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CIS/MIS degrees

I'm a CS major at a well regarded state college, and I have an acquaintance that's a CIS major (often called MIS at other universities).  He's always telling me and an EE buddy that we should switch majors, saying the hiring rates are better out of the CIS program for people with good grades.

He has 3 main arguments:

1) The way he figures it, a 4.00 GPA in CIS is as easily obtainable as a 3.00 in CS or a 2.50 in EE.  I looked at the assignments, and he's got a point.  His "tough" term projects look like run of the mill assignments in a typical CS class.

2) Since you spend less time on homework, you have more time to spend learning programming instead of academia.

3) Many companies don't make a huge distinction between CS and CIS, so getting the top GPA is more important than getting the exact major.

These all seem like good arguments, but I've looked at the curriculum as it just looks fuzzy.  All the classes have vague course descriptions - to the point that I can't really figure what you learn in these programs.

Anyone have a CIS/MIS degree or have experience working with someone who did?

Student A
Tuesday, February 17, 2004

It seems like a regular CS major would be more flexible. I.e. you could work on firmware for remote sensors or you could work on search engines or you could work on the latest fabulous .NET accounting widget.  The CIS major seems to pigeonhole you into only working on the latest fabulous .NET accounting widget.  That is, it should be easy for a CS major to get an IT job, but harder for the CIS major to get an 'engineering' job. However, it depends more on what you are into and what you want to do. I have a degree in philosophy, so I'm not the right one to ask.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I think your CIS friend's argument is pretty sound, although I would recommend you trade a tough degree for two easier degrees. Or one softer degree and a minor. Preferably you would take that opportunity to do something less left brained. There's argument against switching away from something you aimed for.

What you COULD do is take a easier load of general CS program by not specializing or doing honors, so it's often a 3 year situation at full load. And on the side, take a liberal arts minor--this has a way of lessening the geek load on you while balancing you out: hopefully making you a bit more interesting than 4 chapters of mildly interesting formulas, tibits, ideas and methodologies.

MBA/Grad schools are expensive, so grabbing those liberal arts and business classes prepares you to get it right the first time (you'll be busy at work, so the crazy night school will burn you extra crispy).

Unfortunately, what you learn as a computer scientist  won't be necessary for the first 3 of 6 years of your road to senior software architect. The last 4 years of mastery will depend mostly on your management skill as well as industry experience--both of which cannot be found in a unix workstation laboratory hiding in the basement of any world class computer science Uni.

So I think he has some arguments worth listening to, but I won't trade 3.0 in CS for a 4.0 in EE or CIS.

Li-fan Chen
Tuesday, February 17, 2004

"The way he figures it, a 4.00 GPA in CIS is as easily obtainable as a 3.00 in CS or a 2.50 in EE"

Tell your friend we know this.


Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I meant EET not EE, EET is more practical, easier, less science version of EE. About the same reputation as CIS (but better).

Li-fan Chen
Tuesday, February 17, 2004

It's not what you know.  It's who you know.

Dan Brown
Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Where I went to undergrad, CS was part of the engineering school. MIS was part of the business school.

The CS students usually spent the weekends working on projects. The MIS students usually spent the weekends getting drunk. Wether that's a recommendation to switch majors is up to you :-).

Chris Tavares
Tuesday, February 17, 2004

It's not what you know, it's what you think you know.

Greg Hurlman
Tuesday, February 17, 2004

And just think... the MIS majors will be less qualified to do any real work, so they will be promoted to management and be your boss one day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

been there, seen that...

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Philo is right.

There's a huge difference between MIS/CIS/IT grads and CS grads, and any company worth their salt isn't going to be confused or tricked into taking a 4.0 GPA MIS who took "Access for Dummies" and remedial algebra over a 3.0 CS major who took Compiler Design, AI, Calculus, Diff eq, etc.

Not to dis the MIS majors, since it partly depends on what you want to work on, but if you're into computers and you want to be on the *creating* or research end, MIS is not what you want.

That said, business classes may make for good electives for a CS major.

MS Anonymous
Wednesday, February 18, 2004


Not to toot my own horn, but I have a CIS degree from a no-name university and was able to get a job at a place who were predominantly graduates from MIT, Darmouth and the likes - through a fairly extensive interview process.  Why?  Because being good has very little to do with the piece of paper you have been given or the classes you take.  If you have a passion for software development, you will tinker with it outside of work/school (given the time.)  Software development, like anything requires lots and lots of practice to get good.  Don't get me wrong, the people I worked with at this place were by far some of the smartest people I've had the chance to work with - but I don't think it's because they have a CS degree from Ivy League University.  And for the record, I don't consider myself to be amazingly gifted, I just love software development.  So please folks, get off the CS bandwagon.  I also have a friend that pulls in $200,000/year as a lead developer at a well-known game development studio.  He's never set a foot in a university. 


Wednesday, February 18, 2004

You forgot the following, smart guy:

Rant = Null

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

I earned an MS&IS degree (essentially an MIS degree) a little over a year ago.  My university also offered degrees in CS and IST (information systems & technology) so there was much discussion about which major to choose.

When I looked at the cirriculum I noticed that the MSIS degree was offered in the school of business, meaning one would get exposure to finance, accounting, management, logistics, etc.  With a CS degree one focused almost entirely on programming, learning patterns, developing UI, etc.  With an IST degree one worked on networking, HTML, Java, SOAP, etc.

I chose MSIS because of the exposure to business as well as the exposure to databases that wasn't necessarily offered in the CS degree.  Additionally I had courses in statistical analysis, decision modeling, and requirements development.

So my course load was probably easier than a CS major - at least from my perspective as someone who could have probably done well in either.  It allowed me to have a robust social life and not get stuck behind a screen at all hours of the night.

But the hiring prospects aren't that much brighter.  An MIS degree is quite marketable for positions where some translation is required - project management, business analyst, etc.  But when you need someone to program and get a job done, a CS major is the right choice.  One simply does not learn enough programming in an MIS cirriculum to be a full-time coder without a drive to learn on their own (and even then they miss out on all the feedback one receives in a college class).

If you have no intention of going near the business side of things, stay in CS - work hard and get your good grades.  If you have a desire to get into the business side, perhaps a minor in MIS (often available) or a major in MIS with a minor in CS is more desirable.

Finally, if you want to earn your MBA some day, go with an MIS (if it is offered through the school of business) as it will allow you to skip a wide range of classes when you are admitted.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Your friend is wrong: any technical hiring manager knows the difference between CS and MIS; and if they don't, you probably don't want to work there.  Which one is better depends on the context and the candidate, so you can't make a blanket statement about it, but playing an angle like hoping that the interviewer can't tell the difference is a recipe for disaster when your boss asks you to do something from the other degree.

Play to your *honest* strengths, and you'll be further ahead.

Justin Johnson
Wednesday, February 18, 2004

We in the field know the difference between CIS/MIS and CS.  Anywhere where there is coding work and your potential future co-workers (as opposed to a nameless HR department) have a hand in the hiring decision will be able to tell if your college degree is programming-oriented or management-oriented.  Because, at the core, CIS/MIS is a business degree, no matter how you dress it up.

Grades are most certainly not everything.  A 4.0 just means that your interviewer is going to be trying to figure out if your school is easy, you cheated, or you are actually smart.

I think it depends on what you are going for.  If you want to be in a position where you program impressive things, people look down upon MIS/CIS degrees.  If you want to help make sure that the ledger lines up and the payroll goes out, people may not care as long as you know what they are looking for.

Taking the MIS/CIS degree is taking the "easy way out".  This may or may not pay off for you, but I still wouldn't do it, if I were you.

Flamebait Sr.
Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Think of the analogy of a network protocol:  Math, CS, CIS, then Business.  The CS grads are better off working in theoretical areas, low level device drivers, etc.  The Business grads create policies procedures and heavily interfaced with the user/customers.  The CIS grads are the interface between the CS people and the Business people, i.e. the systems engineers or design engineers.  For the most part, CIS people need to understand what’s going on in both areas.  But this should not stop a CIS grad from going over to either side of the fence.  For example, I’m a CIS grad but work as a software engineer developing low-level devices. I think it all boils down into what interests you as a CIS major.  By taking a few extension courses you can come up to speed fairly quickly on either CS or Business.  Just know which way you want to go before you accept your first job out of school.  This will usually determine the rest of our career …

Monday, June 14, 2004

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