The information system is one of the fastest growing fields today and offers opportunities to learn cutting-edge technology, as well as help create solutions to enhance businesses worldwide. This evolving sector is progressing exponentially, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
IT has always been present since the 20th century but now it has become ubiquitous in the form of devices and other technological innovations. They have enabled better communications across continents and so, individuals and businesses have come to rely on them for their daily operations. That is why professionals who work in the sector need to ensure that those tools work smoothly. In that way, they can contribute to the achievement of organizational goals. Information systems careers give working professionals a chance to work in an interesting and dynamic field that is at the crossroads of technology and businesses.
In this guide, you can learn the various education options you have if you want to pursue a career in information systems. You can get an overview of the information systems careers available and decide what degree you want to obtain. In addition, you can gain insights into information systems salary that you can expect annually for certain jobs. This information will help fresh graduates as well as those with working experience who are looking to set their career goals in the IT industry.
Bachelor’s degrees in information systems, which belong to the STEM courses list, usually take four years to complete. But there are schools that offer it as three-year or six-year courses. There are also online courses that allow students the flexibility to pursue their education while attending to work or family concerns.
Those who want to take on management roles and achieve other career goals can pursue a master’s in information systems. Such degrees can be completed in as short as 10 months, while others require two years at the most. A master’s degree allows a student to specialize in a particular field, for example in business analytics, or to focus on an industry, such as health information systems.
Should you wish to conduct research, then you can pursue a Ph.D. in information systems, which takes around three to six years to complete. This degree type will allow you to explore new ideas or come up with new innovations through a published thesis or dissertation.
To be successful, you will need a combination of hard and soft skills. Hard skills include systems analysis, hardware, software development and programming, and business analysis, to name a few. On the other hand, you will also need attention to detail, analytical and problem-solving skills, and the ability to work under pressure.
A degree in information systems allows graduates to apply their technological know-how in designing and implementing IT systems to solve organizational problems for private and public sector companies. It is a discipline where the study of computer science intersects with the world of business and, thus, leads to diverse career opportunities.
One possible information systems career path to take is that of a systems analyst, where one will develop, test, and implement IT solutions based on clients’ and stakeholders’ system requirements. Another viable career option is that of a database administrator, where one will be responsible for planning and developing a database, as well as the maintenance of database standards. Yet another option is to be an IT consultant where you will guide clients in creating an IT infrastructure in support of their business processes. Given the IT skills gap that left five million positions unfilled in 2020, there could be plenty of opportunities for candidates interested in pursuing information systems careers (Imagine America, 2019).
In addition to the points already mentioned, experts in the tech industry also do not need to be worried about their jobs getting automated as the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robots become more prevalent in the workplace. This is backed by a 2019 study published in Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World which explores the probability of robots displacing workers:
“We could be entering a new era of technological advancement in which artificial intelligence allows robots to collaborate with humans in new ways in the workplace,” noted Eric Dahlin in his study titled “Are Robots Stealing Our Jobs?”.
The research posits that employees in high-skill occupations such as tech specialists “are the ones that are most likely to create, develop, and program robots.” This goes to show that their expertise will be needed as the use of technology increases. What is more, Dahlin concluded that “robots are more likely to proliferate occupations that create robots (high-skill occupations) or occupations that work with or work in the same firms as industrial robots (middle skill routine manual)”. As such, they do not need to worry about finding their jobs being taken over by robots.
However, to be successful in this career, you must have excellent problem-solving skills as you would be called to conduct debugging, fix errors, and identify and resolve problems within an organization’s IT environment.
Information systems careers are ideal for people who want to use their technical knowledge to help organizations to achieve their goals. Since information systems are an integral part of the growing technology industry, professionals in this field are in high demand so one can easily switch careers.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer and information technology jobs are forecast to grow by 11% from 2019 to 2029. This percentage is more than double the average growth rate for all occupations, which is 4%. The BLS estimates that there will be 531,200 new jobs added to this sector within this time frame.
In terms of compensation, the median pay for computer and information systems jobs is $91,250 as of 2020. This figure is more than two times the median annual age for all occupations, which is $41,950.
With organizations’ increasing need to protect their systems and their data, information systems security professionals are one of the most in-demand jobs in the tech space. Professionals in the 25th percentile can earn $100,000 annually for systems security professionals and $124,250 annually for information security professionals. Meanwhile, the 95th percentile can earn $168,500 for systems security professionals and $213,000 for information security professionals.
To be successful in any information system career path–or in any career, for that matter–, you should possess a combination of technical and soft skills. This is echoed by a recent study exploring the topic titled “The soft skills gap: a bottleneck in the talent supply in emerging economies”:
According to Richa Singh Dubey from the Indian Institute of Information Technology and her co-authors, “the main reason for the acute shortage of workers in emerging economies is the production of unskilled undergraduate talent” (Dubey, Paul, & Tewari, 2021).
The 2021 research published in the International Journal of Human Resource Management also noted that while employers want IT professionals with strong foundational technical skills, these professionals often differ in work performances due to the presence or lack of soft skills.
As such, “The competence in professionals can be improved by learning soft skills, which is conducive to personal development as well as organizational growth,” the authors said, highlighting that “traits like proactivity, customer orientation, actively listening to others, and punctuality/time management showed a gap of large magnitude in many of the vital soft skills deemed critical by professionals.”
With these in mind, as you will be helping people harness technology for their organization, you should not only have a good grasp of computers and networking but also work well with various types of individuals.
Source: Harvey Nash/KPMG, 2020
To jump-start your information systems career, you can obtain an associate degree that will open doors to entry-level jobs in the IT industry. These include computer support specialists, computer systems analysts, and network and systems computer administrators. Meanwhile, getting a bachelor’s degree in information systems opens up a wider field of opportunities, including roles as database administrators, cybersecurity analysts, and software developers to name just a few. This will be important in career exploration.
Computer Support Specialist
Computer support specialists assist users who are having trouble with software and hardware in an organization. They work with the users to diagnose the issue and provide a resolution to the user’s problem. Support specialists also answer questions users have about these tools and may assist in maintaining technical documentation about the organization’s IT processes and procedures (The Balance Careers, 2019).
Median Pay: $49,366 per year
Network and Systems Computer Administrator
Network and systems computer administrators ensure that an organization’s computer systems are up and working on a daily basis. They oversee that the local area networks, wide area networks, and the company intranet are functional and troubleshoot network issues to mitigate disruptions to business operations. They also install system updates to keep the businesses’ IT structure running at optimal levels.
Median salary: $64,016 per year
Computer Systems Analyst
A computer systems analyst oversees an organization’s computer systems and procedures and ensures that it helps the business run efficiently and effectively. Their tasks include researching and evaluating new technology, consulting with clients in enhancing their systems, and overseeing the installation of new systems. They are also responsible for testing new technologies, training users in these technologies, and resolving troubleshooting problems (The Balance Careers, 2019).
Median salary: $75,532
Database administrators protect sensitive organizational data, such as financial records, customer details, purchase histories, and the like for private organizations and government agencies. They manage and organize the data as well as implement security measures to protect data integrity to avoid data breaches. They are also tasked with conducting testing, and modifying the database to ensure it is well-maintained for efficiency (U.S. News, n.d.).
Median salary: $76,543 per year
Cyber Security Analyst
Cybersecurity analysts protect organizations from cyberattacks and other threats. They monitor networks and computer systems for intrusions and other unusual activity and respond to security alerts. In addition, they keep themselves abreast of emerging cybersecurity threats and devise disaster recovery plans and contingency plans in case a data breach does occur.
Median salary: $82,789 per year
Software developers create the software programs that power apps or the underlying programs that make up an entire system. Software developers can fall under two types: application software developers and systems software developers. App software developers create software that is meant to be used on computers or devices, usually for consumers. On the other hand, systems software developers design solutions for enterprises. They create compilers, network distribution software, and operating systems-level software (Rasmussen University, 2020).
Median salary: $75,778
Yes, jobs in the industry, in general, allow you to work with just a certificate. For instance, you can be a help desk technician, cybersecurity specialist, or systems administrator with entry-level industry certifications like ITIL, CompTIA A+, Network+, and Security+. Unlike degrees that take years to finish, these certifications can be completed in just a few weeks. Transferable skills like creativity, problem-solving skills, people skills, communication skills, and attention to detail will also help you land a job despite not having a degree.
If you wish to further your information systems career development plan, one option is to pursue a master’s degree. These degrees can be completed in as little as one year while other courses can take up to two years. Programs usually have coursework on topics like information behavior, usability analysis, advanced database management, and the like. Students can choose elective subjects so they can chart their own area of concentration. Master’s programs also require a capstone project, internship, or practicum requirements to complete the degree.
To further advance in this career, you may also obtain a doctoral degree in information systems. For this, a student may need to write a research paper during the first and second years or complete a formal research apprenticeship with a faculty member. These requirements are in addition to completing coursework requirements for the degree. By the third year, the student is required to develop a dissertation proposal. Before graduation, the student must orally defend the dissertation before a committee.
In addition to the abovementioned, you may also try getting certifications on different aspects of the industry. Data suggests that 87% of IT professionals have at least one certification. Latin America and EMEA have the highest percentage of certified IT professionals at 90% while North America has the lowest at 85% (Forbes, 2020).
Source: Forbes, 2020
Among the certification options available are:
IT Project Manager
IT project managers are responsible for successfully implementing IT projects in an organization, from the initiation stage to the closing stage. They coordinate with IT support staff and communicate with stakeholders to achieve project goals. They also manage various project risks to ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget (ProjectManager, n.d.).
Median salary: $117,730 per year
Information Systems Director
An information systems director is tasked with managing the entire information system of an organization, overseeing its functionality, reliability, and availability to support business operations. He or she is in charge of maintaining data stored in IT systems and ensuring the confidentiality of such data. He or she also works with vendors in scheduling the installation of new software or equipment.
Median salary: $138,377 per year
Postsecondary Computer Science Teacher
Computer science professors design and develop curriculum that will maximize student learning and allow students to participate in engaging classroom discussions. They are looked up to as thought leaders in their field and have impacted their industry through their significant contributions. They also enrich knowledge in their field by conducting their own research on IT design, evaluation, and execution.
Median salary: $89,528
Chief Information Officer
The chief information officer is mainly responsible for setting the broad technology strategy of an organization. He or she sees to it that technology systems and procedures create business value and support the company’s growth objectives. They should have a forward-looking vision to equip their organization with the technology tools that would enable them to have a competitive advantage and move with agility well into the future (The Balance Careers, 2020).
Median Salary: $186,251
Most Information Systems certifications will allow you to step into a management role in an organization. For example, a PMP certification will hone your management skills to effectively handle an IT project. The best information systems certifications will largely depend on the type of technology you work with and the methodologies used by your organization. An example of a certification that is specific to a technology vendor is the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert certification, which attests to your proficiency in working with Microsoft suite apps and services. On the other hand, an example of an IT methodology certification is the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), which enables professionals to deliver IT services following a set of pre-defined processes that integrate industry best practices. There are five certification levels starting from foundation to master levels (Business News Daily, 2019).
If a direct information systems career path is one that you would not take, you don’t have to limit yourself to these options. This degree is flexible enough for you to find jobs that are of interest to you that are even outside the scope of the traditional jobs related to the degree.
Whether you get an undergraduate or graduate degree in information systems, you can enjoy an in-demand career with a diverse set of job roles and great flexibility to change career paths. With the greater dependency that consumers and businesses have on technology, almost all jobs in this field are expected to grow at a pace that’s equal to or higher than the average growth rate for all industries. The same can be said of a computer science degree, which is a discipline that overlaps greatly with information systems degrees. Thus, both degrees can be a rewarding career choice for people who genuinely enjoy working with technology and can rise to the challenge of a rapidly changing and constantly evolving world.