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What is the Difference Between Computer Science, Information Technology & Computer Engineering?

Students who want to study a degree program that involves the use of computers have these three choices; computer science, computer engineering, and information technology.

The three fields are highly interconnected since they share the foundation courses, skills and principles.

Therefore, to explain in simpler terms, computer science deals with the software; computer engineering deals with the hardware while information technology deals with the networks between the computers.

These differences will vary a bit depending on the school that you study in, but there are those unique differences that will stand out and that we will be discussing here.

Additionally, when it comes to the job market, there are also differences that will occur, though in some cases, when you have a degree in one field, you can find yourself working in the other. However, this is just an oversimplified definition; let us get into the finer details.

Computer Science

Computer science is a study of computer software and how they work. It is the use of coded languages to communicate with computers to solve certain problems.

The student must have a deep understanding of computers and how they work. Students who want to take a course in computer science will undergo training in computer science theories as well as discrete mathematics.

There are many career paths that they can take up with this course such as software developing, software engineering and web programming.

For those who decide to advance their studies, they will have the opportunity to undertake specialized roles such as advanced artificial intelligence programming.

It is the type of career that you have to do a lot of personal research and training for you to become skilled in this field.

The course prepares the learners on how to select the right design patterns, data structures for different programs and algorithms.

However, most learners graduate with the knowledge of only two programming languages only that is C++, Java or Python.

In most cases, such students are not fit for the job market as these two languages are not sufficient for the work they will be required to handle. A professional software developer ought to know many languages such as:

  • Java
  • HTML
  • Python
  • CSS
  • PHP
  • JavaScript
  • MySQL

For you to fully understand about computer science, you also need knowledge of computer hardware and how they work hence the close relationship between computer science and computer engineering.

Jobs in this line of work are projected to grow in the coming years since most people have resolved to technology to solve problems; hence this is a very lucrative line of work to study.

Some of the courses that you are likely to take while learning about computer science are:

  • Programming
  • Discrete mathematics
  • Operating systems
  • Programming languages
  • Software engineering
  • User interface
  • Algorithms

Some of the classes mentioned earlier maybe similar to those taken by students doing information technology and computer engineering.

When it comes to career paths, there are three main areas where you can look for a job. These are:

  • Software developer- this is the line of work where you will be developing codes and designing programs. These are tools like mobile apps, Microsoft office and video games.
  • Web development- all websites that you see are developed to work in a particular way. However, some generic platforms are coded for the user to create a website without the user knowing much about coding such as WordPress. A developer has to code websites that need to handle complex tasks and advanced functions.
  • Systems engineering- in this line of work, you will design the operating systems which are the building blocks of the software. An operating system must have the capabilities needed by a specific software for it to work; if not, it will not work well or will not work at all.

To do well in computer science related line of work, you have to have an analytical mind. People who like solving mathematical and science problems are best suited for this line of work.

Additionally, since you will be required to learn several coding languages, you will also be required to learn French, Spanish, and other spoken languages.

These help you pick coding languages faster. Finally, since this is a highly technical field, you might at times forget to communicate with people.

Therefore, you have to learn how to interact and work with your colleagues since you will be in an office setting most of the time.

Information Technology

Most organizations that use computers to a large extent need people who have study information technology.

They help ease the operations at the office when the hardware or the software of the computers fail.

These professionals help the organization to put in order their data efficiently hence making it easily accessible to those who are authorized but at the same time locking out people who are not permitted to access the information.

They can use different software to the fullest at the advantage of the organization in achieving their goals even though they do not know how to develop the software in question.

These professionals are also able to select the right software and hardware to get the job done by building, maintaining and protecting networks.

Some of the courses that they are likely to learn at school are:

  • Network and security
  • Mobile and web development
  • Information management
  • Health information technology
  • Enterprise computing
  • Software development

Additionally, there are many career paths that one can land in with this kind of course. These are:

  • Systems administrator- these are the professionals who conduct daily maintenance and operations of the organization’s networks such as LAN, intranets, and WAN among other communication systems.
  • Information security analyst- these are the people who work to prevent cyber attacks by locating weak points where breaches could occur. They also create emergency plans in case a violation occurs.
  • Database administrator- they use programs and software to organize and store data for different companies.
  • Computer support specialist- they provide advice and troubleshooting services to organizations and individuals who might have a problem or any question about their software.
  • Network architect- they are also called network engineers whose primary role is to design and build communication networks like wide area networks (WAN), local area networks (LAN) and intranets.

Many of the IT professionals work closely with people who are not necessarily knowledgeable about computers like they are.

It is therefore of utmost importance to have excellent computer skills as well as good communication skills and excellent customer service skills.

IT is the backbone of the company; it is where your services will be most required when something goes wrong, and believe it or not, things will always go wrong due to human error or other problems like power outages. Therefore, it is a highly marketable course that you can take.

additionally, for you to be successful in this line of work, you need to possess specific skills such as:

  • Technical skills
  • Project management
  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Software knowledge
  • Analytical thinking

While most of these students will learn in school, others will have to learn on the job depending on how aggressive you are. These are besides you being good with computers.

Computer Engineering

Computer engineers are the people who make computers work. The engineers research, design and install different computer parts like video cards, routers, circuit boards, and microchips.

There are even some universities that treat this course as part of electrical engineering, though when it comes to careers, they are a bit different.

Computer engineers should know computer science since they have to ensure that the hardware that they come up with works correctly with the software used on the computer.

As devices become smaller in the present day, their biggest headache is to create microchips and microprocessors that will work on these small devices.

However, at the same time they have to maintain the same or even better efficiency. The courses that one has to take while doing computer engineering often overlap with those who are taking computer science; they form the foundation of their knowledge. These courses are:

  • Computer architecture
  • Micro-processing
  • Nanotechnology
  • Circuits
  • Power and energy systems
  • Cybernetics

Most of the computer engineers work in manufacturing, companies where their experience is vital for developing parts for companies that manufacture cars, phones, and computers among others.

There are also other computer engineers that work for the government, systems design companies and research firms. In these areas, their primary role is to develop parts for use in different machines and equipment.

  • Federal government: according to research, the government employs about 7% of all computer engineers. It is because the government owns most of the firms that deal with technological advancements used in the daily running of government affairs. Therefore, this should be one of the first places that a student looks for a job once they complete school.
  • Scientific research and development services: many of the research firms employ computer engineers who develop computers that can run their complex operations. Most of them require specialized computer parts and software; therefore, creating the need for someone who is at the heart of the activities to take care of this. They would not rely on external persons since they may be unreliable in terms of their availability as well as their skills. Working in such environments requires that you are highly competent and creative.
  • Computer systems design and related services: any company that deals with systems design requires having a computer engineer at their company. They help create the different parts of any system.
  • Computer and electronic product manufacturing: most companies that manufacture different computed products require the services of a computer engineer to help them design, create and install the different parts.

Those who get into this line of work, all must be keen to details and have a deep understanding of the relationship between the software and hardware of the computers.

The software pushes the limits of what the hardware can do. You also have to be very creative and visionary so that you can at all times see the need to solve problems by creating better computer designs.

To sum all this up, computer engineers design and build computers as well as the parts inside the computers.

Computer scientists, on the other hand, develop programs, applications, and software used in the computers that engineers have developed.

Finally, information technologists are the people who do the troubleshooting whenever the software in the hardware does not work as intended, or there is a breach.

These three jobs are all interlinked to ensure that the software, hardware and the user interface are all working as they should; and one cannot do without the other.

Quite literally, these three are the essential pillars of technology and technological advancements.

With that in mind, many other technical science degrees fall under these three categories that a student can also major. These are:

  • Library science: this is a course that applies principles of information technology. It focuses on information architecture. Academic archives are sometimes very complicated, and therefore they require someone who has a vast knowledge of computers and more so, someone who can solve problems within the system.
  • Computer animation: this one is a bit related to computer science but with a greater inclination to graphic design programs. It is part of computer science programs in that the user uses the software already developed while computer scientists develop the software.
  • Computer information systems: this is a course that integrates computer science and business since it focuses on how a technology works within a company as well as helping the company achieve its goals. As an undergraduate, you will study a bit of business and a bit of computer science. However, for the job market, it would be better to major in one of the two to increase your chances of getting a job.

Final Thoughts

All in all, the computer degree that you go for depends on your interests as well as what you are good at.

Additionally, these are the course that requires learners who are very creative and aggressive with coming up with new ideas and inventions to be on top of the game. The sky is the limit!

About the author



Geek Life Activated is my little corner on the web. I'm very passionate about tech, and i aim to use this blog to express that. I currently work as a System Administrator, and i love every second of it. I'm still new at it, so i'm learning something new everyday. I'm pretty open to learning new things, so please feel free to correct me if i'm wrong about anything, and you can contact me anytime you want. I'm a very easy person to talk to. :)

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