Information Systems Engineering Degrees: Master, PhD & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in an information systems master's degree or PhD program? Read about information systems program requirements, the pros and cons of a master's degree and PhD and potential careers.
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Study Information Systems: Degrees at a Glance

Degree programs in information systems engineering typically focus on the technical, managerial and policy issues of information technology (IT). As a graduate of these programs, you could go on to become a systems analyst, information architect, database administrator, systems architect, database programmer or project manager, among many other occupations. Research and postsecondary education careers can be a possibility as well.

In 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that the number of available jobs for information security analysts, web developers and computer network architects would increase by 22% from 20201-2020, which was faster than the average job growth across all industries. Employment for computer and information systems managers were estimated to increase by 18%, while the growth figure for computer and information research scientists was 19%. As for postsecondary professors, the BLS projected that job growth would be at 17%.

Master's PhD
Who is this degree for? People interested in working as a computer systems engineer Individuals who want to work in academia or as a computer and information research scientist
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Information security analyst, web developer or computer network architect ($82,000)*
- Computer and information systems manager ($126,000)*
- Computer and information research scientist ($103,000)*
- Postsecondary computer science teacher ($80,000)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years full-time At least two years beyond completion of a master's degree program
Common Graduation Requirements - About 30-60 credit hours
- Master's thesis/research paper
- Master's exams
- Lab requirement
Most (or all) of the master's degree requirements, as well as:
- Approximately 50-80 credit hours
- PhD qualifier exams
- Dissertation proposal
- Dissertation
- Lab requirement
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree in information systems engineering or a related field, computer programming experience (in certain programs) Bachelor's or master's degree in information systems engineering or a related field
Online Availability Yes None found at this time

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's in Information Systems Engineering

Whether you're an information technology professional looking to increase your salary, position and job opportunities or simply continuing your education after earning a bachelor's degree, a master's degree program in information systems engineering may be for you. This type of program is often designed for people who already have a full-time job. Many programs offer specializations and concentrations, such as information security or database management, which allow you to tailor your education to your personal goals.

The information systems engineering programs of some universities focus on the business aspect of IT, while others are more technical. You can commonly expect to gain knowledge of information technology problem-solving techniques, how to communicate clearly with coworkers and executives, as well as how to develop leadership roles within an organization.

Pros and Cons


  • A master's degree will qualify you for many information systems management careers that a bachelor's degree may not
  • Some programs in this field are highly adaptable to suit your educational background and professional needs
  • There are online options available if needed


  • A lot of jobs in this field require only a bachelor's degree
  • Many positions in this field require years of work experience that master's degree program may not offer
  • Earning this degree can take up a lot of time and cost a lot of money

Courses and Requirements

Differing information systems specializations and university programs make for a large variety of possible courses. The following list represents a few typical course topics in a graduate-level program:

  • Information structures
  • Network services and protocols
  • Information systems design and analysis
  • Managerial decision support systems
  • Database implementation and design for business
  • IT management and strategy
  • Quantitative methods for information systems
  • Systems integration
  • Data networks

In addition to the coursework, essays and exams, you may also be required to complete a research project or master's thesis. However, some programs also offer a non-thesis track, although research projects are still likely to be required.

Online Degree Options

Although they aren't incredibly common, there are online options for earning your master's degree in information systems engineering. These programs can be useful if you're currently employed in the IT industry or are unable to attend an on-campus program for other reasons. As is the case with many on-campus programs, you may be able to choose between specializations, such as information security, information management applications and, of course, information systems engineering specifically.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

While earning your master's degree in information systems engineering, there are steps you can take in order to get ahead. For example, the International Council on Systems Engineering offers two distinct certificate programs that you can prepare for and complete in order to beef up your resume and professional qualifications. Through this organization, you could either become a Certified Systems Engineering Professional (CSEP) or an Associate Systems Engineering Professional (ASEP). While ASEP certification requires no previous experience or credentials, you'll need several years of experience and references to earn your CSEP certification.

PhD in Information Systems Engineering

Getting into a doctoral program in information systems engineering can be a highly competitive and grueling process. Once you're accepted, however, you'll find that most programs offer tiny class sizes, a variety of research opportunities and lots of one-on-one time with professors, advisors and IT experts. You'll have the ability to specialize your education and research in areas ranging from robotics to computer network infrastructures.

Pros and Cons


  • A doctoral program in information systems engineering will qualify you for a career in academia, research and technological science
  • You could potentially get job security by being granted tenure in an academic career
  • Your research findings could potentially affect many different aspects of IT in the future


  • It's usually extremely difficult to get into a doctoral program in this field
  • Tenure-track university jobs can be hard to come by and tenure is not guaranteed
  • There aren't any online options in this field, so this can be a very challenging degree to earn if you're employed

Courses and Requirements

The courses that you'll take in a PhD program in this discipline may depend largely on your chosen area of concentration. A handful of classes that you could end up taking are:

  • Industrial information systems
  • Designing software systems
  • Engineering modeling and data representation
  • Computer networks
  • Processing digital images

Although the coursework can be intense, it's only a fraction of what you'll need to complete in order to earn your PhD in Information Systems Engineering. In most cases, you'll also need to present your dissertation proposal before a board of advisors in your area of expertise. Next, you'll be required to research, write and defend your dissertation.

Online Degree Options

Unfortunately, there are few, if any existing online doctorate programs in information systems engineering at this time. This is due to the fact that a PhD program in this field is so hands-on and research-intensive. It requires a good deal of on-campus work, real-work experience and communication with university faculty and sometimes IT professionals in a variety of industries.

Stand Out With This Degree

There are many methods that you can utilize in order to stand out in the technology, science and academic job markets. You could go through specific training programs for specific careers in information systems engineering. For example, if you want to develop and manage secure U.S. Department of Defense systems, you could enter a Security Engineering Enrichment and Development (SEED) program that offers on-the-job training and certification. Having your research findings from your dissertation published in a peer-reviewed academic, scientific or technology journal can help with a career in academia, according to the BLS.

Degree Alternatives

A master's degree or PhD program in information systems engineering may not provide the training you want. If this is the case, there are a plethora of other computer and technology related options to consider. For example, a typical computer science degree program is designed to train you for a career in computer science research or developing software. You might also consider earning a master's degree of PhD in information technology to learn about information systems, engineering and security in a business environment. The BLS predicted that software developers would see a 30% employment growth from 2010-2020, which is much faster than average.

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