Master's in Information Systems Curriculum

Earn your Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS) degree in a part-time program that helps you advance and transform your career. Design your program with a flexible curriculum that supports your unique professional path; choose from nine specializations taught by information technology industry leaders and veteran Northwestern University faculty. Broaden your network through faculty and fellow students who come from a variety of industries. As an MSIS candidate, you will benefit from unique corporate partnerships and a dynamic curriculum that mirrors current industry systems and methodologies, emphasizing design, implementation, evaluation, and modeling. The online course format meets you wherever you are to accommodate your busy life and commitments.

Complete four core courses, a leadership class, and your specialization courses before completing your capstone project or thesis. 

 Please see the academic catalog for additional information regarding the curriculum. Current students should refer to curriculum requirements in place at time of entry into the program.


Core/Required Courses

(four courses plus a leadership class)

  • CIS 413 Telecommunications and Computer Networks
  • CIS 414 Object-Oriented Programming – or – MSDS 430 Python for Data Science
  • CIS 417 Database Systems Design and Implementation
  • CIS 498 Computer Information Systems Project (Note: Registration for this course will be closed one week prior to the start of the term) - or - CIS 590 Capstone Research (see the SPS Graduate Academic Catalog for guidelines)


Areas of specialization

(Choose one of the following specializations)


Artificial Intelligence Specialization

Recent advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence are affecting the work of data scientists and information systems professionals. Traditional artificial intelligence utilized rules-based, knowledge-based systems and logic programming. Today's artificial intelligence relies on machine learning methods and deep learning, in particular. Data science encompasses traditional statistics, operations research, and machine learning methods. Machine learning methods include naïve Bayes models, nearest neighbor models, classification and regression trees, random forests, support vector machines, and neural networks. Machine learning methods are data-adaptive—they learn from data. Advances in artificial intelligence rely on deep learning, which involves neural networks with many hidden layers learning from very large data sets. Artificial intelligence is a special area of study within data science and information systems. It has important applications in computer vision, natural language processing, and robotics.

  • CIS 435 Practical Data Science Using Machine Learning
  • MSDS 453 Natural Language Processing
  • MSDS 464 Intelligent Systems and Robotics
  • MSDS 462 Computer Vision
  • MSDS 458 Artificial Intelligence and Deep learning
  • Plus two elective from the MSIS curriculum

Note: MSDS 430 is required for this specialization; CIS 414 is not.

Read more about how the AI specialization prepares students for a wide range of information systems careers on our stories page.   

Data Science Specialization

This specialization provides technical and leadership training required for key positions in information technology, data science and analytics. It provides an understanding of how to work in professional roles in today’s data-intensive and data-driven world. It reviews key technologies in analytics and business intelligence drawing from both traditional statistics and machine learning.

  • CIS 435 Practical Data Science Using Machine Learning
  • MSDS 400 Math for Data Scientists
  • MSDS 401 Applied Statistics with R
Any two of the following:
  • MSDS 455 Data Visualization
  • MSDS 458 Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning
  • MSDS 459 Knowledge Engineering
  • MSDS 460 Decision Analytics
  • Plus three electives from the MSIS curriculum 

Note: MSDS 430 is required for this specialization; CIS 414 is not. Neither is CIS 413.


Database and Internet Technologies Specialization

This specialization addresses the growing demand for professionals with technical skills to analyze, design, implement, and manage software applications and digital media for the enterprise and IoT (Internet-of-Things).

The program emphasizes experimentation and application of theoretical concepts to real-world scenarios with the goal of creating business value. Throughout the course of study, students will acquire knowledge and skills in the following areas that can immediately be put to use throughout the digital enterprise:

  • Data modeling and database design, implementation, and programming skills, using both Relational Database Management Systems and NoSQL technologies
  • Design and development of distributed software systems that adhere to sound design principles and best practices, including scalable data services architecture and robust security
  • Integration of data science concepts and machine learning algorithms to solve business problems
  • Practical project management skills that include the use of Agile methodologies
Specialization courses:
  • CIS 419 Web Application Development
  • CIS 431 Database Administration
  • CIS 435 Practical Data Science Using Machine Learning
  • Plus three electives from the MSIS curriculum 

Note: Students in this specialization must take CIS 414 and MSDS 430.


Digital Transformation Specialization

We have entered the Fourth Industrial Age, where high bandwidth connectivity and technologies like artificial intelligence and cyber-physical integration are driving societal and business change at a scale, scope and pace unprecedented in human history. Digital transformation is the response to this revolution, designed to help businesses and institutions adapt to the realities and the ever-increasing pace of this change. Focused on more than merely digitizing existing operations and systems, digital transformation is about using tech to change fundamentally how a business acts, changing the means and the pace of interaction with customers, employees, and value chain participants. Digital transformation practitioners need to capture and drive that change. The digital transformation specialization is focused on preparing students to become leaders of transformation by providing students with a deep understanding of how to identify transformative trends, how to take advantage of change, and how to prepare and design technology strategies to deliver against that change, including data strategy and structure, designing agile organizations, and applying digital technologies to real world business problems. This specialization will include creation of a practical digital transformation plan for a real-world business or institution, providing students with the skills to think about transformation in a practical case and to deliver change that matches the moment.

Key courses in the specialization include:

  • CIS 453 Enterprise Security Strategy
  • CIS 471 Digital Transformation: Strategy and Planning
  • CIS 473 Digital Technologies\
  • CIS 475 Enterprise Data Transformation Strategies
  • CIS 477 Enterprise Architecture
  • MSDS IDS 401 Models and Theories of User-Centered Design Crypto metaverse
  • CIS 495 Enterprise Agility Framework

Information Systems Management Specialization

The specialization in Information Systems Management introduces students to key information system management best practices, IT strategy development, project management methods, information security and technology management techniques that apply to the entire system life cycle. The specialization emphasizes management techniques and methods used to ensure the successful implementation and ongoing operations of information technology capabilities that produce value for the business. Students will learn various approaches to develop IT strategies, evaluate emerging technologies, keep information secure, manage technology project implementations, and develop frameworks to apply to the ongoing management and operation of application and information technology portfolios.

  • CIS 457 Management of Information Security
  • CIS 460 Information Technology Management
  • CIS 465 Information Technology Strategy
  • MSDS 475 Project Management
  • Plus three electives from the MSIS curriculum 


Project Management Specialization

This specialization is designed for IT professionals who want to acquire the skills and competencies for IT project management.  The project management specialization provides the students with the managerial and technical skills that are applicable to information systems software development lifecycle (SDLC) including requirements, analysis/design, implementation, and testing. The student applies the fundamental concepts and techniques of project management like schedule and budget estimation, resource allocation, progress monitoring, risk mitigation and contingency planning to IT projects in the software industry.  The student acquires hands-on experience with traditional project management methodologies and modern project management methodologies like Agile project management. Standards for quality assurance and quality control, like ISO 9000 family of standards, will be discussed and explained to assess the maturity of the development organizations and the development processes for the IT projects. Business Communication and IT budgeting moves projects and innovation forward, focusing on application to real-world initiatives.

  • MSDS 475 Project Management
  • Any 2 of the following:
    • CIS 495 Enterprise Agility Frameworks
    • CIS 496 Business Writing and Communication
    • CIS 497 Information Technology Finance
  • Plus four electives from the MSIS curriculum 


Information Systems Security Specialization

With the proliferation of internet-enabled devices, social media use and software-dependent organizations, securing and safeguarding data, information and business processes is an ever-increasing urgent concern, especially in a post-9/11 world. The information systems security specialization focuses on timely and distinctive skills that allow students to design secured information systems and make recommendations for the protection of sensitive corporate data in accordance with commerce and privacy regulations. Students learn how to plan, budget for and implement secure network systems (LAN, WAN, wireless, mobile, IoT, AR) and lead organizational staff in the secure exchange of digital information across a variety of platforms. Topics include: VPN, firewalls, intrusion detection systems and defensive strategies, cryptography, social engineering, phishing, anti-virus, anti-spam, ethical hacking, ransomware attacks and application security techniques. Students also learn the managerial and administrative aspects of information security such as risk analysis, vulnerability analysis and remediation, network security architectures, policy development and enforcement, legal/regulatory compliance issues, risk management, business continuity planning, and disaster recovery preparation and execution.

  • CIS 452 Cybersecurity Attacks and Counter Measures
  • CIS 453 Enterprise Security Strategy
  • CIS 455 Disaster Recovery and Continuity
  • CIS 457 Management of Information Security
  • Plus three electives from the MSIS curriculum 


Health Informatics Specialization

The health informatics specialization operates at the convergence of IT and health care, where evidence-based medicine, intelligent medical records, and data are leveraged to fuel more efficient, patient-centered health care, payment reform, and improved population health. Assessing health informatics needs from clinical, technical, operational, and financial perspectives, students gain familiarity with the use of standards, information architecture, standard terminologies, and decision analysis in complex health care organizations. Students develop insights into clinical care processes and how IT impacts patients, health care providers, caregivers, and other key stakeholders in a rapidly evolving health care environment. (Note: MHI courses are only available online.)

  • MHI 402 Introduction to Clinical Thinking
  • MHI 403 Fundamentals of Health Informatics
  • MHI 405 HIT Standards and Interoperability
  • MHI 406 Decision Support Systems and Health Care
  • Plus three electives from the MSIS curriculum 


About the Final Capstone Project

Students may pursue their capstone experience independently or as part of a team. As their final course, students take either the individual research project in an independent study format or the classroom final project class in which students integrate the knowledge they have gained in the core curriculum in a project presented by the instructor. In both cases, students are guided by faculty in exploring the body of knowledge on information systems while contributing research of practical value to the field. The capstone independent project and capstone class project count as one unit of credit.

  • CIS 498 Capstone Project (Note: Registration for this course will be closed one week prior to the start of the term) or
  • CIS 590 Thesis Research
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