowledge of information technology while also being able to communicate their thoughts to coworkers and clients.

To enter this career, students should hold at least a bachelor's degree in computer information systems. They might also want to consider relevant certification, such as the information systems analyst credential offered by the ICCP. Finally, they might want to spend a few years gaining experience in areas of project management or network organization before applying for this high-level profession. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), experienced professionals in this career can expect to earn around $146,000 per year. The BLS anticipates that as organizations expand and increase their technology, the need for this position will grow, an estimated 10% between 2019 and 2029. The highest paying state is New York, followed closely by California and New Jersey.

How to Become an Information Systems Security Engineer

An information systems security engineer is a professional responsible for the safeguarding of business information through the creation and maintenance of technological protocols. They are responsible for tasks such as the detection and resolution of viruses, the creation of firewalls and other preventative measures, and mitigating the risk of hackers or spam. They will likely do most of this through coding and other tasks that take place from a computer.

Students considering this job will need to have a comprehensive understanding of security systems, a general proficiency in technology, and an organized mind. This job typically does not require a license, although specialized certification may help with higher positions. Students may want to consider becoming a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). This certification is only available to those with a minimum of four years of paid working experience.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, professionals in this career can expect to earn just under $100,000 per year, with an impressively fast 31% growth rate predicted for 2019-2029. This is due to the projected increase of criminal technological efforts against organizations as well as the general increase of data to project as well. The highest paying states for this occupation are New York, New Jersey, and D.C., in that order.

Financial Aid and Scholarship Information for Computer Information Systems Degrees

Students may first want to consult the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see their eligibility for governmental support. If they choose to submit an application, the government will let them know how much monetary support can be given via governmental scholarships, federal loans, and work-study opportunities. As this process can be lengthy, interested students are advised to begin this process early, and choose an accredited online program to qualify for this support.

Additionally, there are scholarships specifically for those pursuing a CIS degree. One example is The VueVille Future Technology Scholarship. A scholarship of $1,000 is awarded to a student attending an accredited school full-time who submits the winning brief essay. Students attending accredited schools full-time can also consider the Microsoft Scholarship, awarded in various amounts to students who maintain good standing in STEM fields while pursuing their bachelor's.

The Difference Between Computer Science vs. Computer Information Systems

Despite the similarity in names, there are several important distinctions between computer science and computer information systems.

Computer information systems is the application of IT principles to daily business operations. It involves not only technical knowledge but also how to use them to fix problems that organizations and corporations will face. They can achieve careers such as information systems security engineers and information systems specialists.

By contrast, computer science has more of a focus on the coding and software of these IT principles. This field of study can give students the opportunity to pursue careers such as software developers and computer programmers. In short, they can use technological expertise to solve a wide range of problems as opposed to CIS majors, who use a wide variety of expertise to solve technological problems.

Professional Organizations in Computer Information Systems

There are many professional organizations available to students pursuing a career in computer information systems. A few examples include:

  • The Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T): It is a generalist information science organization. Thousands of professionals at various levels join this organization to network and share ideas. It can offer an advantage of interdisciplinary communication to a collection of international members.
  • The Association for Information Systems: It strives to leverage information systems careers for the betterment of society and education. It provides a sense of community, a common goal, and various resources only available to members.
  • Information Systems Security Association (ISSA): It is an international organization dedicated to the purpose of promoting security in the digital sphere. In addition to networking and several membership tiers, ISSA also offers resources for professionals like journal access and continued education opportunities.
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