IT vs. Computer Science: How to Decide on the Right Tech Degree

Student smiles while working on a project on a computer

You might be surprised by how many different tech-related degrees are available at colleges across the country. If you are interested in the world of tech, and you plan on pursuing a career in the field, it is good to know which type of degree may best suit your interests and career goals.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that computer and information technology roles will continue to grow up to 12% through 2028, which is faster than average.1 In addition to a great job market, tech jobs tend to pay fairly well. If you are someone who is willing to keep up with all of the changes in the field, then technology could be a great industry for your future.

While you are researching tech degrees, you may come across both an information technology (IT) degree as well as a degree in computer science. They may seem very similar, but there are some unique differences. Let's learn more about each to figure out which degree might be the best one for you.

What Is IT?

People who work in IT solve technical problems. They may work in businesses and help people in person or they may work over the phone or virtually. They understand how computer programs and networks work and brainstorm solutions to problems.

What Is Computer Science?

Someone who learns computer science knows how to create computer programs and applications. They study the theory and the processes of how computers work. They can code and test applications.

Degree Similarities 

After you earn your IT or computer science degree, you will need some practical experience to find a job in the field. That can be easier than you think because most universities offer hands-on degree programs in these technology fields. While you are earning your degree you will be writing programs and solving problems that apply computer science theory. After finishing basic courses, many students find work or internships where classroom practice is applied to real world problems.

With your tech degree, you will be able to find an entry-level position. Many IT and computer science positions prefer job candidates with at least three to five years of experience, if not more. Most IT and computer science job listings also require candidates to have at least a bachelor's degree.

IT degree grads and computer science grads are able to find jobs in just about any place across the United States. There is a need for people to fill jobs in both fields everywhere.

There is some overlap in jobs that are available to people with either an IT or computer science degree. You may find work as a computer systems engineer or architect. Computer analysts can also do the job with either type of degree. And finally, a database administrator can use either the IT programmatic skills or the computer science coding skills to make their jobs easier.

In both an IT and computer science degree program, students will learn languages like SQL and Java. They will also learn basic and advanced software development, depending on the degree program.

Degree Differences

While a computer science degree is focused on computational theory and application, the IT degree is more focused on the administration of the application. IT graduates can code and develop software, but that is not the primary goal of an IT career. Instead, they work more directly with people to help them solve technology-related problems. They may also work with hardware, not just application development. Computer science degree holders often go into jobs where they are more independent. They don't necessarily interact with people to support using the applications that they create.

IT degree programs often focus on project management and customer service. IT workers tend to need these skills because they work with others and on teams. They need to know how to begin a project so that it meets the end goal. They also need to work with clients, both internal and external, to ensure their technology is working for them. IT grads also focus on information systems because in their careers, they look at how technology works together, rather than just program by program.

Computer science programs focus more on computers and computer systems. Computer science graduates study software and software systems, including their theory, design, development, and application. Computer science students work with a variety of programming language.

Because of the differences in these programs, IT-specific jobs and computer science-specific jobs may look really different. An IT graduate can become a computer support specialist, a network administrator or even a technology project manager. A computer science degree holder may work as a software, web or application developer. They may work in artificial intelligence, computer systems and networks, security, database systems, human computer interaction, vision and graphics, numerical analysis, programming languages, software engineering, bioinformatics and theory of computing.

Now that you know the differences between an IT and computer science degree, you may be able to make a decision about which tech-related degree you would like to earn. Whether it's a computer science degree or an IT degree, Grand Canyon University has a degree program just for you. Join us for the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science degree program or the Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.

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