By Kyle Spurr, UM News Service
MISSOULA – Sarah Keller followed her passion for singing to a private college in Washington. But when COVID-19 made music school more difficult, she decided to study business at the University of Montana.
Three years later, Keller is finishing a degree in management information systems (MIS) and already has a job lined up this spring with one of the largest professional service firms in the nation.
“I realized how great of a career it was,” Keller said. “You can just do so much with an MIS degree.”
Keller, who grew up in Great Falls, is not alone in making the switch to MIS. A growing number of students from a variety of majors are transferring to the MIS degree, making it the fastest growing major in UM’s College of Business.
The degree teaches students how to integrate technology into business, which helps organizations with their processes and decision making. It can lead to careers in cybersecurity, data analytics and solutions delivery – all areas projected to grow over the next decade.
Already, an MIS degree is considered one of the highest-earning at UM with graduates making an average of $84,533 in their first year out of college, said David Firth, a professor of MIS at the UM College of Business.
“Clearly the opportunity to earn very good money is a draw,” Firth said. “But I think the fact that we have recent grads from a whole variety of companies and firms come back and tell their stories of why they love their careers is actually way more important and the bigger draw.”
Firth said recent MIS graduates regularly return to his classes to talk about their work. Alumni also return for meet-and-greets and recruiting events. Three of the four largest national professional service firms send recruiters to UM.
“We have a robust program for our students to engage with potential employers, and this gives them a multitude of touchpoints to understand what it's like to work at a firm or company, as well as talk to people who have graduated from our MIS major and they would likely be working with,” Firth said.
Current MIS students also feel supported through the Montana Information Systems Association student group, which hosts visiting firms and companies and gives students another opportunity to hear about potential career paths.
The MISA student group is led by Keller, who is the president, and Collin Baker, vice president of the club and a senior MIS student from Missoula.
Baker said the club is open to any major and meets once a week. The meetings are a good chance for professional development and often feature events such as resume building workshops and meetings with companies interested in information systems.
“Companies are investing in MIS because that’s the way things are going,” Baker said. “Every company is integrating technology into every part of their business.”
Baker said another beneficial aspect of UM’s MIS degree is the real-world experience. A paid internship is required to graduate, which helps students gain professional connections before leaving campus. Baker interned with the national professional service firm, PwC, last summer and will start a career with that national firm after he graduates this spring.
“Even as interns we did a lot of hands-on work,” Baker said. “I was scheduling and meeting with the clients myself and giving presentations to the partners. You do actual work from the get go.”
MaKenna Boring, a junior from Anchorage, Alaska, was originally interested in studying international business because she grew up learning Japanese and is interested in international careers. She realized an MIS degree would give her a strong path to those goals.
“I am confident in my interpersonal skills, my drive, and my sense of community to help me succeed, but I need to broaden my knowledge in the technology world and the MIS major is making that possible for me,” Boring said. ““MIS is a language that I want to be able to understand in the business world.”
After she graduates, Boring plans to return to Alaska with her MIS skills and help a business or organization achieve their goals.
“I do think MIS is valuable to any type of person,” Boring said. “I’m a very people’s person and often question what degree can help me get where I want to go. Overall, I think having an MIS degree will help me stand out and enter the tech world – which is everywhere now – without being intimidated.”
For Keller, earning an MIS degree allows her to find a fulfilling career while still supporting her love of music.
During her studies, she has participated in a recital choir and UM’s Chamber Chorale. She also is in the Commercial Music Ensemble directed by John Wicks, UM professor of drum set and former rock star drummer for the band Fitz and the Tantrums.
“MIS was an attractive major to me,” Keller said. “A career in MIS will allow me to support my hobbies and interests while learning valuable skills.”
Contact: Dave Kuntz, UM director of strategic communications, 406-243-5659, email@example.com