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How to choose a computer and information science specialization

June 29, 2023
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Getting your Master of Science in Computer Information Science (CIS) can be an excellent way to pursue advanced roles in the field of technology. Choosing the right pathway to meet your career goals can feel like a big decision. To help you figure out which pathway might be right for you, check out the program options offered by Marquette University Online and learn more about the specific roles, career opportunities and industry trends of each.

While you’re reading, think about what aspects of computer and information science you're interested in and what sorts of skills and types of work come naturally to you or make you the most excited. You could either decide to hone in on your strengths and pursue the things you think you’ll excel at or already have experience in. But you could also try to fill in the gaps in your abilities to make yourself a more well-rounded professional or gain specific skills for the career you’ve been dreaming of.

At Marquette University, every computer and information science concentration provides a comprehensive curriculum as well as the opportunity for a practicum and professional seminar to apply coursework to the real world. Explore the online master’s in computer and information science four dynamic pathways to determine the specialization that aligns with your goals.

Information Assurance and Cyber Defense specialization

For anyone interested in breaking into cybersecurity, Marquette’s Information Assurance and Cyber Defense (IACD) specialization is a clear choice. Marquette has special designation by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as an Academic Center of Excellence, recognized for the in-depth cybersecurity curriculum offered and the university’s role as a leader in the field. This designation is especially important because it offers Marquette students the opportunity to apply for more than $30,000 in scholarship funds from the Department of Defense.

Students will begin their specialization studying the theoretical and foundational aspects of cybersecurity followed by courses that will allow them to apply their knowledge in practical situations and professional experiences.

Courses include but are not limited to:

  • Introduction to Cybersecurity
  • Principles of Service Management and System Administration
  • Network Design and Security
  • Software and System Security
  • Advanced Computer Security

Cybersecurity industry and careers

The cybersecurity industry is ripe with opportunities and the market hasn’t caught up with the demand: In 2022 hundreds of thousands of cybersecurity jobs were left unfilled.1 Cybersecurity experts are needed in all industries and at all types of organizations to protect networks and devices. Those working in cybersecurity generally take one of three types of jobs that may have many different names. The three types are engineers who design, build and implement cyber defense systems; testers, who internally test engineers’ work to find weak points; and responders who are tasked with monitoring developments in viruses and other security threats, and of course, step up in urgent situations to patch networks and resolve issues.

Students choosing this specialization could pursue a career as a:

  • Cybersecurity analyst
  • Cybersecurity architect
  • Quality assurance tester
  • Penetration tester
  • Cybersecurity researcher
  • Incident manager
  • Intrusion analyst

Solution architecture and software and systems development

If you enjoy big picture thinking and problem-solving, you should consider the solution architecture and software systems development concentration. Students taking on this CIS pathway will focus on creating comprehensive software solutions for a business problem.

Courses include but are not limited to:

  • Elements of Software Development
  • Principles of Database Systems
  • Mobile Computing
  • Software Quality Assurance
  • Data Intelligence
  • Web Technologies
  • Solution Architecture
  • Enterprise Architecture
  • Big Data Systems

Solution architecture and software and systems development industry and careers

Solution architects, or computer network architects, use their broad knowledge of computer systems to solve business problems and maintain processes. These problems and solutions could be related to communication, data, or information security. Software developers work on a narrowed scale, using their knowledge of programming to design, maintain and repair software programs. While the job outlook for solution architects is average for the market,2 the outlook for software developers is much faster than average as the field grows and needs more developers for work on AI, robotics, automation applications and more.3

Students choosing this specialization could pursue a career as a:

  • Business systems analyst
  • Data architect
  • Computer engineer
  • System administrator
  • Systems analyst
  • Software developer
  • Front end developer
  • Software engineer

Analytics and artificial intelligence

For students fascinated by the power of data and recent gains in artificial intelligence (AI), a concentration in analytics and AI is a great choice. The Marquette CIS analytics and AI concentration can help prepare students for all steps of procuring and modeling machine learning models. Courses for this concentration include data intelligence, data mining, fundamentals of AI, data analytics and more.

Courses include but are not limited to:

  • Fundamentals of AI
  • Data Intelligence
  • Data Mining
  • Data Security and Privacy
  • Concepts of Data Warehousing
  • Parallel and Distributed Systems
  • Data Analytics
  • Big Data Systems

Analytics and AI industry and careers

If you want to work in analytics or AI, the field is looking good. The job growth outlook for data scientists (which includes those who work with AI) is 36%, which is much faster than average.4 With competition growing in the field of AI to create better and faster chatbots and to find new uses for them across business and technology, it’s a great field to get into for innovative thinkers who want to push the boundaries of technology.

Students choosing this specialization could pursue a career as a:

  • Data scientist
  • Data analyst
  • Computer and information research scientist
  • Machine learning engineer
  • Data engineer

IT management

This concentration highlights courses that can prepare you for a career leading computer science and IT efforts across an organization. This pathway allows for the most customization as you work with a faculty advisor to determine course selections that align with your areas of interest or fill in gaps in your knowledge in the fields of computing and information technology. Other courses include data ethics, solution architecture, software quality assurance and others.

Courses include but are not limited to:

  • Software Quality Assurance
  • Solution Architecture
  • Enterprise Architecture
  • Data Ethics

IT management industry and careers

Computer and information systems managers have a great job outlook with the field expected to grow by 16 percent by 2031.5 IT management is a great career choice for someone who doesn’t necessarily want to use their technical skills every day but are great at project management and collaboration. IT managers could work in any industry, most likely at the head of an IT department and oversee day-to-day and special use case software and technological needs of an organization.

Students choosing this specialization could pursue a career as a:

  • Chief information officer
  • Chief technology officer
  • IT director
  • IT security manager

Choose a path of your own

The Marquette University Online curriculum for computer and information science is diverse and comprehensive so that each student can find their niche. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to choosing a career path in computer information science. It's important to take the time to evaluate your interests and goals, and to make a decision that feels right for you. Schedule a call with an Admissions Outreach Advisor to learn more.