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Are you adept with computers, intrigued with data, and fascinated by technology? If so, you have probably considered computer science as a viable career path. For those interested, computer information systems (CIS) is a field that strikes a balance between computing, mathematics, and science. With the ever-evolving role of technology in daily life, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in CIS could be a sensible first step for students interested in a career in working with computers, technology, and data.

So, what is a computer information systems degree? What does work in this field entail, and what are the differences between a CIS degree and a computer science degree? Dive into this and more, including details on careers in CIS and how to choose the right degree program to suit your needs.

Exploring Computer Information Systems

Because the field of computer information systems is often confused with other computing careers, it is important for those considering this type of career to understand exactly what CIS is and what it entails.

Defining Computer Information Systems

What is computer information systems, exactly? In simple terms, computer information systems refers to the technologies used to transfer and manage data between computers that are connected to the same network. Often, computers are connected to a network within a company or place of business. It is important to be able to transfer data seamlessly between computers so each user has the most reliable and up-to-date information.

At the same time, data must be shared between computers with proper security protocols in place; this is especially true for networks subjected to strict regulatory compliance standards (such as computers connected in a healthcare office).

The Distinction Between Computer Information Systems and Computer Science

One of the most common questions people have about computer information systems as a field is how it differs from computer science. After all, while there are some notable similarities between the two fields, there are some critical distinctions to understand as well.

Key Differences and Similarities

First, understand that both computer information systems and computer science involve working on computers and computer networks. It might even be helpful to think about computer information systems as a subset of the broader field of computer science (CS).

That is essentially where the similarities end. The most notable difference between CIS and CS is that CS is more about studying and understanding the theory and fundamentals of both computer science and mathematics. CIS, on the other hand, is more practical and hands-on, requiring a great deal of direct problem-solving.

In general, a CIS degree is ideal for those interested in network computing and who want to focus less on theory and more on direct applications.

Understanding the Importance of a CIS Degree

If you are interested in a career in computer information systems, you may be wondering whether you need a formal degree. After all, many of the concepts of CIS can be self-taught with enough practice and dedication. The reality, however, is that reputable employers looking to hire information security professionals, software development workers, and other experts in this field will typically be looking for someone with formal credentials as well as experience or non-degree credentials. The BLS also confirms this with an array of computer and technology-based careers, most of which employers show an entry-level education of at least a bachelor’s degree.

Why Choose a CIS Degree?

A formal degree in computer information systems looks good on paper and could help you to stand out from others who may be applying for the same roles without a degree. Beyond giving you a competitive edge on your resume, a CIS degree could also help better prepare you for the realities of working in this challenging technical field.

With an industry-focused CIS curriculum, you should be able to build a foundation of knowledge and insights needed to apply relevant computing and mathematical knowledge, analyze problems, define computational requirements, and design and implement computer-based systems.

A formal degree program would also allow you to explore specializations within the field to help you sharpen your knowledge and hone your skills. You might consider, for example, pursuing a concentration in software development, computer networking, or information security.

What Does a Computer Information Systems Degree Entail?

Ultimately, what your CIS program covers and the skills you develop will depend on the type of degree you pursue and its curriculum. However, there are some skills typically covered in a bachelor’s degree program in computer information systems.

Core Skills Acquired in a CIS Program

CIS students can expect to build skills that help prepare them for future hands-on work in the field. Practical skills you might develop in a computer information systems undergraduate program may include:

  • Professional communication
  • Understanding professional, ethical, legal, security, and social issues
  • Designing and implementing computer-based systems, programs, and processes
  • Contributing as a problem-solving member of an IT team
  • Applying computing and math knowledge to different problems

Specializations Within a CIS Degree

Within your CIS degree program, you may also be able to choose an area of specialization. If so, you could customize your course curriculum to meet your career aspirations and interests. Some examples of useful specializations within a CIS program include:

  • General Computer Information Systems
  • Computer Networking
  • Cybersecurity
  • Software development

What Are the Different Types of CIS Degrees?

There are many different types of degree programs and even certificate programs that can help you build your skills in field of computer information systems, each offering its own potential benefits.

Certificate Programs in CIS

Typically, certificate programs in computer information systems consist of a few college-level classes covering the basics of networking, computing systems, and security. A certificate is not a formal degree but can be a good starting point for those who want to enter the field but are not ready to commit to years of schooling.

In some cases, credits from a certificate program may be applied or transferred to a degree program.

Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral Degrees in CIS

In addition to certificate programs, there are also associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and even doctoral degrees offered in computer information systems. An associate degree tends to be the most accessible in terms of the number of credit hours, and these programs can usually be completed within a year or two.

However, many employers these days are looking for a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in CIS. This type of degree program is more comprehensive and usually takes around four years to complete. More advanced degrees, such as master’s and doctoral degrees, are generally more suited to senior-level positions or even teaching and training positions within the field. Ultimately, the right degree type for you will depend on your career aspirations.

For many, it makes sense to pursue a bachelor’s degree in CIS when starting in the field. From there, you can always pursue a more advanced degree if you decide to return to school or want to open the door to new opportunities down the road.

Career Opportunities With a CIS Degree

Wondering what kinds of jobs you may be eligible for with a CIS degree under your belt? There are plenty of diverse career prospects for CIS degree holders to consider.

Diverse Job Duties for CIS Degree Holders

Some examples of the types of duties people go on to pursue after they graduate with a CIS degree include:

  • Software Development
  • Systems Administration
  • Web Development
  • Programmer Analysis
  • Data Analysis
  • Computer Support
  • Computer Security

How to Choose the Right CIS Program

Not all computer information systems degree programs are created equal, so it is important to do your research and find the program best suited to your needs, lifestyle, and career goals.

So, what exactly should you look for in a CIS program? Start by making sure the program you are considering offers the degree type you want (associate, bachelor’s, master’s, etc.). From there, consider the format of the program. If you are busy and would have a hard time commuting to campus for daily in-person classes, then a more flexible online program may be better for your lifestyle.

Accreditation and Program Quality

Another thing to consider when choosing a university is to ensure they are accredited. Getting accredited is a voluntary process that schools go through to ensure their programs meet or exceed standards set by reputable, third-party organizations.

Not sure whether a program you are considering is accredited? You can usually find this information on the school’s website or reach out to them directly to request accreditation details.

Challenges and Rewards of Pursuing a CIS Degree

No matter what type of CIS degree you are interested in pursuing, the reality is that completing any type of formal degree program requires a great deal of dedication and persistence.

Is a CIS Degree Difficult?

Even if you already have a solid understanding of computer systems and how they work, completing your CIS degree will pose some challenges. You will need to juggle the demands of other life responsibilities while meeting assignment deadlines, studying for exams, and more. Completing a CIS program will require strong time management skills and lots of dedication, but if you work hard and are dedicated, the effort should be worth it.

What Potential Growth Can a CIS Degree Offer?

A degree in computer information science is a logical first step for those interested in building skills for this innovative and rewarding field. Some employers will be looking for job candidates with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in the field—but there is always the option to take your education even further with a graduate degree.

If you are looking for an undergraduate CIS degree program that works around your busy schedule, check out Post University’s Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems. Our program offers online courses with no formal class times or set log-in times. Meanwhile, you will receive support from a team of advisors and learn from industry-experienced professionals in interactive courses. Contact us to learn more today.

Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly!

Please note jobs and/or career outcomes highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs or career outcomes expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s programs and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions advisor.