Earning a Master's in Management Information Systems Online

Within the last decade, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business observed a 30% increase in students pursuing specialized master's degrees, and information technology/systems degrees are third on the list. Earning a professional degree in information systems, whether online or on-campus, benefits professionals in the information technology space who want to advance their careers and gain the knowledge to improve job performance. The following guide covers everything prospective students need to know about an online master's in management information systems including salary information, job prospects, resources, and scholarship opportunities.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master's Degree in Management Information Systems?

An online master's in management information systems would be an appealing choice for a professional with a baccalaureate degree and substantial experience who wants to advance in their career. Most program applicants have a degree in business or technology, but many programs welcome applicants with a degree that is not related to business or technology. The information systems curriculum applies to any field because IT plays a significant role in present-day business operations. A master's degree in information systems also prepares learners for IT certification exams.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Management Information Systems?

Pursuing Specialization

Management information systems programs offer concentrations in disciplines like risk and information assurance. Oftentimes, these industries require a unique skill set that students attain by specializing their degree. Programs incorporate concentration courses into the general curriculum so students take core and specialization classes concurrently.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Employers prefer to hire professionals with advanced experience and education for high-paying leadership positions. According to PayScale, an employee with a bachelor's degree in management information systems earns $76,000 a year. Therefore, someone with a master's degree in the industry can expect to earn more than that as base salary pay. Those in leadership positions have a greater number of responsibilities and expectations, and employers understand the intensity of the management workload and compensate accordingly.

Online Learning Technology

Students utilize online learning platforms, such as Blackboard, and interact with each other and instructors using videoconferencing and the learning management system's email extension or discussion forums. These methods of communication are effective and convenient, and using this technology helps program enrollees improve their own technological skills.

Prerequisites for Online Management Information Systems Programs

Applicants must submit certain documents or take tests to be eligible to apply to graduate programs. Admission requirements vary by school, but the following list outlines the most common requests.

  • Work Experience: Most programs accept students with bachelor's degrees and some form of work experience, but applicants with prior IT experience may have an easier time adjusting to the curriculum.
  • Exams and Test Scores: The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) are the two most common exams required by a school's graduate department. The schools that require these exams look for high scores in the 600-800 range for the GMAT exam and in the 160-170 range for the GRE.
  • Coursework: Schools prefer that applicants take undergraduate courses in business before applying to the program. Some schools may accept applicants without business coursework, but these students must take prerequisites before starting the online master's in management information systems curriculum.
  • Recommendations: Many graduate programs request letters of recommendation from professional references such as coaches, instructors, managers, and supervisors. These people are generally going to be able to give the best analysis of a student's work ethic, skills, and talents.
  • Essays: Schools can ask applicants to submit a personal statement or a statement of purpose to better understand the candidate. In this essay, applicants write about the field of study they want to pursue in graduate school and the reasons why that program appeals to them. They also talk about their industry experience and future plans for their career.
  • Interviews: Schools with competitive programs and a limited number of seats tend to interview applicants before making a final decision. During the interview, they ask candidates questions about their educational and professional background. Interview formats vary; some schools interview candidates one-on-one while others conduct panel interviews.
  • International Students: International students usually have to take an English proficiency exam, and the TOEFL is the one accepted by most schools. International students must also submit their transcripts to undergo a foreign credit evaluation by the school. Members of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services handle foreign credit evaluation.

How Much Can I Make with a Master's Degree in Management Information Systems?

An online master's degree in management information systems broadens a graduate's horizons. With this degree, graduates show employers that they are fully capable of handling complex tasks and duties related to information technology. The degree also improves an employee's chances of receiving a raise or a promotion. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the top 90th percentile of information security analysts make $153,090. Many graduates become entrepreneurs and start their own tech companies or become business consultants.

Traditional Careers for Management Information Systems

Career Stats Description

Computer and Information Systems Managers

Median Pay: $139,220

Job Growth: 12%

Computer and information systems managers coordinate all computer- and technology-related activity for a company. This role is generally a full-time, office-based position and is needed in large companies with complex data and communications systems. Overtime hours may be required when tech problems arise.

Ideal for: Highly organized, strategy-driven individuals with strong numbers and people management skills

Network Administrator

Median Pay: $81,100

Job Growth: 6%

Network administrators ensure that an organization's computer networks are secure and work properly. They evaluate the computer networks and make suggestions for upgrades or system overhauls. Administrators also manage the company's servers, desktops, and mobile devices and handle employee access to the network servers by assigning passwords and other security permissions.

Ideal for: Those with strong communication and analytical skills who can multitask and enjoy problem solving

Computer Network Architect

Median Pay: $104,650

Job Growth: 6%

Also known as network engineers, computer network architects design data communication networks. They collaborate with management to assess the company's data and network technology needs. Network engineers upgrade routers, adapters, and network drivers as well as troubleshoot network issues and implement ways to handle data traffic.

Ideal for: individuals that enjoy creating data frameworks, are highly organized, have strong leadership and communication skills, and are detail oriented

Information Security Analyst

Median Pay: $95,510

Job Growth: 28%

Information security analysts use software applications such as firewalls and data encryption programs to secure important information and prevent system hacks. Analysts set security measures in place by recommending upgrades, running tests, preparing reports, and installing software. Analysts are also in charge of the company's disaster recovery plan, a blueprint for system crashes or network breaches.

Ideal for: individuals that want a hands-on role in managing data networks

Non-Traditional Careers for Management Information Systems

Career Stats Description

Customer Service Director

Median Pay: $91,532

Job Growth: N/A

Customer service directors are company executives that create a framework for dealing with customers. To learn more about the company's consumer base, directors work with market research analysts to collect data and identify customer issues. Using this information, directors implement strategies for resolving and preventing common issues.

Ideal for: individuals that enjoy working with customers

Independent Computer Support Technician

Median Pay: $52,810

Job Growth: 11%

Computer Support Specialists manage the maintain the company's network systems by troubleshooting problems. Most support technicians work directly with customers to learn more about network issues and suggest things they can do to alleviate the problem. Additionally, support technicians may visit the person's home to resolve network issues.

Ideal for: Workers with a problem-solving attitude

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale, 2017-2018

Paying for an Online Master's in Management Information Systems

Students usually pay a flat-rate tuition, tuition per credit range, or per-course credit. Many graduate students opt to pay per credit if they only take one or two courses per semester. Students should research their chosen degree pathway to see if it accommodates their financial needs and take advantage of financial aid opportunities such as grants and scholarships tailored specifically to their major or background. Some available financial aid opportunities will be listed below, but students should also talk to financial counselors at their chosen college and explore professional organizations that offer grants or scholarships.

Tuition Timelines

Online master's in management information systems students should choose a pathway that meets their personal and educational needs. Most schools offer an accelerated, part-time, and traditional pathway. Some examples are outlined below.

Part-Time Path

Part-time enrollment allows students to take one to two courses per semester. This pathway works for students with busy schedules that cannot commit to full-time study. Part-time students satisfy the same degree requirements as full-time students, but it takes them longer to do so. However, the tradeoff is that part-time students get to create a schedule that fits their lifestyle.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: California State University-Fullerton
Total Credits Required: 30 units
Summary: CSUF states the average part-time online master's of science in information systems student completes the program in two and a half years. All students take a total of 30 credit hours and those without a bachelor's degree in business administration must take additional courses. The program offers two concentrations in business analytics and decision sciences.

Full-Time Path

For graduate students, full-time means two to three courses per semester depending on degree requirements. Students who choose this path must have the time and resources to dedicate to a full-time curriculum consisting of classes that take anywhere from 9-15 weeks to complete. These students usually graduate on time or early from their programs.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Total Credits Required: 30 credits
Summary: It takes approximately two years for a full-time student to graduate from the school's master's in management information systems program. The core curriculum consists of seven courses, and online classes convene for nine-week terms. The school breaks down tuition costs into two groups: one for civilians and the other for military personnel. These costs reflect a full course load.

Accelerated Path

In most cases, these programs last for 12-18 months. Intensive accelerated programs require students to take up to six courses each semester. Students in accelerated programs usually save money because they attend school for shorter periods.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: Carnegie Mellon University
Total Credits Required: 162-192 credits
Summary: Carnegie Mellon University partners with Allegheny College, Bethany College, and Chatham University to deliver accelerated dual enrollment programs for master's of information systems management (MISM) students. In these programs, students attend one school for three years to obtain their bachelor's degree and attend the university's Heinz College for two years to receive their master's degree.

Subject-Specific Financial Aid, Grants & Scholarships

The following list of scholarships provide funding for graduate students and students planning to pursue graduate studies in STEM fields, such as information systems or cybersecurity.

What to Expect from a Master's Level Online Management Information Systems Program

Depending on the student's enrollment status and program requirements, an online master's in management information systems takes two to three years to complete. Some accelerated programs offer 12 and/or 16 month pathways. Students take core courses, electives, and concentration courses if applicable. Classes focus on data analysis, management, and modeling, and most programs require a final project or thesis paper to graduate.

Major Milestones

  1. Terminal Evaluation - the last semester

    Some schools evaluate through a mandatory seminar course. Using the concepts learned in the program, students create an information system by designing a database, programming it, and deploying it.

  2. Computer Literacy - before student begins program curriculum

    The management information systems curriculum is heavily computer-based, and administrators want to ensure that students can handle the curriculum. Therefore, they review undergraduate transcripts for computer courses or administer a computer proficiency test.

  3. Internship - during first or second year of program

    Schools encourage internships to expose students to real-world situations. Students either work with the career services department or venture out on their own to secure placement.

  4. Experiential Classes - any time during the program

    Schools often coordinate partnerships with other companies and organizations in able to offer experiential, or hands-on learning, classes. These are led by the instructor and help develop students' skills in a real-world setting.

  5. Apprenticeships and Fellowships - any time during the program

    Many universities offer apprenticeships and fellowships to students to give them in-depth experience. Through fellowships, students receive funding for their education and research efforts.


Schools develop their own curriculum for online master's in management information systems programs, but some courses are common to many programs and will generally center around information technology. Below is a sampling of courses students will need to take as part of their program.

Telecommunications and Business Networks

This class teaches students about different data networks. Students design a framework for a common network system. Local area networks (LAN), wide area networks (WAN), and virtual private networks are covered in the course.

Systems Security Management

Students research the most common security risks plaguing network systems. They also assess different data models to learn their strengths and weaknesses. The course helps students plan and implement strategies for preventing and fixing security risks.

Data Mining for Business Intelligence

Using specialized software, students practice common data mining techniques. These techniques include classification, clustering, and visualization. Students use these techniques to mine the data networks they create and others within the specialized software.

Business Intelligence

In this course, students uncover the most prevalent issues in business intelligence. Students probe technical and strategic problems that affect data warehouses and address the managerial issues IT professionals face when handling data systems.

Information Technology Audit

Students discuss the methods used to protect information assets and study topics such as internal and external system audits, the IT audit process, and auditing outsourced IT systems and resources.

Requirements to Practice

Students majoring in any information technology field sometimes need certification to apply for specific job positions. Many universities offer certification programs students can enroll in during their off-time or while pursuing their degree. Professional organizations also administer certification exams to applicants that meet requirements regarding education and work experience. Sometimes, applicants must be members of the organization to apply for the credential. In other instances, the organization offers the exam to the public for a fee.

  • Business Intelligence and Analytics Certification: This certification sets marketing analysts, project managers, and business analysts apart from other candidates in the employee market. Students can earn this certificate from a university by taking three business/data courses in the management information systems curriculum.
  • Certified Information Security Manager Certification: This certification focuses on international security, and professionals with this designation are able to assess, manage, design, and oversee information security for an organization. Applicants must submit a verification form for administrators to process prior to taking the exam.
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor Certification: To submit an application for the CISA designation, applicants must show proof of one year of information systems experience, 60-100 university credit hours of coursework, or a bachelor's or master's degree from an ISACA-approved curriculum.
  • Risk and Information Systems Control Certification: To obtain certification, applicants must show at least three years of experience performing risk and information systems control duties. The board lists four domains in the discipline and applicants must have experience in two of them.

Professional Organizations & Resources

Joining a professional organization gives students access to professional certifications, networking events, continuing education opportunities, career services, and mentorship. Many organizations also run student chapters and award scholarships to attract members currently pursuing their education or recent college graduates. Student members receive mentorship and career guidance for senior members. Organizations exist at the state, national, and global levels.

  • Association for Information Systems: The AIS holds the International Conference on Information Systems, a conference for the leading information systems researchers and professionals. Additionally, AIS offers online educational resources to its members.
  • Information Systems Security Association: This nonprofit international organization promotes peer interaction through community outreach, a fellowship program, and the education foundation. The CISO Executive Forum is part of a membership chapter for company executives to connect with working professionals.
  • Association for Computing Machinery: With almost 100,000 members globally, this organization oversees 37 special interest groups that take part in ACM symposia, conferences, and workshops. ACM also coordinates volunteer efforts and networking events for members in any of its 860 chapters.
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers: The IEEE prides itself on being the world's largest IT professional community. They promote technological innovation and advancement by creating and following a strategic plan that outlines the organization's goals.
  • Association for Women in Computing: Started in 1978, AWC helps women in the computing field progress in their careers and education. They host nationwide chapters and partner with the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals.
  • SANS Penetration Testing: The SANS Institute educates students by providing the tools and techniques they need to become skilled information security professionals. They offer courses in topics such as how to identify and fix system vulnerabilities, how to hack ethically, and how to identify cyber attackers.
  • Infosecurity Magazine: For more than a decade, this magazine has published editorial content for IT professionals. They currently run a webinar channel, distribute white papers for syndication, and organize networking events and summits.
  • United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team: Created by the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, this database serves as a “global exchange for cyber and communications information.” It features publications and other important cybersecurity-related materials.
  • Cybrary: An online library for cybersecurity professionals, this resource offers free video learning using virtual labs and practice test software. Subject matter experts from top corporations instruct courses, and the site lets businesses create career development programs using Cybrary's resources.
  • Udemy: Udemy gives users the opportunity to learn from the top technology instructors through curated online content. Users can watch lectures, take courses, read the company blog, and learn about Udemy's research efforts.