Online Education in Information Systems
Information system specialists and managers are responsible for establishing and maintaining the computer network systems within an organization. They plan and coordinate the operations based on the needs of the client or the employer. Your ultimate aim is to help the company improve its efficiency and productivity. Your role may vary, depending on your organization and your expertise. Common responsibilities include analyzing the organization's needs; planning and installing computer hardware and software applications to meet the needs of the company; evaluating the technology and upgrading it at regular intervals; maintain security of the network systems; estimating the cost and setting up the budget; collaborating with other computer professionals to create a comprehensive network; and negotiate with vendors.
Information system specialists work in a variety of settings including technology companies, government agencies, schools and educational institutions, hospitals, law enforcement, retail, and research laboratories. Professionals with advanced certification may also work as faculty members at various colleges and universities, and teach undergraduate and graduate students pursuing an education in Information Systems. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an 18 percent growth in the Information Systems sector between 2010 and 2012.
Degree Levels Available Online
Undergraduate/Graduate Certificate: 1 year to complete
Associate: 2 years
Bachelor's: 4 years
Master's: 1-3 years
Doctorate: 4-6 years
Undergraduate certification is a short-term program for students seeking to acquire basic skills in Information Technology and Computer Applications to supplement their existing qualifications and to use technology within their field of work. Graduate level certification programs are immensely popular among Information Systems professionals who wish to learn new skills to advance their careers. The short-term, continuing education programs focus on information systems and technology, core web technologies, principles of programming, and system analysis and design.
With an Associate of Science in Information Systems, you will be prepared to take up an entry-level position in private and government agencies. Common topics of study during the two-year program include financial accounting, basics of computing, computer programming, computer operating systems, electronic spreadsheets, database management, web page design, advanced software applications, and network administration.
A Bachelor's is the ideal option for high school graduates seeking a long career in Information Systems. The degree will not only provide you the knowledge and expertise to work as an Information Systems specialist, you will also be eligible to pursue advanced education in Information Systems. During the Bachelor's program you will focus on systems application development, project management, computer networking, information systems security, business process analysis, database management, network & security management, health care information systems, application and process integration, and e-commerce design.
Students interested in taking up leadership and managerial positions go on to pursue Master's degree in Information Systems. The program will help you identify the needs of the client or the employer, design the project, and oversee its implementation and development. You may lead other information systems professionals and offer them the required guidance for the successful completion of the project. You can also collaborate with other managers and computer system professionals to create an effective system.
Universities and colleges across the United States also offer online Doctorate programs in Information Systems. The programs will take four to six years to complete. Apart from completing certain units of coursework, you will be required to choose and work on a research topic. The results of the research are published in a dissertation research. You are granted a Ph.D. in Information Systems once you successfully defend your thesis in front of the committee.
Admission requirements will vary depending on the type of the program and the university. You may enroll in an Undergraduate Certificate, Associate, or Bachelor's program after completing your high school. The GPA requirements may vary with university. Other requirements may include:
- SAT/ACT scores
- Letters of Recommendation
- Letter of Intent
Master's program requires a Bachelor's degree along with GRE scores. Some universities may require international students to qualify the TOEFL test. The requirements for Ph.D. program will vary as well. You will be required to complete a Master's degree and submit recommendation letters, GRE scores, GPA history and work experience. Some universities offer an integrated Masters and Doctorate program. You can apply for them after completing your Bachelor's program in Information Systems.
Online Information Systems vs. Traditional College Programs
Many students debate over the benefits of an online versus traditional Information Systems degree and certification. Online programs are great for professionals and adults who wish to pursue education without altering their personal and professional schedule. You can complete them at your own pace from the convenience of your home or office. A recent survey has indicated that almost 85 percent of employers are willing to hire a professional with an online education.
Traditional Information Systems degree programs are often more competitive, especially during the admission process. Once you enroll, you will be required to devote specific number of hours for each program. However, your program will be more organized. You will also have an opportunity to directly interact with your peers and faculty members.
The online programs in Information Systems are often more affordable than the traditional, campus-based programs because universities save on infrastructure and facilities and pass on the savings to the students. An undergraduate program may cost between $9,000 and $35,000, while a Master's program may cost between $15,000 and $40,000. The exact cost will depend on the type of the program and the university or college. When you pursue an online course, you will also save on accommodation, transportation and other basic necessities as well.
Choosing the Best Degrees
Many universities and colleges offer online programs in Information Systems. Before you enroll in a program, take time to analyze your career as well as you future plans. You should also consider your budget and the number of hours you will be able to devote to the program. Make a list of all the programs, and learn about their admission criteria. Make sure the program has been accredited by a standard governing agency such as the ABET.