Information Systems Careers
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The information systems field centers on applying information technology (IT) knowledge and skills to help companies maximize their performance. With an information systems degree, you can work in diverse industries like manufacturing and finance.
The following guide covers careers for an information systems major. You can learn about the degree itself, including common program structures and course requirements. Additionally, the guide contains information on professional development resources like fellowship opportunities and massive open online courses (MOOCs).
Why Pursue a Career in Information Systems?
You can find rapidly growing and lucrative information systems careers in for-profit, nonprofit, and governmental sectors. Many organizations need specialists who can gather and evaluate data, and then turn those numbers into actionable business strategies. Because information systems experts are in high demand, these professionals can also switch jobs with relative ease.
To succeed in computer and management information systems, new professionals must develop the ability to think critically and creatively. They need to quickly apply their knowledge of organizational processes and data analytics to solve complex problems. Detail-oriented individuals with a knack for interpersonal and technical communication often thrive in the field.
Information Systems Career Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that computer and information technology occupations will grow by 11% between 2019 and 2029. This translates into more than 500,000 new jobs, making IT one of the fastest-growing sectors in the United States. The rapid evolution of technology fuels this increase, as businesses seek the latest software to optimize organizational performance and protect themselves from cyberattacks.
The table below displays typical annual salaries for careers in information systems with respect to a worker's experience level. Additionally, the BLS reports that the median salary for an IT professional is $88,240 per year. However, an individual's earning potential varies based on their industry/employer, location, and qualifications.
|Information Systems Analyst||$56,820||$60,640||$70,140||$78,140|
|Information Systems Manager||N/A||$67,760||$78,810||$92,410|
Skills Gained With a Information Systems Degree
By pursuing an information systems degree, you can learn to apply quantitative data analysis techniques to enhance how companies manage their employees and financial resources, as well as how they operate daily functions and special projects. The following section describes a few additional hard and soft skills learned during an information systems program.
Information technology and business operations require professionals who can constantly adapt the way they think and solve problems. Tacit knowledge, sometimes referred to as a "gut feeling," can mislead when tackling novel challenges. Effective analytical thinking skills enable professionals to spot the differences between inductive and deductive reasoning, as well as good and bad arguments.
Information systems professionals often need to explain highly technical concepts to diverse audiences, including people outside their industry. Information systems specialists who want to occupy leadership positions also need strong interpersonal communication skills. As more companies embrace collaborative approaches to doing business, IT managers and executives must be able to train and motivate cross-disciplinary teams.
To pursue an information systems career — particularly as a software developer — students must develop an in-depth understanding of scripting and languages like Python, C++, HTML, CSS, and SQL. In addition to degrees, many IT practitioners obtain skill-specific certificates from industry organizations like ISACA.
Even if their target job does not directly focus on network administration or software development, information systems students need to learn about the client-server system model. A fast and secure network allows companies to share common resources across all of their computers. Because of its importance, information networks are often the target of cyberattacks.
Project management is an important skill for anyone working in IT and business. Whether acting as a team member or manager, information systems professionals need to collaborate, solve problems, and produce results while adhering to financial guidelines and time restrictions. Software developers must learn to operate within a distinct seven-step project lifecycle.
Information Systems Career Paths
Information systems is a broad term that refers to how an organization retrieves, analyzes, and applies various data sources to maximize performance and reduce cost. To this end, careers with an information systems degree can be found in industries like healthcare, education, and aerospace manufacturing. You can also work for the federal government as a cybersecurity specialist, helping prevent threats from domestic and international terrorist groups.
The BLS projects that information security analyst positions will grow by 31% between 2019 and 2029. This career path centers on defending against and recovering from cyberattacks. Security professionals help establish IT standards and best practices. They also monitor activities for breaches, preparing to investigate an incident should one occur.
The BLS projects that employment opportunities in web development will expand by 8% between 2019 and 2029. Web developers create websites, determining how pages look and function. Depending on their position, these professionals may also monitor and help increase site traffic.
This career path centers on the development and implementation of an organization's information systems, including software, hardware, and networks. Companies of all sizes rely on efficient information systems to improve employee performance and enhance their competitiveness in the global market. The top leaders in this field — usually called chief information officers (CIOs) — manage departmental budgets, monitor organizational compliance, and create new IT tools and business strategies.
Data analytics students learn how to extract meaning from vast, diverse, and high-velocity data sets, using this information to drive organizational decision-making and project development. The BLS projects 7% job growth for information computer systems analysts between 2019 and 2029.
"Smart" tech generally refers to any inanimate object that responds to human language and influences human behavior. Information systems professionals who work in smart technology may create automaton devices that have the capability to self-upgrade their function through machine learning.
How to Start Your Career in Information Systems
Associate Degree in Information Systems
Although you can qualify for some entry-level roles with an associate degree, most careers in information systems require a bachelor's degree or higher. A bachelor's program offers comprehensive academic training that covers core IT and business competencies. Depending on the school, learners may be able to gain specialized skills by pursuing a concentration.
Entry-level employees usually work as members of a software development or database administration team. By gaining hands-on experience and obtaining a graduate degree, you can advance into a management position or work for yourself as an entrepreneur or freelance consultant.
What Can You Do With an Associate in Information Systems?
Students can prepare for a career in information systems by earning an associate degree over two years. Most two-year programs center on core business concepts and technical skills. Learners complete about 60 credits of classes in areas like financial accounting, professional communication, Windows applications, and major programming languages.
With an associate of information systems, graduates can apply for entry-level support positions with IT services organizations and technology manufacturers and retailers. They may also be able to work as computer programmers and web developers — some major tech companies do not require applicants to have a bachelor's degree if they have a strong work portfolio demonstrating their skills.
Alternatively, associate degree-holders can pursue additional academic training. Many community colleges maintain articulation agreements with state universities, allowing students to seamlessly transfer into bachelor's completion programs.
As part of a product development team, computer programmers translate software design into code that enables a program to function effectively. Employers generally prefer applicants with certification in a vendor-specific product or distinct programming language. In lieu of working for a single software publisher or IT services company, programmers can work as freelancers. Most of these positions require a bachelor's degree, but skilled programmers with any level of education may qualify.
Computer support specialists may work as part of a network team, conducting systems evaluations and maintaining optimal performance. Alternatively, they can work in user support positions, teaching customers how to use a product and troubleshoot common errors. These professionals can find employment with retailers, government agencies, telecommunications companies, and financial institutions.
By enrolling in an associate of web development program, students develop the skills needed to design how a website looks according to client/employer specifications. They also learn how to augment technical qualities, such as a site's speed and traffic capacity. Students who earn an information systems degree also develop many of these proficiencies.
Bachelor's Degree in Information Systems
To pursue most information systems careers, professionals must earn at least a bachelor's degree. Traditional programs take four years to complete, but students can expedite graduation by enrolling in accelerated tracks. Online bachelor's in information systems programs may allow students to take seven-week courses year-round — usually through an asynchronous online format — to graduate in less time.
Requiring at least 120 credits, information systems bachelor's programs cover foundational business topics like leadership principles, statistics, and strategic thinking, as well as IT subjects like information systems design, management, and analysis.
Depending on the program, students can focus their training by taking on a concentration, with options like project management, digital marketing, and web application development. These programs usually culminate in an internship and/or applied research project.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor's in Information Systems?
Some software developers and engineers design applications for computers and mobile devices, while other professionals in this field design underlying operating systems and user interfaces. They also monitor the software's functionality to identify necessary maintenance and updates. According to the BLS, software development positions are projected to grow by 22% between 2019 and 2029.
These professionals oversee specialized software used to store, organize, and secure information, such a hospital's patient records or a bank's financial transactions. They grant access to designated users and prevent data corruption and theft by cybercriminals. Depending on the employer, database administrators may also work as part of a product development team.
Also known as systems architects, these professionals often work for IT service providers, product developers, and financial institutions. They assess an organization's current information systems and operating procedures to determine and implement strategies that can increase productivity and profit. Analysts who specialize in software quality assurance conduct performance tests to ensure a product satisfies project requirements.
An important position for companies across many industries, computer administrators manage the daily operations of data communication systems, which include intranets and wide-area networks. They optimize system performance and implement security measures to keep data safe. Experienced computer systems administrators may also choose and install new software and hardware to meet changing organizational needs.
Information security analysts are valuable in many industries due to the escalating frequency and severity of cyberattacks. These professionals develop the IT security standards for their companies, training employees on best practices to ensure compliance. They also monitor computer networks and systems for breaches, investigating threats as necessary.
Master's Degree in Information Systems
Graduate programs build on a student's undergraduate degree and prior work experience to help them advance at their current job or start a new career. Conventional master's programs take about two years to complete, requiring learners to complete roughly 30-40 credits of coursework and self-motivated research. However, learners may be able to graduate within 12 months by enrolling in an online master's in information systems and technology program.
The specific curricular structure and content differ based on the school and program. For example, students who pursue an MBA in information systems management receive leadership training that enables them to oversee projects from start to finish and promote a productive multicultural work environment.
Alternatively, students can enroll in an online master's in information systems security program, learning how to manage access and maintain business continuity through disaster recovery planning.
What Can You Do With a Master's in Information Systems?
These IT professionals develop enterprise networks that facilitate onboard access to a specific location/device, connect users to securely stored data, or enable the usage of an application across vast distances. Network architectures create design plans that meet employer/client specifications and information security best practices. They also work with vendors to purchase and update software and equipment. Employers may prefer to hire candidates with a master's degree for this position.
Information systems managers oversee major aspects of their company's technology-related activities. After collaborating with executives to determine an organization's IT goals, these professionals manage the installation of software and computer hardware. They are also responsible for the financial compliance and personnel performance of their department or team. Many of these managers hold a master's degree.
Depending on their position, computer scientists may devise novel uses for existing technologies, such as finding a more efficient way to code with Python. Alternatively, they may conduct research on new IT concepts and products. Many computer and information research scientists specialize in subfields like robotics/machine learning, cloud computing, and social media addiction.
Often working as freelancers or for consulting firms, information systems consultants meet with clients to identify IT problems. They develop and implement integrated systems and strategies to meet organizational goals. These professionals may also perform audits to help government agencies and third-party reviewers assess the quality and legal compliance of a product or service. A master's degree can signal a high level of expertise to potential clients.
Sources: BLS and PayScale
Doctoral Degree in Information Systems
Experienced professionals can access the highest leadership positions at their company or prepare for research and college teaching positions by earning a doctorate in information systems. Most programs require 60-120 credits. Applicants generally need a relevant bachelor's or master's degree, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and adequate GMAT or GRE scores.
Curricula emphasize research methodologies and applications. Courses like multivariate analysis and experimental design teach students how to conduct research at the individual, team, macro, and meso levels. Most programs culminate in a dissertation, and most students graduate in 4-6 years.
What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Information Systems?
Experienced information systems managers may become a CIO, an executive-level position with control over a company's in-house IT procedures, projects, and policies. These professionals implement technologies that improve the performance of individual employees and the organization as a whole. In addition to managing daily activities, CIOs help ensure a company achieves its long-term goals.
CTOs are responsible for external organizational growth. They oversee the ideation, manufacturing, and distribution of new technological products and services. To this end, they must work closely with development teams to come up with deliverables that cater to their customers' shifting needs and the industry's evolving trends.
In addition to providing classroom instruction in their area of expertise, postsecondary instructors help students identify career paths, pursue independent research, and apply for internships and graduate school. They also perform duties for their academic department, helping recruit prospective students and update curricula. Many college professors perform research in addition to teaching courses.
How to Advance Your Career in Information Systems
After graduating from college and earning your first job, you can advance your information systems career by gaining experience. As you demonstrate increased competency and develop your skills, your employer may begin to assign you more complex tasks and bigger projects.
This section offers insight into additional means of professional development, including obligatory licensure and optional certification. You can also learn about continuing education opportunities, like fellowship programs and free online classes, as well as the benefits afforded to members of information systems associations.
Certifications and/or Licensure
Depending on their chosen information systems career, professionals may need to earn government licensure to work in their state. This requirement is common among occupations that serve the public, including nursing, social work, and counseling. Since data analysis now influences educational programs, information systems specialists can also work as school administrators after obtaining the necessary credentials.
Due to the field's highly technical nature and the rapid rate at which business practices and technologies evolve, information systems professionals usually obtain industry-specific or skill-specific certification to enhance their employability in a competitive job market. Some tech companies may only hire certified candidates, particularly if the position requires advanced knowledge and specialized skills.
You can obtain many vendor-specific certifications, including those for IBM, Cisco, Citrix Systems, and Microsoft. Vendor-neutral options include the certified information systems security professional credential from (ISC). You can also become certified in project management, risk assessment, and business analysis through the Project Management Institute (PMI).
While certain IT employers hire applicants who do not have a college degree, careers in information systems typically require professionals to earn a postsecondary degree, and upper-level positions may require a master's or doctorate. However, before you spend significant time and money on graduate school, consider taking free MOOCs through platforms like Coursera and edX. Courses cover topics like health informatics, quantum machine learning, and cybersecurity economics.
Graduate and postdoctoral fellowships are another form of continuing education, with many programs offering stipends and skill development. Options include the U.S. Department of State's Foreign Affairs Information Technology Fellowship and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Public Health Informatics Fellowship Program. The Center for Information Technology Policy also provides fellowship opportunities to applicants interested in data science, cryptocurrency, and artificial intelligence.
Certified information systems professionals usually need to accrue a designated number of continuing education units (CEUs) each renewal period to maintain their industry credentials. For example, PMI requires project management professionals to renew their certification every three years by earning 60 CEUs. Acceptable professional development activities may include completing an online seminar, attending a local meeting or global event, and volunteering with PMI or a partnering association.
Advancing your career in information systems also requires expanding your circle of colleagues, mentors, and other professional contacts. You can find local networking opportunities through your employer or the regional chapter of a professional organization. These associations also host annual gatherings, including the Americas Conference on Information Systems and the International Conference on Computer Communication and Information Systems.
How to Switch Your Career to Information Systems
Career changers with experience in an adjacent IT or business industry should highlight the transferability of their skills, citing relevant examples of prior professional challenges and accomplishments. For example, an accountant's experience with statistics may make them an effective IT auditor. Similarly, a computer programmer or systems analyst can pursue a Microsoft certification to qualify to work as a Sharepoint developer.
If you do not have relevant experience, consider completing intensive training through a coding bootcamp. Since many of these programs are not accredited, make sure you evaluate their effectiveness by conducting online research and reaching out to former students. The best IT bootcamps cover object-oriented programming languages and teach students to analyze the entire software development lifecycle with quality assurance manual testing.
Where Can You Work as a Information Systems Professional?
The broad application of IT concepts and methods to business efficiency means that you can pursue a variety of information systems careers. Many of the most in-demand positions emphasize skills in information security, cloud computing, and big data. The table below covers five major industries that employ information systems specialists.
One of the fastest-growing U.S. industries, healthcare consists of organizations that provide medical services and/or social assistance. Employers include hospitals, outpatient clinics, home health organizations, and community welfare centers. Professionals can pursue a career in nursing informatics, using data analysis and support systems to improve patient care.
This industry consists of companies that provide scheduled and unscheduled transportation for passengers and cargo. Information systems professionals in this industry design and monitor airline reservations, including global distributors working with multiple travel agents. They can also find employment with the federal government, developing improvements to the passenger information systems used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The finance and insurance industry includes organizations that directly engage in or facilitate financial transactions, including the creation and change of assets. Employers include banks, credit companies, investment firms, and insurance providers. Due to the valuable and private nature of financial assets, information systems specialists usually work in security roles, developing defenses against cyberattacks.
Manufacturing is one of the biggest industries in the U.S., consisting of companies that create new products through the chemical, mechanical, and/or physical transformation of components. IT professionals who work in this industry develop, monitor, and troubleshoot information systems that track the progress of machinery and personnel. These systems aggregate and present information that helps management make decisions to optimize output and decrease inefficiencies.
The educational services sector includes any establishment that provides training and instruction, including secondary schools, community colleges, and four-year universities. Professionals can also find careers in information systems through organizations that provide employee training and consulting services.
Resources for Information Systems Majors
This section provides information on professional IT organizations, many of which offer funding and career development resources to their members. There is also a list of MOOCs, which can help you jump-start or advance a career in information technology. Additionally, this section covers six influential research magazines and scholarly journals in the field.
Association for Information Science and Technology: ASIS&T members receive subscriptions to the association's journal and bulletin. Networking opportunities are available through local chapters, annual conferences, and summits. The organization also maintains a job board and offers an annual conference, a digital library, and webinars.
Association for Computing Machinery: ACM membership provides access to more than 50 ACM journals and magazines, including Communications of the ACM, TechNews, MemberNet, and CareerNews. Through an online learning center, members can access books and courses, which lead toward certification. The association also maintains a job center.
Association for Information Systems: AIS members can access the association's library of 10 academic journals and attend conferences around the world. The association has members in almost 100 countries worldwide.
Data Management Association International: DAMA offers networking opportunities through local chapters. Members can also access discounts on training programs.
International Association for Computer Information Systems: IACIS members have the opportunity to present their original research at an annual national conference. Members also receive a subscription to the association's Journal of Computer Information Systems.
ISACA: Founded in 1967, ISACA serves over 110,000 global members in more than 200 chapters worldwide. Academic, student, and professional memberships are available. Student members can access networking opportunities through local groups and gain access to the collaborative Knowledge Center.
Information Systems Security Association: Membership in ISSA includes a subscription to the association's monthly journal. Members can attend national conferences and chapter meetings. They can also access continuing education opportunities through seminars, web conferences, and industry webinars. The association maintains a job board for members.
Women in Technology International: WITI promotes and supports women in information systems. Members can access several educational opportunities, including webinars, online courses, and a mentorship program.
Computational Thinking for Problem-Solving - University of Pennsylvania: In this beginner class, students learn to tackle quantitative challenges through a systematic and data-supported process. Over the course of 17 hours, they also analyze how information systems leaders analyze algorithms. The course culminates in a project in which students create a computational solution using Python.
Global Health Informatics to Improve Quality of Care - Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Students who take this advanced MOOC develop the skills needed to use technology to prevent and treat infectious diseases. With an emphasis on care quality for communities with limited resources, the class teaches learners how to develop information systems that help coordinate services, monitor outcomes, and influence decision-making.
Information Security - New York University: This three-week class introduces students to core theories and methods in cybersecurity. Learners analyze case studies of insecure information systems and discuss ways to improve effectiveness. The course also helps students understand the strengths and weaknesses of major security models, including Lipner's Model, the Chinese Wall Model, and the Bell-La Padula Model.
Information Systems Specialization - University of Minnesota: This beginner MOOC series is useful for college students and professionals looking to switch into an information system career. The specialization consists of four courses covering topics like IT governance, business systems analysis, enterprise systems, and emerging trends in IT infrastructure. Through projects, students learn how to design customized solutions to address business problems.
ACM Computing Surveys: The major publication of the Association for Computing Machinery, this journal showcases research and developments in complex technologies. Recent articles covered topics like quantum key distribution, power modeling for cloud servers, and computational sustainability. Intended for a broad audience, the journal welcomes submissions with clear and lively writing styles.
IEEE Access: This open-access journal is published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers — one of the largest professional IT organizations in the world. Readers can search for articles based on fields of interest, which include education, broadcast technology, photonics, and engineering in medicine and biology. Contributors undergo an intensive peer review process that spans 4-6 weeks.
Information Sciences: This publication offers open-access content across the spectrum of information technology and systems, with a focus on intelligent systems and knowledge engineering. In addition to reading articles about information science theory, readers can learn about the real-world applications of these concepts in areas like machine learning and decision support systems.
Information Systems Journal: This international publication highlights the interdisciplinary nature of the field through research. Articles investigate topics like the intrusive outcomes of smart home assistants, technology addiction, and virtual team collaboration. The journal seeks submissions that apply research findings to create policy-oriented solutions for major societal issues.
Knowledge-Based Systems: An international journal, Knowledge-Based Systems publishes original research related to artificial intelligence. Major topics include data science theory, data-driven optimization, brain-computer interface, computer vision techniques, and knowledge engineering.
Management Information Systems Quarterly: This open-access publication focuses on the development and facilitation of IT-based services. Readers can discover emerging research discussing topics like the stability of Bitcoin transactions, the sharing economy's impact on household bankruptcy, and integrated disaster management systems. Authors can improve their chances for publication by attending workshops featuring editors and researchers.
Frequently Asked Questions
The BLS projects that market research analysts (18% growth), operations research analysts (25% growth), and information security analysts (31% growth) will see significant job growth between 2019 and 2029.
Yes. By pursuing a career in information systems, you can work for virtually any employer, including hospitals and specialty health facilities; BLS data shows that healthcare is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. IT managers and cybersecurity specialists also benefit from high growth rates due to the demand for new tech products and services.
With a bachelor's degree, you can work as a software developer, database administrator, or systems analysts. By earning a graduate degree, you can access management and executive positions, as well as careers in postsecondary teaching and research.
The BLS reports that IT professionals earn a median annual salary of $88,240. However, earning potential depends on factors like location, industry, employer, and professional qualifications.
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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
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