While both are rapidly growing fields with diverse career opportunities, computer science and information technology (IT) differ in that computer science refers to the theory and processes involved in designing hardware, software and applications. IT focuses on utilizing technology to address issues and those technologies to guarantee the smooth operation of the computers, networks, systems and databases they oversee.
Computer science is concerned with the study of computers and computing, focusing on algorithms, programs and programming and computational systems. Computer scientists build a systematic body of knowledge, theories and models that explain the properties of computational systems and show how this body of knowledge can solve real-world computational problems. Career examples include web developers, software engineers and data analysts.
Information technology involves using computers, devices, technological infrastructure and computer science-driven software and processes to find technical solutions to problems. Career examples include database administrators and cybersecurity specialists.
This page will explain in more detail how these two fields differ and offer information about the educational paths, skills for success and career outcomes that define each.
What is Information Technology?
Information technology specialists apply their knowledge of computers, software and systems in a variety of ways to help organizations adopt new technologies, secure their data, develop and maintain technological systems, analyze and make sense of data and more as new technologies emerge.
Emerging technologies in IT include:
- Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)
- Big Data
- Cloud computing
- Data science
- Internet of Things (IoT)
Is Information Technology A Part of Computer Science?
Computer Science includes Information Technology as a subset. Computer Science is a wide-ranging discipline that covers the study of computers and computational systems, encompassing their design, creation and utilization. In contrast, IT concentrates on the practical implementation of computer systems and technology to address real-world issues. IT experts utilize their computer systems and software expertise to manage and maintain computer networks, develop software applications and provide technical assistance to users. Although IT is a specialized field within Computer Science, both fields are closely linked and share many of the same fundamental principles and concepts.
CS vs IT: Career Paths
Computer science graduates usually pursue software development, programming and computer engineering careers, while IT graduates tend to work in network administration, technical support and database management. Their responsibilities include designing and developing software applications, operating systems and computer hardware, as well as managing and maintaining computer systems, troubleshooting technical issues and ensuring data and network security. Both fields offer numerous career prospects and high demand for skilled professionals.
Computer Science vs IT: Roles and Salaries
Although Computer Science and Information Technology both involve computers and technology, they have different roles and pay scales. While computer scientists typically earn more than IT professionals due to their specialized skills and expertise, both fields offer lucrative career opportunities for those with the right qualifications and abilities. Roles and salaries vary greatly based on educational and work experience, required or recommended specializations and certifications, market demand and other factors.
|Computer Science Job Titles
|Artificial Intelligence Engineer
|Information Technology Job Titles
|Computer Support Specialist
|Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, indeed.com
Advanced roles in either of these two specialties typically require more education and training and come with a higher earning potential. As AI and machine learning, blockchain and cloud computing technologies are adopted for more widespread use, for example, both IT and computer science specialists with deeper knowledge and skill sets in those areas would likely be in greater demand for these careers and command higher salaries.
Is Information Technology A Good Career?
Information technology is an excellent career choice for those who are interested in technology and enjoy problem-solving. The field is constantly evolving and offers a wide range of job opportunities, from network administration to cybersecurity to cloud computing. Additionally, the demand for IT professionals is high, with many companies seeking skilled workers to help them stay competitive in the digital age. Salaries are competitive and there are often opportunities for advancement.
It is important to keep up with the latest technologies and trends in the field to remain competitive and successful in this career path. Pursuing an Online Master of Computer Science degree from Rice University will give you a competitive advantage in both finding a job in this in-demand field and landing a role with greater leadership and decision-making opportunities and, likely, a higher salary.
Which Pays More? Computer Science or Information Technology
Determining which field pays more, computer science or information technology, is complex as several factors such as location, experience and job role can affect salaries. Generally, computer science jobs tend to offer higher pay than information technology jobs, particularly in software development, artificial intelligence and data science. However, information technology jobs can also provide competitive salaries, especially in cybersecurity and network administration. Ultimately, choosing between computer science and information technology should also be based on personal interests, skills and career aspirations, in addition to earning potential.
The median salary for computer science and IT positions was $97,430 as of May 2021. Salaries range widely for both IT and computer science jobs, with some average base salaries climbing above $100,000. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information research scientists made an average of $131,490 in 2021. Information security analysts made an average of $102,600 in 2021.
A master of computer science degree can help you strengthen your command of computer science overall and provide you with the practical skills to excel in a variety of information technology fields — increasing your earning potential in either area.
CS vs IT: Necessary Skills and Education
The skills needed for a certain position in information technology or computer science might determine the level of education you need. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a bachelor’s degree or higher is typically needed for entry-level positions in IT fields and a master’s degree for computer science fields. Senior or specialized roles in either field often require a master’s degree in an information technology-related field and/or additional certifications
Education Needed To Be A Computer Scientist
Computer scientists typically need at least a master's degree in computer science or a related field, but for those pursuing certain leadership roles or career opportunities in areas such as research and development, innovation hubs or labs, or academia, a Master of Science in computer science or PhD in computer science is often preferred.
Skills you need to work in computer science include:
Statistics – Thorough knowledge of statistical techniques like regression analysis, hypothesis testing and statistical models is essential for making informed decisions about data and improving algorithm accuracy and efficiency.
Coding platforms – Experience in coding platforms, as well as error testing, prepares you for real-world coding and can help land your dream job.
Data analysis and database tools – Successful computer scientists must be familiar with using tools like SQL, MongoDB, PostgreSQL and Excel.
Rice University’s Online Master's in Computer Science program offers a strong foundation in computer science, software and data, with an advanced computer science curriculum taught by world-class faculty. Graduates have developed a well-rounded computer science skillset, including software engineering, algorithms, big data engineering, IT, cybersecurity and more.
Education Needed To Work In Information Technology
Typically, a bachelor’s degree is the educational requirement for entry-level IT positions, but individuals with Master of Science in Computer Science degrees and other advanced degrees may be able to attain more competitive leadership or specialized roles at top companies.
Skills you need to work in IT include:
Security infrastructure – Security infrastructure – This includes the ability to set up infrastructure like firewalls and routers.
Troubleshooting methods – Successful IT professionals must understand how to effectively gather and analyze information, plan and implement a solution, assess its effectiveness and adequately document the incident.
Penetration testing – Successful computer scientists must be familiar with using tools like SQL, MongoDB, PostgreSQL and Excel.
Learn More About Advancing Your Career with Rice
Graduates from Rice University’s Online Master of Computer Science program will have the foundational and practical knowledge to work across various fields, including computer science and information technology. Our algorithms, software and systems classes provide a solid foundation that prepares our graduates to grow, learn and adapt to the changing demands of careers in computer science, software engineering, data engineering, cybersecurity, IT, digital products and more — and to advance in those careers.