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Online Masters Degree in Information Systems

Large corporations demand an invisible wizard behind the cyber-curtain to manage all their computing power, from large mainframes to remote iPhones. Master's degrees in information systems provide technical and leadership skills for these behind-the-scenes heroes of IT management.

What does the information systems department do?

Information systems encompass the overall architecture, needs assessment and maintenance of computing systems for an enterprise. These departments are often known as MIS, for management information systems. IS managers ask questions like these:

  1. Does our complete system deliver the most "bang for the buck"?
  2. What is the primary demand for our company's computers, and is the demand met?
  3. What internal processes can use further automation?
  4. How efficiently does our hardware and software meet company goals?

Some companies have IT, or information technology, divisions, which provide technical support and may also be in charge of computing resources.

Earning master's degrees in information systems

Graduate IS programs obviously require a strong undergraduate background in science, math and computing. Here are some typical topics of study:

  1. Database management
  2. Distributed computing hardware
  3. Information assurance
  4. Information systems auditing
  5. Software development

Information security adds another level of complexity. Advanced concepts span artificial intelligence and information forensics, which involves detective work to discover the cause of a system failure. Another important focus is developing communication skills. Tech managers report to all levels of management and must be able to translate techno-speak for non-geeks.

Job outlook in information systems

The medium annual salary for a computer and information systems manager was $115,780 in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment opportunities are projected to grow by 18 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is about average.

The BLS notes that a minimum of five years of hands-on experience is required for IS managers. To prepare for advanced responsibilities, you could seek the role of computer hardware engineer; the BLS reports a 2010 median salary of $98,810 for these professionals. You may also need specialized training or experience for leadership in emerging fields such as health care informatics.

Given the importance of experience for information systems positions, it may be a good idea to continue working while you pursue your degree. Online programs offer convenient web-based classes so that you can balance your various commitments while you update your qualifications.

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