Technologies like search engines that allow people to quickly identify and interpret the most relevant and reliable facts, figures or files are essential today, given the proliferation of misinformation on the internet and the treasure trove of digital data accessible online.
The influence and prevalence of these kinds of tools gives the academic discipline of information systems many broad applications. There are multiple compelling reasons to pursue an advanced degree in this discipline, according to experts, who suggest that it’s important to compare the cost of such a degree with its potential long-term benefits.
Reason No. 1: Marketability and Versatility
“Information systems are how we create, store, and manage the data that we are using to make decisions, provide insights, and create value,” says Kathleen Hyde, cybersecurity program director at Champlain College in Vermont, which offers in-person and online classes.
“Pursuing a graduate degree with a specialization in information systems means that you are ready to take your career to the next level and you recognize the important role that information systems play in business, healthcare, education, and the government,” Hyde wrote in an email. “Managing an information system requires skills beyond those acquired on the job or through other means because of the complex interactions between people, processes, and technology that take place within organizations against the backdrop of risk, resource constraints, and more.”
Information systems are used for a variety of purposes, ranging from the automation of payroll deposits to the collection of clinical trial results; managers overseeing the design and usage of these tools may work not only within the tech sector, but also within other industries such as health care.
Reason No. 2: An Interdisciplinary Approach and Focus on Leadership
The subject of information systems is not identical to computer science or data analytics, experts say, since it does not concentrate entirely on statistics or programming. Graduate degrees in this area are not intended to prepare someone for an entry-level job but are instead tailored to the needs of future information managers — those who oversee the implementation and selection of an organization’s information technology and are also responsible for introducing new tools and suggesting technical improvements.
Prospective information systems grad students should also be prepared to cultivate soft skills such as communication, innovation and interpersonal abilities, says Chirag Shah, associate professor with the University of Washington Information School and founding director of the school’s InfoSeeking Lab.
“Coming into this, of course, it’s important that you like technology and know technology, but also you have to like and know it as a designer, as a creator, as a manager (and) as a developer,” Shah says, noting that an aptitude for using IT is not sufficient for a career spent making and improving it.
Someone with a graduate degree in information systems is qualified for various executive and mid-level management positions, including roles as chief information officers, information technology directors and vice presidents of information technology.
Reason No. 3: Many Options for How and Where to Study
Many types of graduate programs focus on information systems, including Master of Business Administration degrees with formal concentrations in this area and master’s degrees that focus entirely on information management or information technology.
Graduate programs in this academic discipline may be housed within different branches of a university such as the business school, computer science department or arts and science division, depending on what skills a program emphasizes and which industries it targets, Shah says.
He notes that UW’s information school not only examines the technical aspects of information systems but also explores the user experience.
“You can think about this as (an) intersection of people, technology and information,” Shah explains, noting that the organization where an information system is being used is also pertinent. “Depending on which discipline you are in, there may be more emphasis on one or the other.”
Reason No. 4: Significant Financial Gains
Completing graduate school in this field often leads to a lucrative career. The median annual salary reported by computer and information systems managers working in the U.S. in May 2020 was $151,150, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The bureau predicts that employment in the field will be 11% higher in 2030 than it was in 2020 and notes that U.S job growth in this profession is faster than the norm among all occupations.
“One of the easiest ways to see the ‘pay off’ associated with an information systems graduate degree is to do a quick survey of available positions online,” Hyde explains. “There’s a marked difference in the pay scale between information systems management positions and other positions in the field. Often the difference in pay is in the tens of thousands and, in some cases, it’s double, especially for positions where a Master’s degree is preferred or required.”
Searching for a grad school? Access our complete rankings of Best Graduate Schools.
More from U.S. News
4 Reasons to Pursue a Graduate Degree in Information Systems originally appeared on usnews.com