Pursuing degree in MIS: Advice sought

I’m at a point where I would appreciate some advice from some intelligent, savvy types so I turn to you Dopers for some help. As you can tell from the title I’m in the process of deciding whether I want to continue my education and pursue a degree in MIS. A little background first, though.

I started working right out of high school, and was promoted to retail store manager at the age of 19. I’ve been in management ever since. I’ve worked full time ever since as well, so traditional on-campus education is not something I can afford. I completed my A.A. online with a concentration in eCommerce. I have four years of work experience in the political/governmental/legislative field mostly at a department/office manager level.

I’m beginning to tire of being thought of as simply a glorified administrative assistant or secretary, and yearn to get into something more technical, hence my interest in MIS. I’ve found a private college that offers the program online, and the schedule is very convenient. However, my only reservation is that the tuition is a bit steep.

I’ve looked into statistics from the U.S. Dept of Labor that say growth in that area looks positive, but I wanted to know what the market is really like. I’m trying to decide whether the cost of the courses will be justified by a later increase in salary. So, those of you already working in MIS related fields, what has your experience been over the past few years? Where do you think things are headed?

Also, considering my background, what kind of jobs can I expect to look for once I have my degree? I’ve got a strong management background already, but I’m not sure how I will make the transition once I have my degree, with no direct experience in technical fields. Should I start looking for a ‘cross-over’ job that will give me some more hands-on experience while I earn my degree, even if I have to take a pay cut in the interim?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Yes. Experience counts for a whole lot.

I take it this is a Bachelors in IS not a Masters in Information Systems?

I work it a Fortune 500 IT department. We’ve hired once from outside for a manager position in four years. We promote from within and most people have CSci degrees. People who get promoted into manager jobs often have MBAs - usually in IS. We’ve also laid off about 15% of our IT workforce in the past three years. The last job we posted got several hundred overqualified and underqualifed applicants - we ended up not hiring and eliminating the position.

(Note, I don’t have any degree, my background is very liberal arts, I’m paid well, and could have had a managers job if I wanted it - but I’ve been lucky to be in the right place at the right time with the right abilities).

I’m getting out and getting a degree in accounting. I don’t think there is a future here.

This is rather blunt, but this is not the degree I’d work on right now if I were you. But if what you want to do is manage within an IT department, I’d certainly go looking for a job within an IT department, even with a pay cut.

MIS (Management Information Systems), I’m assuming a Bachelor’s degree base on the context. I have one of these from 1996 and I double majored in Economics. The market has changed quite a bit since I got in. If I were you, if you want to pursue this degree, couple it with an entry job fixing computers, doing PC Support, something like this to build your resume. If you decide to stay at your current job, try to see if you can assist in supporting IT.
Once you get the degree there are thousands of jobs you could go into. You could be a Business Analyst, Database Admin, Network Admin, Systems Admin, Computer Support in different industries, Product Testing, there are many possibilities.
Remember that the competition for entry positions is steep, don’t expect to land a high paying job right away. In 1996 I sent out 52 resumes and got 11 job interviews over a 6 month period. I ended up taking a product testing job that paid slightly higher than my retail job at a small company. I was able to grow from this position and fill other roles. I always looked to take on new work, even if it was trivial or uninteresting because it built my experience and resume. I was able to get experience in Medical Imaging where the job market is still strong and I can demand a good salary for my experience.
On the subject of whether or not getting the degree is a good idea, most of the potential employers I’ve excountered look to see if you have the Bachelor’s Degree in a relevant field and if you have some job experience. They then try to weed you out of the pool by finding out about what you know about in IT, can you pass a verbal test of technical questions, do you have the necessary people skills for the position, are you someone who they feel comfortable with in front of their customer, etc.
My advice is to try to get into more IT functions at your current job or find a second position part time where you can learn and develop your skills. If you find this interesting, then go after the degree. There are a ton of IT people with heavy management experience in the job pool, but the ones that continue to succeed have to hone their technical skills to go with the management experience. This places them above the rest of the pack.