With the explosion of technology and related jobs, there’s no wondering why you might be stuck between two different degree options that—from their labels—seem almost interchangeable. But, believe it or not, information technology and computer science are not one and the same.
The two disciplines overlap, for sure, but they ultimately have different focuses and open up different career opportunities. If you’re not sure what the difference is—or which degree makes better sense for your career of choice—keep reading.
The Basics: Information Technology ≠ Computer Science
Let’s start with the similarities. Both information technology and computer science deal with the technology that supports much of our everyday work. More than likely, your computer software, hardware, and even digital storage system have been touched by both an IT worker and a computer scientist. But the way they work on various technologies is not the same.
A computer scientist works in the background. They’re the ones who build the software/hardware or design the digital storage system from the ground up. They start with nothing and use computer science—code, theory, etc.—to bring new or improved technologies into existence.
An IT worker, on the other hand, installs, implements, and manages the technology. They take existing technology and bring it into specific settings, such as a business startup, where they put the technology in action in order to solve problems or meet a need in the workplace. If they’re implementing multiple technologies together (which they often are), they make sure everything works together properly. Their work often involves the storage and management of information, such as employee or customer data, hence the label “information technology.”
What It Takes: Education for Careers in IT or Computer Science
Because jobs in information science and computer science require different skills, the education requirements to prepare for those careers also differ. Here are a few key differences between our master’s programs at Concordia:
Master of Science in Computer Science – Information Systems Concentration
- 30 credits
- Courses cover informatics (data processing), computing ethics, human-computer interaction, database and information management, and systems development.
Master of Science in Computer Science – Computer Science Concentration
- 30 credits
- Courses cover software design and development, human aspects of computer systems, data management and security, computing infrastructure, and research in computer science.
As you can see, the courses for information technology have more to do with the application and use of technology, while the courses for computer science have more to do with the way technology is designed and built, as well as pushing the limits of what technology can do.
What Can I Do with a Degree in Information Technology or Computer Science?
The good news is, regardless of which route you choose, you should have plenty of employment options. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in computer and information technology occupations will grow by 12 percent between 2018 and 2028, adding approximately 546,200 new jobs.
If you want to create the next big thing in computer technology (say, a new form of artificial intelligence), you should go for the computer science degree. Do you want to create and manage technology systems, support businesses, and make sure they’re keeping software up to date and information safe? If so, information technology is for you. If you want to create new applications, build new computer programs, or design a technology that doesn’t yet exist, go for computer science.
Job opportunities for computer science and I.T.
Here are some of the jobs you can get with a degree in information technology or computer science:
Information Technology Jobs
- Information security
- Network architecture
- Database administration
- Systems administration
- Computer/technology support
Computer Science Jobs
- Software development
- Software engineering
- Systems engineering
- Web development
- Operating systems development
- Computer systems analysis
So, what do you think? Would you rather work in IT or computer science? Whatever you decide, we have the degrees to help you get there. If you’re feeling unsure about your next move, you can check out our free guide 10 Tips for making your move into tech.
This post was originally published on October 4, 2019. It has been updated to reflect current information.
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