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Choosing a Technology Degree: Computer Science vs Information Systems vs Information Technology

Choosing a Technology Degree: Computer Science vs Information Systems vs Information Technology

Tech makes the world go round, from industry to education, from healthcare to the arts. Computers, software, data collection and mobile technology shape virtually every aspect of modern life in some way, and at every intersection of life and tech, there are fast-growing, lucrative and interesting jobs available. Needless to say, a tech degree is essential to success in this field, where training, specialization and concrete, up-to-date skills are everything. Some of the most popular disciplines can have a significant degree of overlap, though, and you may be wondering about the relative merits of a degree in computer science vs information systems vs information technology.

Though similar in many respects, there are a number of significant distinctions between the disciplines of computer science vs information systems vs information technology. Information technology involves installing, managing and organizing computer systems, networks and databases. Computer science involves programming computers and designing software using mathematical algorithms. Information systems, on the other hand, is all about supporting business operations and solving organizational problems through the skilled management of information systems.

There are also real differences in the degree programs, job markets and salaries for each of these fields of technology. Likewise, each one requires a slightly different mindset and professional strengths. If you’re weighing the potential benefits of a degree in computer science vs information systems vs information technology, or wondering which might be the best for for you, we’ve got you covered. Read on for a comprehensive overview of each of these interesting, lucrative and in-demand technology degrees.

Computer Science

Computer science is the most fundamental area of these three areas of technology- the practice of writing the actual code behind computer programs. Computer science is truly a science. In its purest form, computer science is dedicated to the research and creation of technology rather than the practice of applying and managing technology in daily life or commerce. The most academic or theoretical computer science centers around compiler design, programming methodologies, programming languages and language parsing. Applied computer science, on the other hand, involves solving specific real-world problems through software or hardware engineering. Tasks executed by computer scientists may include creating software for specifics applications, such as an inventory tracking program for a distributer, a navigation control system, or graphics for a video game system.

Needless to day, this is a highly technical discipline which relies heavily on math, and a degree in computer science at any level will reflect this emphasis. The curriculum of a computer science degree varies from school to school, and by degree level. Essential areas of study include: programming, operating systems, software engineering, computer security; calculus, and linear algebra, plus languages such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, MySQL, PHP, Python and Java. In addition, many computer scientists pursue specific certifications, or pursue concentrations such as computational biology. In recent years, many schools have begin offering specific onÑcampus and online degrees in both Computer Science and Applied Computer Science. The curriculum for the former typically includes more mathematics or theoretical computation courses, and the latter more organizational courses, such as project management or communications.

Job Market for Computer Science Degrees

Computer science is a thriving field, with 192,895 job openings currently listed on Indeed, and lucrative salaries at every degree level. Job market growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, will be about 22% between 2016-2026, head and shoulders above the national average. One of the most common jobs for those holding a computer science degree is that of software developer, web developer, or computer hardware engineer. An associate’s degree in computer science could lead to a position as a computer programmer, while a doctorate would likely lead to a position of greater authority, greater specialization or to more theoretical work, such as that of computer research scientist or artificial intelligence programmer.

Computer Science Salaries

Payscale reports the following average salaries by computer science degree level:

  • Associate’s Degree: $62,864 per year
  • Bachelor’s Degree: $73,679 per year
  • Master’s Degree: $99,268 per year
  • Doctorate: $117,039 per year

Should I Pursue a Computer Science Degree?

An online computer science degree may be right for you if you love solving puzzles, have a logical mindset, and have the patience to stay with a problem until it’s resolved. A certain amount of creativity is also required, as the most elegant solutions require ingenuity. You’ll also need a knack for numbers and an eye for details to create efficient and effective code.

Is an online computer science degree the right fit for you? Get started by exploring our ranking of the 10 Best Online Master’s in Computer Science.

Information Systems

Every business relies on information systems technology to serve its consumers, manage employees and evaluate its overall efficiency and fiscal health. The discipline of Information Systems focuses on the application of information management and distribution systems in a business environment, focusing on the design, development, analysis and management of business information systems. The term “information systems” is often used interchangeably (though incorrectly) with “information technology,” reflecting the fact that a great many information systems professionals serve as managers, administrators or liaisons for IT departments within businesses. Because such positions entail management of other tech professionals and oversight of business-wide applications, a great many in this field choose to pursue an online master’s in management information systems (MSISM). At any level, though, an information systems degree program will typically include technical studies in Information Theory and Information Technology, along with business topics such as Management and Social Science. The academic branch of Information Systems covers research into how people interact with information systems, and includes theories on motivation, data consumption and information relative to decision-making. Applied Information Systems, by contrast, focuses exclusively on improving organizational performance through the design and management of interactions between personnel and information technology.

Job Market for Information Systems Degrees

This is a great time to earn an information systems degree; the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 15% growth in the field from 2016-2026, far exceeding the national job growth average. Today, there are 370,042 current job openings in information systems. Typical job titles for those holding a degree in information systems include: Information Systems Manager, Database Administrator, Strategic Technology Consultant and Systems Analyst, and typically require at least a bachelor’s degree. Because information systems is interdisciplinary field, blending business and technology, professionals with an online degree in information systems may also qualify for positions in communications or programming.

Information Systems Salaries

Payscale reports the following average salaries by information technology degree level:

  • Associate’s Degree: $63,906 per year
  • Bachelor’s Degree: $71,113 per year
  • Master’s Degree: $137,335 per year
  • Doctorate: $147,500 per year

Should I Pursue an Information Systems Degree?

A professional with an Information Systems degree must wear two hats: administration and technology. In comparing information systems vs computer science vs information technology, it’s readily apparent that this field requires much more developed business and interpersonal skills than other tech fields. You’ll be expected to not only resolve information technology problems as they relate to the business as a whole, but to communicate those in terms that those outside the technology field can readily comprehend. Depending on your job title, you may well find yourself overseeing IT personnel as well as databases. You’ll need to have the authority and influence to manage and motivate others. An online information systems degree may be right for you if you have technical knowledge, and an analytical mindset, combined with strong communication skills and business savvy.

Is an online management information systems degree the right fit for you? Get started by exploring our ranking of the 10 Best Online Master’s in Management Information Systems.

Information Technology

Information technology (IT) encompasses the design, management and use of all systems that store, organize, and disseminate data. This multi-tiered discipline includes physical computers and devises (hardware), applications and operating systems (software), and computer network systems and virtualization or cloud computing. The more academic aspects of Information Technology involve the architectures and methodologies governing the use and storage of data. In the real world, IT is used in the context of enterprise operations, making it a largely applied (not theoretical or academic) science. Professionals in this discipline typically work within the IT department of a larger organization, and have facility with very familiar with operating systems and server software, including Linux, Apache, OpenSSL, Windows Server, Oracle, MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server. In addition to implementing technological systems and solutions, those with information technology degrees will be expected to communicate with non-IT personnel to provide training and troubleshooting. The curriculum of any on-campus or online Information Technology degree will vary based on the school, the degree level and any specializations offered. Typically, though, an information technology degree program will cover studies in Computer Systems, Telecommunications and Networks, Security, Web Design, Software Engineering and Databases. In addition, most IT professionals choose to sit for specific certification exams, such as that of Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) or Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE).

Job Market for Information Technology Degrees

For those willing to stay abreast of the latest tech developments, information Technology is a rock-solid career choice. Organizations will always need experts with training and degrees in information technology to implement the software and computer systems on which they rely. Advanced specialists can earn a spectacular salary, as well. The position of IT Program Manager, IT Architect, and Systems Architect all made Business Insider’s list of the 25 Highest-Paying Jobs in America for 2017, with average base salaries all in the neighborhood of $100,000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates that IT jobs will increase 22% between 2016-2026. Currently, there are no less than 1,017,113 IT jobs open on Indeed, a testament to the degree to which the business world depends on these essential professionals.

Information Technology Salaries

Payscale reports the following average salaries by information technology degree level:

  • Associate’s Degree: $63,272 per year
  • Bachelor’s Degree: $64,918 per year
  • Master’s Degree: $113,627 per year
  • Doctorate: not reported

Should I Pursue an Information Technology Degree?

If you are committed to continued professional growth and keep abreast of the latest developments, are highly organized and methodical, and, of course, have the highest technical acumen, an online Information Technology degree may be your ticket to a secure and lucrative career. IT professionals also need to be able to perform well in challenging situations and solve complex problems. A business transitioning over to a new software system or an application with a systemic virus, for instance, will create widespread stress. A cool disposition and persistence are essential. And while there’s certainly the well-known stereotype of “IT geeks” as purely tech-oriented, the most successful IT specialists also have the people skills needed to explain the technology to other professionals and assist them in engaging with it.

Is an online information technology degree the right fit for you? Get started by exploring our ranking of the 10 Best Online Master’s in Information Technology.

Getting Started with an Online Technology Degree

Now that you know which field of technology you want to pursue, consider what technology degree level you will target. An associate’s degree, especially complimented by additional certifications, can allow you to get your foot in the door with an entry-level position. In the tech field, even entry-level jobs usually come with a very nice paycheck, and you maybe able to advance in the field by building workplace experience. Of course, the best money comes with the highest degree, but you’ll want to consider your return on investment. Is the payoff in salary for that extra level of mastery worth your investment time and money? In addition to salary, consider the positions and job duties associated with each degree level. If you’re interested in pursuing a more academic area- computer science research, for instance, or teaching information systems at a university- you’ll need to go for that master’s degree or doctorate.

When considering a technology degree, the vast majority of working adults turn to an online technology degree program. More than 84% of online students pursuing bachelor’s degrees are working adults, and this number is likely even higher within the tech industry, which is naturally suited to an electronic environment. In addition, the discreet technical skills gained in a part-time online technology degree program are likely to have immediate workplace value, as employees are able to put them into practice during the course of their studies. For this very reason, many larger employers even offer tuition reimbursement. With a sense of your professional strengths and goals, the right online technology degree will add value to both your employer and your own career, whether you choose a degree in computer science, information systems or information technology.