Computer Science Vs Information Technology

If you are a parent looking to understand more about your child's studies, or if you are a student faced with choices about which courses to take, the nature of some subjects may not be immediately clear. Information technology and computer science are two different subjects, which are often confused or assumed to be the same thing. In fact, there are a number of key differences between these two subjects. Learn more about how to choose between information technology and computer science.

Development versus analysis

Computer science is concerned predominantly with trying to invent and/or develop new types of computer software or hardware. Computer science might, for example, be interested in a software program that allows people to perform entirely new transactions. Computer science is fundamentally an exploratory, investigative approach to using technology.

Information technology, however, is concerned with selecting and using software and hardware that already exists. Students studying information technology do so to get a better understanding of how to use and implement existing computing services.

A good example would be the invention of the spreadsheet.

  • Computer scientists developed the idea that there was a need for a means of representing and analyzing data in a specific way. They would have visualized the format, written the code and developed a prototype of a spreadsheet.
  • Information technology identified that the spreadsheet could be used for the purposes of financial accounting. IT students may have refined the original design, found ways to market and implement the technology and provided training for end users.

Different approaches to research

Both subjects entail a significant amount of research, but the approaches taken by the respective students of these subjects would be different. Requirements analysis and design are both crucial, but a computer scientist would question the feasibility of developing something, and whether there would be a real need for it. Information technology students would seek to research the possibilities of existing systems, and how they could be used and deployed. Information technology looks more closely at how users could interact more efficiently with existing systems.

Different ways of understanding how things work

Both computer sciences and information technology are concerned with how computer technology can improve the lives of users. In terms of understanding how this might be the case, they have very different inward approaches.

  • Computer science. Computer scientists want to understand what is required to make it possible to do something. They would be interested in knowing what they would need to design and build in order to create that possibility.
  • Information technology. This science is concerned with doing something quickly and with the least disruption, and will do so by looking at what is available that can be bought and or implemented.

Neither approach can ignore cost or effectiveness. Similarly, both studies would be concerned with the size, scale and complexity of the systems concerned. It is also worth noting that in many cases, there is a significant cross-over between the two, and some developments are a combination of both IT and computer sciences. As a student, the distinction between the two is very often based on your style of thinking and learning, and how you might choose to implement these studies throughout your career. Computer science, for example, lends itself well to engineering. IT lends itself well to business and or financial management.

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