If you are interested in a career that lets you work with computers, you should know the difference between information technology and computer science. These fields may seem similar because there is a lot of overlap in their coursework. However, these subjects lead to different careers.
Information technology (IT) professionals use existing technology to configure computer networks that make business easier to conduct. They use practical, hands-on computer skills every day. An associates degree is often sufficient for IT professionals to find jobs like network architects, computer systems administrators and web developers. On the other hand, computer science professionals engineer computer hardware and software to create new technologies. Their coursework is grounded in mathematics and computing theory, and they need at least a bachelor's degree to be hired for positions like computer programmers, software engineers and research computer scientists.
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Although a degree in computer science can lead to many jobs, professionals can be classified into 3 broad categories:
IT certificates are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Certificate programs typically do not require students to enroll in degree programs, so they are a good option if you study fields like business, where some formal IT knowledge is beneficial. Undergraduate certificates are meant for students who have not yet earned a degree, while graduate certificates are designed for students who have already completed a bachelor’s program in any subject.
You can earn an undergraduate certificate in information technology, which is the shortest educational route in the IT field. Note that some schools call this program by other names like IT management or IT fluency, but all of these programs teach fundamental IT theories and skills.
IT graduate certificates teach more advanced IT skills than undergraduate certificates. They are designed to teach technical management skills and tools to working professionals so that they can manage their employees and projects better.
An Associate of Arts (AA) in IT or Computer Science includes courses in the humanities as well as the sciences. This is an uncommon degree for these fields, but it is acceptable if you plan to transfer into a bachelor’s degree program.
Associate of Science (AS) in IT or Computer Science offers more math and science classes than the AA. This degree is a better choice than the AA if you want to transfer into a bachelor’s degree program.
An Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in IT or Computer Scienceteaches practical job skills that prepare students to enter the workforce immediately. This degree is best if you want to start working as soon as you graduate.
A Bachelor of Arts (BA) in IT or Computer Science offers technical courses in addition to electives that provide you with a broad education. The BA is a good option if you want to focus on IT communications.
A Bachelor of Science (BS) in IT or Computer Science has more science and mathematics classes that give you strong technical training. This degree is a good choice if you want to go to graduate school in a technical field.
A Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in IT or Computer Science is designed to teach you practical skills that prepare you for a job. This degree is best if you want to start working as soon as you graduate.
Master Of Arts (MA) in IT or Computer Science offers classes that discuss theories of IT management and communications. This option teaches you how to manage projects and people who hold IT positions.
A Master Of Science (MS) in IT or Computer Science has science and mathematics classes as well as management courses. It is usually intended to be a terminal degree, so it is a good choice if you want to hold an advanced technical position.
A Master Of Business Administration (MBA) has a core business curriculum that offers business and IT classes. An MBA is a good choice if you want to increase your IT knowledge in order to enhance your business skills.
You can earn a PhD in general or in a specialized concentration like information systems, information security or software engineering. Either option will train you to conduct original research in the field. This option is primarily for individuals who want to work in an academic or academic research setting.
Check the Guide to Accreditation in Higher Education to learn more about accreditation and how to determine if the program you select meets the necessary standards.
Use this directory to find Computer Science programs
If you decide to pursue a career in IT, you should consider becoming professionally certified. Dozens of professional IT certifications are offered by software vendors like Apple, Cisco and Microsoft and by third parties who certify specific skills. These certifications are not mandatory, and some IT professionals debate their value. However, they will enhance your resume by verifying your specific skills. Most of these IT certifications require you to pay a fee and pass an exam.
Some vendor-specific IT certifications are:
Some non-vendor IT certifications are:
Many scholarships available to computer science students are not exclusively targeted at computer science majors. These scholarships are available to students in all scientific, technological, engineering, and mathematical (STEM) fields, and as a result are exceptionally competitive.
Most scholarships for computer science are provided by engineering and computer science foundations and professional advocacy groups. These computer science scholarships are available to students across the country, and some provide awards to several students per year. However, because students from across the country can apply, you will have a much broader range of potential competitors than for state, university, or local scholarships.
Furthermore, as there are several organizations that want to encourage women to join technical and engineering fields, many computer science scholarships are available exclusively to women. These scholarships also require strong GPAs, with most requiring at least a 3.0, and some requiring a 3.5. Due to the lower number of female students in computer science, these scholarships also have fewer potential applicants, meaning a greater chance of receiving each award for which you apply.