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Computer Information Systems vs. Computer Science: A Comparison

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The fields of computer science and information systems continues to grow as businesses and governments around the world rely more heavily on technology and data to function efficiently. If you’re seeking a degree in a technically-related field, you may be considering the differences between a degree in Computer Information Systems (CIS) or a degree in Computer Science.

While the two fields do share some overlap, they also have their fair share of differences. Before deciding on which path to embark down, it’s useful to understand their respective requirements and purposes so that you can choose the degree that is more aligned with your career goals and personal interests.

From a bird’s eye view, it’s possible to think of computer science as a more theory-approached degree. On the other hand, a CIS degree is more practical as it sets the theoretical knowledge of computer science into a business context. While computer science dives deeper into the technology, CIS mixes business and communication into the curriculum.

So, which one is for you? Let’s find out more!

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What is Computer Information Systems?

In the most simplest of terms, Computer Information Systems blends business with technology. It focuses on how to apply technology and systems to help businesses operate, so it places a computer science knowledge within its commercial context.

Typically, the degree will blend business courses with computer science, like managerial communication along with coding. The interdisciplinary approach to education means that you can understand technological systems within their context of practical usage.

What is Computer Science?

Computer science is the study of both the hardware and software that powers computers. With roots in math, physics and engineering, a degree in Computer Science provides students with the knowledge of coding, programming, computer architecture, database design and more.

Computer science imparts information on how to build, design and maintain computers and systems. It is a highly analytical degree with a need for problem-solving and the ability to work well independently. There’s no doubt that the degree can be challenging, but it is also highly rewarding.

What Jobs Are Available?

Depending on your degree, the job opportunities vary, but also can overlap between Computer Science and Computer Information Systems. Let’s take a look at some position titles that can be gained with each degree:

1. Computer Information System Jobs

  • Software Developer: A software developer designs and updates computer applications.
  • Web Developer: A web developer designs and codes website for clients and businesses.
  • Systems Administrator: A systems administrator updates and maintains software systems for proper and efficient business uses.

2. Computer Science Jobs

  • Software Developer: Same as above.
  • Computer Systems Analyst: Increase the functionality of computer systems and work with IT to develop best practices and use cases for technology.
  • Software Engineer: Develop and maintain new software that is used on computers.

Regardless of which degree you choose, the field of computing and technology is continuing to grow and expand, so career prospects, as well as salary expectations, are high for both.

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What Does a Computer Information Systems Degree Teach?

A CIS degree is considered to be generally less intensive than computer science because it is less focused on math, physics and engineering as it blends more business and communications courses into the degree.

Some common courses in the degree may include:

  • Algorithm Design
  • Technical Writing
  • Public Speaking
  • Information Systems Analysis
  • Information Systems Development

Some people may prefer this degree over computer science because it delves less into programming and coding than computer science does. However, others may find this to be challenging because there are so many different disciplines that must be learned for the robust application of the degree. This means that you may sacrifice going more in-depth in programming subjects, as other courses in business and communication fill that time.

The mixed curriculum of communications and computer science combines useful information to secure a job in a growing field. According to the job outlook between 2016-2026, the CIS field is projected to grow by 9%.

Key Skills For CIS and CS

Choosing your degree and career is a personal choice, but there are of course a certain set of skills that are useful to master during your studies. The skill sets overlap in both degrees and include:

  • Strategic thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Strong communication
  • Technical knowledge and understanding
  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to work independently

Why Study Computer Science at University of the People

For those who are more interested in the technological aspect of computer systems and want to work hands-on with programming, software and hardware engineering, then computer science offers a more in-depth curriculum to fully understand computing systems.

At University of the People, students can enroll in the computer science program to earn their associate’s or bachelor’s degree in this field. For most entry-level positions, a bachelor’s degree is recommended, and as such, the program can be completed in about 4 years if studying full-time.

UoPeople offers a tuition-free model of education so that anyone around the world can fulfill their dream of earning their degree despite their financial ability. Sometimes assessment fees are required, however there are many grants and scholarship opportunities in case one is unable to afford exam fees.

By earning your degree online, you can choose to study whenever you choose. The flexibility of the program has been one of the key features that has brought students from over 200 countries and territories around the world to UoPeople. Whether you’re a single parent who needs to balance school with family, someone looking for their second chance in life, an employee hoping to excel in their career or a prospective student wanting to earn their first degree, University of the People welcomes everyone in the program to be able to provide you with a degree from an accredited American university.

Some of the coursework within the degree includes: Algebra, Statistics, Programming 1 and 2, Software Engineering, Databases 1 and 2, Data Mining and Machine Learning, Discrete Mathematics, Calculus and more.


It goes without saying that choosing the right degree is a highly personal decision. However, a degree in either Computer Information Systems or Computer Science opens the door to a multitude of growing career opportunities.

While CIS is more focused on the application of computer systems for business uses, computer science is more about the ways in which computing systems are programmed and designed. Both degrees have some overlapping information, but their ultimate outcomes are to serve different purposes. If you like a more practical approach, then CIS may be the better route. If you’re into theory, math, and analytical thinking, then computer science could be your stronger option.

Regardless of which you choose to study, you will face a challenging and rewarding educational experience along with high-paying and always evolving career paths.

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