The tech field is exploding. It’s one of the best career fields as it is developing rapidly and bringing on more professionals. Many people seeking jobs in this fast-moving world of tech often wonder what exactly it is they want to do in the field. Like medical professions, there are many titles and specializations.
Two of the biggest specializations in the tech field are information technology and computer science. In this article, we compare computer science vs information technology to help you make an informed decision about your future.
Find Your Bootcamp Match
- Career Karma matches you with top tech bootcamps
- Access exclusive scholarships and prep courses
Computer Scientists comprise the scientific field of computing. They tend to deal more with theoretical concepts as opposed to functional ones. However, a practical side of the field does exist. These professionals spend their time validating mathematical models and theories, which they use to create efficient and powerful systems.
Computer scientists work on theoretical models in academia and on practical models that improve real-world business technologies. They are pushing the boundaries of computing technology, working in fields like artificial intelligence, deep learning, and information theory.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer scientists make $118,370 per year on average in the United States. On Indeed, there are over 19,000 listings for computer scientist jobs. The typical requirements for becoming a computer scientist is a master’s degree in computer science, after earning a bachelor’s with a computer science major.
Information technology is a broad field with many positions. The term means “the study or use of systems for storing, retrieving, and sending information,” according to the Oxford dictionary. This includes computer programs, the Internet, operating systems, and telecommunications. It encompasses the entire system that makes this storing, retrieving, and sending of information possible, including hardware and software engineering. In fact, most would consider computer science to be a subsection of information technology.
The term IT field describes those that set up and maintain hardware and systems for users and businesses. It applies to those that set up and maintain communication technologies. These are people like system administrators, database administrators, network security experts, system engineers, information security analysts, and your local IT customer support guy.
It’s hard to pin down a specific pay scale for careers in IT, as the subject is broad. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, database administrators make an average of $90,070 per year in the US. On Indeed.com, there are over 160,000 job listings for information technology. The requirements for a job in IT vary as much as the positions do. However, typically a bachelor’s degree in an information technology field is enough.
Information Technology vs Computer Science
These two career paths require different kinds of professionals. For example, consider the math required.
A decent understanding of math is a requirement in almost every tech field. However, to be a computer scientist, you must not only love math but be a math expert. Computer science is essentially the study of math thinly disguised as a study of computers.
In most information technology fields, an understanding of systems design is more useful than a strong mathematical background. Though, it does come in handy, especially if you work designing systems rather than just maintaining them.
Additionally, most IT fields are strictly practical. They are almost always dealing with real-world situations and problems, such as a damaged component or cable or a faulty algorithm. The IT field is a lot closer to low voltage electrical work in this sense. Many IT pros keep a voltage meter on them to make sure any suspicious cables are working.
On the flip side, computer science generally deals with theoretical situations. One of its applications is determining whether a new idea for data architecture is more efficient than existing systems. Another is figuring out how to make machines learn the same way we learn. Computer scientists push the boundaries of computer knowledge, rather than designing or maintaining systems.
Once you determine which career path is right for you, you will need to determine which specialty you would like to pursue in each field. For example, computer science vs software engineering. Computer science, as mentioned above, deal with theoretical situations. Software engineers, a specialist within the IT realm, focus more on the creation of applications and websites. The career you choose should align with your interests.
Careers: Computer Science vs Information Technology
Careers in IT are plentiful and relatively easy to obtain. They often only need two to four years of college, but some higher paying positions are locked behind extra experience and specific IT or computer science certification programs. There are also less technical fields under the IT umbrella, like product and project management.
More advanced jobs in the information technology field require more rigorous training and a degree in a computer science-related major. These jobs include software developers, computer systems analysts, software engineers, and web developers.
Getting a career in computer science is typically more difficult. Computer science careers usually require a master’s degree, along with years of experience. Degree programs in computer science aren’t easy either. In fact, more students drop out of computer science degrees than almost any other field: a staggering 9.8% of students in 2017.
Information technology is a broad field, but involves creating and maintaining practical and physical information systems. Computer scientists work on theoretical computer applications and computational models and are at the cutting edge of computer technology.
If high concepts are your game and math is your favorite language, then you might be cut out to be a computer scientist. If not—if you just enjoy computers and like the idea of working with them—then information technology might be the field for you.
Either way, there are careers waiting for you in both fields. What’s holding you back from starting?
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.