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Computer Science vs. Information Technology: A Detailed Analysis

Updated: July 25, 2022 | Published: March 17, 2019

Updated: July 25, 2022

Published: March 17, 2019

Difference Between Computer Science and Information Technology copy

The field of computer science and information technology is expected to grow much faster than other industries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s expected to grow by 13% between 2020 and 2030, and will likely add nearly 670,000 new jobs. It’s helpful to understand the difference between computer science and information technology if you’re looking to work in technology.

Here, we will break down all there is to know about computer science vs. information technology degree programs.

Source: Unsplash 

What is Computer Science?

Computer science teaches the ins and outs of software and hardware development. Students who enroll in computer science programs can expect to learn various programming languages, how to create applications, ways to manage database systems, and computer theory.

What is Information Technology?

Information technology includes an understanding of computer hardware and software, but it is more focused on how to use cloud computing, storage, hardware, and software systems for communications purposes. People who major in information technology can go on to work on IT teams within organizations and be responsible for setting up the systems that facilitate data storage, transfer, and communication networks.

What is the Difference Between Computer Science and Information Technology Degrees?

While there is a natural overlap between IT vs. CS, there are main differences in terms of what each degree covers. The skills and knowledge learned in each respective degree align with the positions that a graduate of the degree can go on to obtain.

Computer science programs are about development, which means that students will work with mathematical models, algorithms, computational theory, and data security.

On the other hand, information technology is about implementation, support, and management. In turn, students learn about information systems, including hardware like CPUs and hard disks and software, like web browsers and operating systems.

Specializations: Computer Science

With a computer science degree, students have the option to specialize in many different subjects, including:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Machine learning (ML)
  • Data science
  • Cloud computing
  • Video game development

Specializations: Information Technology

As someone who studies information technology, you can choose to focus on:

  • IT management
  • Network administration
  • System administration
  • IT strategy and innovation

Skills: Computer Science vs Information Technology

Since the focus of each degree program and position differ, you can expect to hone different skills depending on the program you choose.

Here’s a look at the skills you can expect to learn or improve upon in each degree and field.

Computer Science

  • Programming languages
  • Coding and code sharing platforms
  • Mathematics, including algebra, calculus, and statistics
  • Data analysis and tools

Information Technology

  • Programming languages (especially scripting languages like Python)
  • Network configuration
  • Firewalls and security protocols
  • Ethical hacking
  • Data administration skills (SQL)

Degree Length: IT vs. Computer Science

Despite the differences between IT and computer science, the length of each degree typically takes the same time to complete. That is the case if you are obtaining a degree of equivalent levels. For example, if you are comparing a bachelor’s in computer science to a bachelor’s in information technology, then you can expect both to take roughly four years to complete. If, however, you are comparing an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree, then the associate’s degree is going to take less time to complete because there are less credit hours required.

In the same vein, the cost of the degrees will be similar. They will vary by institution, online versus in-person degree programs, location, etc.

When thinking about earning your education in either field, you’ll want to know what types of jobs you can land with each degree. After all, that’s probably why you’re going to earn a degree in the first place, isn’t it?

Let’s take a look.

Job Opportunities: Information Technology vs. Computer Science

Here are some positions and average salaries, based on salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Computer Science

Information Technology

As you can see from this very abbreviated list of job opportunities, positions within the field of computer science and information technology tend to be lucrative. Most positions will require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a related field. If you’re looking to fill high-level positions, you may need to continue your education to earn a master’s degree or terminal degree. 

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Earning Your Degrees Online

Did you know that you can earn either of these degrees online? There are many benefits of choosing online degree programs over in-person programs. For starters, they tend to be more cost-effective. Additionally, students get to choose to learn at their own pace and on their own time.

When searching for online programs, it’s optimal to choose a program that is accredited. To learn more about why that’s the case, check out this resource. 

The University of the People is happy to announce that it’s added to its degree offerings in the field of technology. Our online and tuition-free university has touted a Computer Science program for many years, with the option to choose between an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree.

More recently, our institution has expanded its degree offerings by adding a Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) degree. Just like the Computer Science program, the MSIT program is entirely online and also tuition-free. To complete the degree, students must take a total of 36 semester credit hours and a minimum of 12 courses. With the flexibility to choose when to learn, students can fulfill these requirements in as little as one year or up to five years, if the part-time study is preferred.

Final Thoughts

Having learned the major differences and purpose of computer science vs information technology degrees, you now have what you need to know to choose which degree is right for yourself. Consider what type of job you wish to obtain. If you’d rather work on developing software and hardware or focusing on machine learning and artificial intelligence, then computer science is the way to go.

Or, if you prefer to manage databases, maintain systems and networks of communication, and protect these systems from threats, then information technology is made for you.