Understanding the Definition of Computer Science vs. Information Technology

Definition of computer science versus information technology

The debate about computer science vs. information technology is common among those considering a computer-related degree. The terms are often used interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing. The formal definition of computer science is “the study of the principles and use of computers.” Contrary to popular belief, computer science is not about the tools we use to carry out computation – it’s about how we use those tools and what we find out when we use them. As a computer scientist, you will learn about what kinds of problems computers solve, how computers solve problems, and how to present problems to computers.

Information technology is a branch of engineering that deals with the use of computers and technology to retrieve, transmit, and store information. We also use the term to refer to the entire industry. Information technology professionals work to understand how technology can meet a business’s information management needs. Information technology departments at companies often use computers, servers, database management systems, and cryptography to perform their duties. While a computer scientist intimately understands the way a computer operates, information technology professionals are trained to use computers for specific purposes and may not know exactly how the computer carries out the tasks.

Degrees in Computer Science and Information Technology

Going back to the definition of computer science, students in computer science degree programs learn about the mathematical and theoretical foundations of computing and how computing systems work. Computer science degree programs typically don’t teach students about specific technologies, which become outdated quickly. Standard courses that computer science majors may be required to take include the following:

  • Programming principles
  • Algorithms
  • Data structures
  • Computer architecture
  • Logic & computation
  • Calculus
  • Differential equations
  • Statistics
  • Linear algebra

When comparing computer science vs. information technology, it’s also important to consider how their degree programs differ. Similarly to computer science majors, information technology majors learn about computers and technology. The difference is that information technology majors are required to take courses about management and information theory, while computer science majors tend to focus on the scientific aspects of computing. Information technology degree programs focus on the business and communication applications used in computing. Courses you may be required to take in an information technology program include the following:

  • Organizational behavior and management
  • Web development
  • Systems administration and management
  • Software development
  • Database technologies
  • Technical writing
  • Programming principles
  • Web design
  • Electronic commerce
  • Information security

There are no mandatory computer certifications in information technology programs, although students may opt to obtain voluntary industry certifications provided by vendors and trade organizations. Industry certifications allow information technology professionals to demonstrate their competence and may help them advance their careers.

Employment Outlook in Both Fields

Positions that computer science grads can pursue include computer systems designer, web developer, systems analyst, and computer programmer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of computer scientists is expected to grow by 24 percent from 2008 to 2018, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Positions that information technology grads can pursue include database administrator, network administrator, telecommunications specialist, and network engineer. The employment of information technology professionals is also expected to grow at a rate that’s much faster than the average.

The growing use of computers and information technology has generated a significant need for highly trained computer scientists and information technology professionals. Although there is some overlap when you compare computer science vs. information technology, each discipline requires a unique set of skills. After learning about the similarities and differences between computer science and information technology and deciding on the right program based on your needs and interests, look for a reputable program on our site today that will arm you with the skills necessary to succeed in your chosen field.