Comparing Information Systems Education and Careers: MIS vs. CIS Degrees

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Businesses use information systems to collect, process, and store data, from invoices and human resources to budgets and sales goals. This technology improves a company’s operations and efficiency to deliver better products to customers. Aligning management information systems (MIS) and computer information systems (CIS) with business goals can provide companies with a competitive advantage in the market.

MIS and CIS degrees lead to software and systems engineering roles.

The professionals behind these technologies have extensive technical and interpersonal skills to design, build, implement, and test complex systems. MIS and CIS degree programs both offer students the education necessary to help businesses leverage data to improve their operations and enhance the employee and customer experience. Despite some overlap in these disciplines, there are also key differences between MIS and CIS degrees.

Management Information Systems (MIS)

Management information systems provide vital information to managers and play an integral role in a company’s operations. They involve the people, technology, organizations, and relationships that affect a company’s management, operations, and efficiency. Some MIS examples include payroll, order processing, logistics, and financial processing systems. Professionals in the field examine data derived from these organization-wide operations and analyze it to look for opportunities to improve performance. Naturally, the management information system in place depends on the industry and the company’s specific needs.

Management information systems’ impact on a company’s operations is substantial, creating a demand for professionals with practical knowledge in developing more efficient business solutions using MIS. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of computer and information systems managers will grow 11% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.

How Do Businesses Use MIS?

MIS’s primary function is to report on business operations to inform decision-making. Organizations utilize MIS to improve management, optimize operations, and gain a competitive advantage in their industry. These systems provide information to company stakeholders, aid in data collection, promote collaboration, and give both short- and long-term projections.

Management information systems allow businesses to run “what-if” scenarios in different environments before making a decision that could potentially affect the bottom line. For example, human resources (HR) professionals can use an MIS to run a report showing the effects of reducing the number of employees in a specific department. They could then anticipate the potential impact on revenue, sales, and profit. Executives can use this information to make informed, strategic business decisions with reduced risk of damage.

MIS reporting features allow companies to make smart, timely business decisions. These systems are accessible across different departments in an organization, creating a more efficient exchange of key insights and facilitating communication on related topics. Sharing such information with colleagues and executives is easier with the help of well-designed management information systems, as reports became easy to digest through accessible formats using visual representations of data.

What Are the Types of MIS?

There are several types of MIS, each designed for a unique business purpose. Common types include HR management systems, inventory control systems, process control systems, office automation systems, enterprise resource planning systems, accounting and finance systems, sales and marketing systems, and management reporting systems.

  • HR Management Systems: HR management systems track employee financial data, such as payroll, benefits, and retirement plans, which are typically also part of accounting and financial systems. They also track employee timesheets, vacation days, and related information.
  • Inventory Control Systems: These systems integrate all aspects of inventory. They may track shipping, receiving, sales, theft, warehouse storage, tracking, turnover, and reordering. Inventory control systems are commonly found in large retail companies, helping managers to keep track of inventory. Businesses that deal with stocking and storing goods often use them.
  • Process Control Systems: Process control systems monitor an organization’s physical or industrial processes, such as metal fabrication or automobile assembly. As such, manufacturing companies typically use this type of MIS.
  • Office Automation Systems: These systems help employees communicate with other departments, employees, and leadership. An office automation system entails numerous technologies, such as cellphones and laptops, as well as multimedia, internet, and email components, all of which keep employees connected.
  • Accounting and Finance Systems: These systems track an organization’s financial investments and assets and then use the data to produce legally required financial reports. They might generate reports on payroll, local and state taxes, and pension funds. They can also assist with day-to-day transactions, such as sales income, deposits, transfers, and returns.
  • Sales and Marketing Systems: These systems assist marketing and sales teams in monitoring their efficiency. They are also used to execute advertising, public relations, and sales campaigns. Sales and marketing systems can project sales, track advertisements and schedules, and generate reports to help stakeholders make adjustments to pricing, product offerings, and promotions.
  • Enterprise Resource Planning Systems: Enterprise resource planning systems manage business through a system of automated applications that integrate technology, employee services, and HR. They can streamline all processes across the entire business.
  • Management Reporting Systems: Management reporting systems produce reports on operations and finances at all levels of management to help managers compare company performance from year to year, as well as project performance in the future. Key stakeholders then reference these reports to evaluate a manager’s performance, the company’s overall performance, and the efficiency of operations against company goals.

Management Information Systems (MIS) Degree Overview

The typical management information systems (MIS) program curriculum includes courses on systems development and analysis, data communications, programming and business applications, and programming languages such as Java. Students in MIS programs study both business and management to understand how companies and individuals use data to inform and improve the decision-making process.

MIS degrees may include courses in programming, database design, and data analysis. However, much of the coursework focuses on business-related topics and theories, including management principles, finance, marketing, accounting, leadership, project management, and customer service.

What Do MIS Graduates Do?

MIS professionals bridge the gap between business, people, and technology by working with employees, key stakeholders, and technology to analyze for solutions that meet the business’s goals. Most MIS professionals have a bachelor’s degree; however, earning a master’s degree can be useful for those who want to work in more advanced positions, perhaps in consulting or supervisory roles. MIS degree holders can enter a range of fields, including healthcare, database administration, software development, and information systems and technology management.

Types of Careers

  • Systems Analyst: Systems analysts use their business and technical skills to evaluate a company’s information system and find points for improvement. They are responsible for collecting data to determine appropriate changes. They also often work with senior leadership to establish budgets and implement recommended changes.
  • Database Administrator: An organization’s database can house an immense amount of data, much of which is sensitive. Database administrators use their expertise to keep organizational data secure. They evaluate, monitor, maintain, and optimize the database’s computer systems to ensure the organization is following protocol and protecting information from emerging threats.
  • Computer Network Architect: Computer network architects have extensive knowledge of data communications networks, which they use to create plans for maximizing a network infrastructure’s efficiency, output, and cost-effectiveness. They consult with senior leaders to upgrade and implement new hardware and maintain network security, troubleshooting any issues as the network grows.

Computer Information Systems (CIS)

Computer information systems (CIS) are a combination of people and computers working together to process and interpret information. They help organizations and businesses to solve problems related to anything from cybersecurity to project management. These systems address how data is gathered, processed, stored, and used. They involve hardware, software, and networks. However, the CIS field focuses on how computers and associated hardware and software are used in a business setting — not the coding that underlies the technology.

Every day, people interact with businesses and organizations that use computer information systems. When a person registers to receive care at a healthcare facility, their personal information goes into a system that informs reports for both administrative and insurance purposes. Anyone who orders products online submits information to the retailer through an information system that supports both the customer experience and business intelligence. These are just a few examples of CIS at work.

Computer information systems primarily deal with the information’s accessibility and application to a business objective. Professionals in this field focus on the technical side of installation, troubleshooting, and maintenance of computer systems and their network infrastructure. The work of individuals in CIS, which often involves collecting and synthesizing data, is the first step in optimization. For example, CIS experts at Amazon collect and analyze customers’ purchase habits. They cull that information together with thousands of others customers’ to create an automated list of personalized product suggestions. After CIS professionals complete these tasks, MIS workers apply those insights to improve the user experience, which helps to increase sales.

How Do Businesses Use CIS?

Computer information systems are part of virtually every industry — from accounting and marketing to finance and manufacturing. While business goals vary across industries, CIS help store and retrieve relevant information from databases and inform stakeholders of key performance indicators, such as engagement, leads, sales, and website visits.

Computer information systems take into account the big picture and how technology can benefit a business. The insights gained from CIS have applications in retail, banking, healthcare, and countless other industries. Retailers might use these systems to personalize a shopping experience, and financial institutions might use them to manage a customer’s portfolio. Similarly, hospitals could use CIS to reduce a patient’s wait time. Businesses utilize CIS to improve customer service, manage employees, and increase production efficiency. Professionals in this field provide stakeholders with the insights needed to identify opportunities to create business value through technology.

What Are the Types of CIS?

Business owners, stakeholders, and executives rely on CIS professionals’ technical expertise to implement the systems that best meet customer needs, budgets, and unique business goals. CIS professionals must take into account the hardware, software, storage, security, cloud computing, training, and budgeting required when choosing or building a computer information system.

Computer information systems include artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and business intelligence. Some descriptions of computer information systems are detailed below.

  • Data Warehousing: Data warehousing describes the collection and management of data from a variety of sources to provide business insights. The digital storage of large amounts of data for analysis requires several technologies and tools, such as business intelligence tools, SQL clients, and spreadsheets.
  • Machine Learning: This method of data analysis is a subset of artificial intelligence and involves the training of machines to learn from data. These systems can identify patterns and make decisions with little to no human interaction.
  • Competitive Intelligence: This type of CIS involves the definition, collection, analysis, and distribution of intelligence regarding markets. It might include uncovering insights into product performance, customer bases, or the competition in order for stakeholders to make strategic business decisions and gain a competitive advantage.

Computer Information Systems (CIS) Degree Overview

CIS degree holders analyze organizations’ IT systems and keep them up to date. CIS degree coursework focuses primarily on computer science and information technology, software and hardware, cybersecurity, numerical analysis, robotics, and information systems. The curriculum allows students to develop the necessary skills to create software and update large-scale networks to adapt to evolving threats and business needs.

What Do CIS Degree Graduates Do?

CIS professionals maintain reliable computer programs for businesses. They determine how to implement new technology and use it to address a business’ specific needs. CIS degree holders can pursue a variety of career paths in computer science, IT, and information systems, most of which require communication, project management, problem-solving, and collaboration skills.

Types of Careers

  • Software Developer: These CIS professionals design, test, and produce software that meets their target market’s needs. They have a collaborative role, working across the entire cycle of development, not just implementation. They work with stakeholders to identify requirements, as well as oversee both IT professionals and programmers to design, test, and turn market data into functional software.
  • Computer Programmer: Once software developers create a program design, computer programmers turn it into instructions that a computer can follow. They are responsible for writing and testing the code that makes the application function as intended.
  • Information Security Analyst: Information security analysts identify vulnerabilities in computer networks and systems and use their expertise to uncover cybersecurity issues. They conduct tests to determine the most effective method of protecting sensitive data from security breaches, which includes everything from staff training to implementing new software.

Similarities Between MIS and CIS Degrees

Both MIS and CIS degrees are in the general field of information systems, a discipline that helps organizations manage people and processes through data and software. Both degrees include some business coursework as well as technology-related courses.

MIS and CIS professionals implement large computer systems and programs to propagate information throughout a business. Each is valuable in countless industries that utilize technology and computer systems, such as business, healthcare, politics, finance, education, and manufacturing. Jobs in each of these disciplines require professionals to have strong problem-solving, data analysis, and computer science skills. Additionally, creating solutions for businesses and other organizations is often a collaborative effort between professionals in these disciplines, wherein they work together to achieve the same end goal.

Differences Between MIS and CIS Degrees

Although there are some similarities, the differences between MIS and CIS degrees are important to know. These include the coursework students can expect to complete, each industry’s objectives, and the typical career paths for graduates of each program.


The MIS degree curriculum combines business and management courses to provide students with cross-functional expertise. Business courses typically cover project management, accounting, marketing, economics, business law, and statistics. Technical courses for MIS degrees include application development, database design, project management, programming, business data, and information technology and security. The MIS curriculum prepares students to think strategically and take on leadership roles.

In contrast, CIS degrees are more strongly rooted in traditional computer science. They focus primarily on building students’ technical skills. Students develop computer science skills through courses in cybersecurity, numerical analysis, software and hardware, programming, systems analysis, network administration, and database management. In addition, they learn how to apply technology to business through courses in management and communication.


MIS professionals focus on how people interact with systems and use recorded information and data to help improve company performance. MIS degrees require the study of both business and technology to equip students with the skills needed to help managers and executives monitor operations and create regular reports on efficiency, profits, and costs. It’s a people-oriented field, which distinguishes it from computer information systems.

CIS degree holders focus on how to practically apply computer programs and technology to business operations. These professionals determine how to apply technology to the needs of different businesses with numerous unique objectives. They build and optimize programs, ensuring the networked computers function as expected. CIS degree holders often work behind the scenes, implementing computer systems and analyzing the results. Their work does not, however, typically involve any elements of management or the implementation of organization-wide changes.

Career Paths

While there is a significant amount of crossover in possible career paths (and titles are sometimes interchangeable), those with MIS degrees are more equipped to focus on the business side of an organization, making them ideal candidates for management roles, such as analyst or administrator. Common career paths for MIS degree holders include IT consultant, information systems manager, database administrator, computer network architect, and systems analyst.

CIS professionals can pursue a variety of career paths in computer systems and science, including web developer, technical support specialist, business application developer, software developer, computer programmer, and information security analyst. These professionals can work in a wide range of industries, such as finance, insurance, manufacturing, and computer systems design. Computer programmers often work alone, and because coding does not depend on the location, it is common for programmers to work from home.

MIS vs. CIS Degree: Which Is Right for You?

People who enjoy working with others to analyze and solve problems and have an aptitude for managing projects may consider pursuing a degree in management information systems. The combination of business intelligence, interpersonal, and computer skills provides degree holders with unique expertise that is applicable to nearly any industry. They also use their teamwork and leadership skills to improve organizations.

Those who enjoy programming and learning the mechanics of technology and its applications in a commercial setting might consider a degree in computer information systems. Although these professionals do work with others, their role is less involved in daily business operations and more about building software, hardware, and new technologies to help a business meet its needs. Those who are self-motivated and enjoy coding might find that work in CIS is a perfect fit for them.

Learn More

Technology powers innovation in nearly every industry, and people power technology. Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems combines coursework in MIS with a business core so you can develop the expertise needed to secure networks, analyze systems, protect data, and succeed in today’s business world. Find out more about how this degree can put you on the path to a meaningful career in management information systems.

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