Every company is a tech company. Even if it sells soda water or manufactures mopeds, a company maximizes profit using the latest technology. Which is where information systems professionals come in. By connecting business acumen and technical expertise, they point their companies toward higher earnings. To become one, you’ll need an advanced degree. Our list of top Master’s in Information Systems programs is diverse, with something for everyone from skilled programmers to seasoned managers. Use it to start your degree search.
1) What Types of Information Systems Programs Are Available?
Most information systems degrees are offered by business schools because the credential is generally geared toward people with management aspirations. While some programs are built for people doing the actual tech work, others are for those just planning on working in an IT-heavy environment. How to tell the difference? MBA programs are generally for the latter and MS degrees skew toward the former.
2) Should You Study Online or On Campus?
Most of the degrees on our list are based on campus, but several are online or hybrid programs. While online programs are more likely to fit around professionals’ busy schedules, on-campus programs in this field can easily connect students to networking opportunities and career development programs, such as career fairs and internships.
3) Is an Information Systems Master’s Degree Worth It?
If $131,000 sounds like a good salary to you, then the answer is yes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2014 that the need for computer and information systems managers would grow 15 percent over 10 years, an expansion of over 50,000 jobs.
Business Analytics and Information Systems: An Important Partnership
Most information systems degrees devote at least a class if not a whole concentration to analytics. Why? Because information systems programs are geared toward decision makers, and managers need good data to make good decisions.
Already know the analytics side of things? The information systems degree will increase your marketability to employers by showing that you not only understand the value of business data, but have the communication and leadership skills to analyze and act upon that data.
Our rankings are derived from U.S. News & World Report rankings of graduate programs related to information systems, including:
- Information Systems
- Information Technology
- Computer Systems
- Quantitative Analysis
We weighted the rankings across these categories to give preference to those programs ranked in multiple categories. We only considered programs focused on information systems.
To find all campus and online information systems programs (not just those in our top 22), see our information systems page.
The Top Information Systems Masters Programs
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The School of Engineering and Sloan School of Management team up to run the System Design and Management degree. The SDM is best-suited for students with big ideas and the technical expertise to apply them in novel ways.
The 18-month program requires 38 credits of core coursework, 12 credits each of management and engineering fundamentals, 30 elective credits, and a final thesis worth 24 credits.
Since it’s MIT, you probably don’t need us to tell you how good the program is. But just to remind you: U.S. News & World Report considers MIT’s engineering school to be the nation’s best. Ditto for the information systems wing of Sloan Business School.
Because it’s the top of the class in terms of information systems degrees, you’ll have to be top of your class to get in. MIT is looking for professional engineers who have been on the job for five years but will accept three years for those holding a master’s in engineering. Additionally, the school wants candidates with leadership experience.
Carnegie Mellon University
Run out of Heinz College’s School of Information Systems & Management, the MISM program melds business, strategy and technical proficiency for aspiring tech analysts, engineers, software developers and consultants in the tech sphere.
MISM students have three different curriculum options in which to complete the 15-course program: The one-year MISM for students with three years of work experience, which waives the internship requirement of the other tracks; the 16-month MISM, which incorporates a summer internship; and the 21-month global MISM, which provides greater access to electives and places students in Australia for two terms and a summer internship. Students may also choose to specialize in Business Intelligence and Data Analytics (MISM-BIDA), which follows the 16-month curriculum. In line with the program’s emphasis on experiential learning, all students round out the program by completing a capstone or project that synthesizes all they’ve learned.
U.S. News & World Report placed Heinz College atop its Information and Technology Management program rankings. Most students have little difficulty leveraging the CMU name for employment. Within four months of graduating, the class of 2016 reported a 91 percent job offer rate and a median salary of $100,000. Plus, students can enroll in the global MISM to tap into the Asian job market. Recent graduates have won offers from companies in Singapore, Japan, China and Indonesia.
Professional experience is not required for admission (since the school places such a heavy emphasis on internships in the 16- or 21-month tracks), but all enrollees must be proficient in an object-oriented programming language, preferably Java. Coursework in statistics and database management is also smiled upon and, for students in the MISM-BIDA program, required. Students must submit GRE or GMAT results to prove their academic capacity.
New York University
The MSIS program combines computer science courses from the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and MBA classes from the Stern School of Business. The result is a degree useful for those pursuing positions where business strategy and computing collide, such as managers at software vendor companies and members of IT department leadership teams.
The curriculum is 13 courses long: three required computer science courses, two computer science electives, two Stern courses covering general business, three Stern courses exploring information systems, and two additional electives from either source. The 13th course is a capstone in which students form teams of four and complete a semester-long IT project.
Stern School of Business regularly places in the top 20 business schools in U.S. News & World Report rankings, and Courant’s computer science program lands in the top 30. Both have world-class faculty. In 2014 Subhash Khot, from the latter, won the Nevanlinna Prize, the equivalent of the World Cup for young mathematicians working in information science. As for Stern, the faculty features three Nobel Prize winning economists.
Incoming students must be able to program as well as understand data structures and algorithms. If you don’t, you’ll take two intensive courses to get up to speed before continuing on to the MSIS proper. Since NYU can afford to be picky, you’ll probably also need a GRE Quantitative score above the 85th percentile to get in.
The Stanford School of Engineering emphasizes that the MSCS with a systems specialization is for hardcore programmers looking to solve big problems. This isn’t the spot for network technicians — Stanford is looking for people who will rethink how to approach the discipline.
Systems students must complete at least 45 units. Here’s the breakdown (keeping in mind that some courses count toward multiple requirements:
- One course toward the “Significant Implementation Requirement” (i.e., a software development class)
- Three courses toward the “Breadth Requirement” (i.e., core courses for all Computer Science students)
- Nine courses toward the “Depth Requirement” (i.e., courses that satisfy the Systems specialization)
You can also count one elective toward your degree as well as up to 10 units’ worth of “Foundations Requirements” if you haven’t already taken them when you’re admitted. Alternatively, students may choose two specializations and skip the breadth requirement. Instead, these students take seven courses for their primary depth and five courses toward their secondary depth.
Computer Science students at Stanford should have excellent mentors. The university is associated with more Turing Award winners than any college except UC Berkeley. Resources are also plentiful, with students able to access the famous Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL).
Stanford is not necessarily looking for Computer Science majors — several of the foundations courses can get students up to speed. Rather, students should “have strong quantitative and analytical skills,” likely exemplified in their GRE scores. Think 90th percentile or above.
University of Arizona
The online MIS from the Eller College of Management is geared toward current IT professionals who need both the advanced skills and leadership training to move up in the field. Students who continue to work while studying will need to carve out 10 to 20 hours a week to complete the weekly assignments.
Through a 10-month course of study, students take 10 courses (each lasting eight weeks): seven mandated core courses and three electives. One of the mandated courses is a master’s project. The school expects enrollees to be adroit at object-oriented computer programming; those that aren’t must take a foundational course before moving onto other courses, all of which require programming skills.
University of Arizona’s MIS programs have landed in the top five of U.S. News & World Report’s rankings for such programs for a record 28 years. The U.S. News online rankings are less specific, but as recently as 2017, it placed 11th among online graduate IT programs.
Students must have two years of relevant work experience to get in. The online program uses rolling admissions and five start dates, so there’s no rush when putting together an application.
The on-campus MIS at Eller College of Management is designed for programmers looking to stack management skills onto their existing computer knowhow.
Over the course of two years, students take eight core courses covering a range of technical business areas as well as three electives toward a concentration in security and information assurance, business intelligence and analytics, or managing business operations. The school requires a summer internship in between years 1 and 2.
Students in the on-ground program get the same highly regarded curriculum and faculty as their online peers, as well as access to campus resources such as the Center for the Management of Information and the Center for Business Intelligence and Analytics.
Students must have a 3.0 GPA from their undergraduate years. Though there’s no work experience requirement, students should have programming knowledge and, preferably, business coursework to their name. If they don’t, they may have to take prerequisites before continuing on to core courses.
The Scheller College of Business runs several programs, including a full-time MBA. Information Technology Management is one of eight concentrations available to students. The sheer breadth of concentrations means that the MBA program admits students from across disciplines. Instead of particular academic experience, the program wants students with several years of work experience.
The MBA takes 22 months to complete — and you won’t be taking the summer off, thanks to an internship requirement. In addition to three IT electives, you’ll have 12 core courses, all but one of which will be related to business, finance or management. The 12th is Managing Information Resources. That leaves eight more electives to choose. A primary way of attaining these credits is through Georgia Tech’s “immersive tracks,” which are four courses in length. The first three prepare you for the fourth — a practicum in which you work with an area company on a project. Each track uses four electives, and there are eight tracks to choose from, including Technology Commercialization.
Scheller is home to plenty of student resources, including the Business Analytics Center, which runs a yearly forum. The school encourages students to partake in programs run out of the Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship, which include a speaker series, annual competitions, and a “roundtable” retreat.
The university looks for well-rounded students with leadership potential. One thing that stands out is that the average work experience for Fall 2016 enrollees was five years. There are four separate application deadlines but only one start date: fall. Choose the deadline that suits you, but if you’re applying from abroad, earlier is better.
University of California-Berkeley
This interdisciplinary program from the Berkeley School of Information (I School) teaches professionals how to manage and analyze data in the working world. It combines elements of computer science, business, economics, psychology and law, among other disciplines.
MIMS is a two-year program for full-time students. You’ll take 48 credits, starting with four required courses covering data storage, law and public policy, computer science fundamentals, and data science basics. The second year is composed of electives and, in keeping with the I School’s commitment to hands-on learning, a final project and a professional skills workshop. When choosing electives, students must select at least one technology course and one management course. The school recommends students take a paid internship between their first and second years.
The I School brings educators and practitioners of all stripes together, including Xiao Qiang, the editor-in-chief of the censorship-busting China Digital Times; Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist; and Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist who literally wrote the book on the a-word.
Although I School is a haven for multidisciplinary research, to attend the MIMS programs you’d better fit with its mission of “expanding access to information and…improving its usability, reliability and credibility while preserving security and privacy.”
University of Maryland-College Park
The online MBA offered by the Smith School of Business recruits students with business experience. Its specializations ensure a well-rounded mix of students. Those specializing in Information Systems & Business Analytics should become qualified to serve as managers at tech firms.
A two-year program, the online MBA mixes standard business fare in areas such as accounting, supply chains and marketing with specialized coursework in data analytics, web analytics and digital platforms. The program is bookended by two 3-day residencies on campus.
In 2017 the online MBA cracked U.S. News & World Report’s top 10, partly thanks to top-notch faculty members like David Weber, a former assistant inspector general at the Securities and Exchange Commission. Equally important is its track record on career services; Bloomberg Businessweek ranked it second-best for a business school in 2013.
Although your professional and academic experience can involve just about any type of work, you’ll have to impress the admissions committee with your quantitative abilities. In other words, score high on the GMAT or GRE.
University of Pennsylvania
The Wharton School’s MBA program targets students with work experience. No technical experience is assumed or necessary to major in Operations, Information and Decisions (OID). Nor will students get hands-on tech work, as the major focuses on management and strategy.
The Information Systems Track consists of three courses. Students can complete the OID major by taking those three courses plus two more designated as OID. Of course, that’s just five units toward the overall MBA, which is 19 units long. Five more are reserved for electives, and another 9.5 units go toward the core business curriculum. Mandated classes cover economics, marketing, leadership, communications and statistics. The entire thing takes two academic years.
The summer in between those two years, you’ll be able to get a jump start on a career by interning, visiting companies across the world as part of a student-organized “Career Trek,” or working for an NGO for a month overseas as part of Wharton Global Impact Consultants. These opportunities across the world play a part in making Penn a mainstay in the top five of U.S. News & World Report’s business school rankings.
Wharton doesn’t publicize what its ideal candidate looks like. It simply wants a well-rounded class, and many students have no prior exposure to business coursework. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get in. The average incoming student has five years of work experience and has used that time to demonstrate leadership potential.
University of Southern California
The USC Viterbi School of Engineering recruits hotshot engineers and managers looking to design and build complex computer and information systems. The Systems Architecting and Engineering graduate program is perfect for students who don’t want to quit their day jobs while earning an advanced degree.
The program can be taken online, but distance students can step into the classroom at any time. Indeed, they’ll be collaborating with their on-ground counterparts, who attend exclusively at night, throughout the two-year program (longer for part-time students). Everyone needs 10 classes to graduate — five required core courses, three from the Computer and Information Systems specialization, one technical management elective, and one general technical elective.
Students can hop aboard research projects at the Center for Systems and Software Engineering, Astronautical Engineering Department, DOD-Systems Engineering Research Center, and network with peers from one of USC’s multiple partnerships with various companies in the aerospace, defense, and automotive industries. The research arm of the educational program has a healthy research portfolio in autonomous systems, self-driving cars, multi-UAV swarms, and other complex systems architecting and engineering.
The Viterbi School of Engineering is a co-founder of the international Conference on Systems Engineering Research (CSER). In addition, Systems Architecting and Engineering program director Dr. Azad Madni is the co-founder and co-chair of the IEEE SMC Society’s Technical Committee on Model-Based Systems Engineering. He also founded the research arm of USC Viterbi’s flagship SAE Program. His team is conducting research for the DOD Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC), Boeing, and General Motors. In 2016, Dr. Madni received a Lifetime Achievement Award and a Visionary Systems Engineering leadership award from the Boeing Company during its centennial year. Dr. Madni recently received the 2017 John J. Guarrera Engineering Educator of the Year Award from the Engineers’ Council, and the James E. Ballinger Engineer of the Year Award from the Orange County Engineering Council.
USC is looking for students with a baccalaureate in engineering. Three years of work experience is highly desirable but not mandatory. That’s because most of the courses require some domain knowledge for students to excel. In other words, students come in with some engineering experience and leave as great system architects and engineers.
The online MIT is an interdisciplinary program from the College of Business and College of Engineering but focuses on technical proficiency. Why is it online? So you can work while you get your degree.
Students take at least four of six foundational courses, half of which require programming knowledge. If you don’t have it when entering, you’ll have a chance to earn it now. The remaining seven courses required for the degree come from electives, which students can choose from eight subject-specific modules, such as Business Information Systems, Software Development, and Health Information Technology. Each module is just three to four courses and consists of at least one foundational course, so you can complete three full modules. Alternatively, if you take certain courses, Tech will hand you an MBA along with your MIT.
The school isn’t shy about advertising its status as the #2 school on U.S. News’ rankings of Best Online Graduate Information Technology Programs from 2014 to 2017.
You’ll probably want to know Java or another modern programming language before applying, though you can be granted provisional admission without it. Students don’t need to take a standardized test to apply, so expect your undergraduate GPA, letters of recommendation and any professional experience to do the heavy lifting on your application.
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Run by the Carlson School of Management, the Information Systems specialization mixes IT, finance and accounting coursework so that graduates can take advantage of analytics to grow their companies.
You’ll enroll and two years and 65 credits later you’ll graduate. In between, you’ll take 26 credits of core coursework covering MBA essentials like accounting, finance and marketing, as well as data analysis. You’ll also take 25 elective courses, at least 12 of which are in the Information Systems specialization. Ten more credits come from Carlson School Enterprise Programs, a student consultancy where you’ll be hired out on several occasions to solve actual problems from actual companies. The remaining four credits come from global enrichment, either via a semester abroad or a fellowship.
Three things to know about this program: Carlson is a top-five business school for information systems, according to U.S. News’ rankings. And Poets & Quants named one of its MBA profs, Aks Zaheer, one of the best business school professors in the world. Its Enterprise Programs and global enrichment requirement gives students opportunities to prove themselves to potential employers.
The MBA program reviews applications over four rounds extending from November through March. No matter the round, you’ll be judged on leadership potential. But apply toward the beginning to put yourself in the running for a merit scholarship.
While Boston University’s MSCIS is more technically driven than an MBA, it does expose students to managerial concepts. That said, students only need a bit of academic experience in information technology to feel comfortable enrolling in the program — the MSCIS curriculum will turn them into tech savvy workers.
The MSCIS comes in three varieties: on-campus, online and blended. Each variety has the same five core courses, a required methods course and four electives. Students can choose electives from a general list or pursues one of seven concentrations. Students in the on-campus and blended programs can opt to extend their studies up to a year by pursuing a thesis, but they’ll need a 3.7 GPA across seven courses to do so.
Students pursuing the online or hybrid degree programs will be attending a top-5 graduate IT program, according to U.S. News. Those heading to campus will get the same education, just in real time.
Unlike many programs, this one doesn’t require a GRE or GMAT for admission. Nor does it require IT expertise for entry — if you don’t have any, you’ll simply take an introductory course before moving through the regular curriculum.
University of Washington-Seattle Campus
This MSIS from UW’s Foster School of Business is for working professionals who want to apply IT solutions to business challenges. That doesn’t mean you won’t get your hands dirty: the program is highly technical.
In just one year, you’ll have an MSIS by sticking to the standardized curriculum. You heard that right: no electives. With classes on nights and weekends, the program encourages you to put your new knowledge to work, literally, on the weekdays.
UW is a research institution and its MSIS students will have a direct link to the do-gooders at the Consulting and Business Development Center, the Center for Entrepreneurship, the Global Business Center, the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking, and the Center for Sales and Marketing Strategy.
You should already have a strong IT background before entering the program. The admission committee will look for a baccalaureate degree in the field, review GMAT or GRE performance, predict your leadership potential, and analyze your communication skills.
Missouri University of Science and Technology
Attend Missouri S&T to get the skills you need to move up the career ladder as an IT professional. The program is offered on-campus or online and suits the needs of people with a solid tech background who want to see the big picture.
This program is highly flexible — with just four required courses to cover tech project management, interface development, and internet networks, web design and security. Choose classes from one of four specializations to round out the 30 units you need for the degree: Enterprise Resource Planning, Human-Computer Interaction, Project Management, or Psychology of Leadership. Students in the on-campus program can opt to stop at 24 credits and spend the last six on a graduate thesis.
Missouri S&T may not have the same name recognition as Johns Hopkins, North Carolina State or Texas Tech, but according to U.S. News its online graduate IT programs are on par with those three schools. They tied for sixth in the 2017 rankings.
The admissions committee emphasizes high quantitative scores on standardized tests (148 or greater on the GRE or 35 or greater on the GMAT) and demands that enrollees have baccalaureate or graduate coursework in the field.
Johns Hopkins University
You won’t get tech expertise from this program at the Carey Business School aimed at aspiring information systems managers with minimal IT experience. Instead, the school promises to turn you into a better leader in the IT realm, not into a programmer.
What do you take when you mix 12 business credits, 12 tech credits and 12 electives ranging from cyber security to crisis management? The MS in Information Systems at Johns Hopkins. Attend full time for a year or part time over two. All classes are at the DC campus, including evening sessions.
Students should put the annual Carey Career Fair on their calendars. Prepare by meeting with an individual coach throughout the year and/or participating in a Carey-sponsored employer trek to Fortune 500 corporations in NYC, San Francisco or Chicago.
There are few hard and fast requirements for getting in: Earn a 3.0 undergraduate GPA in any discipline, complete the GMAT or GRE, and submit all the usual application pieces, such as a letter of recommendation. Work experience is recommended, not required, unless you’re pursuing part-time studies.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The School of Information Sciences (iSchool) gives enrollees in its new MSIM the choice between online and on-campus courses. Either should appeal to students from all disciplines looking to learn how to design systems so they can manage tech projects and personnel.
Although you’ll need 10 courses to graduate, the program only mandates three: Data, Statistical Models and Information; Information Systems; and Sociotechnical Information Systems. The rest come from one of four pathways, which you’ll choose based on your career goals. They are Data Analytics, Information Architecture, Knowledge Management, and Security. You’ll also have the option of completing a research project or thesis. The entire program can take anywhere between one and two years.
The University of Illinois Research Park is right next door, providing internship opportunities and avenues to employment with organizations working on tech projects, from AARP to Yahoo!
Programming knowledge isn’t required for entry, but you’ll have to take it as soon as you land so you can complete technical coursework. The school doesn’t demand any form of technical experience upon entry — just an interest in math and logic.
Arizona State University
The MSIM at the Carey School of Business meets the needs of programmers who want to expand their technical skills while building managerial expertise. With classes taking place just two nights per week, the program is geared toward working professionals.
Signing up for the MSIM means registering for 10 required classes, one of which is a capstone project. In other words: no flexibility here. On the plus side, you’ll finish in just a year. For exposure to finance and accounting, considering extending your studies and going for the MSIM/MBA concurrent degree (72 credits), or get into law courses with the MSIM/Master of Legal Studies (48 credits).
Arizona State’s MSIM program is among the best of its kind, according to U.S. News. But the school doesn’t rest on its rankings. It plans four to six site visits per semester for students to network with area employers, including those on the Department of Information Systems’ Executive Advisory Board (e.g., Honeywell, USAA and General Dynamics). Students will also have the chance to do research at the Center for Advancing Business through Information Technology.
The MSIS from Drexel’s College of Computing & Informatics is flexible enough to be for anyone. The common thread is that enrollees want to become — or become better — software, systems and information professionals. It can serve the purposes of managers without IT knowledge, techies who want to scale up their skill set, or even people just looking to change careers.
The MSIS comes in two flavors: on campus and online. All enrollees take nine required courses, most of which build technical skills and a few of which cover managerial processes. You’ll then choose four technical electives from a lengthy list that includes both introductory and advanced classes, making it possible to tailor the degree to your career goals and technical expertise. Add two more department electives or take a practicum, mix it all together, and you have an MSIS credential in just two years.
Drexel MSIS students truly have great flexibility not only when selecting classes but also when it comes to participating in research. The Metadata Research Center and the Auerbach Cybersecurity Institute are just two of five research centers connected to the College. No wonder U.S. News ranked it the third-best program of its kind in the country in 2013. CCI’s online programs are also highly regarded, coming in at 11th in 2017.
Florida State University
The online MS in MIS, offered by the Department of Business Analytics, Information Systems & Supply Chain, is designed for tech professionals looking to move into management.
The curriculum emphasizes managerial process and techniques, not technical knowhow. It’s comprised of seven core courses and four electives, including selections from the MBA program. By taking summer courses, you should finish in two years. Students have the option of registering for an onsite Global Business Seminar, through which they’ll learn about another country’s business environment and then travel there as a class.
Florida State is a top-20 school for both graduate business programs and IT programs, according to U.S. News & World Report, giving this program from the College of Business a remarkable pedigree.
Although you won’t be doing much hands-on work in the program itself, you should enter with two years of professional experience in IT or managing IT workers.
Georgia State University
The MSIS program from the university’s Robinson College of Business is a merger between business and technology, pumping out students who can both sit for multiple technical certifications and sit comfortably in a tech company boardroom.
Students take a set of four core courses. They’ll then choose from three concentrations — covering big data management, enterprise systems, and cybersecurity — each of which is composed of five mandatory courses, two to three electives, and a thesis-centered capstone project. All students are required to complete an internship. It sounds like a lot, but Georgia State is on the quarter system, so this will take you one year to complete.
Georgia State pays attention to its career services, running annual career expos and professional development summits, in addition to one-on-one coaching sessions from executives in the field and informational interviews as part of Panthers on Wall Street.
Students don’t necessarily need tech skills as they’ll get them in the program, but students without programming experience must add two foundational courses to their schedule.
Indiana University Bloomington
The MSIS is offered by the Kelley School of Business and the School of Informatics and Computing, so it emphasizes technical skills while building leadership acumen in its students. Those aiming for a heavier dose of business coursework can add 36 online credits and earn an MSIS/MBA joint degree.
The MSIS is considered an accelerated program because you’ll roll through 30 to 36 credits in just 18 months. In addition to core work in everything from data analytics to IT strategy, the curriculum includes a summer internship, a team-based capstone project, and concentration courses in business intelligence and analysis, enterprise risk management, or enterprise systems.
Indiana ranked first among students in Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2016 rankings of best business Schools. It’s easy to see why: 97 percent of MSIS students have job offers before they finish the program. Employers must be happy with what they’re getting as well, considering students are invited to extend their internships for up to a full year.
Students without business and IT experience from their undergraduate days should come ready to take prerequisites before entering core courses. All students must have a 3.2 GPA and a 640 on the GMAT to be seriously considered for admission.