What Skills Will I Learn in an MSIM That I Wouldn’t Learn at Work?

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Professional development is an essential component of career success but one that's complicated by several challenges. Many people assume they'll receive informal, "on-the-job" professional development support, but research suggests that a lack of opportunities for growth in the workplace is a significant source of stress in the United States. Additionally, even stand-alone seminars, courses and certifications may not be sufficient when industry trends, must-have skills and technology change so quickly.

Most employers understand the benefits of supporting employee development (e.g., enhanced recruitment, higher engagement, lower turnover, simpler succession planning) but may not have the resources to invest in training. Helping workers upskill or reskill takes not only time and money but also knowledge assets and willing mentors. In tech-focused fields, ambitious workers may face even more roadblocks.

Employees who want to advance in disciplines such as information management encounter obstacles when pursuing professional development at work. Executives and stakeholders may understand the growing importance of information management across fields as diverse as health care, business administration and cybersecurity but not know how to nurture information management skills in employees.

The answer to the question 'What skills will I learn in a master's of information management program that I wouldn't learn at work?' is, for most people, the core information management skills that let organizations leverage the power of the data they collect. Most workplaces simply aren't equipped to provide in-depth professional development in this realm. This guide explores why formal education in a program such as the University of Washington Information School's Master of Science in Information Management (MSIM) program offered online is one of the best professional development pathways in this field. It also looks at how MSIM programs develop knowledge and skills beyond what you'll learn on the job.

Why you'll learn more in an MSIM program than you will at work

An MSIM program can prepare you for a career transition

Many professional development programs provided by employers assume employees plan to remain on their current career paths. They do not address the possibilities that employees want to advance into other roles, switch departments or look for career opportunities outside an organization. Opportunities to reskill are rare, and tuition reimbursement or formal training opportunities may only be available to those with relevant experience. If you want to “retool” by learning information management skills but don't have any related experience, your employer may not have structures or policies in place to formally support your efforts.

The interdisciplinary nature of the UW's information management program curriculum makes it accessible to students from all backgrounds — even those without technology, data analytics or information systems experience. The modality provides students with a foundational knowledge of the many facets of information management through in-demand specializations, including: Business Intelligence, Data Science and Program/Product Management and Consulting.

You have to block out time to learn in an MSIM program

When you're working full-time and trying to balance a personal life, finding the time to learn new information management skills at work may be challenging. There are many benefits to enrolling in a degree-conferring program no matter where you are in your career. One is that a more structured student experience can facilitate learning. Another is that you'll be more motivated to succeed. Committing to a degree program such as the UW MSIM, offered online, involves a serious financial investment, making it more likely you'll prioritize live and asynchronous coursework.

However, that doesn't mean that you can't continue meeting your other obligations while earning an information management degree. The UW's MSIM program is flexible by design. The iSchool created MSIM pathways for early- and mid-career students, as well as accelerated and traditional tracks. You can choose a format and pace that will help you meet your personal development goals while balancing your other obligations, such as your family responsibilities and your current job.

An MSIM program will connect you with expert teachers and mentors

Few employers or managers have the time to train employees as thoroughly as a formal graduate program. In the UW's MSIM program, offered online, you'll learn directly from experts and pioneers in this emerging discipline. The program is overseen by full-time core faculty and part-time guest faculty with deep industry and technical expertise. They lead firms across a diversity of industries, leveraging their collective experience to keep the curriculum fresh, explore new ideas and find ways to make the student experience more engaging.

You'll study under professionals with significant information management expertise responsible for driving change in the field. You'll connect with other driven professionals interested in implementing information management strategies and systems to power innovation and improve organizations across disciplines. And you'll connect with industry leaders in Seattle's thriving technology hub through the University's iAffiliates program.

Jesse Velasquez, an Early-Career track MSIM candidate, realized the benefits of studying with iSchool faculty early in his academic journey.

"Dr. Chirag Shah is a fantastic professor who emphasizes the reasoning in processes over the processes themselves," he said. "I learned so much from his method of teaching... and I directly credit [the UW] for helping me secure a data science internship following his machine learning course."

You'll learn things your employer doesn't know in an MSIM program

Many organizations don't know what information management is or have anyone on staff with information management skills or experience. Everything you learn in a part-time MSIM program offered online will make you a more valuable employee.

The UW Information School developed a cutting-edge information management master's degree curriculum that reflects current industry challenges and trends. You can put your new information management skills to work in real time, applying what you learn on the job from day one. University of Washington graduates often see immediate professional benefits in the form of new positions, promotions or more significant leadership roles in their organizations.

You can grow beyond your responsibilities in an MSIM program

The processes involved in collecting, storing and sorting Big Data are part of information management, but this discipline is much broader. The MSIM curriculum at the UW explores an extensive range of issues related to information management's social and ethical consequences. The interdisciplinary coursework covers intellectual property, information bias, freedom of expression, privacy and professional ethics.

Velasquez found this component of the information management degree curriculum particularly compelling, noting that the program teaches a rich variety of information topics entirely grounded in ethics and social responsibility.

"I've learned all about data science, strategic leadership and cybersecurity... but also how to be mindful of the human impact one can have in these fields," he said. "This is an extraordinary combination and so relevant to the world right now! You would never be trained with such a diverse set of skills for a single job role, let alone how to execute them responsibly and inclusively as a leader. It absolutely felt like the right choice stepping into this challenge."

With a master's of information management, you can work in data science, IT management and project management — or launch a career focused on information equity and information management reform. You'll be equipped to deal with the social and ethical issues you will inevitably encounter in an information management career.

These are the information management skills you'll learn in an MSIM program

Enrolling in an information management master's program lets you develop the skills to advance organizational strategy across industries while making meaningful societal contributions.

The University of Washington's MSIM program, offered online, includes four core courses (Analytics Methods for Information Professionals, Foundations of Information Management, Management and Strategic Leadership, and Policy and Ethics in Information Management) plus elective courses that build management, analytical and foundational technical skills as well as develop depth in focused areas of specialization.

Whether you have years of work experience or are just launching your career, you can select a program track tailored to your experience and career goals. Additionally, you can further customize your experience by completing up to two in-demand MSIM specializations, including: Business Intelligence, Data Science and Program/Product Management and Consulting.

The Business Intelligence specialization focuses on business intelligence system design and implementation, data modeling, data warehouse architecture, data visualization development, machine learning, relational databases, SQL and strategic intelligence management.

The Data Science specialization focuses on computational and quantitative methods, exploratory data analysis, network analysis, practical foundations of data science, quantitative analysis of large datasets, R and Python, scaling and distributed computing and supervised and unsupervised machine learning.

The Program/Product Management and Consulting specialization focuses on change management and organizational transformation, developing product and project value propositions, engaging stakeholders, enterprise project organization systems analysis and design, success metrics, organizational problem solving, project management team leadership, and systems and design thinking.

Upon graduation, you'll have the technical and managerial skills necessary to critically analyze processes and solve organizational problems, ensuring information management initiatives are socially conscious, inclusive and equitable.

How to determine if the MSIM is the right professional development program for you

Information systems management and business analytics expertise can only take you so far in a world where people create quintillions of bytes of data daily. Leveraging that information to meet organizational goals and drive positive change requires more than statistical aptitude. Successful information leaders understand not only knowledge management but also the complexities of people, data generation, technology and analytics processes in organizations and society.

There are some information management skills you can pick up at work. Still, you'll need more than basic skills contextualized in one organization to launch a career in this discipline or help your organization develop an information management strategy. In the UW's MSIM program, offered online, you'll hone the holistic information management skills necessary to understand and develop innovative solutions to advance organizational strategy across industry sectors and all types of organizations.

You don’t need any prior experience in technology, data analytics, information systems or information management to enroll in a master's of information management program such as the UW's MSIM, offered online. The MSIM curriculum will give you all the foundational and advanced information management skills you need to be an asset to any organization — and the leadership skills to guide those new to this discipline in their professional development.

"I joined this program hoping to pivot careers into tech, and my background in management made it an ideal choice for me," added Velasquez. "I can certainly say that I've received opportunities and connections that weren't possible before, and as I come closer to graduation, I'm realizing that the program's already helped me achieve that goal and set me on a clear trajectory."

Connect with an enrollment adviser to learn about the online MSIM program requirements and application deadlines or apply online today.