These days there are almost TOO many choices for online
Computer Science and IT degrees. Which tech-savvy degree should you choose?
What’s the difference between a Computer Information Systems vs Computer
Science major? IS there really any difference? If so, which one is best for
which career paths?
If you’re having trouble choosing an IT degree path, start by asking
yourself which of the following three career questions interests you most:
1. Why does the technology work?
2. How does the technology work?
3. What technology would work the best?
The question you find yourself most drawn to is a clue to which type of
online degree you’d prefer when it comes to Computer Information Systems vs
Many of the online IT degrees offered today are related to Computer Science,
Information Technology or Computer Information Systems. Each major shares
much in common, but each also tends to focus on answering slightly different
questions. These approaches translate, in turn, into different career paths.
Computer Science (Why does the technology work?)
The Lowdown: Computer Science focuses on teaching programming and
computing. It is meant to give professionals foundational skills that can be
applied towards any career in coding. It also provides an in-depth overview
of how computer operating systems work.
Why You Might Like It: Computer Science is primarily about sharpening
your programming abilities. You don’t just learn how to write code, but in
the lesson plans for many online IT degrees you also learn why the code
works on your computer the way it does.
Why You Might Not: A Computer Science major often focuses on
programming and the underlying algorithms that make code work. As such, a
fair amount of *gasp* math is involved (ex. Calculus, Discrete Mathematics,
etc.). This degree major is especially math heavy at the undergraduate
level. Some see all that math as a plus, but many do not.
Also, due to the programming focus, other subjects that may be of interest
(ex. security, networking, etc.) are often only touched upon lightly in a
pure Computer Science degree program.
Information Technology (How does the
The Lowdown: Focuses more on the practical applications of
computers in a work environment than Computer Science does. Computer Science
is more about developing new types of technology, while Information
Technology courses are more about learning how to take computer technology
and put it to use in commercial environments.
Why You Might Like It: This major requires significantly
less math when compared to Comp Science degrees. It still covers basic
programming yet gives insight into other facets of IT. You can specialize in
many applied tech areas such as networking, security, or database management
if you don’t want to spend all your time writing code.
Why You Might Not: IT degrees usually cover far more topics
than Computer Science degrees, which could limit your exposure to in-depth
programming fundamentals. You may learn how to write for one type of
programming, but it may be more difficult to change and learn another type
Information Systems (What technology
would work best?)
The Lowdown: Information Systems as a major is tricky. This
area is often known as Information Systems (IS), Computer Information
Systems (CIS), Business Information Systems (BIS), and Management
Information Systems (MIS). These online degrees cover the same topics as
“IT” degrees, but each has a more business-related focus. Instead of
learning just how technology works, IS students also learn to ask what type
of technology should be used to solve a business problem.
Why You Might Like It: Where Computer Science goes deep
into programming, IS degrees go broad and cover the “big picture”. Since
people are part of many “systems”, these degrees often include business
courses like project management or managerial communications.
Why You Might Not: The fact that it can cover so many
different areas has a downside, too. Information Systems-related degrees
will not give you the in-depth coding experience a CS degree will. Computer
Information Systems degrees are offered by both technical colleges and
business colleges across the country, so one IS program may not be like the
In some schools, Information Systems is taught through the business school,
Florida State University's Online College of Business. In others, like
Nova Southeastern University Online, IS is taught as a Computer Science
Compare online IT degrees and study plans. Which do you prefer? The business
approach or the technology approach?