You use computers in both IT and computer science. But did you know they are different fields?
In college, computer science and information technology are two distinct disciplines. It is the differences that draw college students to study these subjects. But what are the differences between computer science and information technology? Which one should you study?
This article looks at computer science vs information technology. We review the differences and similarities between the two disciplines. We also explore various career paths for both computer science jobs and careers in IT.
Read on for more information on the difference between computer science and IT.
What is Computer Science?
When you study computer science in school, your focus is on programming and coding. Computer science uses mathematical algorithms to program computers. It is the study of computers and computational systems. You learn about these existing systems when you take computer science classes.
Computer Science Courses
Computer science majors take courses that develop their computer science skills. They explore topics such as:
- Cloud computing and business processes
- Computer architecture
- Computer science roles
- Software development
- Writing code
While some courses overlap with the subjects taught in information technology, not all do. In computer science, your curriculum and classes tend to focus on how to design and build computers and programs.
But information technology deals with how to maintain and troubleshoot computers, networks, systems, and databases. Read on to find out more about the difference between IT and computer science.
What Is Information Technology?
An information technology degree program offers similar courses that a computer science major takes, but some are different. The difference is what makes information technology degrees unique.
In an IT program, your focus is on technology. You do less building and more troubleshooting. You solve computer network problems and debug databases and software.
Information Technology Courses
You take courses that cover information systems and technology. Courses cover topics such as:
- Computer networks and technology
- Data analysis and technology
- Systems administrator tasks
- Technological trends
IT Vs Computer Science Careers
An IT career involves installing, organizing, and maintaining computer systems. It also includes designing and operating networks and databases. Information technology is for people who enjoy working in teams. Team leaders meet with clients and staff meets with customers. IT specialists should have good people skills.
In computer science, you work on the foundation for technology. You do less troubleshooting and more building. You build, code, and create. Many tasks are independent. You can work as part of a team, but you do your job alone.
Computer Science Education and Career
Coders spend hours alone solving puzzles and engaging their creative side. If this work appeals to you, a coding position might be a good fit.
A CS degree gives students a rigorous education in discrete mathematics and computer science theory. Most CS graduates go on to become software developers or web programmers. Those who go to graduate school work in research or teach at the college level. Others get information technology jobs in the growing field of artificial intelligence programming.
“Artificial intelligence will reach human levels by around 2029. Follow that out further to, say, 2045, we will have multiplied the intelligence, the human biological machine intelligence of our civilization a billion-fold.” —Ray Kurzweil (Forbes, July 2017)
With a four-year degree in computer science, students can find employment as:
- Computer scientists
- Machine learning experts
- Software developers
- Software engineering specialists
- Web developer
If you plan to work as a software developer, you should learn how to program on your own. You then bring these skills with you to college. Your education will build on what you know about algorithms, data analysis and structures, and design.
In college, your computer science degrees help you learn different programming languages. Some you may have worked with in the past. Others might be new. These languages include:
Popular Computer Science Jobs
A database administrator builds a database for an organization or business. They use their computer science skills to organize and update data. They work with cloud storage usage and make changes as needed. These computer scientists keep the database running the way it should.
Hardware engineers are computer scientists who design computers. They oversee the manufacture and installation of computers and hardware. They also do new product testing.
Programmers create codes for software programs using different programming languages. They use their coding skills to create computer programs.
Software Developers and Software Engineers
A software developer or software engineer is a computer scientist who designs and builds programs. They also create applications and operating systems for computers.
Information technology vs software engineering? There are major differences between the two, but IT professionals can apply their skills in one area to the other.
A systems manager job plans and works with computer-related activities. These computer scientists coordinate technologies so they function together.
Web developers design websites. But they do more than design work. They use technology and computer science to create functionality and make sure a site is user-friendly. To do the job, they use artistic design principles and create links to related information.
Information Technology Education and Career
If computer science creates building blocks, then IT professionals stack those blocks on its foundation to build structures. In this illustration, the “city” is our global community. It includes:
- Health systems
- Recreation and art
- Other elements of society that have become digitalized
An IT career doesn’t include a computer science (CS) degree. But the degree can open doors to different careers.
IT professionals work in a business environment. They install internal networks and computer systems. Some also program. But they work more on technology and less on programming and creating systems.
Popular IT jobs
Cloud architects organize and clean up a central storage place known as the “cloud.” To do this job, you must have basic knowledge of operating systems and networking. You should also have experience working in different programming languages.
Computer Forensic Investigator
A computer forensic investigator refers to computer science professionals who search for and retrieve specific data from computers. They analyze that information and use it in criminal investigations.
Computer Security Specialist
A computer security specialist handles the security of a company’s data. In this role, you design software for specific machines. You also check computers for security breaches, such as cyber attacks and unauthorized data mining.
IT consultants work anywhere companies rely on a digital network. They research and experiment with systems to make cost-effective programming. Many IT consultants work for consulting firms, but some are independent contractors.
Health IT Specialist
Health IT specialists work in healthcare organizations such as:
- Insurance companies
They coordinate data related to patient charges, records, and referrals. They keep track of sensitive patient information and keep it protected.
Working in IT
With a two- or four-year IT degree, graduates can find work in many different roles. Information technology graduates land jobs in database administration, information security, and network architecture. They also work in customer support and systems administration.
But some jobs demand advanced computer science and programming knowledge. For these jobs, you should have a CS degree with an IT specialization. There are computer science programs that offer concentrations in IT, but few IT programs that offer CS concentrations.
If you don’t want to earn a concentration, you can take electives or advanced courses that give you IT experience. You can also get a certification that shows you have advanced knowledge in an area of IT or information systems. We discuss these certifications below.
Professional Certifications: Information Technology vs Computer Science
Tech schools and universities offer certifications for computer science and IT professionals. They make job candidates stand out to employers. Earning a certification can advance your career.
There is no national organization that certifies or licenses computer scientists or information technology specialists. But there are two basic types of professional certifications you can get. One is the vendor-specific certificate and the other is the vendor-neutral certificate.
Vendor Specific Certificate
Computer tech companies award vendor-specific certificates. Think Microsoft or Cisco Systems. Certificate programs teach you how to use the products of the sponsoring company. These companies encourage businesses to use their products, platforms, and processes by offering courses.
By earning a certification, you show off your expertise in these products. A company that uses Microsoft programs looks for employees with Microsoft certification in those platforms or products.
Cisco Systems also offers certifications to help solve business processes. These certifications include:
- Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr)
- Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA)
- Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE)
- Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP)
- Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT)
- Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)
- Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
- Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
- Cisco Certified Technician (CCT)
Vendor Neutral Certificate
Vendor-neutral certificates do not promote a single brand or company. Anyone working in computer science or IT can gain expertise and earn certification. These certificates do not restrict employees to an employer or system.
Entry-level certificates do not have prerequisite courses. They are for experienced professionals with little to no background in the area of study. A computer scientist or tech support specialist with little work experience can qualify for a certificate exam. If they pass, they get the certificate. It’s as easy as that.
Certificates take 3-12 months to earn. Some are self-paced and self-directed online. Others are face-to-face programs. Self-directed certificates cost around $500. But face-to-face workshops cost more.
Does Information Technology Require Coding?
Jobs in computer engineering require coding. But what about IT in computer science? Do you need experience as a coder to work in IT?
Since IT is computer science work, there are jobs that use coding. Having expertise in coding helps. But it’s not a requirement. Your level of coding experience depends on the job.
IT deals with troubleshooting and problem solving. While a software engineer might spend their days coding, an information systems specialist solves business problems. Jobs in IT don’t include building structures and systems.
So, most jobs in IT do not demand coding skills. But having these computer science skills could help you move around and advance in your career.
Computer Science vs Information Technology Skills Needed
There are certain technical skills that a computer scientist needs to succeed on the job. IT professionals, too, need skills to help them do their job. The difference between information technology and computer science jobs are the skills you need.
But some skills in computer science and IT are the same. These skills are not technical, but “soft skills.”
Whether you work in artificial intelligence or cloud computing, you should be detail-oriented. A computer scientist or IT professional pays attention to small details.
Many IT jobs, such as technical support specialist or systems administrator, work with people. In these roles, you must have good communication skills. Tech support staff should also be good with customers and have strong customer service skills.
Project management skills
Because IT and computer jobs deal with deadlines, you should have strong time management skills. You should be able to see tasks through to completion while balancing deadlines.
IT Vs Computer Science Degree Jobs
You don’t need a graduate degree to land a good-paying job in IT or computer science. Many tech employers look for the following:
- Bachelor’s degree
- Related college coursework
The general rule for tech jobs is to have at least an undergraduate degree in degree programs like computer science or IT.
But you should also be a good problem solver. This means you should have strong math skills. Of course, you should also know different computer languages if the job calls for it. And your critical thinking skills should be off the chart.
Types of Computer Science and Information Technology Degrees to Get
To get a job in IT or computer science, you need a CS or IT bachelor’s degree. Your courses should cover many different technology-related topics. You should take data structures and algorithms to show off your math skills. You should also cover database systems and network architecture to display your coding knowledge.
With your bachelor’s degree, you can earn a certificate or specialization. Popular undergraduate certificates include cloud computing and big data.
Graduate IT and computer science degrees go by many names. They include a Master of Computer Science, Master of Science in Computer Science, or Master of IT and Computer Science. You take the same courses no matter what title your degree has. Your courses cover both math and computer topics.
You can earn graduate certificates in specialized areas that complement your degree. Popular certificates include advanced information technology and cybercrime investigation. These certificates give potential employers insight on your specialized knowledge.
How To Stay Ahead in a Changing IT Career
With constant advances in modern technology, it is important to keep up with the latest trends. To do this, you can follow journals and blogs that computer scientists and IT professionals use. These include:
- ACM Computing Surveys
- Frontiers of Computer Science
- Information Technology Q & A Show (YouTube channel)
- IT World
- Ryan Mangan’s IT Blog
- SIAM Journal on Computing
- SmartSpate Information Technology Blog
- The Journal of Supercomputing
- Yegor’s Blog About Computers
Annual Conferences are also a good way to stay informed. Here are some popular annual IT, computer science, and computer engineering conferences:
- Adobe Summit
- Citrix Synergy
- Computational Complexity Conference
- Consumer Electronics Show
- Dublin Tech Summit
- IBM Think
- International Colloquium on Automata, Languages and Programming
- International Conference on Software Engineering
- Oracle OpenWorld
Job Outlook and Salaries
The Bureau of Labor Statistics lumps computer science and IT jobs together under the heading of “Computer and Information Technology Occupations.” But if you want to work in information technology vs software engineering, you can expect a good job outlook.
Projected job growth is 15% through 2031, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But some jobs see the highest growth and salaries.
Web developer and digital designer jobs should grow 23% by 2031. The median salary for these computer science jobs is $78,300/year.
Software developer jobs also show strong job growth and good earnings. Job growth is 25% through 2031. The average earnings for this job is about $109,000/year. With a bachelor’s degree, you can earn good wages right out of college.
But the highest-paying computer science vs IT occupations are:
- Computer and information research scientists: $131,490/year
- Computer network architects: $120,520/year
Other High-Paying Computer and IT Jobs
- Information security analysts or information systems analysts: $102,600/year
- Database administrators and architects: $101,000/year
- Computer systems analysts: $99,270/year
Best Locations for Computer Jobs
Where is the best place to look for a job in computer science or IT?
You have to go where the jobs are! This includes Texas, California, Georgia, and Alabama. At least that’s what CompTIA tells us in a recent research report.
According to this report, the best place for tech jobs is Austin, Texas. The area posted over 64,000 technology jobs last year alone. With companies like Amazon, Deloitte, and GM, there’s no shortage for computer scientists jobs.
Other places to find IT and computer science jobs include:
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- Durham, North Carolina
- Chapel Hill, North Carolina
- Huntsville, Alabama
- Raleigh, North Carolina
- San Jose, California
- Seattle, Washington
- Washington, DC
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This concludes our article on the differences of IT degree vs computer science degree programs.