It’s not unusual for a student to ask, “What is the difference between computer science (CS) and information technology (IT)?” Many people don’t know the difference because they’re both related to computers and information. They’re actually two very different fields that each offer different services and different career options. Here is an overview of CS and IT and how they differ.

What is Computer Science?

Computer science is a field chosen by individuals who are interested in programming computers using algorithms. A CS student will spend a lot of his or her time studying computer science theory and discrete mathematics. If a software company’s goal is to develop a new software program, a CS specialist is the one that will be utilized to not just develop the program but ensure it runs efficiently and does what it’s supposed to do. Computer scientists use formulas and algorithms to tell the computer what needs to be done.

What is Information Technology?

Information technology is a field that deals with the collection, retrieval, accessing, recording and organization of data. An IT professional must also stay current with the latest programs and technologies, such as server software and the various operating systems. If an organization’s computer or networking systems aren’t running properly, an IT specialist will be contacted to fix the problem. Students in an IT program will also obtain knowledge of CS.

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Which is Better?

This is a very difficult question because CS and IT both deal with computers, and a student studying these fields will learn a little about both regardless of which field is ultimately chosen. Both fields offer numerous career opportunities that offer good job stability and wage potential. It all falls back on what area holds the candidate’s interest the most and what they want to be doing at their job.

If they’re more interested in a hands-on job where they’re actually touching and designing computers and running programs, then CS would probably best suit them. If their interests are geared towards information systems, helping the programs run efficiently and designing networks, then IT would best meet their interests. Each career requires a different set of skills. U.S. News & World Report states that IT experts are used in every industry.

Career Opportunities for Both

Students interested in computers and computer systems have many career options from which to choose. One of the first things they need to do is hone in on what they actually want to do for a living and what piques their interest the most. Here are some positions available to CS graduates.

  • Computer programmer
  • Software developer
  • Software engineer
  • Hardware engineer
  • Database administrator
  • Systems manager
  • IT architect
  • Web developer

Here are some positions available to IT graduates.

  • Mobile application developer
  • Information security analyst
  • Cloud solutions architect
  • IT manager
  • Data scientist
  • Computer and information systems managers
  • Web developer

As is evident from the lists, many of these careers are very similar yet still different. In many of these careers, graduates of either program are qualified for several of these careers. For instance, a student may choose to pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree in CS with a concentration in IT.

Despite the obvious differences between CS and IT – some might say they’re as different as day and night – their purposes are intertwined into a business or computer setting. Knowing the difference between computer science and information technology can help an aspiring student choose the career that best meets his or her needs. Luckily, both of these have a lot to offer.