A North Central College computer science major working in a computer lab.

Computer Science vs. Information Technology

Reviewed by Jacob Imm

Jan 14, 2022

Computer Science vs. Information Technology

There are so many questions about what the next 10 to 20 years will hold. One thing is for certain, though: computer technology will be a vital part of our future, as well as a vital part of our workforce.

But with all kinds of computer technology-related fields out there, how can you figure out which one is right for you? Should you pursue a career in computer science or seek out a job in information technology?

To give you a better idea of which kind of computer scientist you want to be, we’ll be contrasting computer science vs information technology in this educational guide.

What is Computer Science?

Simply put, computer science is the study of computers. It’s an umbrella term that includes everything from hands-on work on computer hardware, computer software and computational machines to more abstract concepts like algorithms and computation.

In many industries, computer science combines theoretical principles with hands-on lab work. For instance, a computer scientist looks for real-world applications for artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced computational systems.

As a rapidly evolving field, computer science is constantly on the cutting edge of technology. Breakthroughs in machine learning and quantum computing will continue to shape the discipline for years to come.

Computer Science Education

Computer science (often shortened to CS) is a popular field of study offered at many colleges. When studying for a bachelor’s degree in computer science, you should expect to learn technical skills like:

  • Programming languages
  • Mathematics (including calculus)
  • Statistics
  • Data structures
  • Algorithm design
  • Software development

While the technology you’ll use in your everyday work will inevitably change over time, there’s no need to worry that your knowledge will be obsolete by the time you graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Your degree program should adapt with the changes as you go. Not only that, you’ll also learn transferable skills in college that will apply to every role you encounter, such as:

  • Time management
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Interpersonal communications
  • Public speaking and presenting
  • Ethics

Majoring in Computer Science

When you major in computer science, you can earn either a bachelor of arts degree (BA) or a bachelor of science degree (BS), depending on where you choose to go to school. Some schools offer one or the other, while others, like North Central College for example, offer both. These programs typically take four years of full-time study to complete.

Computer science students will generally take a variety of classes on computing technology and analysis, as well as more general courses on business skills. Your exact schedule will depend on your school. To give you an idea of what to expect, here’s a selection of courses from the computer science degree program at North Central College:

  • CSCE 160 - Introduction to Computer Programming
  • CSCE 220 - Computer Organization and Design
  • CSCE 230 - Discrete Structures
  • CSCE 420 - Operating Systems
  • PHIL 210 - Professional Ethics
  • COMM 285 - Argumentation and Debate
  • LEAD 230 - Conflict Resolution
  • MEDI 200 - Digital Media Writing

To excel as a computer science major, it helps to have a deep love of technology, a willingness to persevere and a blend of creative and logical thinking.

After completing a CS major, you could choose to apply for a master’s program, diving deeper into advanced topics like machine learning and artificial intelligence. A graduate degree will unlock more opportunities and potentially higher salaries when you get into the workforce.

Minoring in Computer Science

Some institutions—including North Central College—also offer a minor in computer science. A CS minor allows you to learn some of the essential skills of computer science while focusing more intensely on another discipline. In a technology-driven world, minoring in computer science can give you an advantage when job hunting—even if your major isn’t as closely tied to computing as others.

Completing a minor generally requires 20-30 credit hours in your chosen field of study.

Computer Science Job Opportunities and Responsibilities

Because computer science is such a vast field, it should be no surprise that career options are equally diverse. With a CS degree in hand, you can apply for many different roles, with some of the more common including:

  • Computer Network Architect
  • Computer Systems Analyst
  • Software Developer
  • Web Developer
  • Digital Designer

As nearly every company relies on computers to operate, computer science jobs exist in almost every industry, and demand continues to grow. With that in mind, you can combine your computer science degree with other interests and pursue a career in anything from gaming to agriculture to aviation and much more.

In terms of on-the-job responsibilities, there’s a great deal of variation in the above roles. But in almost any computer science job, you should expect to:

  • Write, analyze or edit code
  • Create and maintain internal or external systems
  • Communicate with other departments to solve problems
  • Test technology solutions

Overall, computer science is a rewarding, exciting field that is constantly evolving and providing new opportunities to change the world for the better.

If you want to learn more about computer science as a major, read our linked blogs, “computer science vs. software engineering”, “data science vs. computer science” and “computer science vs. cybersecurity”.

What is Information Technology?

Information technology (commonly referred to as IT) is also related to computing. Specifically, the subject deals with electronic data—how it’s generated, processed, transferred, and securely kept. IT specialists are also interested in the devices and networks that handle and store data.

In a business setting, information technology not only encompasses computers, but also communications systems (telephones) and storage devices.

As technology evolves and improves, so does the field of information technology.

Information Technology Education

As more and more universities offer IT courses and programs, students now have a greater opportunity than ever to hone their tech skills before they enter the workforce. 

The hard and soft skills you’ll learn may include:

  • Computer programming
  • Creative problem-solving
  • Communication
  • Implementing cybersecurity
  • Data analysis
  • Project management

To master this wide range of topics, students will need patience, the ability to self-motivate and work both independently and as a team, and a strong work ethic. 

Find out more about North Central College

Majoring in Information Technology

Most colleges with information technology majors offer a BS, though you may find a BA degree option at some schools. Either way, expect around four years of full-time study to complete your degree.

IT programs take a practical approach to technology; example courses include:

  • Information Technology Architectures
  • System Administration and Analysis
  • Cybersecurity Fundamentals
  • Communication and Technology
  • Database Programming

Additionally, you’ll likely take math and data science courses, as well as general topics like ethics and business. This makes this major a good fit for students who have a deep appreciation of technology and a detail-oriented mindset.

Minoring in Information Technology

Depending on the courses offered at your prospective school, you may also be able to minor in information technology. If you plan to pursue a career in administration or management, an IT minor is an excellent asset in a computer-driven workforce.

After finishing your undergraduate degree, you’ll have a wealth of options. IT graduates most often decide either to apply for a master’s program to further their career prospects or jump directly into the workforce.

Information Technology Job Opportunities and Responsibilities

Depending on your concentration in college and your aspirations, you could land any number of jobs after graduation. You may already be familiar with positions like:

  • Database Administrator
  • Cybersecurity Analyst
  • IT Project Manager
  • Systems Administrator

Almost every company requires at least one IT specialist, so there are plenty of opportunities to find an industry that speaks to you.

Regardless of where you end up, an average workday might include duties like:

  • Setting up and maintaining hardware and software
  • Identifying and resolving security risks
  • Training new recruits on technology solutions
  • Handling software licenses and product orders

The diverse requirements of a career in information technology ensure there’s never a dull moment.

Differences Between Computer Science and Information Technology

As schools look to prepare students for the future, there’s an increasing amount of overlap among these two disciplines. Some subjects commonly show up in both programs, including:

  • Programming languages
  • Data analysis
  • Troubleshooting 

Some colleges even offer joint computer science and information technology programs. Still, there are fundamental differences between the two fields.

In a practical sense, the biggest difference between computer science and information technology is when they come into play. Computer scientists typically research, create and improve computers and their programs; IT workers help maintain these computers and the connected systems after they’re deployed.

Both fields also deal with software and hardware, but computer science is focused more on the former, while IT might handle more of the latter.

Computer Science Salary vs. Information Technology Salary

For such a varied field, computer science salaries don’t differ significantly. Take a look at the following national averages for these specific positions according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2021: 

  • Computer Programmer – The national average is $89,190/year.
  • Software Quality Assurance Analyst – Nationally, the average is upwards of $110,140/year. 
  • Computer Research Scientist – This position boasts a national average of $126,830/year.

As for information technology, we can start with the most familiar job: a computer support specialist. According to the BLS in 2021, these IT workers provide tech support and earn a median annual salary of $55,510 nationally.

Other IT jobs, such as computer and information systems managers, can make more than $150,000 per year.

Both computer science and information technology encompass a broad range of careers, so your salary may differ from those listed above. Factors like experience, education level and geographic location can also affect overall compensation.

With that said, the consensus around careers in these fields is that they can pay well right after college, with plenty of opportunity for growth.

Start Your Technology Journey 

If you’re looking for a future in technology, you will need to find the right school to get you started. Going to a school like North Central College is a brilliant choice. Whether you enroll in their computer science degree program, computer engineering program, or another major in computing, you’ll benefit from excellent instruction from faculty with industry experience as well as the latest technology.

The possibilities don’t end in the classroom, either; you’ll have opportunities for internships and career placements in top technology firms after your studies. Thanks to a wide range of undergraduate and graduate opportunities, North Central College is the perfect place for you to learn and exceed your own personal expectations. Find out more about North Central today.

Jacob Imm is a communications specialist in the North Central College Office of Marketing and Communications. He has 11 years of collegiate communications experience and has worked with hundreds of college students. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University. 

 

Sources:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Computer Programmers. Occupational Outlook Handbook. 8 Sept. 2021.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers. Occupational Outlook Handbook. 8 Sept. 2021.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Computer and Information Research Scientists. Occupational Outlook Handbook. 8 Sept. 2021.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Computer Support Specialists. Occupational Outlook Handbook. 20 Oct. 2021.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Computer and Information Systems Managers. Occupational Outlook Handbook. 8 Sept. 2021.