IT vs. Computer Science: Choosing Your Degree

A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at AIU will not necessarily lead to the featured careers. This collection of articles is intended to help inform and guide you through the process of determining which level of degree and types of certifications align with your desired career path.

Determining what type of degree program is going to best serve your educational and career goals can be tough, especially if you're considering similar fields like IT vs. computer science. So what exactly is the difference between a computer science and information technology degree, and what types of career opportunities are available in these fields? While these two fields often overlap, there are key differences you should keep in mind when deciding on a degree.

What is the Difference Between Computer Science and Information Technology?

People who specialize in computer science are trained in the theory of computation and the design of computer systems. The computer science discipline is closely related to mathematics and includes a range of topics from the theoretical (such as studies of the limits of computation) to practicalities (such as issues of implementing computing systems in hardware and software). The work of people in the computer science field falls into three categories, which include designing and implementing software, devising new ways to use computers, and developing effective ways to solve computing problems.1

On the other hand, people who are trained in information technology are prepared to meet the hands-on, practical and everyday computer technology needs of all types of organizations, including business, government, healthcare, and schools. Entities rely on their IT teams to select hardware and software products that will work best for the organization and then integrate the systems with the company or institution's infrastructure to work properly and securely.1

Which Career Path Should You Consider?

While completing your degree doesn't guarantee employment in your chosen field, it's always a good idea to consider what kinds of jobs and career options that you may have the opportunity to pursue after graduation. Both the information technology and computer science fields are growing because of the expansion of cloud computing and data collection and storage, as well as the need for information security for that data.9 For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs for software developers to grow 24% through 2026,2 while jobs for computer systems analysts are projected to grow by 9% during the same period.3

What Courses Will I Take in IT vs. Computer Science?

While the specialization you choose may change and influence some of your upper-level classes, basic core courses for an IT degree may include:

  • Introduction to computer and network hardware
  • Introduction to operating systems
  • Fundamentals of programming and logic
  • Introduction to databases
  • Network infrastructure basics
  • Information technology security
  • Introduction to web systems and media
  • Human/computer interface and interactions

Students studying computer science, on the other hand, may study core courses in topics such as:

  • Software engineering
  • Programming languages
  • Database design
  • Computer networking
  • Artificial intelligence

What Career Opportunities Can I Pursue in IT vs. Computer Science?

You can find both IT and computer science jobs across a wide range of industries, from transportation manufacturing and wholesalers to education and professional, scientific, and technical services. Hospitals and healthcare organizations and other companies governed by strict privacy regulations may also employ both computer science and IT professionals.

It's possible that your coursework and experience in a computer science degree program help you prepare to pursue IT-specific jobs and vice versa. That said, below are jobs typically looking for graduates with degrees and/or experience in information technology:

  • Systems Analyst5
  • Computer Network Architect6
  • Software Developer4

Possible jobs for graduates with a computer science degree include:

  • Computer Programmer7
  • Database Administrator10
  • Web Developer8
Interested in learning more? Discover degrees at AIU

1. “The Joint Task Force for Computing Curricula 2005.” Computing Curricula 2005. Retrieved from: https://www.acm.org/binaries/content/assets/education/curricula-recommendations/cc2005-march06final.pdf (Visited October 22, 2018).
2. “Software Developers.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/software-developers.htm (Visited October 22, 2018).Conditions in your area may vary.
3. “Computer Systems Analysts.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-systems-analysts.htm (Visited October 22, 2018). Conditions in your area may vary.
4. “Software Developers: How to Become One.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/software-developers.htm#tab-4 (Visited October 22, 2018).
5. “Computer Systems Analysts: How to Become One.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-systems-analysts.htm#tab-4 (Visited October 22, 2018).
6. “Computer Network Architects: How to Become One.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-network-architects.htm#tab-4 (Visited October 22, 2018).
7. “Computer Programmers: How to Become One.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-programmers.htm#tab-4 (Visited October 22, 2018).
8. “Web Developers: How to Become One.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/web-developers.htm#tab-4 (Visited October 22, 2018).
9. “Computer and Information Technology Occupations.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/ (Visited October 22, 2018).
10. “Database Administrator: How to Become One.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/database-administrators.htm#tab-4 (Visited October 22, 2018).

American InterContinental University cannot guarantee employment or salary. For important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attended these programs, go to www.aiuniv.edu/disclosures. Financial aid is available for those who qualify.
1361766 10/18

Education that fits into your lifestyle | CTU

Classes Start December 5, 2018