You’re passionate about technology in general, and you’re thinking about a career in this field. But you’ve hit a stumbling block: you don’t know what to choose between Information Technology (IT) and Computer Science (CS).
You’re not the only one. This is one of the most frequently asked questions on the internet. That’s because many people use these terms interchangeably. But they are far from being the same thing. IT and Computer Science are different disciplines, with a different focus, and meant for different student audiences.
Jump in as we’ll discuss in depth the main differences between IT and Computer Science. By the end, you’ll know which one is the right choice for your academic studies.
IT vs Computer Science – What’s the difference?
Information Technology deals with the development, implementation, support, and management of computers and information systems. Information Technology involves working both with hardware (e.g. CPUs, RAM, hard-disks) and software (e.g. operating systems, web browsers, mobile applications).
Computer Science deals with the development and testing of software and software systems. Computer Science involves working with mathematical models, data analysis and security, algorithms, and computational theory.
To sum it up:
IT professionals make sure that computers, networks, and systems work well, whether they are used by home users, big companies, hospitals, governments, and so on.
Computer scientists are the ones who establish the computational principles that are the basis of all software we are using. Their work is behind data transfers and storage, security standards and encryption, and so on.
IT vs Computer Science specialisations
If you’re not attracted by one of the numerous general degrees in IT or Computer Science, study a subdiscipline to further specialise yourself. Here are a few examples:
Information Technology (IT) specialisations
- Network Administration
- System Administration
- IT Security
- Enterprise Systems
- IT Management
- International Biometrics
- IT Strategy and Innovation
Computer Science specialisations
- Artificial Intelligence
- Machine Learning
- Human-Computer Interaction (HIC)
- Data Science
- Cyber Security
- Cloud Computing
- Video Game Development
IT vs Computer Science classes
Each university needs to create a curriculum based on the general policies of the government in that country. This is why not all IT or CS study programmes are the same. Still, you’ll notice that many courses are the same — or at least very similar — with small differences in their title or focus.
The following are the most common classes you can expect to take during a degree in IT or Computer Science:
Information Technology classes
- Information Systems
- Network Engineering
- Operating Systems
- Database Fundamentals
- Information Security Fundamentals
- System Analysis
- Business Technology
- Hardware and Software Troubleshooting
- Network Administration
- IT Ethics
Computer Science classes
- Theory of computation
- Software security
- Computer graphics
- Algorithms and data structures
- Linear algebra
- Software engineering
- Web development
Top universities where you can study IT or Computer Science
For those of you who want to study at the best higher education institutions out there, here are the top-ranked universities for IT and Computer Science according to the QS Rankings:
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the US
- Stanford University, the US
- Carnegie Mellon University, the US
- University of California, Berkeley (UCB), the US
- University of Oxford, the UK
- University of Cambridge, the UK
- Harvard University, the US
- EPFL, Switzerland
- ETH Zurich, Switzerland
- University of Toronto, Canada
To explore different options and ranking criteria, check out other world university rankings:
- Best IT & Computer Science universities according to Times Higher Education
- Best IT & Computer Science universities according to US News
- Best IT & Computer Science universities (in the US) according to Niche
IT vs Computer Science skills
The skills required to succeed as an IT specialist or Computer Scientist often overlap. While every job may have additional requirements, these are the most important skills you need to develop:
- Analytical thinking
- Communication (oral and written)
- Project management
- Attention to details
Whether you’re analysing algorithms or trying to figure out why a hard-drive isn’t recognised by the operating systems, these skills will always come in handy. Knowing the theory is one thing, but being able to apply it by making connections and discovering how unrelated elements create a bug or error — that’s where true creativity and ingenuity stand out.
IT vs Computer Science jobs and salaries
When it comes to job opportunities and salaries, it doesn’t matter if you choose Information Technology or Computer Science.
Both fields suffer from a lack of qualified professionals, as the demand for people who have good computer and digital skills is constantly growing. The need for well-trained employees is so big that large companies like Google have launched their own IT training courses to prepare almost anyone to work in this field.
And this reminds us of an interesting fact: did you know that you don’t necessarily need an Information Technology degree to work in IT? That’s right! If you have enough hands-on experience and a few certificates highlighting your knowledge, you can easily get a job — at least an entry-level position — in this field.
And from there, the more you learn, the more you (advance and) earn. However, having a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in IT will definitely come it handy, especially if you want to occupy more advanced or managerial roles.
Here’s an overview of the job outlook in the US:
- IT jobs are expected to grow by 11% between 2019–2029
- Computer Science jobs are expected to grow by 15% between 2019–2029
However, this doesn’t mean that getting a job will be easy. Not anyone can work in Computer Science or IT, especially those without the minimum required knowledge and skills.
During your studies, you should make the most out of internship or work placement opportunities. Gain as much hands-on experience as possible and remember: if you don’t stay up to date with the latest trends and technologies, you won’t last long in as an IT or CS specialist.
Now let’s take a look at the most popular IT and Computer Science jobs. We’ve also included the average salaries in the US based on data from Glassdoor:
Information Technology jobs and salaries
- IT Technician – 35,200 USD/year
- IT Consultant – 65,300 USD/year
- IT Business Analyst – 68,350 USD/year
- IT Project Manager – 88,400 USD/year
- IT Security Analyst – 76,400 USD/year
- IT Director – 129,300 USD/year
Computer Science jobs and salaries
- Computer Scientist – 99,000 USD/year
- System Analyst – 64,600 USD/year
- Web Designer – 52,700 USD/year
- Software Programmer – 76,500 USD/year
- Data Scientist – 113,300 USD/year
- Business Analyst – 68,350 USD/year
- Java Developer – 79,100 USD/year
Which is better Computer Science or IT?
There is no such thing as “better” because they lead to different careers and have different specialisations or subfields. Either discipline is a great choice for your studies, as long as you’re passionate about technology, and you understand what each study option implies.
With either IT or Computer Science, you can rest assured that you’ll have a secure job, with a hefty salary that will only increase as time goes by and you gain experience. Remember the saying: the more you learn, the more you earn.
IT vs Computer Engineering
While Information Technology deals with the maintenance of hardware and software, Computer Engineering (CE) mainly deals with developing the hardware (e.g. CPUs, solid-state drives – SSDs, motherboards, ports).
Computer engineers also develop firmware (e.g. the BIOS), which is a specialised type of software that initiates the hardware and allows an operating system (OS) and other software to make use of the physical resources in our computer.
Learn more about Computer Science vs Computer Engineering.
Now you know all the major differences between IT and Computer Science — two fields that are closely related but separated by their focus, curriculum, and future job responsibilities.
Having clarity on which is which, what are you going to study and where? Let us know by sharing this article and tagging us on social media.