Best online master’s in information systems 2021: Top picks

    Many industries and organizations have expanded their information technology capabilities, which may include enhanced digital platforms, security, and networks. Equipped with broad skills in systems design and management, data science, and engineering, graduates with an information systems master’s degree can manage many of these important technologies and applications.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 13% growth for computer and information technology careers between 2020 and 2030. Much of the growth in this field comes from the security, data, and networking management disciplines. Here, we showcase the best information systems master’s programs and highlight what you might expect from them.

    The best online information systems security master’s degrees

    To create the following ranking, we collected data from publicly available national datasets, along with school and program information. ZDNet’s ranking methodology also includes expert insight and a proprietary formula.

    Unless otherwise indicated, data is drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Scorecard.

    1. Sam Houston State University

    Huntsville, Texas

    About the program: SHSU’s online information assurance and cybersecurity master’s program focuses on database, systems, and network security training.

    • Acceptance rate: 83%
    • Graduation rate: 60%
    • Avg. annual net price: $14,617
    • Years to completion: One to three
    • GRE/GMAT: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: 3.0 preferred
    • Enrollment periods per year: Three
    • Course delivery methods: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: Sam Houston State University is regionally accredited by the .Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    2. University of Detroit Mercy

    Detroit, Michigan

    About the program: A Catholic university, UDM runs an online master’s in information assurance with a major in cybersecurity. UDM is designated as a Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.

    • Acceptance rate: 77%
    • Graduation rate: 63%
    • Avg. annual net price: $18,356
    • Years to completion: One to two
    • GRE/GMAT: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
    • Enrollment periods per year: Four
    • Course delivery methods: Asynchronous and synchronous

    Accreditation: The University of Detroit Mercy is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

    3. Champlain College

    Burlington, Vermont

    About the program: Champlain’s online master’s in information security features an operations and management track. Champlain is designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.

    • Acceptance rate: 85%
    • Graduation rate: 61%
    • Avg. annual net price: $33,561
    • Years to completion: One to three
    • GRE/GMAT: Not required
    • Minimum GPA: 2.5
    • Enrollment periods per year: Two
    • Course delivery methods: Asynchronous

    Accreditation: Champlain College is regionally accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE).

    4. University of the Cumberlands

    Williamsburg, Kentucky

    About the program: UC’s online master’s in information systems security emphasizes studies in cybersecurity and information assurance. The training includes cryptography, application and operations security, and access controls.

    • Acceptance rate: 80%
    • Graduation rate: 67%
    • Avg. annual net price: $16,894
    • Years to completion: One to three
    • GRE/GMAT: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: 2.5
    • Enrollment periods per year: Over four
    • Course delivery methods: Asynchronous

    Accreditation: The University of the Cumberlands is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    5. Our Lady of the Lake University

    San Antonio, Texas

    About the program: A Catholic university, OLLU’s online master’s in information systems and security contains 15 credits of information systems courses and 15 credits in information assurance and security courses.

    • Acceptance rate: 68%
    • Graduation rate: 49%
    • Avg. annual net price: $17,537
    • Years to completion: One to three
    • GRE/GMAT: Not publicly available
    • Minimum GPA: 3.0
    • Enrollment periods per year: Over three
    • Course delivery methods: Asynchronous

    Accreditation: Our Lady of the Lake University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

    What to expect in an online information systems master’s degree program

    An information systems master’s program may broadly examine information systems or take a more specialized approach. Some programs emphasize cybersecurity, data analytics and business applications, or enterprise systems. Students learn to implement and manage these systems, while also supporting different organizational and user needs.

    At this level, the programs offer a blend of theory, research and practical training. Learners develop advanced technical skills, along with strengths in project management, leadership, and communication.

    These master’s programs usually feature significant hands-on training, including virtual lab experiences, projects, and internships. In addition to the information technology skills required at this level, online learners should possess self-motivation and independent learning skills.

    Information systems master’s courses

    The courses in an information systems master’s program depend on the focus of the training and your individual choices. In general, these programs offer a blend of foundations and specialized studies. For example, you may learn about operating and managing information systems, along with the design, architecture, and analysis.

    While the field features a great number of course possibilities, the following list examines some of the most popular course options in an information systems master’s.

    Business intelligence

    In this course, students learn to use data analytics to improve business operations, processes, and decision-making. Learners look at methods and tools for data mining, analysis, and visualization.

    Human computer interaction

    This course teaches students how to design, manage, and evaluate various computer interfaces. Learners explore the principles, theories, and primary needs of human computer interaction, covering topics psychology, computer science, and engineering.

    Software engineering

    Students in this course learn to apply engineering principles to the software development process. They examine the methods and tools used in the planning, design, architectural, and implementation processes.

    Cybersecurity

    In this course, students learn how to protect various computer systems, databases, and networks. Learners look at the most common types of malicious activities and software, along with the leading techniques and technologies used to protect against them.

    Information systems degree levels

    Your choice of degree level will impact what you study and what postgraduate opportunities you have access to. Each degree provides value to a different group of students. Undergraduate degrees often lead to entry-level careers and graduate degrees qualify graduates for roles in management, research, and academia.

    Information systems certificate

    • Length: 2-12 months
    • Cost: Varies
    • Post-grad careers: Computer support specialist, computer systems administrator, and web developer

    An information systems certificate program can take many different forms depending on the level and focus of the training. Some programs offer an introduction to the major systems, whereas others offer a more targeted approach. Prospective students can also find graduate certificates which explore more advanced material.

    Certificates typically offer accelerated and condensed studies, often with a very practical training approach. These credentials can lead to entry-level careers for new students or even specialized roles for experienced professionals.

    Associate in information systems

    • Length: One to two years
    • Cost: $11,389/year in 2018-19
    • Post-grad careers: Computer support specialist, computer systems administrator, and customer support specialist

    An information systems associate program prepares students for entry-level careers and further training. These programs provide a solid foundation in information technology, covering the operating principles, major systems, and administration techniques.

    At this level, learners develop an understanding of how different organizations use various information systems. They also learn the fundamentals of programming, troubleshooting, and database management. Associate programs typically offer substantial practical training.

    Bachelor’s in information systems

    • Length: Three to four years
    • Cost: $28,123/year in 2018-19
    • Post-grad careers: Information security analyst, database administrator, and computer systems analyst

    An information systems bachelor’s program can look quite different depending on the school and student choices. In general, however, these programs offer a comprehensive look at information systems management. This can include how organizations use information technology, the different technical challenges they face, and how to integrate user needs and goals into system design and implementation.

    Some schools offer more focused training, such as an information systems security degree, whereas others provide concentration options. Students can also create their own focus by choosing targeted electives and internships.

    Master’s in information systems

    • Length: One to three years
    • Cost: $19,792/year in 2019-20
    • Post-grad careers: Computer and information systems manager, database manager, and information research scientist

    An information systems master’s program may offer advanced training in various fields, including cybersecurity, databases, and computer engineering. Students learn how to improve information systems for organizations and end users. They use technology to improve management practices and operations, design applications, and implement superior protections and protocols.

    Prospective students can usually specialize their studies at this level, choosing a field like cybersecurity or management information systems. Some schools offer specialized programs, such as an information systems MBA, which features a much more interdisciplinary and practical approach.

    Doctorate in information systems

    • Length: Three to six years
    • Cost: $19,792/year in 2019-20
    • Post-grad careers: Postsecondary teacher, information research scientist, and top executive

    In an information systems doctoral program, students conduct extensive research in the areas of their choosing. They often seek out new developments and applications for organizations or help new industries integrate information systems. While many graduates pursue roles in academia, they can also access management and research and development careers.

    These programs can be very practical or theoretical depending on the type of degree. Some schools provide interdisciplinary programs which combine business and information systems, much like an MBA.

    In conclusion

    Organizations use information systems to store and analyze data, improve communications, and make more effective processes and decisions. With an information systems master’s degree from one of the schools in our list, you can help organizations manage these systems and operate more efficiently. For more information, contact your desired school directly.

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