Computer ScienceFor students choosing between available college majors and eventual professions, it can be hard to understand how computer science is different from information technology. The two professions can seem virtually identical from outside the classroom or workplace: In both cases, professionals are involved with complex systems that leverage the power of traditional software applications, high-speed Internet connections, and a fast pace of both hardware and software advancement. They both spend a significant amount of time working behind the scenes to ensure that technology is easier to use at home, at work, in the car, and virtually everywhere else. Despite these similarities, however, IT and computer science differ greatly in terms of the academic and professional characteristics. Jobs in each industry diverge significantly.

Computer Science: The “How” of Modern Technology

Computer science isn’t often grouped together with more traditional sciences like chemistry or physics, but it certainly should be. Chemists, for example, learn the properties of various elements and spend their time in the classroom looking at the “how” of chemical reactions. Computer scientists do much the same thing in a computer lab. Through a series of highly technical courses, computer scientists learn how today’s computer hardware works and how computer programming languages accomplish a series of advanced tasks in a logical order. They look at computing through the lens of logic and mathematics, and they take classes that compare various types of computing to numerous others.

As a result of training focused on the “how” of modern computing, those who work in computer science are perhaps the best people to consult with when establishing a new computing environment. Their input is used to design server farms and data centers, office workstations and computing environments, networking hardware, and mobile computing environments. Computer scientists also work in research-oriented capacities to push the boundaries of silicon and processing power, using their historical knowledge to shrink transistors and provide greater power without consuming more space or producing more heat within a system.

Information Technology: The Practical Application of Computer Science Fundamentals

Computer scientists are prone to theory and experimentation, learning why computers work the way they do. While IT professionals will definitely take some classes that teach these concepts, they’re far more concerned with practical application. IT specialists are those most likely to work in troubleshooting capacities at a major organization. Rather than actually designing the systems or writing the software that a person uses, information technology professionals will focus on installing that software, making sure it works for the organization, and providing support if a bug or glitch causes productivity problems.

IT professionals will also stay on top of any new developments concerning new software, hardware, or security glitches. They’ll be the profession in charge of rolling out software updates or new operating systems, testing and installing new hardware, and providing insight into how new devices can work for an organization in practice.

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Though Similar at the Outset, Major Differences Characterize These Roles

Computer science emphasizes how software is designed, how hardware is configured, and how to use both logic and math to achieve the best outcome in a computing environment. These theoretical pursuits are not the job of those in IT, however. IT is application-oriented: Professionals in this industry focus on the practical implementation of advanced systems, and they work to educate and troubleshoot those systems after they’ve been rolled out. According to King Online, though computer science is different from information technology, these two professions combined are the most critical way to create new technologies and adapt them to everyday uses.