Why study information systems and networking?

Dominic Claeys-Jackson, Editor
November, 2015

Numerous career paths across sectors as wide-ranging as business, education and government demand a strong knowledge of information technology (IT)

Postgraduate programmes in information systems and networking enjoy great popularity, with students who are aiming to break into the ever-expanding field keen to capitalise upon the UK's reputation for world-leading innovation.

Many courses intertwine IT and computing with business theory, providing an ideal platform for a breadth of careers.

Why choose information systems and networking?

Programmes provide students with the skills and knowledge required to perform many demanding tasks. These range from building new networking systems to maintaining an organisation's information infrastructure.

Dr Andrew MacFarlane, reader in the Department of Computing at City University London, says that courses attract students from numerous unrelated undergraduate backgrounds, such as the sciences and the humanities.

Experienced professionals without a Bachelors degree are also common applicants, he claims, since 'a certain level of maturity' is beneficial for postgraduate IT study.

'To truly understand some abstract concepts, prior experience in the field is a distinct advantage,' adds Dr MacFarlane. 'Work experience is useful in helping you to understand organisational structure, and its impact on information flow and use.'

What do courses involve?

Postgraduate courses offer students flexibility in the topics that they can study. Rachel Hayes, marketing and external relations officer in the Information School at the University of Sheffield, says that students can select more technical or organisational modules within information systems.

According to Dr MacFarlane, programmes usually offer modules in four interconnected areas: business, design, technical skills, and information and users. Together, they allow students to develop software to meet users' needs and implement self-designed systems.

Business-related units provide an understanding of organisations and their drivers, which is essential in the implementation of IT solutions. Similarly, information and user-based modules - in topics including information seeking and system interaction - highlight IT's standing as a discipline where people must be understood. Design and technical modules, in areas such as databases and programming, can improve a student's vocational skillset.

Bhavin Malkan studied MSc Information Systems Management at the University of Sheffield, and says that learning alongside people who'd worked at HP, PwC and Accenture was an 'amazing experience'.

'I loved the course - each module expanded my horizons,' he adds. 'The programme opened my eyes to real-life practices, because tutors had professional experience of consultancy. Despite having no work experience, my Masters-level knowledge led to job offers from several companies.'

What do information systems and networking graduates do?

Common roles that information systems and networking graduates enter include IT consultant, systems analyst, web developer, data analyst, multimedia programmer and manufacturing systems engineer.

Entry-level positions can quickly lead to more senior jobs in project management. Graduates may soon reach board-level roles such as director of information services or chief information officer (CIO).

Quick progression is facilitated thanks to the tendency for courses to integrate discipline-specific attributes. For example, with programming, you can acquire transferable skills in research, teamwork, problem solving, communication, time management, project management and professional ethics. 'This ensures that the student has a good grounding in applying the latter to the former,' concludes Dr MacFarlane.

Bhavin, who now works as a functional consultant for Columbus Global, claims he is convinced that his MSc will help him to achieve his goal of moving into a team leader or project management position.

'My degree is crucial in my current role, where I work on major projects for big-name clients,' he says.

'Implementing Microsoft Dynamics AX, I get to work on all functional areas of a project lifecycle, combining my undergraduate accounting and finance knowledge with MSc know-how to gather requirements for businesses, and document and map processes.'