Study Information Systems: Master's Degree & Doctorate Info

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

A master's degree program in information systems can prepare you for a career as an information technology director or computer systems architect. These jobs usually have high salaries. However, some schools may not offer financial aid to master's degree program students, possibly making acquiring the degree expensive.

Most doctoral degree programs are designed to prepare you to work as a postsecondary teacher or researcher. Because of this, the curricula of these programs are often research focused. Admission to these programs can be very competitive, with some schools admitting only three students each year.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? - Information systems professionals looking to advance their knowledge of the field and learn business and operations practices - Individuals interested in a career as a postsecondary teacher
- Individuals interested in a career in research
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Chief information officer (salary for chief executives: $165,000*)
- Systems architect ($112,000**)
- Information technology director ($163,000**)
- Postsecondary computer science teacher ($73,000***)
- Computer and information research scientist ($101,000*)
Time to Completion - About 33-40 credit hours of study
- Maximum of five years
- 4-5 years, full time
Common Graduation Requirements - 10-13 courses
- Capstone course or thesis
- Thesis
- Comprehensive exams during second or third year of study
- Dissertation
- Oral defense of dissertation in fourth or fifth year
- Teaching and research apprenticeships
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree
- Proficiency in computer programming as well as in C++ and Java programming languages
- GRE scores
- GMAT scores
- Master's degree
- Knowledge or previous completion of courses in business, web programming, data management, information systems management and telecommunications
Online Availability Yes None available at this time

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2010 figures), **Salary.com (figures provided as of January 2013), ***U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Master's in Information Systems

The curriculum of a Master of Science in Information Systems program typically includes instruction in business practices, common business operations and information systems. In addition to coursework, you are usually required to complete either a capstone course in which you work on a team or individual project or write a thesis.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Capstone project requirement may provide you with hands-on experience
  • Programs are available on a part-time basis, online or in hybrid formats
  • Team projects may be completed at local businesses or organizations, allowing you to network while completing your degree

Cons

  • Some programs do not offer financial aid to students
  • Curricula may not focus entirely on information systems, you may be required to complete a concentration or focus your studies in an area related to information systems
  • Admission may require having work and leadership experience

Courses and Requirements

In some programs, you may have to choose between completing a capstone project and writing a thesis. You may work individually or as part of a team on a capstone project. Between the core and elective courses, some of the topics you may study include:

  • Information structures
  • Algorithms
  • Object-oriented programming
  • Database system design
  • Network security
  • Database administration
  • Strategic information systems

Online Availability

Master's degree programs are available in both hybrid and fully online formats. In a hybrid program, you complete classes over the internet and in person. Core courses in these programs are usually the same as their on-campus counterparts. Admission usually requires having a bachelor's degree and knowledge of information technology fundamentals.

Stand Out With Your Degree

To stand out with your degree, consider completing a concentration in an area of information systems experiencing high demand in the job market. For example, some schools offer concentrations in areas like health informatics or internet security, which they identify as being among the highest paid areas of the field. Some positions may require you to be knowledgeable about specific types of software.

Doctorate in Information Systems

Information systems PhD programs are usually research oriented and designed to prepare you for a career in academia. Because of this, these programs often include teaching or research apprenticeships. These apprenticeships may begin during your first year of study and continue until graduation. A master's degree is usually required for admission to these programs, but some schools may admit bachelor's degree holders. Students lacking knowledge in an area of the field may be required to complete relevant coursework prior to working on their doctoral degree.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Programs are designed specifically for aspiring researchers and teachers, thereby ensuring preparation to enter these fields
  • Apprenticeships ensure that you graduate with experience teaching and conducting research in the field
  • Some programs boast of a 100% job placement rate

Cons

  • Admission to some programs can be extremely competitive
  • A PhD may be overkill for non-research positions
  • The BLS states that there is strong competition for tenure-track positions among postsecondary teachers

Courses and Requirements

The curricula of doctoral programs often include seminars in the major, elective classes, teaching assistantships and research experiences. Students lacking work experience may be required to complete an internship at some point during their studies. Core classes may cover topics like digital economics, behavioral research methods, statistics, data mining, information systems planning and emerging information technologies. Concentrations may be available in areas like information systems development and management, economics or accounting.

Most programs include teaching assistantships, in which you teach undergraduate postsecondary students, and research assistantships, in which you work with a professor researching a topic in information systems. Additional requirements include passing comprehensive exams and writing a dissertation that you defend before a committee of professors.

Online Availability

Because of their extensive teaching and research components, doctoral degree programs are not currently available online. Attending an on-campus program allows you to interact with professors, conduct research and interact with undergraduate students. This experience will be vital in your career as a postsecondary teacher or as a researcher.

Stand Out With Your Degree

To stand out with your degree, consider submitting your research papers to journals for publication. In fact, some programs require that students engage in this during their studies. Being an author of a published article in the field may impress potential employers. Technically, you may want to familiarize yourself with popular research software that you will use in your career.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Information Technology
      • MBA: Project Management
      • MS in Information Technology - Business Intelligence and Analytics
      • MSM in Information Technology
      • Master : Business Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    3. The University of Scranton

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Enterprise Resource Planning
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Organizational Leadership
      • MS - Management
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Concordia University Nebraska

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Business Intelligence
  • Campus and Online Programs
    6. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. - Internet Marketing
      • Master of Science - Business Intelligence
      • M.S. - Entertainment Business
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA: Technology Management
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Business Analytics
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA: Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Project/Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Management and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Human Resources and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Mgmt & Project Mgmt.
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Business Intelligence

Featured Schools

Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

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Kaplan University

  • MBA - Information Technology
  • MBA: Project Management
  • MS in Information Technology - Business Intelligence and Analytics

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The University of Scranton

  • MBA - Enterprise Resource Planning

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Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Organizational Leadership
  • MS - Management

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Concordia University Nebraska

  • MBA Business Intelligence

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Full Sail University

  • M.S. - Internet Marketing
  • Master of Science - Business Intelligence
  • M.S. - Entertainment Business

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Colorado Technical University

  • MBA: Technology Management

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Grand Canyon University

  • Master of Science in Business Analytics

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