Computer Science vs. Information Technology: What Are the Differences?
Did you know that 80% of college students will change their major at least once during their time in school? It’s hard to make a career path decision when you’re still a teenager, so it makes sense.
Just know you aren’t alone if you are indecisive about a major, and unsure which path to follow. But one of the smartest things you can do is major in some form of computer or technology-related field.
Computer science vs. information technology, both seem similar from the outside, but the two fields are actually quite unique. Both provide access to a wide variety of well-paid, in-demand jobs across the country and the globe.
Need help deciding which path to choose? Check out our comparison of computer science and information technology guide below to help out.
What Is Computer Science?
In the computer science field, the main priorities are building computers and computer hardware, as well as building software applications that run on computers.
It’s the foundational degree surrounding the technology world and can open a wide range of possibilities.
With a computer science degree, you might find yourself designing the front-end of websites, programming the back-end of websites, or building out new software applications.
You’ll spend a lot of time programming as a computer science graduate. You’ll be writing code, so learning programming languages will be a huge part of your coursework.
Computer science is all about building the technology that consumers and businesses rely on on a daily basis.
What Is Information Technology?
Information technology (IT) is a similar field with plenty of overlap. However, it’s a different category and results in a different line of work.
Rather than building hardware and software from the ground up, those in the IT world are concerned with how computers and software programs connect to the network, connect to each other, pull information from databases, and operate efficiently.
When a company has an issue with their internet connection or computers that aren’t able to connect in the way that they’re supposed to, they call an IT specialist to come to troubleshoot the issue and resolve it, to prevent it from happening again.
So they aren’t building, they are troubleshooting, maintaining, and repairing. An IT consulting firm can offer solutions to create a better system of interconnectivity, resulting in a more productive work environment.
While knowing a little bit of programming will help you, you’ll spend more of your time learning how to ethically hack into systems rather than writing code of your own. You do need to be able to spot malicious code.
Computer Science vs. Information Technology
So how do the two fields compare to one another? If you still don’t know what to choose, how should you proceed? Here’s how the two stand up next to each other.
You can get started with entry-level IT jobs without a four-year degree. So if you need to start something right away, with the least time and financial commitment upfront, IT is a good choice. You can usually get an entry-level position with a two-year degree in a related field.
You can grow into higher-up roles, or take additional schooling or training on the side as you work.
Those working in computer science will want to achieve at least a bachelor’s degree, if not more.
Salaries can vary widely in both of these fields, depending on the level of education, years of experience, and the specific role you choose within that field.
A basic career in computer science is web development. The average salary is about $68,000. From there, moving onto software development and engineering, full-stack development, and data science, the average salary rises to at least $90,000.
In the IT world, you can get started much sooner at an entry-level position, where you can learn on the job. Careers as helpdesk technicians or computer technicians can earn you around $37,000 to $40,000 per year.
But those who commit to the field and specialize in cybersecurity, systems or network administration, or cloud engineering, can earn at least $78,000.
One of the most important factors that most young people skip over is the typical work setting of a career path. And between the two fields, we are comparing today, they are very different.
In the IT world, you’ll typically work as part of a larger team. There are very few IT lone rangers, as it makes sense to work as a firm instead.
Many IT personnel are working directly with clients. That might mean that you are traveling to their workplace, where you’ll spend hours, if not multiple days installing new systems, troubleshooting, and making the network more efficient.
It also might mean troubleshooting from a distance, which means working at your companies office, communicating with clients over the phone, and diagnosing problems from afar.
Those in the computer science world work differently. They can definitely work as part of a larger team, working in a traditional office building. But Computer science also lends itself more easily towards remote work and even freelancing.
So if you’re a bit more independent, would prefer not to commute, want to live somewhere that appeals to you, not just where the good jobs are located, a computer science degree and career can be up your alley.
Most of your time is spent writing code, with little interaction needed from teammates, managers, or clients. However, remote work and independence can be very difficult for those who get distracted easily.
Choosing Your Path
Computer science vs. information technology, it’s a choice that many aspiring professionals need to make early on in their life. Hopefully, our IT and computer science guide above has helped to clarify what you can expect out of both options.
Neither is best, but it depends on the level of schooling you want to endure, the eventual pay you hope to receive, and the type of work you’d like to do each day.
Looking for more career and computer science tips like this? Hop on over to our blog now to keep reading.