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What is the Difference Between an IT Degree and a Computer Science Degree?

Many people use the term information technology (IT) broadly, but there is a marked difference between IT and computer science degree programs. Both businesses and the general public have benefited greatly from advancements in technology. For example, electronic commerce has expanded the market of many businesses, and nanocomputing technology has made it possible for society to conveniently take full size computing and communication devices with them everywhere.

So, are information technologists or computer scientists the people to thank for these advancements? The answer is that they both contribute to the technological progress experienced by nearly everyone. Here is an overview of the job functions of both professions, the types of courses taken during computer science and IT degree programs and the employment outlook for each career path.


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Functions of Information Technologists and Computer Scientists

Information technologists assess business needs and apply technology solutions to meet those requirements. These technology solutions can include computer hardware upgrades, enterprise resource planning software or a more secure wide area network. They can also work with more senior level technical architects and business leaders to identify cost saving technology initiatives that streamline company processes and physical assets like the use of virtualization and cloud computing. Computer scientists design, develop, test and produce computers and their subsystems. They understand the details about how computer hardware and software work together to process data. For instance, computer scientists often make modifications to existing software when proprietary computer upgrades are identified as solutions to meet specific business needs.

Curricula of Information Technology and Computer Science Degree Programs

Degree programs for IT can range from two year associate’s degrees to advanced degrees in the discipline. Some common course topics within many IT degree programs include introduction to business systems, computer applications, systems analysis, networking, logic and troubleshooting. Although IT degree curricula often include fundamental software and hardware development courses, advanced programming topics are rarely discussed. Most IT degree programs also include a heavy work load of network engineering and administrator courses in Windows servers, Linux administration and Cisco network routing. Courses in professional business communication and project management are also prominently seen in most IT degree curricula. Degree programs for computer science majors include those from the undergraduate level to the doctoral level. Typical course topics include computer architecture, algorithms, assembly language programming, object oriented programming and fundamentals of software engineering.

Employment Outlook and Job Growth for the Professions

Information technologists commonly fill roles as technical support specialists, business systems analysts and network engineers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), systems analysts made a median annual salary of $79,680 in 2012, and job growth through 2022 is expected to be at a rate of 25 percent which is much faster than the average for all jobs surveyed. Computer science graduates find work as software engineers, software developers and computer systems engineers. The BLS stated that software developers earned a median annual salary of $93,350 in 2012, and the projected job growth for the position is at a rate of 22 percent which is still considered to be much faster than the average for all jobs surveyed.


It is important that prospective students carefully examine their degree options when it comes to choosing a technology related degree. While some of the skill sets are similar, the job functions and work environment of information technologists and computer scientists can be different. The IT and computer science degree programs that prepare them for their careers prominently highlight those similarities and differences.