This is probably the most confusing dichotomy that high school students face when they are deciding what career path to take. When in fact, the difference between Management Information Systems (MIS) and Computer Information Systems (CIS) is quite simple.

What really differentiates the two? Are they really different, since most people argue otherwise? Probably the first road to understanding these two majors is realizing that CIS and MIS exist as two different majors essentially due to the substantial difference in not just the study content but the career paths of the two as well.

In a nutshell, CIS major will teach you in depth about all the technical aspects of a computer and how its systems run. MIS is a step ahead, and teaches you brief technical systems aspects, along with how you can make the best use of these systems in a business environment according to the various departmental uses. In other words, MIS swings more towards management and decision making. CIS swings more towards detailed technical aspects and programming.

Of course, MIS students can take the career path of being programmers too. And CIS graduates can take the career path of being managers. However, this usually requires the former taking extra programming courses or the latter taking extra management courses. But essentially, CIS professionals focus on the technical side. MIS professionals, as shown below, speak both the technical as well as the business language.


So, it really depends on what you want to go into. If you are interested in management as well as programming, MIS is for you. But if you have a logical mindset and enjoy technical problem solving and uncovering the language of computers in detail, then CIS is for you. Either way, both fields are challenging and fun. The table below summarizes the main differences:



What is Management Information Systems (MIS)?

Management Information Systems (MIS) is the study of three major factors

How do you study these factors together? Actually, you can only study them if you have an interest in technology and the desire to use technology to improve people’s lives.
In the business world, MIS is a major which concentrates on solving business problems and creating new opportunities with technology. In fact, in MIS, modern and computerized systems gather relevant data, both from inside and outside an organization. This data is then processed, integrated, and stored in a centralized database (or data warehouse) where it is constantly updated and made accessible to all who have the authority to access it, in a form that suits their purpose. For instance, Amazon could use a computer database to keep track of which products sell best.
Previously, the MIS department was originally the whole of information technology. From the 1960s to the early 1980s, practitioners and business schools referred to MIS rather than IT. Enterprise computing’s main role was to help the CEO and CFO with information systems management for a few key run-the-business tasks, such as order entry, accounting and budgeting. Programmers carefully wrote codes on a mainframe to carry out these functions because no enterprise applications existed. Can you guess the results if businesses still run manual accounting? The CFO oversaw MIS, ensuring that the developers and administrators delivered what accounting needed.
Further in the 1980s, with the appearance of PCs that ran spreadsheets, the scope of computing’s responsibilities started to alter. Personal spreadsheets took business-critical processes out of the domain of upper management; MIS expected to benefit a more extensive scope of clients, deploying external as well as internal software programs. Therefore, the name of the department changed to reflect this new set of internal customers, becoming Information Systems (IS). The MIS department became one, still-vital part of the overall IS department.