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What is an Information System?

IS logo 2

How does IS differ from Computer Science?

Information Systems (IS) and Computer Science (CMSC) both involve computer technology. Unlike IS, CMSC frequently takes an inner-workings perspective of technology and involves the principles of hardware and software design.

Information Systems, on the other hand, focuses on the entire system of information, knowledge, delivery and use, taking an external, human-based perspective on technology– its focus is on how technology can be implemented to serve the informational needs of people and organizations. This is why at UMBC we refer to Information Systems as the human side of computing. IS graduates from UMBC have opportunities to really make a difference—have an impact—on technologies that affect everyone from children to retirees.

IS graduates enter various industries with more than just the technical skills of programming, network applications and design, operating systems, telecommunications, database application and design, and web development and design. They also leave UMBC with a strong business and management background. In fact, many graduates have gone on to start their own successful thriving businesses. UMBC Information Systems students also develop excellent human communication skills that can be used to interact with a variety of audiences with various backgrounds. These skills are not only key career talents but excellent life skills.

What Kind of Jobs Can I Obtain with an Information Systems Degree?

Information Systems graduates are problem-solvers with excellent communication skills and can be employed as network engineers, software engineers, network administrators, systems analysts, systems integrators, systems designers, database managers, database administrators, interface specialists, product support professionals, programmers, programmer analysts, information and knowledge officers, managers of information systems, academic researchers, information system educators and more. Careers in IT (Information Technology) and IS (Information Systems) offer some of the highest post-undergraduate starting salaries. In fact, salaries in IT and computer-related fields have climbed nearly 17% over the last 7 years (1999-2005).1 A major in IS at UMBC is definitely one that can boost your paycheck.

Companies that have hired Information Systems graduates include—but are not limited to— utilities, financial institutions, local, state, and federal governments, government contractors, technology companies, and health related organizations. Plus, UMBC Information Systems graduates continue to find well-paying Jobs in IT. A recent survey of UMBC’s Information Systems (IS) Baccalaureate graduates is painting a bright IT jobs picture for incoming and soon-to-be-graduated IS students alike. As the UMBC IS degree continues to be well-recognized by IT employers, 75% of the survey respondents report their job search took 3 months or less, and 40% responded the process took less than one month.

Additionally upbeat are early survey results indicating that starting salaries for respondents average $50K-plus with full benefits (well in line with the national average) and that many IT job seekers who have graduated from UMBC IS programs are receiving multiple job offers.

When considering the value of the UMBC IS degree during the job search process, 96% of the respondents indicated that their degree was helpful with 55% saying their UMBC degree was “extremely helpful” during the search process. Respondents of the survey, thus far, comprise approximately 23 unique job titles within the IT industry, many in the areas of database administration, network administration, project management, and systems analysis and design.

Overall, graduates of UMBC’s Information Systems programs are enjoying relatively short periods on the IT job market after graduation, many with multiple job options from which to choose, and at salaries that are not only comparable with the national average, but might be considered quite attractive to an adult in their early 20s.

1Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Information Systems Majors Study?

Information Systems offers two baccalaureate degrees: a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Information Systems, and a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Business Technology Administration.

The B.S. is the more technical of the two degrees and prepares students for positions involving the analysis and design of systems, databases, and computer networks. The B.S. consists of 64 credit hours of coursework in IS, computer programming, mathematics and statistics, management, economics, accounting, and technical writing.

The B.A. focuses on microcomputer-based office automation systems.  It also requires the student to complete a minor or certificate. The B.A. consists of 55 credit hours (not including those from the selected minor or certificate) in IS, mathematics, statistics and management.

The Combined B.S./M.S. Degree
The Information Systems Department also offers a combined B.S./M.S. degree intended for academically superior juniors who wish to apply to the M.S. program after graduation. If admitted to the B.S./M.S. program, they will take, in their Senior year, three graduate-level courses which will be applied to the M.S.

Special Opportunities for Information Systems Students

UMBC has the largest cooperative education program in Maryland. Information Systems students participate in this program in greater numbers than any other major on campus. The department encourages all students to participate in co-op or internship programs. Students have found the experience invaluable in helping them understand class concepts and in getting a job after graduation.  All co-op and many internship programs are paid positions.  Many may also be used toward college credits.