MIS vs. CIS – What’s the Difference? [2021 Guide]
As you prepare to begin a bachelors degree program in information systems, comparing MIS vs. CIS degrees can help you determine which path is the best fit for you.
Studying either management information systems or computer information systems may prepare you for a successful career with plenty of opportunities for satisfying work, impressive income, and advancement potential.
Even still, understanding the nuances of each degree can help you decide which program is best for your interests, your aptitude, and your future career goals.
MIS vs. CIS Degrees
Both a management information systems degree and a computer information systems degree fall under the larger umbrella of information systems studies.
These degrees are designed to help prepare you for working in a business or organizational setting. You may learn how to handle data and put it to use for your employer. Despite these similarities, you may notice that each program has a different emphasis.
MIS usually focuses more heavily on analytics—evaluating data in order to draw out useful insights. CIS typically pays more attention to the technical side of things, such as computer architecture and coding languages.
Select the program that most interests you to jump to that section of the guide:
Both of these fields offer plenty of opportunity for growth, a lot of different job prospects, and plenty of job security.
Computer Information Systems (CIS)
CIS professionals focus on the technology that supports business operations. In a CIS role, you might design computer systems and software to deal with an organization’s data and put it to use. Your area of specialty may address storage systems for large sets of data or machine-learning tools that comb data for valuable insights.
Most of the CIS classes you take will focus on technology. You can expect an introductory programming course, and you’ll probably learn one or more programming languages as well. Examples of programming languages include C++ and Java.
Other classes might include data analytics, network security, and online app development. There may be just a few business courses to round out your studies.
Good jobs for a CIS major include being a software developer, a web developer, or a computer programmer. You might also become an information security analyst or an IT director.
Management Information Systems (MIS)
MIS professionals often serve as a link between a company’s tech team and its upper-management leaders.
Working in an MIS role, you’ll often use technological systems to inform business decisions. Your use of computers may provide answers to questions or solve problems for your organization.
In an MIS college program, you’ll typically take some technology-focused classes. Examples may include programming fundamentals, network and computer security, and introduction to operating systems.
You may spend as much time or more on business-focused courses. Building your understanding of business concepts can help prepare you to communicate with company leaders as well as technology professionals.
There may be a business core with classes on human resources, marketing, and finance. Within the MIS program, you might take courses like project management, team dynamics, and business databases.
MIS graduates often work as information systems managers, business analysts, operations research analysts, or database administrators. Other potential jobs include being a systems analyst or a network administrator.
MIS vs. CIS Curriculum
MIS and CIS Common Courses
MIS and CIS programs often feature several overlapping courses.
- Computer System Security: You’ll learn principles of cybersecurity and discuss what to do when a breach occurs.
- Database Systems: This course covers general database concepts and gives you opportunities to design databases.
- Ethical Leadership: You’ll consider ways to operate with integrity in business settings.
- Fundamentals of Business IT: An introductory class will cover operating systems, applications, and other basics of business technology.
- Introduction to Programming: Every IS student should understand the principles that govern programming languages.
Classes like these can be useful for any IS student.
MIS Specific Courses
An MIS program often combines technology and management concepts.
- Business Communication and Negotiation: You’ll learn to simplify tech ideas for diverse audiences and communicate your vision to company higher-ups.
- Change Management in Technology: This class teaches you to identify the need for new technology and oversee upgrades.
- IT Budgeting: You’ll learn to handle financial matters for a tech department.
- Project Management: With these skills, you’ll be able to see a technology project through from beginning to end.
- Team Dynamics: You can learn to work with different people and unite teams for a common goal.
You may take electives about designing websites or working with clients.
CIS Specific Courses
CIS students delve into the inner workings of computers and learn how to carry out complex coding tasks.
- Advanced Object-Oriented Programming: In higher-level programming classes, you’ll become proficient in advanced programming concepts and one or more languages.
- Data Mining: You’ll explore methods of drawing information from large sets of data.
- Fundamentals of Computer Science: This course covers theoretical concepts that govern computer systems.
- Software Engineering: You’ll study the life cycle of the software development process and learn a systematic approach to software engineering.
- Web Applications: This course teaches you to build proprietary apps for your organization.
There may be electives dealing with data visualization, cloud computing, or graphics design.
MIS vs. CIS Careers
Although there’s a good deal of overlap in the jobs you’d be able to pursue with either an MIS degree or a CIS degree, these two information systems programs aren’t identical.
Understanding which direction each degree may take your career might help you decide which degree you want to earn.
Management Information Systems Careers
With an MIS degree, you may be on track toward a business leadership role in which you use technology for problem-solving purposes. Jobs as an analyst or an administrator are common.
1. Computer or Information Systems Manager
One of the top jobs for an IS professional is working as a computer or information systems manager, and an MIS degree can help you get there. An MIS background may equip you to deal with both the technical side and the business side of this role.
Managers coordinate tech professionals, oversee system upgrades, and balance budget constraints with project goals. Sectors that often hire IS managers include computer systems design, information, finance, and manufacturing.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most managers earn between $87,480 and $208,000 annually. A master’s degree may help you acquire higher-paying positions.
2. Management Analyst
Also known as management consultants, management analysts are professionals who evaluate an organization’s data to determine best practices and procedures.
As an analyst, you might help business leaders navigate decisions about spending, leadership structures, inventory management, or marketing plans.
Some analysts are employed by a single company to provide insights on a regular basis. Others work independently or as part of a consulting firm, and they provide analysis for a variety of clients.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that most management analysts earn between $49,700 and $154,310 each year. Jobs in this field are growing at an 11% rate.
3. Database Administrator
If you’re interested in overseeing the systems used for managing an organization’s data, then database administrator may be a good role for you. Database administrators are often known as DBAs.
In your role as a DBA, you would likely keep databases running smoothly, make upgrades as needed, and protect the integrity of the data that they contain. Your responsibilities might involve an entire database system or one database for a specific program.
Schools, insurance companies, and data service organizations often hire database administrators. Working for a data hosting company may lead to an average salary of $103,930 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). In general, DBAs earn $51,800 to $148,060 each year.
Computer Information Systems Careers
Although CIS students can become computer and information systems managers as well, they often focus more on technical duties than managerial ones. Programming and developing are common career paths for CIS majors.
1. Software Developer
Organizations often need software applications or systems that are designed specifically for their needs.
By drawing on your understanding of information systems, you may design effective new programs or make upgrades to the software that is already in place. You might also test software to make sure that it continues to run well.
Many developers work for software or computer companies. There are also jobs for developers in manufacturing, insurance, and other industries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the average annual salary for software developers is $107,510, and most people in this profession earn between $64,240 and $164,590.
2. Computer Programmer
As a computer programmer, you might work closely with software developers. It may be your responsibility to write the code that makes their ideas run. You may also identify bugs in the system and write new code to address them.
Many programmers work for computer systems companies. There are also jobs for computer programmers in a variety of other sectors in which technical services can enhance and inform business operations. These industries include finance and manufacturing.
Based on figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you can expect to earn between $50,150 and $140,250 as a computer programmer. Learning two or more programming languages might give you a competitive advantage in this field.
3. Information Security Analyst
Security breaches are a serious threat for any organization that collects and stores data. Your job as an information security analyst may be to maintain, test, and upgrade an organization’s cybersecurity measures.
You might also be involved in creating mitigation plans for when a data breach does occur. Information security analysts play a critical role in finance and insurance companies as well as other industries.
This is one of the fastest-growing professions for computer professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, positions for information security analysts are expected to grow at a 31% rate through 2029.
MIS vs. CIS Pros and Cons
How Do Companies Use MIS and CIS?
Information systems professionals work in a wide variety of industries, including healthcare, education, manufacturing, finance, commerce, and technology. Their input can make a vital difference in an organization’s everyday operations, long-term planning, and overall success.
Whether you choose MIS or CIS for your degree, your training can help equip you to play a key role in your organization.
What form your contribution takes may depend on which direction you choose to go with your studies. The following chart includes various ways that organizations might benefit from your particular area of expertise.
Is Management Information Systems a Hard Major?
Studying MIS involves both technical courses and business courses. It may help if you have a head for business and also know the ins and outs of computers.
There might be a business core that includes quite a range of classes. Flexibility can help you transition from a finance course one semester to a marketing course the next and then a business law class to top it all off.
Although you may take only one programming course during your MIS program, it will likely cover algorithms. Decent math skills might help you do well with that portion of your studies. A career in MIS may be quite different from a job in a technology-only field like computer science.
In MIS, you’ll spend at least as much time interacting with colleagues from various departments as you will working with screens and computer components. Good interpersonal skills may contribute to your success.
To get you ready for workplace dynamics, you may engage in several collaborative projects during your studies. If you thrive on group projects, then you may appreciate this aspect of an MIS program. For those who prefer to work alone, that could be more of a challenge.
Is Computer Information Systems a Hard Major?
To earn a CIS degree, you will typically take quite a few technical classes. An aptitude for computing concepts may help you succeed.
To clarify, you don’t need to be a computer whiz or a master programmer before beginning your college classes. You’ll likely learn both introductory skills and more advanced ones during your program.
If you’re comfortable navigating computer systems and open to learning new skills, you may have a good foundation on which to build your studies.
You may receive hands-on practice during your CIS program. There may be lab components to classes like introduction to programming and advanced network architecture. Even if you attend school online, you might participate in virtual lab sessions.
Compared to a computer science major, CIS studies involve less mathematics. Even still, you may take one or more advanced math class, use statistics when studying data analytics, and work with algorithms during your programming courses.
The field of CIS is constantly evolving, so you’ll likely keep up your learning after leaving the classroom. A willingness to keep studying can help you not only during your bachelors program but also throughout your career.
Are CIS and MIS the Same Thing?
CIS and MIS are both branches of information systems. They’re related, but they’re not identical.
CIS deals with the computer applications and systems that support data collection and other business activities. MIS addresses using technology to guide leaders toward reliable business decisions. Despite these distinctions, many colleges blur the lines between the two fields or use the terms nearly synonymously.
To make sure that you pick the school that’s best for you, you may want to carefully review various programs’ curricula and stated goals before settling on which college to attend.
Is MIS a Good Major?
MIS skills are valuable to many organizations. In this program, you may learn to provide insights that can assist in companies’ decision-making processes.
As a result, this degree may lead to impressive salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one of the top jobs in this field, computer and information systems manager, pays an average yearly salary of $146,360. This position is growing at a 10% rate.
An MIS degree may also lead to opportunities as a business analyst or a database administrator. On average, operations research analysts make $84,810 per year, management analysts earn $85,260, and database administrators make $93,750.
Is Computer Information Systems a Good Major?
If you’re interested in the inner workings of computer systems, including hardware components, network architecture, and line after line of code, then you might be a good candidate for a CIS degree.
This program may provide a computer science foundation and the ability to put that knowledge to practical use in business settings. Majoring in CIS could lead to a position as a software developer. Based on figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, software developers earn an average annual salary of $107,510.
This degree may also prepare you for jobs in information security analysis, an in-demand specialty. The median annual salary for security analysts is $99,730.
Is an Information Systems Degree Worth It?
Yes, an information systems degree is worth it for many students.
With an average salary of $88,240 and 11% job growth for computer and information technology occupations (Bureau of Labor Statistics), a degree in computer or management information systems can help you launch a career in this growing field.
Common information systems careers include computer and information systems manager, operations research analyst, database administrator, information security analyst, and management analyst.
Technology allows organizations to access ever-increasing amounts of data, but not every business professional has the know-how to handle it. As an IS professional, you may be in a unique position to take on the challenge.
MIS or CIS – Which Is Right for You?
Information systems is an in-demand field. Whether you get a management information systems degree or a computer information systems degree, you may look forward to many opportunities for satisfying work that pays well and contributes to an organization’s success.
You may decide to opt for MIS if you want to collaborate with a variety of department leaders and contribute technology-based solutions to meet your organization’s needs. You may decide to choose CIS if you’d rather dig into the nuts and bolts of your company’s software, hardware, and network architecture.
Have you identified the major that’s right for you? If so, you can start your academic journey by looking for accredited universities that offer your program of choice!