The tech field is exploding. Right now, it’s one of the best career fields that’s rapidly developing and bringing on more people. Many people seeking a job in this fast-moving world of tech are often left wondering what exactly it is they want to do in the field. Much like medical professions, there are many different titles and specializations.
Two of the biggest specializations in the tech field are information technology and computer science. In this article, we will layout and compare these two fields so you can make an informed decision about your future.
Computer Scientists comprise the scientific field of computing. They tend to deal more with theoretical concepts as opposed to functional ones, although a practical side of the field does exist. Computer scientists typically spend their time validating mathematical models and theories, which can be used to create efficient and powerful systems.
Computer scientists can be found working on theoretical models in academia and working on practical models that improve real-world business technologies. Computer scientists 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.com, 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.
Information technology is an incredibly broad field with many different positions under it. The term literally means “the study or use of systems for storing, retrieving, and sending information,” according to the Oxford dictionary. This includes computers, the internet, and telecommunications. It also includes the entire system that makes this storing, retrieving, and sending of information possible, including hardware and software. In fact, most would consider computer science to be a subsection of information technology.
For our use, the IT field is often used in a specific sense for those that set up and maintain hardware and systems for users and businesses, along with those that set up and maintain communication technologies. These are people like system administrators, database administrators, network security experts, system engineers, 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. However, 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 only a bachelor’s degree in an information technology field is required.
Information Technology vs Computer Science
These two career paths require very different individuals. For example, consider the math required.
A decent understanding of math is a requirement in almost every tech field, but 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 usually 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, where your trouble could just as much be a damaged component or cable as a faulty algorithm (in fact, it’s usually the former). 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 flipside, Computer science is almost always dealing with theoretical situations. It might be proving that a new idea for data architecture is more efficient than existing systems, or trying to figure 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 that already exist.
Careers in IT are plentiful and relatively easy to obtain. They often only need two to four years of college, and some of the higher paying positions are locked behind extra experience and specific certification programs.
More advanced jobs in the information technology field like computer systems analysts and software engineers, working in design and development, require more rigorous training and often require a degree in a computer science-related major.
Getting a career in computer science is typically more difficult. Computer science jobs usually require a master’s degree, often 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 systems. Computer scientists work on theoretical computer applications and computational models and are at the cutting edge of computer technology.
If you feel like you have a mind for science; that high concepts are your game and math is your favorite language, then you might be one of the few 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?