What Are Computer Information Systems? Definition, Degree, and Careers

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn about what you'll study when you pursue a computer information systems major. Find out how and where to apply and what jobs the degree can lead to.

[Featured Image]:  Computer Information Systems major with classmates during a class.

IT professionals use information systems to collect, organize, and distribute data. These systems are crucial for companies hosting more and more data electronically. Majoring in computer information systems for your bachelor's degree helps prepare you for various jobs in this field.

The use and operation of information systems is a valuable skill in all industries due to the demand for professionals who can develop solutions for data used and stored for a company. Many companies rely heavily on information systems to stand out against competitors. 

Learn more about this field, how to get a degree in computer information systems, and the types of jobs you can pursue.

What are computer information systems?

Computer information systems is an all-encompassing term that deals with managing transactions between hardware and software on devices commonly used to store and organize data and information. This applies to databases, cloud storage, and servers.

A computer information system's architecture depends on data organization and what information the company is trying to decipher from that data. When you work with computer information systems, you determine the most efficient setup for how various hardware and software will integrate to create an effective information system. 

What is the difference between CIS and CS?

Computer information systems (CIS) centers around software and technology and is more of a hands-on option between CIS and computer science (CS). CS often deals with designing a system or software that can solve a particular issue, whereas CIS deals with how to use that software in various contexts. 


What a computer information systems degree covers. 

When you pursue a bachelor's degree in computer information systems, you'll gain a foundation in programming, software systems, and technology. Your coursework will vary depending on the program you choose. In general, you can expect to learn these key concepts:

Programming: You will likely take programming classes in popular industry languages such as Java and C++. Assignments will consist of creating software on essential criteria in the curriculum. These courses give you a foundation of expertise in software development that can help you gain the knowledge needed to perform at a high level for your job. 

Databases: Database software such as MySQL, SQL, Microsoft Access, and others can help you manage, organize, and store data and give you an in-depth understanding of database architecture and information management. 

Quantitative processing: These courses will deal with the inspection, cleaning, and modeling of data to develop solutions based on trends in the gathered data and information. Software and or statistical analysis can perform many of these tasks. 

Cybersecurity: Cybersecurity is crucial to information systems due to the need to protect information and devices housing essential data and to plan safeguards and backup plans against potential attacks. 

IT project management: IT professionals are typically involved with numerous projects. Therefore, project management is a skill you'll learn in your computer information systems program to understand and navigate the project lifecycle. This includes planning, organizing, controlling, and monitoring projects and using tools to control costs and risks. 

What skills do I need to study computer information systems?

Many of the skills you need to be successful in an information systems job you will have the opportunity to learn as you study computer information systems. Critical workplace skills that can help you in your studies and your profession include problem-solving, working well under pressure, teamwork, self-motivation, and logical thinking. Some of the specific technical skills you will find most valuable include the following:

Business management skills: CIS jobs have many overlapping areas between business and technology. Understanding fundamental business concepts will take you far in a CIS job. Planning, resource and task delegation, and the management and cooperation of team members are all concepts in CIS operations. 

Technical knowledge: Specific technical knowledge will vary depending on the position, but generally, CIS employees should have a foundational knowledge of industry best practices, an understanding of computer hardware, and some experience with at least one programming language. It’s helpful to be skillful in many different software and technologies so that you’re ready to handle whatever the job requires. 

Mathematics: CIS employees should have a foundational knowledge of algebra, statistics, calculus, geometry, and algorithms. A firm grasp of these mathematical subjects will allow for a much deeper understanding of what is happening on a mathematical level with analysis programs and coding functions. 

What are the admission requirements?

You'll need a high school diploma or equivalent to gain admission to a computer information systems degree program. Depending on the college you apply to, you may need a minimum GPA of 2.5 or higher and a minimum ACT or SAT score.

Where can I study for a degree in computer information systems?

Many institutions and universities offer bachelor's degrees in computer information systems. Flexible options for pursuing a degree in computer information systems are widely available, such as online courses that allow you to get a degree without commuting and with a flexible schedule. If a university near you is convenient to enroll in classes, that option could suit you. 

Out of 400 colleges and universities that offer computer information systems bachelor's degrees, College Factual ranks the following top 10 programs in the US for 2023 [1]:

  1. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  2. John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

  3. The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 

  4. Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

  5. Rice University, Houston, Texas 

  6. Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

  7. Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus, Atlanta, Georgia 

  8. Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

  9. New York University, New York, New York

  10. The University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 

Careers in computer information systems

A significant aspect of computer information systems is that background in this field will allow for a wide variety of opportunities in the tech field. A bachelor's in CIS can give you the options to pursue jobs such as software developer, programmer, web developer, systems administrator, and cyber consulting, among others. Every industry needs experts in computer information systems, so growth and potential are abundant in this field.

Software developer

Median annual salary (BLS.gov):  $109,020 [2]

Job outlook (projected growth from 2021 to 2031): 25% (Much faster than average)

Software developers create applications to distribute and sell these applications to the public or create applications for a company to use internally to solve a particular issue or bring value to the company. Developers can create software for operating systems, desktops or mobile, and websites. Software developers consider users' needs, build out the programs, test them, and routinely update them to ensure minimal bugs or errors with the application.

Programmer analyst

Average annual salary (Glassdoor): $83,194 [3]

Job outlook (projected growth from 2021 to 2031): 9% (Faster than average) [4]

A programmer analyst has to develop, test, analyze, and maintain new software for business requirements. These professionals often oversee and interject into the developers' operations, correct code and fix bugs, and generally guide the project's development in the right direction.

Read more: What Does a Programmer Analyst Do?

Web developer

Median annual salary (BLS.gov): $78,300 [5

Job outlook (projected growth from 2021 to 2031): 23% (Much Faster than average)

Web developers will use their programming knowledge to create and maintain websites. Web developers will also add functionality to the website and perform updates. Web developers also must consider the look and feel of a website to create the best user experience for those visiting the website. They ensure that content, graphics, and navigation are easy and intuitive. 

Systems administrator 

Median annual salary (BLS.gov): $80,600 [6

Job outlook (projected growth from 2021 to 2031): 3% (Slower than average)

A systems administrator is responsible for upgrading, installing, and configuring software or computer hardware. They provide the highest level of technical support to employees and manage the security and permissions of user accounts within the company. Systems administrators deal with all facets of tech in a business, such as software, hardware, programming, security, and networking. 

How much do computer information systems majors earn?

Graduates majoring in computer information systems in the US make, on average, $68,855 annually, and the top ten percent make over $115,000 annually [7]. 


Next steps

If you are interested in computer information systems but want to pursue a degree, consider taking an introductory course, such as the Introduction to Computer Information Systems Specialization on Coursera. The coursework can help you decide if the field is right for you.

Also consider the Information Systems Specialization offered by the University of Minnesota to understand information systems management better. 



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Article sources


College Factual. “2023 Best Computer Information Systems Bachelor's Degree Schools https://www.collegefactual.com/majors/computer-information-sciences/computer-information-systems-cis/rankings/top-ranked/bachelors-degrees/." Accessed December 7, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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