Four Strengths of Northwestern's MSIT Program

Associate Director Abi Shay shares what she views are unique highlights of the Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) program.

By Abi Shay

All of us in the Northwestern Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) program were excited to host an informational Open House for prospective students on campus this past Saturday.

Abi ShayDuring a break in the day, one of the prospects in attendance approached me and asked for a couple of minutes of my time. He was very interested to hear more about MSIT, but he had a candid question: What do I think are the biggest strengths of the MSIT program?

I gave him my answer and he seemed to appreciate it. It wasn't the first time I'd heard that question, and because I thought it might be helpful to other prospective students, I wanted to share my answer here as well.

So, what do I think are the MSIT program's biggest strengths? While I think there are many, I usually break it down to these four categories.

Unique 70/30 blend of technology and business courses

We feel MSIT offers an innovative curriculum that is uniquely positioned at the intersection of business management and technology. By having 70% of the coursework focus on technical courses, we feel we're able to give our students a robust education that features timeless engineering principles as well as an understanding of state-of-the-art technology. The remaining 30% of coursework is all about business management that helps students understand how to better translate their technology ideas into practical business solutions.

Learn more about the 70/30 split in this MSIT blog post.  

Flexibility and support for your fast-paced lifestyle

Each MSIT student comes to the program with a different professional resume and a different goal for what they want to do with their degree. We make sure each student is prepared for today's and tomorrow's technology, understand how to quantify the business value of IT solutions, and develops the critical thinking and "soft skills" need to succeed and lead. Beyond that, we like offering students flexibility in the topics they can focus on and the skills they can acquire.

For example, MSIT offers special topics courses in:

  • Agile IT Leadership
  • IT Risk Management
  • Leadership
  • Databases
  • Information Retrieval
  • Social Media for Business
  • Data Warehousing

Students can also complete independent studies in object-oriented software engineering, big data, project management, cybersecurity, and web services.

Most students choose the part-time option of the MSIT program because it allows them the flexibility to maintain their full-time employment. This option is ideal for students wanting to earn a degree from one of the nation’s most prestigious universities, without interrupting their careers. Many students discover that they are able to put what they learn in the classroom to immediate use in their current positions while earning a master's degree. To further ease a busy lifestyle, program staff take care of many details, from ordering student textbooks to providing breakfast and lunches on Saturday class days.

Naveed Asem (MSIT '13), who is the Chief Data and Analytics Officer and Senior Vice President at Donnelley Financial Solutions (DFIN), recently talked about how he customized his MSIT experience to help inform and educate others.

"I focused my MSIT experience on public speaking and explaining concepts to people who were outside my data space," Asem said. "This has helped me articulate ideas to leaders throughout DFIN Solutions. I am able to have a conversation with our C-suite and board at a level where I don't lose their attention and make concepts relevant to what they understand."  

Diversity of high caliber students and industries that leads to a life-long personal and professional network

The MSIT program uses a cohort model that allows part-time and full-time students to progress through the program as a group. Participating in a cohort allows for greater networking opportunities with classmates as students share similar academic experiences, personal challenges, and rewards.

Students also participate in a required study group as a way to connect with one another and learn from each other's unique backgrounds and experiences. These study groups were originally formed by students in the early years of the program as a way to share resources and better manage time, and consistently these groups are rated one of the best aspects of the program.

Spending so much time together allows classmates to learn from one another and develop "a sense of family," as Barry Friedman (MSIT ‘17) described it in a MSIT blog post.  

Benefits of being affiliated with Northwestern University

MSIT students receive a degree from Northwestern University, a top-10 national university according to US News & World Report. Students learn from professors and business leaders with backgrounds in engineering, law, and marketing who share experiences in leadership, problem-solving and decision-making.

Beyond that, students are able to take advantage of all the resources available to students within Northwestern Engineering and across the university, such as Engineering Career Development and Northwestern Career Advancement.

If you want to learn more about MSIT and determine if it's the right fit for you, please email me today at