IT vs. Computer Science: Which Degree Is Right for You? [Infographic]

You’re intrigued by the world of tech. Combine your passion for the field and the bright prospects for computer and IT jobs, and it’s easy to see why you plan on pursuing a career in the technology sector.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in computer and information technology roles is projected to grow 13 percent through 2026, which is nearly two times faster than the average projections of all occupations.1 Combined with a median annual salary average of $86,320 across all computer and technology occupations, it’s no wonder that you’re motivated to work in this field.1

You know that a degree in computer science or IT can help get you where you want to be, but you’re not sure which is right for you. What’s the difference between information technology and computer science anyway?

Computer science vs. information technology: Side-by-side breakdown

On the surface, it’s simple to see why there’s some confusion when looking at computer science versus IT. There’s a lot of overlap in skills and duties, but when you dig into the details, you’ll find some distinct differences. To make it as simple as possible, we created this infographic to provide you with side-by-side comparisons, so you can decide which tech degree is best for you.

IT vs Computer Science Infographic, described in detail below.

This paragraph is followed by a large infographic entitled “IT vs. Computer Science: Which Degree is Right for You.”

Please note as you discover the roles described that all included salary data represents national averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. Education conditions in your area may vary. The included information comes from Burning-Glass.com and their analysis of 1,162,850 computer science and IT job postings from July 2018 through June 2019; 1,075,216 computer science job postings by education level from July 2018 through June 2019; 139,535 IT job postings by education level from July 2018 through June 2019; 143,469 IT job postings from July 2018 through June 2019; and 1,104,422 computer science job postings from July 2018 through June 2019.

As we go into the graphic, we see that the top panel shows the title and an image of a person typing at a computer keyboard with the Rasmussen College logo—a lit torch—on their T-shirt.

Below, there are two sections side by side: “What is IT?” on the left and “What is Computer Science?” on the right. Below “What is IT?” the text defines it as: “The application of computer programs and networks to solve business processes. Professionals in this industry interact with others—whether in-person, on the phone or via email—while helping solve technological problems.” Under “What is Computer Science?” the text reads: The processes of creating usable computer programs and applications and the theories behind those processes. Professionals in this industry do a lot of independent work writing and testing logic-based code.

The next panel is entitled, “What experience do I need?” The text underneath notes: The majority of job postings for both fields prefer candidates with 3-5 years of experience. Below, four categories indicate how many years of experience most employers prefer for candidates in the IT and Computer Science sectors: 19.6% employers are looking for candidates with 0-2 years of experience; 48.2% employers are looking for candidates with 3-5 years of experience; 19.7% of employers are looking for candidates with 6-8 years of experience; and 12.5% of employers are looking for candidates with 9+ years of experience.

The next panel asks “What education do I need?” Underneath, a summary of the data reads: The majority of job postings prefer candidates to have a bachelor’s degree. A horizontal bar chart below the text indicates that 89% of employers in the computer science sector prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree, at minimum. 84% of employers in the IT sector prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree, at minimum.

The following panel, “Comparing Computer Science and IT Jobs” is divided into three sections: “IT” with hammer, crescent wrench and computer icons; “Both” with tool icons and coding and computer icons; and “Computer Science” with coding and computer icons. Each section includes common job titles, the 2018 median salary, and job outlook.

Common IT job titles include computer user support specialists, information technology project managers, and network and computer systems administrators. Computer user support specialists earned around $53,470 in 2018, and their demand is expected to grow 11% between 2016 and 2026. Information technology project managers earned about $90,270 in 2018, and their demand is expected to grow 9%. Network and computer administrators earned about $82,050 in 2018, and their demand is expected to grow 6%.

Common titles for both computer science and information technology include computer systems engineers/architects, computer systems analysts, and database administrators. Computer systems engineers/architects earned about $90,270 in 2018, and their demand is expected to grow 9%. Computer systems analysts earned about $88,740 in 2018, and their demand is expected to grow 9%. Database administrators earned about $90,070 in 2018, and their demand is expected to grow 11%.

Common job titles for Computer Science include software developers, web developers, and software quality assurance engineers and testers. Software developers earned about $105,590 in 2018, and their demand is expected to grow 24%. Web developers earned about $69,430 in 2018, and their demand is expected to grow 15%. Software Quality Assurance Engineers and Testers earned about $90,270 in 2018, and their demand is expected to grow 5%.

The next panel is entitled: What skills do I need? Below the text reads “Take a look at the top skills employers are seeking in each field, some of which overlap.” A venn diagram compares IT skills, computer science skills, and overlapping skills. IT skills: project management, information systems, customer service. Both: SQL, software development, Java. Computer science skills: software engineering, Python, JavaScript.

The below panel, “Where can I work” lists IT and Computer Science hot spots by state. The summary underneath the titles reads, “You can find job opportunities across the U.S for both of these fields. But where is the concentration of jobs highest when controlling for population? We’ve identified several hot spots. IT hot spots: Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina, Maryland, Arizona and Georgia. Computer science hot spots: Virginia, Washington, California, Colorado, Maryland and Massachusetts.

It should be noted that the image was created by Rasmussen College, LLC, to promote our education programs and to provide general career-related information covering computer science and IT careers. Please see rasmussen.edu/degrees for a list of the programs we offer.

IT vs. computer science: The basics

Though an IT and computer science degree can both prepare you for jobs in the tech field, they often appeal to different types of people based on the slightly varied skill sets. Computer science involves more independent work creating computer programs and applications, using algorithms and writing code. On the other hand, IT professionals focus more on using technology to support business goals while frequently interacting with others to help solve tech issues either over the phone, in person or via email.

Personality-wise, those more suited to independent work behind a desk may find themselves drawn to computer science while those who enjoy hands-on work assisting others may find more fulfillment in IT.

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What is information technology?

Information technology (IT) encompasses all of the technology a company uses and how they use it. This includes aspects of hardware, software, cloud computing and storage. Those who work in the IT field find themselves working with all or some of these components and often interact directly with the individuals they’re assisting.

What is computer science?

Computer science involves more of the happenings behind the hardware, like software and software development. Those in the field work with application creation, database systems, programming languages and computing theory. Their work tends to be more individual in nature.

Comparing computer degrees

A bachelor’s degree will serve you well in both the computer science and IT sectors. Time invested in a formal education setting will help you develop the precise skills and characteristics employers are seeking. In an analysis of job postings, we found that 89% of computer science positions require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree.2 The same is true for 84% of IT positions.3

Though the path to obtaining a bachelor’s degree in either subject will differ somewhat, here’s a taste of what to expect with each.

Information technology degree overview

If you chose to earn a bachelor’s degree in IT, you can look forward to many interesting classes, such as:

  • IT Operations Management
  • Infrastructure and Hardware
  • Enterprise Application Support

These courses and more will help you gain the knowledge and hands-on experience you’ll need to secure positions such as:

  • Computer Support Specialist
  • IT Project Manager
  • Network Administrator

Computer science degree overview

The curriculum included in a computer science bachelor’s degree will equip you for success in the field. Common courses include:

  • Mobile Application Development
  • Introduction to Business Intelligence
  • Advanced Cloud Computing Technologies

The skills and training you receive in this program will help qualify you for positions such as:

  • Systems Software Developer
  • Mobile Software Engineer
  • Cloud Application Engineer

Which computer degree makes sense for you?

When it comes to choosing a degree in IT versus computer science, you really can’t go wrong. Both education paths will lead you to a thriving industry—it really depends on your personal skills and interests.

If you find yourself drawn to information technology, learn more about what your career will look like in our article, “What Can You Do With an IT Management Degree?

If you’re more interested in the why and how behind all the tech, learn more about how you’ll apply all that in our article, “What Can You Do With a Computer Science Degree?

Get started on your tech career path.

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1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed August 2019]. Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
2 Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 1,075,216 computer science job postings by education level, July 2018 – June 2019) 
3 Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 139,535 IT job postings by education level, July 2018 – June 2019) 
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2014. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2019.

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Kirsten Slyter

Kirsten is a Content Writer at Collegis Education where she enjoys researching and writing on behalf of Rasmussen College. She understands the difference that education can make and hopes to inspire readers at every stage of their education journey.

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