As someone who is computer savvy, it makes perfect sense for you to pursue a career that will allow you to leverage your strengths. Does this mean that going to college to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems (or simply information systems) is the smartest step for you to take?
Information systems major is ideal for students who want a well-rounded degree, which they can use to have careers in the computer and information technology industry with accounting, business, and finance aspects. Information systems managerial positions make a median salary of up to $159,010 per year.
Read on whether you are 100% certain that majoring in information systems is right for you or are still on the fence as there are many other computer- and technology-related majors you are also considering.
But before anything else, let’s answer this pressing question…
Information Systems vs. Computer Science: What’s the Difference?
Both information systems and computer science are majors in the computer and information technology field. However, information systems is more about the application of technology in the business setting. Computer science is more about the design of computers and computing and programming processes.
At first glance, it would seem like computer information systems and computer science are one and the same. And this is why it’s not uncommon for a lot of people to use them interchangeably.
However, there are key differences between these two fields.
You can think of information systems as the use of computers and closely related technologies in providing and managing the needs of businesses. So, in other words, it’s all about practical applications. Besides being associated with computer science, computer information systems is also similar to information technology.
Compared to information technology, however, it covers a broader spectrum of topics, especially business. Information technology is focused more on the design and implementation of data within the information system.
Meanwhile, computer science is more on the technical aspect of things — it emphasizes the theoretical elements of computer hardware and software, thereby giving degree-seeking students the foundational skills necessary for jobs in coding and computer programming.
So, in a nutshell, computer science is about computing and programming.
Students majoring in computer information systems and computer science tend to develop the same set of skills as they work on their respective degrees, and some of the most important ones include:
- Analytical thinking
- Computer savviness
Computer science majors, however, also need to have coding and programming skills strong enough to allow them to come up with software and programs. On the other hand, information systems majors need to have sufficient creativity and ingenuity vital for thinking up various effective solutions for various business-related concerns and needs.
Is Information Systems Hard in College?
A bachelor’s program in computer information systems consists of courses related to computer and information technology and math and business. While the program can be straightforward, it involves lots of concepts and theories, which can be challenging to students who are not passionate about technology.
It usually takes around four years to earn a bachelor’s degree in information systems.
Core courses, which computer information systems majors are required to take in order to graduate, are usually taken during the junior and senior years of college.
Depending on the college and university and program, information systems core courses can vary. Despite this, the areas of study practically remain the same, thus preparing undergraduate students for various career opportunities in the computer and information technology field available for them after graduation.
Here are some examples of core courses information systems majors have to take and pass:
- Advanced software engineering
- Computers, ethics and society
- Database systems
- Introduction to service and operations management
- Oral communications in business
- Organizational behavior
- Principles of finance
- Project management
- Systems analysis and implementation
- Written communications in business
In most instances, students seeking to earn a degree in computer information systems have to take electives, usually from a list provided by the institutions. And then there are also minors that they may or may not take.
Some students take minors simply because they are interested in or excited by them. However, there are also those who opt for minors that go very well with information systems in order to define or augment their specialization. The right minor will depend on the individual’s objective in terms of college experience and/or career goals.
The following are some minors that complement an information systems major, thus allowing you to gain added knowledge and skills related to the discipline of study and have a resume that employers may find more irresistible:
- Computer science
- Foreign language
- Homeland security
- Information technology
- Liberal arts
Different Information Systems Programs
Computer information systems programs vary when it comes to cost, length, scope and type of degree earned. Various factors have to be considered when deciding on a program, from the budget to the career goals. Most employers prefer information systems experts with at least a bachelor’s degree in the field.
Believe it or not, some entry-level computer and information technology job positions can be filled by individuals whose highest educational attainment is a high school diploma, preferably with some training or certificate.
However, the average pay can be considerably lower than those with, say, an associate or a bachelor’s.
The median annual earnings of those with a high school diploma, for instance, is $5,000 less than the median annual earnings of individuals with an associate degree, says data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Meanwhile, the difference in the median annual earnings of associate and bachelor’s holders is $15,700.
Already have an idea of what sort of computer information systems job you would like to have in the near future? Then check which of the following program will suit it:
Certificate program in information systems
A certificate program in information systems covers the basics of computer systems and information technology. Usually taking less than a year to complete, this program creates a pathway toward entry-level job positions in computer information systems or an associate or bachelor’s in information systems or any other closely related field.
Associate degree in information systems
Typically consisting of 60 credits and taking around two years to complete, an associate in computer information systems allows the holder to take on job positions such as computer support specialist and computer programmer. If earned from an accredited school, credits that come with the two-year degree can usually transfer to a bachelor’s program.
Bachelor’s degree in information systems
In most instances, employers in the computer and information technology industry prefer a minimum of bachelor’s in computer information systems. Information systems majors are equipped with the right balance of knowledge and skills in computer technology and business, which opens doors to numerous career possibilities for graduates.
Master’s degree in information systems
Computer information systems majors who would like to further their studies may choose to enroll in a master’s program in information systems, which takes anywhere from one to two years to complete. With such, individuals can apply for job positions such as information technology project manager or information technology security analyst.
Doctoral degree in information systems
Going for a doctoral program in computer information systems is ideal for individuals who would like to work as educators or hold executive roles. Taking around five years to complete, a doctoral in information systems consists of courses and research works that equip individuals with expert-level knowledge and leadership skills in the discipline.
Top 10 IS Degree Careers With Salaries
Because today’s various businesses and organizations rely heavily on computers and related technologies, there are many job opportunities available for information systems majors. They range anywhere from computer and information systems managers, database administrators to penetration testers.
After working on your bachelor’s in computer information systems, it’s time to choose from an assortment of job positions your degree and resume will allow you to qualify for.
The following are just some of the top career options to choose from:
Computer and information systems managers
- Median annual salary: $159,010
- Job outlook in 10 years: 11%
Leading the list of career options for information systems majors is working as a computer and information systems manager. It’s also one of the highest-paying job positions available for them.
Part of the everyday activities of computer and information systems managers during work hours are planning, coordinating and directing computer-related activities in businesses or organizations. Many entry-level positions are available for bachelor’s in information systems holders. Higher-level positions are usually for those with a master’s degree.
Computer systems analyst
- Median annual salary: $99,270
- Job outlook in 10 years: 7%
In a nutshell, computer systems analysts examine the computer systems used by businesses, organizations and other entities and come up with ways to deal with flaws and improve efficiency. In most instances, it’s also a part of their job to produce instruction manuals as well as provide training for end-users.
- Median annual salary: $98,860
- Job outlook in 10 years: 8%
Just about anyone with a bachelor’s degree in the computer and information technology field can work as an entry-level database administrator. However, besides credentials, one must also possess certain qualities that can prove to be handy, including analytical thinking, good organizational, detail-oriented, team-playing and problem-solving skills.
Database administrators can be found in practically every industry. While many are in the computer systems design sector, there are also those in retail, healthcare, insurance and educational services.
- Median annual salary: $77,200
- Job outlook in 10 years: 13%
Some web developers are employed by advertising, publishing and management consulting companies. On the other hand, others are self-employed. As a matter of fact, up to 18% of all web developers are their own bosses.
It’s possible for individuals whose highest educational attainment is a high school diploma to work as web developers, especially if they can impress with their portfolio and work experience. However, most employers prefer those with at least a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a related field such as information systems or computer science.
Information security analyst
- Median annual salary: $102,600
- Job outlook in 10 years: 33%
Computer information systems majors working as information security analysts are some of the highest-paid individuals in the field of computer and information technology. Their jobs are also some of those with the highest projected growth rate within the decade, with an estimated average of 16,300 openings per year.
Simply put, information security analysts are tasked with planning and carrying out security measures in order to safeguard the computer network and systems of their employers or clients.
Computer network architects
- Median annual salary: $120,520
- Job outlook in 10 years: 5%
Also handsomely paid professionals in the computer and information technology arena are computer network architects. Despite what their job title suggests, they do not have a degree in architecture but in a computer-related field — what they do is design and build networks, ranging from local area networks (LANs) to wide area networks (WANs).
While most employers prefer computer network architects with a master’s degree, those with a bachelor’s are also eligible, especially for entry-level job positions in various governmental agencies.
- Median annual salary: $80,600
- Job outlook in 10 years: 5%
Having strong computer networking knowledge and skills is very important for network administrators. That’s because they are tasked with the everyday operations of computer networks of various organizations and industries, such as insurance companies, learning institutions, businesses and governmental agencies.
It’s also important for computer information systems majors working as network administrators to possess team-playing skills as they usually have to work with other experts such as network architects and database administrators.
Computer support specialist
- Median annual salary: $57,910
- Job outlook in 10 years: 9%
As the job title suggests, computer support specialists are responsible for providing technical assistance to computer users in various industries, from business enterprises to telecommunications companies. In numerous instances, they are also tasked with maintaining computer networks and dealing with related concerns or issues.
Since most employers hire computer support specialists with an associate degree in a related field or a high school diploma plus IT certifications, some bachelor’s in information systems holders may feel like they are underemployed.
Software quality assurance analysts
- Median annual salary: $110,140
- Job outlook in 10 years: 22%
Information systems majors with outstanding patience and attention to detail may consider working as software quality assurance analysts. Needless to say, they are tasked with identifying and reporting problems with computer applications or programs, thus helping to make them run flawlessly before being sold or utilized.
Because software quality assurance analysts closely work with other professionals, such as software developers and testers, it’s also a definite must for them to possess excellent communication and team-playing skills.
- Median annual salary: $87,440
- Job outlook in 10 years: 31%
The role of penetration testers in the businesses, companies and organizations they are working for is critical. That’s because they are responsible for making sure that the computer networks and systems used are free of weaknesses and vulnerabilities that cybercriminals may exploit and take advantage of.
Computer information systems majors are some of the most qualified individuals to work as penetration testers, although those with a degree in other computer-related fields are also commonly employed as such.
Which Schools are Best for Information Systems Majors?
Earlier, we talked about the different information systems degrees.
Made your choice already?
Then it’s time to pick an institution where you can major in information systems. But don’t just choose any school — consider one with a good information systems program!
In order to make the college selection task easier, I did some research and found out that the colleges and universities in the list below have some of the finest programs in the country.
I have also included a couple of pieces of information, acceptance rates and cost of attendance (COA) to help you make a smart choice.
|INSTITUTION||ACCEPTANCE RATE||ESTIMATED COA|
|University of Virginia||23%||$35,664 (in-state) and $68,865 (out-of-state)|
|University of Richmond||31%||$72,450|
|University of Miami||33%||$73,712|
|Pennsylvania State University||54%||$36,962 (in-state) and $54,026 (out-of-state)|
|Brigham Young University||69%||$19,594|
|George Washington University||43%||$76,276|
|Stevens Institute of Technology||53%||$74,432|
|Michigan Technological University||70%||$31,349 (in-state) and $51,651 (out-of-state)|
|University of Massachusetts – Amherst||65%||$32,168 (in-state) and $52,156 (out-of-state)|
|Mississippi State University||80%||$25,904 (in-state) and $40,944 (out-of-state)|
|University of St. Thomas – Minnesota||87%||$62,476|
|University of Cincinnati||76%||$28,150 (in-state) and $43,484 (out-of-state)|
|Temple University||71%||$35,704 (in-state) and $48,616 (out-of-state)|
|University of Alabama||80%||$31,050 (in-state) and $50,520 (out-of-state)|
|University of Wyoming||94%||$20,790 (in-state) and $34,530 (out-of-state)|
Best Online Schools Information Systems Majors
Work or family commitments keeping you from attending college?
Don’t give up on your dream of having a bachelor’s in computer information systems. That’s because you can earn one via the internet.
The following are some of the top fully-accredited online schools where you can major in information systems:
Arizona State University
- Location: Tempe, Arizona
- Cost: $561.00 per credit hour
- Acceptance rate: 88%
- Accreditor: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Average starting salary: $40,300 per year
University of Maine at Augusta
- Location: Augusta, Maine
- Cost: $245.00 (in-state) and $607.00 (out-of-state) per credit hour
- Acceptance rate: 100%
- Accreditor: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- Average starting salary: $24,100 per year
- Location: Waterbury, Connecticut
- Cost: $570.00 per credit hour
- Acceptance rate: 61%
- Accreditor: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- Average starting salary: $34,000 per year
Northwestern State University of Louisiana
- Location: Natchitoches, Louisiana
- Cost: $225.00 (in-state and out-of-state) per credit hour
- Acceptance rate: 95%
- Accreditor: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- Average starting salary: $34,500 per year
- Location: Denver, Colorado
- Cost: $475.00 per credit hour
- Acceptance rate: 78%
- Accreditor: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Average starting salary: $52,300 per year
Just Before You Enroll in an Information Systems Program
While it would seem like computer information systems and computer science are one and the same, information systems is more about providing the needs and managing the problems of businesses using computers and related technologies.
But like computer science, it can pave the way to many satisfactory and rewarding career opportunities!
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.