Key Highlights

  • Computer Information Systems (CIS) is an interdisciplinary field combining information technology and business management. It focuses on the integration of technology in business for data management, problem-solving, and decision-making.
  • Computer Information Systems (CIS), Computer Science (CS), and Information Technology (IT) are closely linked to the field of computing, yet they differ in their goals, methodologies, and focal points.
  • Earning a degree in Computer Information Systems kickstarts your career, but continuous learning and obtaining certifications are crucial for specialization, staying current with technology trends, and boosting employability.

In a world where digital technology has seeped into almost every aspect of the workplace, the role of computer information systems is pivotal for modern organizations. It offers a blend of technology and business acumen that drives growth, innovation, and competitive success – vital for organizations of any size in competitive markets.

What Exactly is Computer Information Systems?

Computer Information Systems (CIS) is a field that focuses on the use of computer technology to manage and process information, particularly in the context of business organizations.

Here are some key aspects that define CIS, both as an academic field and as a professional discipline:

  • Integration of Technology and Business: CIS combines the principles of information technology (IT) with business management. It focuses not just on the technical aspects of computing, but also on how these technologies can be applied effectively in a business setting.
  • Software and Hardware Knowledge: Students pursuing CIS degrees learn about computer hardware and software systems. This includes understanding how systems are developed, maintained, and used within organizations.
  • Data Management and Analysis: A significant part of CIS involves managing data – this includes data collection, storage, processing, analysis, and reporting. The goal is often to extract insights from data that can inform business decisions.
  • Problem-Solving and Decision-Making: CIS professionals are often required to solve complex problems related to information systems and make strategic decisions regarding the use of technology in an organization.
  • Networks and Information Security: Understanding and managing networks, as well as ensuring the security and integrity of data, are important aspects of CIS. This includes protecting against cyberthreats and ensuring organizational data privacy standards are being met.
  • Systems Design and Development: CIS includes the design and development of information systems that meet the specific needs of a business. CIS professionals must have a strong foundation in understanding user requirements, system design principles, and the software development lifecycle.
  • Business Process Integration: CIS experts integrate information systems with business processes to improve efficiency and effectiveness across business operations.

Computer Information Systems and Computer Science (CS) are both related to computing, but they differ significantly in their focus, objectives, and approaches. This is very important information to consider when you are deciding your higher education and career paths.

  • CS is traditionally more focused on the theoretical aspects of computing and the development of new technologies. CIS, on the other hand, is more practical and focuses on applying existing technologies in practical, real-world situations.
  • CS often centers around creating new software, designing algorithms, and understanding how to optimize computing processes. Computer scientists are usually more concerned with advancing computing technology than with the direct application of existing technologies. This is in contrast to CIS, which is focused on applying computer technology to solve problems in business and organizational contexts.
  • Most CS programs are research-oriented, especially at the graduate level. Students in CIS programs will have more hands-on work to do with managing IT resources and strategizing on technology implementation.

Also, while the distinctions between CIS and Information Technology (IT) can be subtle–both fields deal with computers and technology in a business context–they do have different focuses and approaches.

  •  IT is more focused on the operation and maintenance of technology within an organization–managing hardware, software, databases, networks, and other technology resources. CIS is strongly oriented towards the application of IT to solve business problems and improve business processes. It encompasses not only the technology itself but also its practical application in a business context.
  • While CIS professionals are typically concerned with how end-users interact with technology and how to make these interactions as effective and efficient as possible, IT is more about solving immediate technical issues and ensuring that the technology infrastructure runs smoothly.
  • IT involves ensuring that technology infrastructures work efficiently and effectively. CIS experts leverage this infrastructure to develop information systems that support business operations and decision-making.

The differences between CIS, CS, and IT – whether significant or subtle – show just how diverse your career options are in the modern-day digital workplace, and why it is important for you to understand these distinctions before picking a degree major.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in computer information systems, there are several educational pathways you can take. Each of them offers different levels of depth and specialization, aligning with your long-term education and career goals.

  • Associate’s degree: An Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Computer Information Systems degree focuses on the basics of CIS and generally takes around 2 years to complete with a full-time course load. It is a great choice if you are seeking entry-level positions or looking for a stepping stone to a bachelor’s degree.
  • Bachelor’s degree: A Bachelor of Science (BS) in Computer Information Systems or a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) with a concentration in CIS are 4-year (full-time) programs that typically cover a broad range of topics including systems analysis, database management, networking, and IT project management. Either of these bachelor degree programs is right for you if you are looking to gain a comprehensive foundation in CIS, including both technical and business aspects.
  • Master’s degree: A Master’s in Computer Information Systems (MCIS) degree provides you with the advanced knowledge and skills necessary to analyze, design, implement, and manage information systems within organizations. Alternatively, you could pursue a Master of Science (MS) in Computer Information Systems that can be combined with a business administration program (like an MBA with a focus on CIS) if you are looking to advance into higher-level management roles or specialize in a specific area of CIS. Master’s degree programs in CIS generally take 1-2 years to complete.
  • Doctoral degree: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Computer Information Systems programs take around 3-5 years to complete, and you will need a master’s degree in CIS or a related field. This is the degree you need if you are interested in academic research, teaching at the university level, or want to pursue high-level consultancy roles in CIS.

Remember, the best educational path depends on your career goals, previous education, and the time and resources you can dedicate to your studies. An associate’s degree can provide you with a solid foundation in CIS, while a bachelor’s degree will open up various career paths within CIS and other related fields.

The courses offered in computer information systems degree programs typically combine elements of business, management, and information technology. The curriculum is generally designed to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of how to effectively implement and manage technology solutions within an organization.

Here are some common types of courses you might encounter in CIS degree programs:

  • Introduction to Information Systems: Learn the basic concepts of information systems and their role in business, understanding how systems support business operations and decision-making.
  • Database Management: This course will teach you about the principles of database design, implementation, and management, with a special focus on SQL programming, data modeling, and database administration.
  • Systems Analysis and Design: Discover the methods and tools you will need for analyzing and designing information systems – from requirements gathering and process modeling, to system development life cycles.
  • Networking and Data Communication: Unravel the basics of data communication and networking technologies, focusing on network architecture, protocols, security, and management.
  • Information Systems Security: Lean about the principles and practices for securing information systems, including risk management, cybersecurity, and data privacy.
  • Business Intelligence and Analytics: If you want to learn all the techniques the professionals leverage for analyzing business data to support decision-making, then this course is for you. Skills you will pick up will include data warehousing, data mining, and visualization tools.
  • IT Project Management: Learn principles and techniques for managing IT projects, with a specific focus on project planning, execution, monitoring, and resource management.
  • Enterprise Systems: Specialize in large-scale IT systems that support business processes. Learn everything you’ll need to know about ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems.
  • Management of Information Systems: Learn the strategic use of information systems in organizations, aligning IT with business strategy, as well as managing IT investments.

Arming yourself with a degree in computer information systems can get your career going on the right path. However, keep in mind that continuous learning plays a key role in CIS, and earning certifications is a great way to not only stay on top of the latest developments but to also let employers know about your credentials.

The following certifications can help you, as a CIS professional, specialize in certain skills, stay current with technology trends, and enhance your employability prospects.

  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA): Focuses on network infrastructure, wireless networking, and security. It’s a foundational level certification for anyone with a CIS degree looking to become a networking professional.
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): This is one of the most respected certifications in the field of IT security, covering areas like risk management, security operations, and software development security.
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate: This certification covers managing and implementing Microsoft’s Azure cloud services- perhaps the most common cloud service adopted by companies worldwide. If you prefer to work on Linux-based administration systems and Red Hat servers, the Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) certification is the one for you.
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Solutions Architect: Targets designing distributed systems and applications on the AWS platform, the most commonly used cloud computing solution.
  • Certified Data Professional (CDP): Choose from different levels of certification, covering data analytics, data governance, and data management.
  • Oracle Certified Professional, MySQL Database Administrator (OCP): This certification program focuses on managing MySQL databases, including database design, security, and troubleshooting.

When choosing a certification, consider your current skills, your career goals, and the demands of the job market in your area of interest. It’s also important to keep in mind that maintaining some of these certifications requires ongoing education and renewals.

What Are Your Career Options With a Degree in Computer Information Systems?

A CIS degree opens the doors to a range of career options, and the high demand for professionals reflects the integral role of technology, especially CIS, in modern business operations.

  • Network and Computer Systems Administrator: Install, configure, and maintain your organization’s computer networks and systems. This role includes managing local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and other data communication networks, ensuring system security, evaluating and optimizing network performance, and providing technical support and training to users in the organization. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for this position is $90,520.
  • Computer Systems Analyst: Study an organization’s current computer systems and design ways to improve efficiency. As a computer systems analyst, you will consult with managers to determine IT system roles, research technologies, analyze costs and benefits, design and test new systems, and even write instruction manuals for training users​. The median annual salary for a computer systems analyst is $102,240.
  • Information Security Analyst: Plan and implement security measures to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems. According to BLS, the hiring rate for this position is projected to grow an incredible 32% from 2022 to 2032. The median annual wage for an Information Security Analyst is roughly $112,000.
  • Computer Network Architect: Design and implement data communication networks, such as local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and intranets. As a computer network architect, you will create plans for data communication networks, present designs to management and staff, deploy networks, and oversee hardware and software upgrades to support networks. Your organization will also rely on you to research and recommend new technologies for network performance. The median annual salary for this position is $126,900.
  • Database Administrator: Ensure that databases run efficiently, are secure, and accessible to authorized users. You will also be responsible for backing up and restoring data, making sure databases operate without errors, and maintaining and updating permissions. The median annual salary for a database administrator is $134,870.
  • Computer and Information Systems Manager: Plan, coordinate, and direct all computer-related activities in an organization. As a Computer and Information Systems Manager, you will help determine the IT goals of an organization and implement computer systems to meet those goals. The annual median salary for this position is around $164,070.

As you can imagine, these roles require not only a deep understanding of information technology but also the ability to apply this knowledge strategically within a business context – everything that a CIS degree program prepares you for.

The skills and knowledge gained from CIS degree programs also gives you the option to diversify and pursue other careers in IT, as well as in business and even in healthcare informatics

If your career aspirations align with the roles and industries where CIS skills are in demand, such as IT management, systems analysis, business intelligence, and data management, then pursuing a CIS degree program is a good starting point. Right now, CIS skills are in demand across many sectors, and the integration of technology in business operations continues to grow, making CIS expertise invaluable.

Blending business and technical knowledge makes a CIS degree versatile enough for various roles in technology and business sectors. This gives you the opportunity to be flexible as you shape your career going forward.

What is a computer information systems degree?

A Computer Information Systems (CIS) degree is an academic program that combines aspects of business and computer science. It focuses on how to apply computer technology to solve business problems and support business operations. This degree covers areas such as systems analysis and design, database management, network administration, and information systems security. It also often includes courses on business principles, like management and accounting, providing a comprehensive understanding of how technology supports and drives business objectives.

What can I do with a computer information systems degree?

With a Computer Information Systems (CIS) degree, you have a variety of career options, as this degree combines business and technology knowledge. Career paths include becoming a IT project manager, a systems analyst, a database or network administrator, a business analyst, or even a technology solutions consultant. The roles available to you can vary greatly in responsibilities and focus, from more technical positions to those centered on business and management.

What do computer and information systems managers do?

Computer and Information Systems Managers, who may also be known in organizations as IT managers, are responsible for overseeing the technology-related operations and initiatives within an organization. Their role is pivotal in ensuring that an organization’s technology infrastructure is effective, secure, and aligned with business objectives.