Online Master's Programs in Management Information

Updated on: 12/13/2018

Few industries exhibit as much growth and diversification as the field of management information systems. An online master's in management information systems can help you build a rewarding career as a leader in the industry. An online degree can help working professionals pursue an advanced degree while being employed full time.

This guide helps you sift through key considerations when selecting the best program for you. In addition to ranking the best programs, there are descriptions of some of the more common courses and specializations. This guide also addresses common career options, and lists professional organizations that provide career growth. Financial options to help pay for your degree are also covered.

What to Know About Online Master's in Management Information Systems Coursework

Business excellence in the information age requires a competent analysis of the right kind of data, delivered in a timely, well-organized manner. Students in an online master's in management information systems degree learn how businesses use derived information. They learn to create, and support, systems that gather, store, and manipulate data to best serve the decision-making needs of managers and staff.

Students learn to think strategically about information and technology. Learners gain problem-solving skills to address both small details and the big picture context of a business. Successful graduates work well with others and communicate effectively. Earning an online master's in management information systems requires successful completion of the same 30 to 36 credits as an on-campus program. Most full-time students complete the program in one to two years.

What's the Difference Between a Master's in Management Information Systems and an MBA in Management Information Systems?

Despite the similarities, a master's in information management systems differs from an MBA in management information systems in two major ways. Building on a core of business management courses, the specialization within an MBA prepares students to manage and oversee an IT system within a business. While the program covers key subjects in management information systems, the degree focuses on training students for managerial roles.

A master's in management information systems trains students to create, use, and support the information systems needed by business leaders to manage an organization. Coursework in this degree focuses on information system design and use, and may include some classes on management. The two degrees also differ in the number of credits required for graduation. The MBA typically requires completion of up to 54 or more credits, depending on the school selected. An online master's in management information systems requires completion of about 36 credits for graduation, which takes less time to complete.

What Common Courses are Offered in a Master's in Management Information Systems Program?

Each school that offers an online master's in management information systems structures its core program, specializations, and course options to the rapidly developing field of information systems management. Despite the variation in programs, many colleges offer courses similar to those listed below. Carefully examine the course descriptions for each school that interests you, bearing in mind that two courses with the same title may differ significantly from one school to the next.

Business Communications

This course guides students through an analysis of the principles, methods, and strategies for effective communication in a business and with external entities, including vendors and customers. The courses focuses on the strategic potential and limitations of electronic versus tangible forms of communication.

System Analysis and Project Management

Effective use of management information systems requires a clear understanding of how various systems support project management. Students learn the principles and methods of object-oriented system analysis and design. Learners study how to create information systems that support management decisions in a fast-paced business climate.

Systems Security Management

This course prepares students to recognize and analyze threats and vulnerabilities within an organization's information management systems. Students learn to design, create, monitor, and manage electronic information systems to protect against information threats. Some discussions address the legal implications in information protection and cyber security administration.

Enterprise Data Management

This course prepares students to identify the data and database analysis needs of a business or specific enterprise within a business. Having identified the the specific data and analysis needs of a particular business, students then design a database application, usually web-based, to support the decision-making needs of the organization.

Supply Chain Logistics

This course teaches students to plan, organize, and manage the materials movement through supply chain components. This includes purchasing, handling, storing, and inventory control. Using supply chain software, students practice forecasting, supply and demand matching, and tracking of all transactions. Students learn centralized enterprise resource planning software to ensure timely responsiveness among all business units.

What Specializations are Available in a Master's in Management Information Systems Program?

Smaller schools may offer a single course of study in their online master's in management information systems. Larger schools, however, may offer several subspecialties students can pursue to fit their unique professional interests. The specializations listed below cover some of the more common concentrations offered.

Information Security

Students pursuing this specialization devote more time to identifying and analyzing the potential security threats to information collection, storage, and transfer. They learn how to plan recovery strategies to deal with data breaches. This specialization requires more technical coursework than the other management information systems specialties.

Enterprise Systems

Courses in this concentration cover the concepts of resource planning and management within a specific enterprise. Courses cover the data management needs for major planning tasks related to supply chain, human resources, customer relations, and accounting. Some schools allow students to pursue one or more subspecialties in greater depth.

Business Intelligence and Analytics

This specialty equips students to harness and process large amounts of data to address specific planning needs for business success. Courses address the principles and practice of data management and analytical methods. Students take courses in statistical analysis. They can pursue one or more topics in greater depth, such as econometrics or forensic accounting.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

Online master's in management information systems typically require a capstone project related to emerging issues in the field. Other capstone projects focus on holistic integration of concepts and skills emphasized in the program. Some capstone projects may only be a one-credit project; however, most capstones require a three-credit project. Some schools require a more open, and time-consuming project worth up to one third of the program credit load. While no specific professional exam applies to the major, some certifications may require completion of an industry standard examination.

How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master's in Management Information Systems Program?

Choosing a high-quality online master's in management information systems involves weighing both objective and subjective criteria. Objectively, you should ensure that the school and program hold proper accreditation. Typically, schools hold a regional accreditation; however, students should look for accreditation by an agency approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education. In addition to regional accreditation for the school, the management information systems program may also be endorsed with programmatic accreditation by agencies such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Other objective components to evaluate include the experience and expertise of faculty, graduation rate, and graduate career placement. Students should carefully review the curriculum to determine the best fit for professional goals. Consider what support services each school provides to students. Finally, and on a more subjective note, consider how well the culture and philosophy of the school fits your personal preferences.

Career Opportunities With a Master's in Management Information Systems Degree

Your online master's in management information systems opens doors to many different types of jobs in a diverse number of organizations. The jobs listed below reveal just a small sample of possibilities. Bear in mind that job descriptions for identical job titles may vary considerably according to the employing organization. Furthermore, the average or median salary figures cited below cover a wide range of education and experience levels.

Typically, individuals with a master's degree earn more than those with a bachelor's degree. Similarly, those with more experience tend to earn more. Specialized certifications can open doors to higher salaries. Finally, location and organization type also impact salaries.

Director of Information Systems

This specialist oversees the design, operation, and protection of the information systems used in a business or agency. Projects include oversight of software integration, hardware installation, and internal network monitoring. This director oversees data protection and cyber security staff. Along with a clear understanding of management information systems, effective directors exhibit strong interpersonal, planning, and team development skills. Reflecting the demand for this function, the industry currently pays a median base salary of $102,370.

Source: PayScale, 2018

Information Security Analysts

Given the increase of cyber attacks on businesses, private non-profit organizations, and government agencies, the job outlook for this specialty far exceeds that of other occupations with a projected growth rate of 28% through 2026. Projections call for an additional 28,500 analysts in a field, which currently has a median salary of $95,510. Information Security Analysts plan and implement security measures to protect an organization's information and computer infrastructure.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

Database Administrators

Database managers store and organize data, making information available to a business or organization. They also implement data security measures and regularly monitor for security breaches. Database managers ensure compliance with privacy laws. Given a better-than-average growth rate of 11%, the industry demand for database managers should remain strong through 2026, with an anticipated 13,200 new jobs opening in that time frame. As of May 2017, database managers earned a median income of $87,020 per year.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

Information Technology Manager

Information technology managers oversee an organization's computer infrastructure. They manage the resources and processes needed to produce, distribute, and support the information products and services of the company. These managers oversee IT projects, including hiring and training IT staff. As is the case with any leaders in IT, they also devote considerable attention to database security. On average, IT managers earn a base salary of $85,032 with around another $6,000 in bonuses.

Source: PayScale, 2018

Project Manager, Information Technology

Information technology project managers lead specific projects within the IT system of an organization, rather than directing the entire IT department. They interface between senior management to identify key priorities and directions for project development. They also assemble and lead IT project teams to plan and implement project details. IT project managers earn an average base salary of $85,622 and another $5,000 or so in bonuses.

Source: PayScale, 2018

What's the Expected Job Growth for Management Information Systems Careers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the expected job growth for management information systems careers ranges from 11% to an astonishing 28% through the year 2026. Even at 11%, the growth rate exceeds the average predicted growth for all occupations. Given the high demand, many individuals with bachelor's degrees have been able to land challenging, well-paying jobs. The growth of the field, however, demands an ever higher level of expertise. Consequently, those with master's degrees in certain specializations and certifications hold the competitive edge in earning potential.

Professional Organizations for Careers in Management Information Systems

Few activities sharpen one's professional excellence more than interacting with, and learning from, other dedicated professionals in the field. In such a dynamic, fast-paced industry as management information systems, active participation in one or more professional organizations contributes to career growth. All of these organizations provide an opportunity for members to publish and present their contributions to the industry.

  • Information Resources Management Association

    Committed to "advancing the concepts and practices of information resources management in modern organizations," the IRMA provides an exhaustive wealth of resources on its website and through its online symposia. The association also publishes dozens of journals and books as well as its newsletter, "Information Technology Management."

  • Society for Information Management

    Created to provide a national networking forum for senior level IT professionals, the Society for Information Management supports members with face-to-face meetings and forums. The organization also supports members with online tools, publications, and special interest groups, such as cybersecurity.

  • Association for Information Systems

    Supporting all levels and fields of students and professionals in management information systems, the Association for Information Systems publishes two journals and many online scholarly articles in the profession. Members can network through conferences and 37 different special interest groups. Members also benefit from the job index and career services.

  • Information Management Forum

    Since 1975, the Information Management Forum has provided professional support to IT leaders in both IT management and IT financial management. The association provides networking opportunities through web-based and face-to-face forums. The IMF also provides a job-posting feature.

  • Association for Computing Machinery

    "Advancing computing as a science and profession," the ACM provides an extensive online digital library of original research in the field. The ACM publishes 52 journals in addition to their magazines, books, and newsletters. Each year, the organization sponsors more than 170 computing conferences, workshops, and symposia through their 37 special interests groups. Members also enjoy access to a job and career center.

How to Pay for a Master's in Management Information Systems Degree

Though graduate students compete for a smaller pool of scholarship options, those who invest time in searching can find sufficient options to help fund their degrees. While online students cannot capitalize on graduate assistantships or work study programs, they can enjoy the option of continuing to work at their current jobs while pursuing their degrees. Other options include school and association-based scholarships, as well as federal loans.

Federal Financial Aid

Graduate students can receive federal financial aid such as the low interest Perkins Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans. Students must demonstrate financial need to successfully apply for a campus-based Perkins Loan. Anyone applying for federal financial aid and other private options must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Center for Cyber Safety and Education Graduate Scholarship

Management Information Systems students specializing in cyber security can apply for one of these scholarships worth up to $5,000. Applicants must hold a 3.5 GPA and submit a resume, statement of purpose, and one letter of recommendation. Citizens of any country may apply for this scholarship. The organization also offers scholarships specifically for women.

School and Program-based scholarships

Many schools offer their own scholarships for students pursuing a graduate degree in management information systems. For example, Florida International University provides some merit-based, partial scholarships for students pursuing a master's in information science through their business college. Research each school that interests you to see what scholarships or tuition reduction options they might have for online students.

Professional association scholarships

Various chapters of the Society for Information Management offer scholarships for college. When deciding which professional association to join, check for availability of scholarships. Most organizations provide scholarships to attend conferences. For college scholarships, check with the local and regional chapters, bearing in mind that individual chapters set their own funding priorities.