Anyone with even a remote interest in the world of computers and digital technology will have encountered the terms computer science and information technology. These two terms are often used interchangeably. But each discipline is distinct and demands a unique set of skills and aptitude.
Despite educational institutes offering separate degrees in both computer science and IT, there is a great deal of overlap between the two as they share a range of common subjects. Because of this, students may find it difficult to spot the difference.
While one deals with various aspects of computer systems, networks, and databases, the other revolves around mathematics and programming.
What is Computer Science?
Computer Science is the 3rd most popular course for foreign students in the United States. This is largely due to the excellent job security, outstanding job prospects, and above-average starting salary that Computer Science graduates enjoy.
It is a broad subject based on applying scientific methods to the study of computers. It includes computational theory, hardware design, software design, computer graphics, algorithms, mathematics, and programming.
Unlike IT and Hardware Engineers, Computer Scientists largely work with software and software systems. Their area of specialization lies in the theory, design, development, and application of software.
Computer Science deals with the scientific theory of computation, algorithm development, mathematical problem solving, together with the design of computer hardware and software. It addresses both man-made and natural information processes such as communication, control, perception, learning, and intelligence.
Some of the primary areas of study in Computer Science are artificial intelligence, computer systems, networks, security, database systems, human-computer interaction, and computer graphics. It also covers subjects like numerical analysis, programming languages, software engineering, bioinformatics, and the theory of computing.
A Computer Science degree will teach essential computational skills, critical thinking, and how to develop and use new technology.
What is Information Technology?
In modern-day business, it’s nearly impossible to find a company that doesn’t rely on computers. Either in the form of software applications, networks, data storage, or communication. In fact, most firms and businesses would be crippled without Information Technology systems. That’s why there’s a growing need for IT professionals, and anyone with a background in computer science.
The term Information Technology refers to anything related to computer technology. It is used as a synonym for computers and their networks. It can also include other information distribution technologies such as smartphones and TVs.
Information Technology (IT) makes use of computers, networking, physical devices, infrastructure, and processes to create, analyze, store, secure, and exchange all sorts of electronic data. IT refers to the development, maintenance, and use of computer software, systems, and networks for the processing and distribution of data. In the context of IT, data can be defined as information, facts, and statistics, collected for the purpose of reference, storage, or analysis.
The term IT is used more in business operations than personal or entertainment technologies. The commercial use of IT includes both computer and telecommunication technology. IT employs various types of hardware, software, operating systems, virtualization, and management tools to perform essential functions. Laptops, smartphones as well as other user devices, peripherals, and software are all part of the IT domain.
IT involves the management of data, including text, voice, image, and audio. It also involves the transfer of data, making the Internet part of IT as well.
Information Technology is an indispensable part of modern life and continues to expand into new realms. All of us are pretty much guaranteed to encounter and use Information Technology at some point in our lives.
Applications of Information Technology
Some applications of IT in our everyday lives include:
- Personal computers
- ATM machines
- Telephone and radio devices
- Word processing software and spreadsheets
- Video conferencing devices
An IT department typically has three primary pillars of responsibility:
- IT Governance: A combination of policies and processes that ensure IT systems are running effectively and in alignment with company goals.
- IT Operations: This pillar deals with the daily work of an IT department. It includes providing technical support, network maintenance, security testing, and device management duties.
- Hardware and Infrastructure: It refers to all the physical components of IT infrastructure. It includes installation and maintenance of equipment like routers, servers, phone systems, and PCs.
Careers in Computer Science vs Careers in Information Technology
Generally, IT careers involve installing, maintaining, and improving computer systems, operating networks, and databases. In computer science, the emphasis lies in using math and computing principles to build efficient hardware and software systems.
While a Computer Science degree isn’t required in an IT job, some knowledge of IT is essential for a Computer Science degree. This fundamental knowledge often leads to better job opportunities down the line.
A career in IT will generally be more specialized, whereas Computer Science graduates have a wider range of job prospects open to them.
The work environments of each field can vary quite widely. Most IT professionals work together in teams, either catering to the organization’s internal needs or working off-site with clients. On the contrary, Computer Scientists usually work in software firms, universities, the gaming industry, or even as freelancers from their own homes.
How Much Can You Earn?
Roles in both computer science and information technology are flourishing. By 2026, computer science jobs are predicted to grow by almost 22%. The average developer with a computer science background can expect an annual salary of $93,000.
Job prospects in information technology are steadily rising as well, with an expected growth of 15% to 37% in open job roles by 2026. An IT professional can expect to make around $86,000 per year.
Regardless of the field you choose, there’s ample potential for career growth and lucrative job opportunities available.
How to Get Started
To get your IT career started, you’ll generally need a 2-4 year degree in an IT-related subject. In addition to technical proficiency, project management, technical support, and customer service skills are all highly desirable.
A common starting point for computer science professionals is also a degree. 4-year courses that include placement positions in tech-driven organizations are the preferred choice for most students.
For those looking to specialize in software development or web development, a strong knowledge of programming and plenty of coding experience will set you up for a lasting, rewarding career. One way to learn these skills is to take an online course. This should provide you with everything you need to get hired in a web development role.
The Future is in Your Hands
Whatever route you decide to take, be it Computer Science or Information Technology, the demand for professionals is high. The tech industry is constantly growing and there are no signs of it slowing any time soon.
Bear in mind, you are much more likely to succeed by choosing a career in a field that interests you, rather than choosing a career based solely on job prospects and earning potential.
Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of Computer Science and IT roles within the industry. If you want to learn more, there are plenty of other related posts on our expert blog. Feel free to check them out. Alternatively, why not kickstart your career and realize your dream today by enrolling in our Web Developer Bootcamp. Get the support you need to become a highly paid full-stack Web Developer.