MS/IM Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

About the MS/IM degree

I’m excited about the field of information management and the new degree, but I don’t think I really understand it.

Designed to meet the demand for a larger and better prepared information management workforce, the MS/IM prepares students for information-intensive professional roles in a broad range of sectors. Our graduates are poised to lead the way in wielding the world’s growing information resources for the greater good..

Information management is a broad area and is evolving rapidly, with many new opportunities arising. Organizations of all kinds increasingly rely on the strategic use of information to create solutions to society’s most pressing challenges. Our goal is to give you a competitive edge in securing a rewarding position, make you an expert in helping organizations better manage and utilize information, and educate you to be a future leader. We want to future-proof your skills so that you can work at the forefront of the latest technologies and innovations. Our flexible curriculum prepares our graduates to stand out as innovative, adaptable “quick studies” who can assess human information needs and integrate effective solutions in the workplace.

What will I learn that will help me land that first job, seize opportunities, and become a leader in my field?

You will learn important technical skills depending on the professional pathway you choose (see the coursework section below). You also will learn many other value-added skills to ensure your professional success. These include how to work as a member of an interdisciplinary team and contribute unique problem-solving skills; stay on top of rapidly changing technologies and practices; cope with messy data; do great work on tight deadlines; handle information overload; explain the results of your analysis to people in other parts of the organization; and increase organizational productivity and efficiency.

How long does it take to get the degree?

Although this program can be completed in one year, many students in similar master's programs choose to take one and one-half to two years to complete the degree.

This is a new degree. That sounds exciting, but a little daunting.

It is exciting! Our school is renowned for excellence in graduate education. For nearly two decades, our MS/LIS has been ranked #1 by U.S. News & World Report. This ranking reflects not only the quality of our current degree but also the excellence of our faculty, staff, and students; the leadership of our alumni; and the support of friends and colleagues at our peer institutions across the nation. It also reflects our strengths in creating innovative educational programs and ensuring that our graduates have excellent employment prospects. We intend to offer a first-class learning experience for our MS/IM students, building on our recognized success in professional education by offering the premier degree in information management.

Comparing LIS and IM




Programming knowledge required?



Accredited by the American Library Association?



What are the required courses?

  • Information Organization and Access
  • Libraries, Information, and Society
  • Information Modeling
  • Data, Statistical Models, and Information
  • Sociotechnical Information Systems

Are graduates information professionals?



Curriculum and Coursework

What skills will I gain from my coursework?

You will take three required courses to ensure your knowledge of important technical and organizational skills. You also may choose to follow one of four professional pathways. Depending on the pathway and specific courses you select, you may develop skills in data cleaning; data analytics and presentation to different stakeholders; good policies for data management; and data privacy and security.

What are the specific pathways that I can take to enhance my degree?

The four pathways are:

  • Data science and analytics
  • Privacy, trust, security, and ethics
  • Information architecture and design
  • Knowledge management and information consulting

Within these pathways, there are a range of suggested courses. You will have the option to tailor your degree, building on your existing skills and expertise, and add new perspectives that will enhance your ability to address a range of information management challenges in a rapidly changing field.

How much choice will I have in the courses I take?

Our degree can be customized according to your career interests. With three required courses—and a programming course, if needed to gain sufficient expertise—the curriculum is very flexible. After selecting a pathway, you can work in coordination with your advisor to choose a combination of elective courses.

The electives offered in the program will either provide you with core learning concepts or the application of skills or techniques to be used in the pathway. For example, in the pathway for privacy, trust, security, and ethics, you can take courses in information ethics and privacy in the internet age, but you also might take a course in geographic information systems (GIS) to explore problems of equity, or data visualization to learn about privacy issues. And our data analytics courses will teach you about information privacy and how to develop policies to ensure the ethical use of data in organizations.

Can I take courses in other departments and colleges in the University?

Yes, you may take up to 12 credits from other graduate programs, as long as spaces are available in those classes.  

Can I take business and management courses in this degree?

The required course in sociotechnical information systems provides students with analytic tools for examining the interaction between people and technology in work settings and experience in applying that knowledge in IT modeling, design and management. A focus of our degree is to consider information management issues from a broad range of perspectives with a people-centric focus. Our students learn not only to analyze data but also what it means, how to explain it to colleagues, and how to make decisions that will benefit the organization and society. Other electives include LIS530E: Business Information, LIS549: Economics of Information, LIS569: Financial Management, LIS590AC: Applied Business Research, LIS590CM: Change Management, LIS590MG: Project Management for LIS, and LIS590ST: Strategic Information Management.

What value does this degree add on top of any degrees I may have already earned?

Our degree adds value by preparing you for career paths that work with analysis, design thinking, and implementing solutions. For example, if you have a background in engineering, the MS/IM will teach you to work with the heavy load of data that engineers must manage in order to, for instance, interpret and mobilize the information that bridge sensors might produce. If you come from business and finance, this degree will add the ability to apply the principles of data analytics to, for example, sales data so that you can identify strategic trends for your organization. In both cases, this degree will insure that you can communicate findings to team members who do not have a data science background.

Degree Requirements

How much mathematical and programming knowledge is required for the MS/IM?

Information management involves organizing data, which requires dealing with numbers and logic, so you should enjoy learning both mathematical and logical concepts and processes. The MS/IM degree requires a course in statistics: LIS542: Data, Statistical Models and Information. This course will teach you useful techniques in making sense of data and how to understand and implement a comprehensive approach to big data.

How much reading, writing, and critical thinking is required for the MS/IM?

Information management involves organizing systems to work with people, so understanding issues that relate to people’s information needs is very important. For some of the courses related to social issues, you can expect a medium to heavy load of reading each week designed to help you understand people’s information needs. For other courses, the reading and writing will be lighter, but you will spend more time on analysis and design.

Just as we provide help for students with less background in statistics and programming, we also provide support for learning how to tackle occasional larger reading loads and writing assignments. We have our own in-house writing instructors as well as access to university resources for writing support.

I’m really interested, but I don’t have much programming experience. Is it required?

No, programming experience is not a prerequisite. If you don’t have sufficient programming experience, you will be required to take a programming class. If you have programming experience, you can petition out of that class.

Do I have to complete a thesis?

No thesis is required. Our degree is designed to be as flexible as possible. There are three required courses and four professional pathways. You will have the option to tailor your degree, build on your existing skills and expertise, and add new perspectives that will enhance your ability to address a range of information management challenges. There are options to complete a thesis or smaller independent study if you choose, but it is not required.

Why are you asking for an essay, and what are you looking for?

We ask for one item, a personal statement. Information management involves learning many technical analytic skills, but you need the ability to clearly and completely explain your conclusions, which often involves writing. A significant amount of your studies will focus on learning a range of skills that prepare you to land a job and become a leader in your field.

Learning with us is not about sitting down, taking notes, memorizing facts, and doing problem sets. It is about investigating things in the world and then assembling ideas and insights, using analytic approaches and different methods to understand—and recommend actions. This essay allows you to show us your potential to learn how to do these things even better. We are not looking for a “right answer.” We are asking you to show us what you have learned or discovered and to show us that you can explain it clearly.

Do I need a particular degree to be eligible to apply for the MS/IM?

No. You do need a bachelor’s degree, but it can be in any discipline. We welcome people with all kinds of prior degrees. With difficult information management problems, it helps to have a range of different perspectives to help develop solutions. We want to help students learn how to work together successfully in teams with diverse backgrounds and intellectual perspectives.

International Students

What resources are provided for international students?

International Student and Scholar Services provides great support for our international students through advising, immigration services, programming, advocacy, and outreach. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the second top destination for international students attending public universities in the United States (fifth among all schools, including public and private), according to the 2015 Open Doors report released by the Institute of International Education (IIE).

Is this degree STEM-designated?

Yes, the MS/IM is a STEM-designated program, which allows international students to remain in the country and gain work experience through Optional Practical Training (OPT) for an extended period of time. Graduates of STEM-designated programs are allowed to apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT, provided certain employment conditions have been met.

I am a non-native English Speaker. What are your requirements for English skills?

International applicants whose native language is not English must submit evidence of having passed the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) with a score of 620 or higher (or 260 or higher for the computer-administered version; 104 or higher [at least a 25 in each section] for the IBT). (The Intensive English Institute exam may be substituted with a score indicating comparable English proficiency.) The IELTS test is also accepted with a minimum score of 7 in each section. The iSchool's TOEFL code is 90.

Note that there are certain exemptions. See:

Please note that while you will learn technical skills of data analytics—as well as the development and use of databases, scientific programming, statistical methods etc.—you also will learn about the wider context of use of data in organizations. That means you will read research papers and discuss what you have read and its meaning with your professors and fellow students. You will write essays as well as solving problem sets. These skills will position you to be an effective team member and a leader in an organization.

Tuition and Funding

How much does it cost to complete the degree?

Costs depend on how you complete the program, which typically will take a one to one and one-half years. On-campus tuition is charged per credit hour in Fall and Spring, and Summer fees are charged in financial ranges. Academic year 2016-2017 tuition and fees for full-time (12-credit hour) registration for the MS/IM program will be $8,926 per semester for Illinois residents and $13,956 per semester for nonresidents. Tuition and fees for taking 8 credits in summer 2016 will be $5,893 for Illinois residents and $9,185 for nonresidents. An additional fee of $35 per semester applies to international students.

Summer registration rates for 2017 are not yet available. Completing the degree in one year will cost approximately $23,667 for Illinois residents and $37,019 for nonresidents. The most up-to-date information about tuition and fee rates can be found at the Office of the Registrar.

Are scholarship opportunities available?

Yes. Visit the Tuition and Financial Aid page to learn more.

I'm a University employee. How much will this degree cost?

The MS/IM is a self-supporting program like the part-time MBA. Full-time employee waiver policy is set by the Board of Trustees and administered by Academic Human Resources. See Cost Recovery and Self-Supporting Programs for a list of programs at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign not recovered by tuition waivers.

Professional Experience and Career Assistance

What are the opportunities for working while I study?

MS/IM students may hold hourly positions. Previous students in our programs have secured positions with businesses in the University’s Research Park, including corporate partners such as State Farm, Caterpillar, and more. Such positions, including paid internships, provide excellent work experience and often lead to full-time job offers for after graduation. The MS/IM degree is self-sustaining, so students are not eligible for University assistantships that generate a tuition waiver.

Can I complete a summer internship to gain experience instead of taking courses?

We encourage and support students in gaining relevant work experience. While we don’t offer credit for internships, our curriculum allows you to take longer than one year to complete the required 40 hours of coursework. As a result, students may choose to invest in an extra semester to build their career portfolio. Tuition and fees are based on a per-semester basis, so if you choose to take an extra semester, you will have to pay for that semester.

Do you provide assistance with career exploration and job seeking?

Yes, we have a career services office in our school, and our experienced staff collaborate and connect students with other career services across campus.

What kinds of jobs will graduates of your MS/IM degree obtain?

Many alumni from our LIS program have pursued exciting careers in information management, and the skills we teach are in high demand and short supply. We want to provide you with a competitive edge in a field where new opportunities arise every year. We are proud to launch this degree with the first class in fall 2016, and we hope you will join us and take advantage of the many opportunities this exciting field has to offer!

Are there research opportunities?

Yes, our faculty consists of researchers with international reputations, many of whom are teaching in the MS/IM degree. We are a research-oriented university and our school in particular has made many outstanding contributions to new knowledge in the information sciences. You can read more here about our School's research vision and individual faculty member's projects.