Are you passionate about computers and don’t know which degree to choose between computer science and information technology? Or just wondering what the difference between these two terms is, since both of them are obviously related to computers? Understanding the difference is vital, because your career path can differ a lot if you choose one instead of the other. Here is what you should know:
1. Computer science experts are scientists
The first difference between the two is obvious for any language-wise person. Science is not the same as technology. The first is “knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method”, while the latter is “the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area”. By training yourself in computer science you become a scientist, as you deal with the theory of computational applications. The main areas of concern for computer scientists are software, operating systems, and implementation, and computer scientists develop new ways to manipulate and transfer information by using advanced mathematics and algorithms.
2. IT professionals are the users of technology
While computer scientists develop the technology, it’s the information technology professionals who use it. These experts solve a variety of business problems by utilizing operating systems and software. A good metaphor to understand each role is the one of a house: computer engineers are construction workers who build the house. Computer scientists add systems and facilities to the house, such as plumbing, lights, running water, and so on. IT professionals are the inhabitants who employ these appliances in order to attain a desired effect.
3. One is more theory, the other is mostly practice
As a computer scientist, you will train in the theory of computation and the design of computer systems. This discipline is close to mathematics and there are three broad areas of work: designing and implementing software, finding new ways to use computers, and solving computing problems. Those who study information technology will deal with the daily computer needs of various organizations and make sure technology is integrated within the institution’s infrastructure and solving its business problems.
4. The two disciplines lead to different career paths
Computer scientists deal with how computers work and build operating systems that do what they want; their field is based on mathematics, which is the language of computers. Examples of careers in computer science are applications software developer, systems engineer, and web developer. On the other hand, IT professionals are responsible for using and troubleshooting programs and applications developed by computer scientists. Jobs in the IT field include information security analyst, network architect, computer support specialist, database administrator, and systems administrator.
5. Workplaces differ for the two professions
IT professionals are usually found in business environments where they install networks and computer systems, while computer scientists are found in a larger variety of environments; besides businesses they can also be found in universities and video game design companies.
6. As a computer scientist, you need to enjoy mathematics
Since computer science is about programming computers using mathematical algorithms, you will study mathematics intensively in university. A lot of independent work is involved, with you writing code and applying complex algorithms. If you enjoy more installing computer systems and maintaining networks and databases, IT is a better degree and career option for you.
7. As an IT professional, you should be a good problem solver and be trained in customer service
If you work in the IT industry, you will interact on a daily basis with clients in order to help them solve technological problems. Aside from skills such as SQL and Linux, IT requires assets seen in other business fields, like customer service, technical support, and project management. And definitely a lot of patience with training and assisting end users.
8. Different personality traits are required
IT professionals need to be comfortable interacting with others and have good communication skills. In order to develop and execute solutions you may need to work with cross-functional groups, and be a team player. On the other hand, computer science professionals are often independent and introvert personalities, who can focus in a solitary environment on writing code and developing complex algorithms. The typical computer scientists would probably not be so pleased to train the new company employee and answer to their questions.
9. Not exactly a difference, but remuneration is not the same for the two fields
Median salaries for IT workers range between $48,900 for Support Specialists to $79,680 for Systems Analyst. It’s a good annual salary, but working in the computer science field can be even more rewarding: median salaries range from $74,280 for Computer Programmers to $93,350 for Software Developers.
So, if you are oscillating between the two fields, the obvious difference between computer science and information technology described above should make your decision very simple. As long as you know who you are and what you like, the choice is easy.