What to expect from information systems schools
Schools for information systems -- a subset of computer science -- can offer classes focusing on mathematics, computer software development and programming. Some information systems training programs can also cover electronics and other computer-related classes as well. Depending on the degree focus, classes can be based around information science or the practical applications of information systems in a business world.
A bachelor's degree in information systems may focus primarily upon information science -- the process and understanding of how data is stored, retrieved and analyzed. Programs for a bachelor's degree in computer information science can combine classes on computer science with database design and mathematics.
A bachelor's degree in management information systems may emphasize the practical aspects of information systems in a business environment, for example, providing information access to a company's employees -- or securing data from hackers. Programs for a management information systems degree can include classes in computer theory and computer programming languages, as well as business courses such as finance, business management and marketing.
Degrees in information systems can range from the associate up to the doctoral. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many information systems careers typically require a bachelor's degree.
Depending on the level of the degree and a student's schedule, the time to complete a computer information systems school can vary. Associate degrees in information systems can last two years, while bachelor's degrees in information systems or management information systems can take four years. Master's and graduate degree program completion times can vary, but they often require earning a bachelor's degree prior to enrollment.
What is the field of information systems?
Information systems is a subset of computer science focusing on data and manipulation of the data. This discipline deals less with programming languages and creating new software, although some information systems managers may direct software designers or computer programmers.
The field of information systems, unlike the more widely known term "information technology," requires two separate but equal subsystems -- data for the information system to access, and users who need access to the data. If information technology is the Wi-Fi chip that allows your mobile phone to connect to the Internet almost anywhere in the world, information systems represent the wireless network that spans the country and connects your phone to the Internet, which in itself is another information system.
Technical skills for information systems
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals aspiring to many of the careers that require an information systems degree may find the following traits helpful:
- Analytical skills
- Critical-thinking skills
- Organizational skills
- Problem-solving skills
Additionally, workers in some careers need to demonstrate a certain level of ingenuity, as every business, program or piece of software can be unique and require a special solution to each of the specific challenges presented.
What information systems means to computer science
Computer information systems professionals can work with other computer scientists to create new technologies or find new uses for existing technologies. According to the BLS, a graduate-level degree in information systems is typically required for computer and information research scientist positions, however, government positions may require only a bachelor's degree (BLS.gov, 2012).
The advances made by researchers may include algorithms that process the information the computer receives. These enhancements can include better networking technology and improvements to a computer's processing power or new software to increase system security. Some researchers may produce software that has not been produced before (BLS.gov, 2012).
Since the work of an information systems professional in a computer science focus can result in the creation of new programs, software or hardware, it is difficult to list specific programs or tools that may be encountered by these professionals. However, the products invented by computer and information systems research scientists are well-known. These professionals have created the robots that build cars, universal robots that can be controlled with a tablet computer, and robots that are currently exploring other planets, such as NASA's Mars Rover (BLS.gov, 2012). These scientists have created the latest generation of microchips and processors as well as improving Internet connections.
What information systems means to business
Information systems analysts and managers are responsible for businesses' information technology systems, such as employee or client records, or marketing, research or financial data that needs to be analyzed. Information systems analysts and managers can also be responsible for businesses' information security, which protects the company from hackers or malicious content (BLS.gov, 2012). Other information systems analysts or managers may be responsible for managing a company's database, including the physical setup and installation of the database as well as the database programs used by a company's employees.
Information systems professionals working with databases may be required to know a database language, such as SQL, the most common type of database language (BLS.gov, 2012). As some information systems professionals can supervise computer programmers, software developer professionals may be expected to use information systems management programs such as Teambox, Microsoft's SharePoint or other project collaboration tools. Additionally, since they can also supervise analysts or perform analyses themselves, they may encounter data manipulation software such as IBM's InfoSphere Optim or Kirix's Strata.
Potential career opportunities for information systems professionals
Information systems degrees with a management focus or an MBA with an information systems emphasis may lead to some of the following career options:
- Database manager
- Information systems analyst
- Computer information systems manager
- Computer network architect
- Chief technology officer
Not every information systems career in the computer science focus may require a graduate degree. Information systems degrees with an information or computer science focus may lead to some of the following career opportunities, which do not require a graduate degree:
- Computer programmer
- Software developer
- Network administrator
- Computer science teacher
A background in information systems can help prepare students for a wide range of employment possibilities. For example, computer and information research scientists may have a graduate degree in information systems, while computer systems analysts may have a bachelor's degree in management information systems.
The BLS expects employment opportunities for computer and information research scientists to grow by up to 19 percent from 2010 to 2020, nationally (BLS.gov, 2012). This growth is projected to be the result of an increase in cloud computing and demand for information security. As of May 2011, the national median annual wage of computer and information research scientists was $101,080, with the highest and lowest 10 percent earning $151,660 and $56,800, respectively, during the same time period, nationally (BLS.gov, 2012).
Employment opportunities for computer systems analysts are projected to grow up to 22 percent from 2010 to 2020, nationally (BLS.gov, 2012). This growth is likely to result in part from the health care industry's increased use of electronic patient records. As of May 2011, the national median annual wage of computer systems analysts was $78,770, with the highest and lowest 10 percent earning $120,060 and $49,370, respectively, during the same time period, nationally (BLS.gov, 2012).
Sources and further reading
Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012 Occupational Outlook Handbook: Computer Systems Analysts
Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012 Occupational Outlook Handbook: Network and Computer Systems Administrators
Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012 Occupational Outlook Handbook: Database Administrators
Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012 Occupational Outlook Handbook: Computer and Information Systems Managers
Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012 Occupational Outlook Handbook: Information Security Analysts, Web Developers, and Computer Network Architects
Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012 Occupational Outlook Handbook: Computer and Information Research Scientists
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2011 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates