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Computer Science or Info Tech? 380

An anonymous reader writes "I am currently completing my final year of secondary schooling, and in the next few weeks I need to submit my university (or college to all you Americans) preferences for processing. I've decided that I want a career in the IT industry, but am unsure of whether to apply for a Computer Science course or an Information Technology course. I understand the difference between the two courses (CS being the study of the principles and concepts involved in Computing at a more fundamental, and often more sophisticated level, and IT being a more practical, application based approach to computing), but would like to know from anybody who has studied either or both of the courses what kinds of careers each course would lead into and what would you recommend for someone such as myself, having a broad range of interests and wishing to dabble in everything before deciding where to specialise?"
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Computer Science or Info Tech?

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  • CS vs IT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pentalive ( 449155 ) on Sunday July 15, 2007 @10:09AM (#19866773) Journal
    So which do you prefer being - A system admin (follow IT) or a programmer (follow CS). They are not mutually exclusive. As a system admin I do a lot of programming. My boss in my last job favorite question was - "How can we automate this?". I like being a system admin myself - I get out of the cubicle more that way.

    p.s. first post and actually fairly on topic :^P

    • Re:CS vs IT (Score:5, Informative)

      by Fubar420 ( 701126 ) on Sunday July 15, 2007 @10:19AM (#19866881)
      Parent is absolutely correct -- I work in IT, though I studied CS. The difference is in what you tend to code:

        At the end of the day, CS writes the big applications, but you only write a couple at a time. IT/IS writes glue -- they take every service they need to run and make it run together - various directory services, authentication engines, web services, etc, etc..

      Ask yourself, ultimately, do you want to write code that others rely on, or do you want to make a programmers code work the way it's supposed to? ;-)
      • Re:CS vs IT (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Sunday July 15, 2007 @11:33AM (#19867587)

        While you could well be right, the one absolute in university-level computing courses is that everything is relative.

        Some places have an old-school CS course that teaches strong theory and is quite mathematical. This is probably good for someone who wants to deal with challenging programming work in the future: the kind of person who wouldn't just be writing a web front-end to use a database, they'd be writing the compiler and the database engine. These courses probably won't teach you to program in this week's greatest programming language or web/DB framework. What it will give you is a solid understanding of the principles and exposure to a broad range of ideas. With that sort of perspective, a CS grad should make short work of getting up to a reasonable level of competence in any industrial languages and technologies.

        Sadly, it seems like an increasing number of places now run a "computer science" course that is basically just the latest industrial buzzwords. If you're looking at a course that teaches things like VB, XML, Windows/Linux system administration, business studies, web design, and the like, then IMHO that's not really computer science at all, it's just vocational training.

        The potential scopes of other courses, such as "Information Technology", "Information Systems", "Software Engineering", are similarly wide-ranging, so it's hard to give advice about which course is best for someone without being able to see the details of what each really covers.

        • I don't think it's so sad that there are relatively few places that teach the more theoretical forms of CS. Relative to other disciplines, there was an imbalanced excess of programs teaching skills that only a small number of people would need, and the kind of invention you describe will probably be done by people with a graduate education, anyway.

          As important as computers are, I think there should be a lot more breadth in education. Yes, it's vocational training: it should then be possible for people to le
          • Re:CS vs IT (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Sunday July 15, 2007 @02:04PM (#19869007)

            I don't think it's so sad that there are relatively few places that teach the more theoretical forms of CS. Relative to other disciplines, there was an imbalanced excess of programs teaching skills that only a small number of people would need, and the kind of invention you describe will probably be done by people with a graduate education, anyway.

            The thing is, I don't think a CS education is something only a small number of people would need. Sure, it provides a deep understanding of some areas that little else does, but it also provides a broad base on which to build anything else you need in less specialised areas.

            Put it this way: people who go into writing software without the kind of understanding of database construction and system design that a good CS course would teach are often the reason we get ludicrously slow applications, with ever-increasing hardware requirements, littered with security flaws, and the design behind the code — if it has one at all, instead of misunderstanding the buzzwords and thinking a set of tests is a substitute — is such a mess that no-one can fix it, and you have to either live with it or throw it all away and start from scratch.

            (Before anyone replies, please note that I wrote "the kind of understanding ... that a good CS course would teach". Studying a formal CS course is certainly not the only way to gain this understanding.)

        • Sadly, it seems like an increasing number of places now run a "computer science" course that is basically just the latest industrial buzzwords. If you're looking at a course that teaches things like VB, XML, Windows/Linux system administration, business studies, web design, and the like, then IMHO that's not really computer science at all, it's just vocational training.

          That was also true 20 years ago!!!

          Case in point. We needed a practical, fast algorithm to assist in determining when hand-offs for cellu

      • by no_pets ( 881013 )
        I agree with the parent and the parent's parent. Good admins need to be able to code. It helps in automation (which makes the boss happy) but it also allows you to automate your workload. So, any educational path that leads to becoming a better coder is going to be very valuable to you, your company and your lusers.
    • Re:CS vs IT (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Stormx2 ( 1003260 ) on Sunday July 15, 2007 @11:25AM (#19867513)
      Actually this isn't quite correct, at least not where I live (UK).

      IT is drudgery. It involves looking at how people use computers in everyday tasks... The fact that you read slashdot shows that you will find IT hugely boring, seriously. I've done two seperate IT courses, one for GCSE and one for A-Level. Both were as bland and meaningless as eachother.

      During coursework I tried my hardest to get down to some technical points, but the specification doesn't allow for that kind of thing. It is more of a kind of "look how magic computers are? they run on magic!" kind of course, you never get down to the nitty gritty.

      CS on the other hand is a level-up. The social sides of computing is less studied, and computers themselves are more studied. ICT is a general "I can do computers, me" course, whereas a CS degree is a) more interesting b) more challenging c) employers will recognise b :)
      • Hear hear!

        I suffered the same (school switched from CS to ICT the year I took it) and it is exactly as you describe it. My preferred label was "computer science mixed with business studies" - it's namby-pamby, watered-down crap, and was a complete waste of my time. Caned the coursework, though, with an OpenBSD-based web app doing school grades analysis. Everyone else was twatting around in Access or, at a push, doing something very mediocre in ASP.

        But whether the same distinction applies at university l
        • My school switched from giving degrees in "Computer Science" to "Computing" just before I graduated... pisses me off my transcript says "Computing". Anyhoo, for undergrad I dual concentrated in IT and Information Systems(INSS) with a minor in Accountancy. I'm currently getting my Master's of Computer Science, so I'll end up with degrees in CS, IT, and IS with a little business.

          At my School [] the average IT student is... well... not well equipped to... talk.
      • As some one who teaches a grad course in an "IT" program, I can tell you that the best students, the most techincally adept were those that spent time out of class doing things. Sure, the technology is not as deep as in the CS program, but then the CS program is pretty tightly focused on programming and theory whereas IT is practical.

        School is what you make of it. If you find the program boring, well, it just might be boring or you might not be in the right program. Guess what, life is 100% excitement. I
    • Re:CS vs IT (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 15, 2007 @11:29AM (#19867551)
      I was an IT major and switched to CS for several reasons:
      * CS is more dificult, that's why I originally chose IT! I feared the math (IT requires 2 math courses while CS was closer to 9 but all ultimately most courses had a math background. CS is more math centric but you appreciate the inner workings of the field
      * IT is more high level and you never quite dwelve in deep enough to appreciate things
      * A good CS major can do any job an IT major can, but an IT major can not do everything a CS major can, so don't limit yourself!
      * Whether you want to do sys admin or programming CS is a good choice, you'll learn how things work and you'll be better at troubleshooting advanced concepts.
      * CS teaches you the theory. It's less practical application oriented but once you understand and appreciate the theory you can easily lean anything.
            - Consider: A job might require you to program in visual basic to interface with an Oracle DB. If you went in IT, they might have taught you to use VB and Oracle, so you're all set. In CS, it's unlikely you did either but you took a programming languages course and a DB theory course which enables you to learn almost any language in a day. Now consider you get asked to switch from VB to C# and a mysql db. In IT you never touched either and you don't understand the basic language concepts so its harder for you to pick up both. With CS you still have the theoretical background with enables you to pick it up in a day. The same analogy trancents multiple areas (not just programming) like networking, operating systems, etc. This also applies to those who don't get a degree and just get a bunch of certs, eventually those certs become obsolete and its harder for those without a CS degree to adapt.

      The only thing IT has over CS is some basic business courses, but if you get a CS degree, getting an MBA is trivial.
      • by alexhmit01 ( 104757 ) on Sunday July 15, 2007 @02:22PM (#19869175)
        I graduated from school 6 years ago, and don't remember any of the details from my studies... however, the process (math heavy) of CS remains valuable. The MBA I picked up later rounded out my skill set, but if I had taken an accounting course or two plus a general management course or two, I could have saved the time and cash and gotten it later.

        Right out of school, IT may be the more useful degree. Why CS grads can get any IT jobs easily, if the outsourced HR recruiting firm is looking for IT, you'll struggle, because if you can't check the boxes, you don't get the interviews. However, your first job should be on-campus recruiting, so if you're careful, it won't make a difference.

        Ten or fifteen years out, we'd all like to think that nobody cares about degrees, but it isn't true. Once you move up the food chain a bit, management LIKES degreed people. They are happy to hire programmers with high school degrees or even drop outs that can sling code, but once they need a technical lead, they don't want the gut without the degree. Sure, plenty of people will post here about how they are just fine without the degree, but it is a limitation, and the original poster has already decided to get the degree.

        In 15 years, the IT degree will seem like a slightly upgrade Vo-Tech degree, and the CS degree will seem like a real engineering degree. This shouldn't matter, but it will. When you start dealing with managers with Ivy League (equivalent in your case) degrees and pedigrees, they'll see the CS-guy as one of them but more technical, they'll see the IT guy as below them.

        Think nobody will care in 15 years what you did in your early 20s? Most people are unimpressive, they don't really do much during their life... for those people, their MOST measurable accomplishments are schooling, so they trade on it, and respect others that do as well. Hell, my high school, that I went to for three years, remains on my resume, because it's the top school in my area, and most of the people I interview with are trying to send their kids there (or are sending their kids there), and after fighting with the increasingly draconian admissions process, figure anyone that went there must be top notch.

        You never know what will help in the future, so run with it.
        • by scoove ( 71173 ) on Sunday July 15, 2007 @03:26PM (#19869675)
          One option if you can make the time for the investment is to add either a minor, double-major or emphasis in a non-technology field, especially if you're looking at the IT path. This approach will set you apart from other candidates and puts you in a position to be able to communicate and understand problems in specific business domains.

          For example, while the Fortune 250 firm I work for is shedding programmers and analysts like mad for outsourced options, it is also hiring project managers, auditors, information security analysts and risk managers who have a non-IT specialization like finance, marketing, legal/regulatory in conjunction with the IT foundation. These multi-domain specialists are critical in moving projects forward, especially when the programming staff is outsourced and someone has to relate business requirements to the outsourcing resource.

          Having come up in telecom and IT, I went back and added a finance degree a few years ago and am now completing a masters in economics. I went from having a tough job competing over scarce network engineering positions to a senior position in operational risk. The key was mastering more than one business domain so my employer found I could work between different business units. Many of my friends who've been successful have taken the same approach and it is a great way to reach into a six-figure salary pretty quickly.

          If you find you're quantitatively inclined, you might consider getting a double major in finance or statistics to complement that IT degree, rather than focusing on a CS degree. The quant can be harder and the job market is significantly different. Countless firms have a shortage of IT analysts in finance, data mining and other corporate decision-making fields.

          As long as you're a replaceable commodity, you'll be at risk to outsourcing and low salary issues. Become someone who can help management understand their problem area and relate it to a technology solution and you'll do very well.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rossz ( 67331 )

        A good CS major can do any job an IT major can, but an IT major can not do everything a CS major can, so don't limit yourself!

        I disagree. I've never met a CS major who was worth a damn as a system administrator. It's a different mindset.
    • by sudog ( 101964 )
      Computer Science is not programming. Any code monkey can program. Computer Science is the science of computability and algorithms.

      You may have been first post, but you still managed to confuse what CS actually is with what knobs from Goofball U. think it is.
    • by jefu ( 53450 )
      I must assume your signature referred to a104101 [] but it might have been a122115 []. The most likely possibility though: 4,8,15,16,20,3,42 doesn't seem to have an entry.
  • I understand the difference between the two courses (CS being the study of the principles and concepts involved in Computing at a more fundamental, and often more sophisticated level, and IT being a more practical, application based approach to computing), but would like to know from anybody who has studied either or both of the courses what kinds of careers each course would lead into and what would you recommend for someone such as myself, having a broad range of interests and wishing to dabble in everything before deciding where to specialise?
    Well, I've never been through the British education system, only the American one. So I'll give you the advice I would give anyone I know in America.

    If you're planning on doing a two year technical college kind of thing then I recommend you to do otherwise. The auxillary courses that a four year technical college gave me have to a great extent been useful (possibly more so than the technical courses I took).

    Assuming you've got a four year college plan, I would recommend you make two separate plans from your college's website. Take the IT path and pick out all your generals & then all your electives (it doesn't have to be accurate, just a rough guess). Then do the same with computer science. I'll bet you'll see that a lot of general electives overlap so take mostly those your first semester. While you're there, I think you'll be exposed to more students in the same and other realms. How do you so easily discount electrical engineering when IT & computer science are your obvious choices?

    In America, there would be absolutely nothing wrong with changing from one to the other in the middle of your college career. It might mean more work but that's better than a lifetime of regret. In fact, it's almost expected you change your mind five or six times in college where I went to school. Sure, it'd take people five or six years to graduate but it's their choice.

    I would recommend you do the above for not only IT & CSci but also EE & Computer Engineering (kind of a cross between CSci & EE). In my undergrad, I took CSci, Math & Music Theory courses to a heavy extent. I finished one class away from a math minor and one class away from a music minor. I'm really happy that I was able to take those diverse courses that were often a refreshing break from Computer Science. But, in the end, I almost wish I had committed to the Computer Engineering course even though it would have edged out the extra math and music I took because it is such a demanding program.

    In the end, there's jobs in both these fields. I can't argue for one over the other because I don't like IT/Business people. Why do I hate them? Because I don't think they really care about anything other than money and they're often performing trivial jobs ... so maybe I feel sorry for them more than I hate them. I'm sure you're a very different person than I am, so it would be pointless for me to recommend you take CSci because in all likelihood, we have different values of different kinds of work.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )

      Well, I've never been through the British education system, only the American one. So I'll give you the advice I would give anyone I know in America.

      To put this in context, that's pretty much the equivalent for someone asking a question about kernel programming being told:

      Well, I've never used C, only the Perl one. So I'll give you the advice I would give anyone I know writing a Perl script.

      I.e. it may be good advice, but it is completely irrelevant to the question. The UK and US education systems are very difficult, especially at the university level. The US system regards university as a progression from school, and is based around teaching students. The UK system regards university students as adults who are meant to be responsible for their own learning and is ba

      • Out of curiousity, what makes you decide that the submitter is British, and not Candian, Indian, or some other nationality of European?
        • The fact that he described his current level of schooling as 'secondary' implies he is British, or in a country that mirrors the British school system.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nine-times ( 778537 )

      That's a thoughtful post, but the idea in it all that I like best is this: Don't make up your mind so easily.

      Unless you're stubbornly sticking to a single path, going through college will probably change your view of where you'd like to be in 10 years. And then after you get out of college, setting out in the real world may change that view again. Working for 10 years on a given career path might make you want to change paths, or even change careers altogether. Things change more often than young people

    • by TheMCP ( 121589 ) on Sunday July 15, 2007 @12:25PM (#19868059) Homepage
      I've got... uhm... 19 years working in the industry by now, and I've been both a lead programmer and an IT director, so I say all of this with some assurance:

      A degree in IT requires the study of how to use and apply computers. A degree in CS requires the study of how to program computers.

      If you get a degree in IT, you'll be able to get jobs in IT. If you get a degree in CS, you'll be able to get jobs in CS or IT. So, that CS degree gives you a lot more job options. Further, a lot of people in IT burn out on it, so if you got a degree in IT, you could end up stuck doing a job you hate, while if you get a degree in CS, you can transition back and forth between IT and programming jobs as you like.

      To clarify further, while a programming manager won't hire an IT person as a programmer at any level (they didn't study it, after all, so theyd have to learn years of programming experience on the job), an IT director will generally hire a CS person as an entry level IT person, and then once you have that job experience it's easy to move up the IT ladder as you change jobs. (I went directly from lowly IT grunt in a larger company to IT director in a smaller one.) You really can learn how IT is done on the job, and since there are few barriers to moving up in the field (with so many burnouts there isn't as much experienced competition as you'd expect) it's much better to have that CS degree and then if you want to do IT, work your way up in it.
    • I can't argue for one over the other because I don't like IT/Business people. Why do I hate them? Because I don't think they really care about anything other than money and they're often performing trivial jobs

      Are you talking business application programming? If so, you should be modded a "troll". If they were "trivial" they would be trivial to automate, and all the biz programmers would be out of business. It is often a complex mental excercise to take a lot of business rules and try to simplify them and
  • depends, of course (Score:3, Interesting)

    by squarefish ( 561836 ) * on Sunday July 15, 2007 @10:10AM (#19866789)
    You'll probably be more locked into programming with the CS route and the IT option will let you get into programming while also being more open in the future for project management, design, and planning. I personally think the IT degree would be more geared towards the higher level exec and may be easier to make bigger bucks in the long term, and possibly short term, if that's one of your factors. Find out if the IT program prepares you for the PMP or any other major cert, which could be very useful to you in the future.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 15, 2007 @10:10AM (#19866799)

    Do you like math? Are you good at it? What about algorithms? Do self-balancing binary search trees give you a boner? If you answered yes to lots of these questions, stick with Computer Science.

    On the other hand, "IT" sounds like a "Microsoft Office with some introductory Java on the side" course. You might want to find some better middle ground if you actually want to do some serious work.

  • I would avoid IT (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Sunday July 15, 2007 @10:11AM (#19866815)
    What you may want is a Software Engineering degree. I went into Computer Science since my university didn't offer SWE, and occasionally I took a CIS/IT course. What I noticed was that the students were typically very low quality students and had little interest beyond what was right in front of them for the assignment. The course material was also very superficial, even where we had overlaps. Our CS networking classes could actually train you to be an entry-level admin. Not at all true of the IT program. Programming? Our freshman entered CS with almost as many credits as their seniors graduated with.

    You can focus on whatever you want in CS, so take it if you like IT work. It'll pay a lot more than an IT degree and carry more weight when you switch jobs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QX-Mat ( 460729 )

      Avoid information degrees like the plague. They're half assed awards aiming at the market a poor programer will find easy - mostly web systems. I believe in a hierarchy of programming and sadly the information or enterprise courses aim to make web monkeys - web monkeys find it harder to breakout of their web niche which is quickly becoming over populated with causal programmers (who are coming more and more skilled!) such as college grads and drop outs.

      I did a software engineering degree with electroni
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Courageous ( 228506 )
        Avoid information degrees like the plague...

        I would agree, based on a general principle. As a young person, when in doubt, take the harder path. The harder degree opens more doors, and when you are young, opening doors is why you are getting your quals, even when you don't know what you want to do exactly. As other posters in this thread have stated, there is no job for which an IT degree qualifies you that a CS degree does not qualify you better. Go for the CS degree. A little bit of a side note: like the
  • Get a job (Score:4, Insightful)

    by also-rr ( 980579 ) on Sunday July 15, 2007 @10:12AM (#19866819) Homepage
    For most people qualifications only serve to prove a minimum standard of competence. Yes, a degree is both necessary and a good choice - it helps develop your skills, and also makes you eligible for jobs where someone has made a degree a check box requirement - but other than getting past the first round it makes little difference to the prospect of being hired.

    So instead of worrying exactly which degree to take, just get the one that you think you will enjoy most. It's going to be your life for years - if you don't enjoy it, it'll kill you. I did engineering, because it was fun, and I got offers from the IT industry when I graduated as well as elsewhere. There were plenty of people with maths and physics degrees heading into IT as well.

    Much more important is to get employment in the right field. Even if it's an unpaid weekend job, or summers doing network admin stuff. Steady employment and a track record is much more impressive than anything most of your competitors will have at the start of the mad rush to hire graduates. The closer it is to your field the better, and if you can pick a company that will keep having you back and give you more impressive things to do that's great.

    Even if they (or you) don't want to turn things permanent after college, then you will already have a headstart on networking in your field, proof you can work for a week in an office without putting laxative in the coffee and good things to talk about at interviews.
  • If you want to work for the industry (Intel, Microsoft, Cisco), you'd want CS. If you would rather be a a programmer or admin in the CS department of a non-industry company, than IS would likely be more useful.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pyite ( 140350 )
      If you want to work for the industry (Intel, Microsoft, Cisco), you'd want CS. If you would rather be a a programmer or admin in the CS department of a non-industry company, than IS would likely be more useful.

      That's a horrible metric. I work in the financial services industry (i.e. not the tech industry). I'm not even in a programming position (I'm in network engineering), and myself and a lot of the people I work with have either engineering, computer science, or math degrees. When you move into the devel
  • MIS (Score:2, Interesting)

    by coop247 ( 974899 )
    I started out in CompSci for 2 years, and then switched to (and graduated) MIS. Trust me, the finance/accounting/management courses you have to take with MIS are much more valuable than physics and calculus. MIS will get you a variety of jobs, CompSci pretty much sticks you with programming.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Having switched the other way, I have some other observations to make:
      1. Most (but not all) of the students in your situation were the ones who "washed out" of CS. There's sort of a general hierarchy of majors--hard science and engineering majors are the toughest, people who wash out or don't want to take the workload of those drop down into business or communications, and people who can't even take that drop down into education. Liberal arts exists somewhere alongside "business on down". This, best of all,
  • My vote: CS (Score:4, Informative)

    by kravlor ( 597242 ) on Sunday July 15, 2007 @10:16AM (#19866851) Homepage

    I hold a BA in Computer Science, and would highly recommend its study. The principles you learn are not solely relegated to computer science -- at least, not most of them. I've been able to successfully apply them to the fields of physics and mathematics in college, and continued to do so to problems in my research in the fields of nuclear engineering and fusion energy science today. It certainly has aided my job as a scientist -- a position you may not have considered relevant to CS/IT. Keep it in mind, we always need more bright people! :)

    That said, I'm a bit of a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to IT. It certainly is helpful to be able to solve a problem with the tools at hand. IT problems tend to be a bit more lucrative to solve (or solve more efficiently than those who came before you).

    If you plan on being a creative problem-solver in your chosen line of work, seriously consider the perspective a CS background can offer. In my mind, that gives you the ability to pick up whatever the latest nifty tools/utilities that help you solve your day-to-day problems.

  • Cherry-pick! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by davecb ( 6526 ) * <> on Sunday July 15, 2007 @10:17AM (#19866855) Homepage Journal

    If you really want to understand the subject, take overlapping courses from both specialties. You'll need to know how both communities think to do well in either.

    I had to do this in math: to understand calculus, you needed both the practical eamples, taught only in the engineering course, and know how the theroms worked, taught only in the "pure" maths courses. So I took one and audited the other, and and aced them both after getting an F in the previous term (;-))

    This worked for computer science and software engineering too, and in my current job consulting in IT, I use a lot of science...

  • Repost? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Keebler71 ( 520908 ) on Sunday July 15, 2007 @10:18AM (#19866871) Journal
    Is it just me or does this question (or a variant thereof) seem to appear at least every couple months?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by freeweed ( 309734 )
      It's not just you. This is becoming a discussion almost rising to the level of pointless white noise on Slashdot, because it's getting re-hashed to death.

      Look, folks, what *your* school taught you under the umbrella of (CS/IT/IS/MIS/SWE/CE) is not what every school teaches it as. I've actually found 2 schools up here in Canada that teach 2 subjects in exactly opposite directions - one has CS being mainly theoretical and programming, with CE being hardware and such - and the other school used the labels enti
  • by canuck57 ( 662392 ) on Sunday July 15, 2007 @10:20AM (#19866887)

    I would go for accounting and a minor in computers....

    First, all anyone cares about 3+ years down the road is you have a degree in something more technical than basket weaving. I have worked with computers my entire career and have a technical degree but it is not Comp-Sci. When the new manager finds out what the degree is, I get no problems as it is a harder degree to get that Comp-Sci.

    Second, by having a degree in something other than computers gives you a business advantage. Say you had accounting, then configuring SAP or some other ERP system and understanding a credit and debit, journal entries etc. will all be simple to you.

    One good thing about college/universities is they teach you how to learn... using that you can self learn any I/T skill you will need. In fact, a C/S degree does not adequately prepare people technically anyway, and many with a C/S come into the work force thinking they are prepared when they are not. They soon realize that technical skills development is a life long endeavor in this I/T business.

    The other advantage is if you don't like it you have a second career path... I/T is not for everyone. And if you have the smarts to be really good technically in I/T, getting a degree leading to a CA should not be hard at all.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If you think your accounting degree was harder to get than a CS degree, then (at least) one of these is true:

      (i) You went to a school with a really bad "diploma mill" CS program, and the CS courses you took for your minor reflected this.

      (ii) As a CS minor, you avoided the hard CS classes, the stuff that CS majors have to learn that sets computer scientists apart from code monkeys.

      Seriously. Accounting isn't a bullshit non-degree like most business degrees -- good accountants have to be reasonably smart p
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Out of curiosity (seriously), do you actually know anything about accounting? The classes are actually extremely challenging (surprised me, I was from a CS background), but for different reasons than CS (I've taken both). I know this sounds like I'm trying to start a flame, but I'm not. I've noticed that people have a weird tendency to think that whatever they've actually done is the be-all, end-all in terms of importance and difficulty and tend to discredit everything else. Oh, and I'm talking about re
    • This is the result I actually ended up with.

      Some of you out there are *really sharp*. "9 math courses, pfft, piece of cake". However, of the million+ registered users I am positive a large segment are looking at that remark thinking, "Kudos to you too sir, but what can *I* do?" It's not a zero sum "Everest or Bust" proposition. I'd say 2007 is a good marquee year to declare that every growing company in the world has *some* kind of computer system; no one relegates that to the "nerd" department anymore.

  • I'm in the IT industry, and I have been for the past God-knows-how-many years.

    I work with a bunch of excellent IT professionals, and many of them don't have any kind of technical degree. That being said, I think a strong foundation in computer science is very useful.

    An understanding of how "computers work" and what is possible versus impractical or even impossible is, in the least, advantageous. It -is- useful to know how the guts of an operating system works, and why. It is good to know about the detail
  • Do what you love to do. This is your one shot at life. For me, the choice was CS. I can't even imagine what an 'IT' degree is. CS will lay the ground work to create and understand any IT technology.
  • I would say your best bet is to go the computer science route. At least in the US, the "IT professional" major is Management and Information Systems, or MIS. This type of course mixes business classes along with some basic programming curriculum. It is usually the case that students who couldn't get through the CS program switch to MIS since it involves less math and theoretical thinking. (Not ragging on any MIS majors, this is just my observation).

    In the end, most computer science majors will end up in
  • I would pick CS or even EE to start off with, if you have any ability to change later on. Why? Having switched from an IT-esque major (Management Information Systems) up to CS, it's a lot easier the other way around. CS requires, at least in my experience, real math and science courses that more than cover the weak requirements for graduating with a "lower" major, so if you start off there, you're covered no matter what and don't have to take calculus or physics again--whereas with lower majors, you more th

    • College, and the assortment of majors within, are something of an intelligence test. A hard science, comp sci, or engineering degree demonstrates you're intelligent--an IT or business IS degree suggests, at best, that you preferred to party and didn't really give a shit about your education

      I take grave offense to this. Sure, if you go to some no-named school that only has a bachelors in Business Administration, or get a General Business degree, sure. But if you go to a good school, such as the University of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, etc., they all have very competitive Business Schools. Myself, I go to Madison, where getting into the university isn't necessarily the easiest thing to do (didn't have any problems with that), and have been in the Business School for the past year, t

      • Being a competitive business school just means it's better than its business-school peers, not that the program is actually conceptually difficult. Finance does not involve mathematics, I'm afraid- just a lot of arithmetic. Actuaries are probably the only program you mentioned that would use much in the way of anything beyond algebra, since they're primarily statisticians.
      • But if you go to a good school, such as the University of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, etc., they all have very competitive Business Schools.

        I've had the "pleasure" of tutoring business school students at one of the schools you name (Minnesota). The b-school may be good by b-school standards, but that's like saying your shit is unusually sweet-smelling by shit standards. Business school is school for people who want a degree but are afraid of thinking.
    • I'm going to offer a slightly different angle from my experience.

      hard science, comp sci, or engineering degree demonstrates you're intelligent--an IT or business IS degree suggests, at best, that you preferred to party and didn't really give a shit about your education. (There is some value to a business degree, but it's almost always preferable to get an undergraduate degree in a legitimate area of study and, if necessary, an MBA later on.)

      True, but there is a hitch. In my case, I took the most challengin
  • This is something that you are going to have to decide, you can't ask slashdot and get an easy answer that way. Generally speaking you are going to have the CS people telling you to take CS, and IT people telling you to take IT, which really isn't helpful. At the end of the day, you have to determine which road is the one you want to go down. If possible, you may want to take the first year without declaring a major and just explore the two options (plus anything else you think you may want to do, its pe

  • Where are you most comfortable—talking about things or doing them? If the former, go for CS. Otherwise, you are welcome to join the rest of us in the gritty real world.

    Kidding aside, if you really do have a broad range of interests and want room to tinker and explore, you would probably find the narrowness of a CS curriculum stultifying. Tech will give you all the interesting and useful parts of CS and a rich gamut of other topics as well.

  • If you're bright enough to get into university, you're at least bright enough for most of the vacancies you will find for IT (programmer, admin, cleaner, whatever) jobs.

    Most courses are far too academic and let's face it, behind the times, to be relevant for IT job-seeking. Stuff you learn in the first year of your course will either be mainstream or have sunk-without-trace by the time you graduate. Therefore only stuff you study in the final year will be relevant to employers.

    Most IT jobs are sheer dru

  • Over the long term, a CS degree will serve you better than an IT certificate. If you want to be the guy designing new protocols or designing new computers, follow CS (or Electrical Engineering). If you want to be the guy configuring routers and swapping hard drives, reaching your maximum potential a few years out of school with no further advancement, go for IT.

    IT guys can jump from job to job much easier, because IT jobs are almost McJobs at this point. But if you value having a longer career, stick with t
  • if algorithms make your heart beat faster, then go for cs.

    if the thought of calculus makes you wince, go for IT.

    regardless of the actual presence of math in either field, a CS curriculum will be much heavier on math *stuff*.

    another option that is emerging in some colleges in the US are "media" programs [] that focus on content for the web. these are creative programs that focus on the web with opportunities to focus on design, graphics, writing, or A/V production for delivery to the web.

    • if algorithms make your heart beat faster, then go for cs.

      if the thought of calculus makes you wince, go for IT.

      If the thought of calculus makes you wince, do the world a favor and stay the hell out of anything having to do with computers.
  • Go with Computer Science. Theory trumps practical knowledge nearly every time. If you understand the fundamentals of computing, you can use that knowledge and apply it elsewhere with great success.

  • Computer Information Science Technology!

    I knew this chick who had CIST and well... she wasn't hot but she was pretty popular with some guys and stuff...
  • Everything you learn in an "IT" programme you can learn by getting a CS degree. The real, practical difference is that, with a CS degree, you'll know
    why you are choosing certain solutions.

    I've worked with a great deal of people whose education is some kind of IT programme and they are limited in their ability to understand the underlying
    reasons behind what is happening with their systems. With a CS degree, you can also move between an software development career and an IT career
    if you decide. Ver
  • I studied CS about 20 years ago (started in 1988) in Utrecht, The Netherlands. I didn't know it at the time but apparently the CS curriculum in Utrecht was leaning strongly towards the theoretic knowledge rather then teaching practical experience. I found theoretical computer science to be very difficult and sometimes so abstract it was hard to see how it related to day-to-day computer use. Turing machines, Set theory, computer language paradigms, Algorithm Complexity theory, etc. Now, 20 years later, I not
  • The way I figured out what I wanted to do was to actually take a year off after my freshman year of college (majoring in Chemistry) and I kind of fell into a job as a programmer. I had been doing it as a hobby since the age of 10 but had never really considered doing it for a living until I fell into that job. But that's when I decided that's what I wanted to do. I never finished my degree. I did go back, but ended up dropping out again several years later. And now, here I am 15 years later and I'm back in
  • by wwwillem ( 253720 ) on Sunday July 15, 2007 @11:09AM (#19867349) Homepage
    Starting with number two, ask yourself the question: "do you want to know everything about nothing or nothing about everything". The best illustration I guess about these two extremes are getting a degree/masters in nuclear physics and on the other side doing an MBA. The former falls for me in the category 'learn a profession'. Now the interesting thing is that people can move in their career (and most will) from being a specialist to becoming more generic, like moving into management. But I don't see that happen the other way around.

    Translating this to CS/IT: a programmer can easily become a sys-admin, but I don't see that happen so quickly the other way around. BTW, I'm saying all this with 25 years experience behind the belt. I've even been a short while on the other side of the fence, teaching CS/IT at the university.

    The other part --aim high-- is simple. Which of your two options would be the biggest challenge to complete. Pick that one!! You can always downgrade, it's much tougher to upgrade.

  • Of the three really good young people, all with robotics and control experience, who worked on our DARPA Grand Challenge robot vehicle, two are now in financial engineering. One is running a hedge fund out of Santa Fe that's driven by program trading. One is in the Bahamas with an offshore fund. The third is running an iPhone group at Apple.

    But these are top people. If you can handle the math, get an undergrad CS degree, then an MBA. If you're further down the food chain, an IT career is an option.

  • IT people who don't understand CS tend to make bad decisions. Also beware of thinking you don't need to learn IT after you know CS - that leads to the stereotype of the CS geek who lives in his little theory world which can't actually be implemented. But trying to do IT without knowing how any of the things you're working with actually works is a recipe for disaster. If you think of IT as 'solving business problems by applying CS' you'll do OK.
  • so... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nomadic ( 141991 ) <> on Sunday July 15, 2007 @11:33AM (#19867589) Homepage
    Double major.
  • Your choice of curriculum in higher education is not relevant to your career path, at least not for people in IT. The field is full of self-taught and people with degree in unrelated disciplines (math and history being prevalant in my circle). Your degree may help with the first job or two, but that's it. After that, it's all about your network and your soft skills: leadership, people skill, reliability, etc.

    But don't despair just yet. University is actually of great help with starting your network, and
  • "Information technology" is a lot like stationary engineering [] as a career. Once upon a time, around 1900, stationary engineering was the hot field to get into. People were needed to run the high technology that made the wheels of the world go around - steam engines, generating plants, heavy industrial machinery. It was a new field - vast amounts of machinery were being built and installed, the technology was advancing rapidly, and the world was changing drastically as, for the first time in history, pow

  • There are a lot of different roles in the "IT industry". Since you don't specify what exactly you think you'd like to do, you're going to get a lot of responses that are all over the place.

    For getting your first IT job, the nature of your degree doesn't matter a whole lot. Your knowledge, skills and interests do. For getting your second job, your degree matters even less, and your resume and demonstrable skills matter even more.

    Choose a degree that is going to give you the knowledge you want for the fiel
  • I've never been to Uni, so I'm not exactly in a position to say what the relative merits of one course over the other is. What I will say, from the point of view of someone who reads job descriptions a fair amount, is that most recruiters seem to list a good CS degree as requirement for most programming roles. Whether that's because it's what they actually want, or because that's what they think they want, I couldn't say for certain.

    From talking to a friend who works in management, and with various othe

  • The term "IT" is somewhat nebulous, but in general I think of it as meaning roughly what "DP" (Data Processing) meant 25 years ago. There's a strong emphasis on a businessy approach to things, and if you work in this area, a lot of your time may end up being spent on vendor management and rote maintenance tasks, as opposed to creating things. This isn't necessarily bad, if that's what you want to do.

    I have BS and MS degrees in CS, but I've worked some jobs that could be described as IT-ish. One nice th

  • I've 20+ years in IT and a CS degree.

    Take whatever degree gives you the most options. Can you do a Phd in IT, I doubt it.

    My advice take the CS as it opens doors to other fields. IT is a pretty hard way to make a steady living, it's all boom and bust. Can be good fun if you have some savings but hell if you acquire any debt. You need to be able to quit when you want to survive.
  • Much, if not most, on the subject of "CS or IT" from the point of view of what's in their respective curricula has already been said by other posters so I will skip that aspect.

    Instead I will make a few really obvious points about which university to choose.

    Obviously you will try to get into the best university your test scores allow. If you are e.g. in a position to go to MIT or Stanford or one of the other top universities ... that will be more important in your career than which exact curriculum you

  • Disclaimer: I am prejudiced. I don't have a CS or IT degree, I am a scientist by training. And if I look at the fate of most people with IT degrees in our organization, I can only have pity on them.

    If you want to have a real career, then by all means retain your broad range of interests. "Dabbling" is okay, but perhaps you want to specialize a bit -- to consider for a moment to what field you would want to apply these computing skills. If you would enjoy writing financial software, you'll better know some

  • I'm going to assume that you're still fairly young - in your late teens.

    Computing in general is a fairly broad field. Off the top of my head, I can think of:
    • Embedded software development (things like set top boxes, routers).
    • Business application development (you probably won't write the next Word for Windows, but you may very well be involved in writing a piece of software to solve the kind of boring business need which never gets much attention from the open source crowd)
    • Mission/life critical application d
  • Liberal Arts (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bennomatic ( 691188 ) on Sunday July 15, 2007 @01:20PM (#19868561) Homepage
    Personally, I would recommend neither. Get yourself a liberal arts degree. Understanding a broader range of science, language, history, literature, politics, sociology, business and communication skills will make you a happier person in the long run.

    It may be harder to land that killer job at your dream company right out of school, but if you're like most people, you'll grow and change over the years, and you'll look back and think to yourself that you're so glad you didn't get that job, or even better, how funny it is that you're now running the company that didn't take you as an entry level employee.

    Liberal arts are severely underappreciated in this world. The more bright, interesting people who refuse to over-focus too early in their careers, the better the world will be; please do your part.

    So study your technology. But this is an undergraduate degree; treat it like a beginning, not an end. The race is a long one, and you really don't need to be going full speed out of the gate.

  • ...then you don't belong in this industry.
  • Make sure that you have a strong business background. Otherwise you wont be seen as valuable and will be the first to have your butt shipped off to India.

    It is true that alot of jobs from HR require a cs degree but alot have most of their developers in India who have no sense of business.

    Also many Information tech programs with a business twist teach you object oriented design and principles. This is very important and not taught in cs programs where the focus is unpractical calculus programs.
  • IF you want to work in a cube and build front end application, IT.
    You like computers, but aren't sure where you are going, CS.

    I recommend CS because it is very doubtfull YOu know where life is going to take you.

    I recommend taking a minor in business. It will elp you immeasurably.

    I am now going to tell you how to keep themost control over your life and always have power over your employeers:

    Live as far below your means as you can. Never get a loan for anything except a home. A home is the exception because i
  • To get you on the right way, I will ask you a few questions instead...

    i've decided that I want a career in the IT industry

    Why have you decided upon a career in the IT industry? Why do you want a career in the first place, and not just a job? What do you view as important in a future job? Regular hours? Lots of overtime? High responsibility? Log off, and go on go home to your family/friends/hobby/etc? High pay? Having a work that you find ethically responsible? Male-dominated? Both sexes? Corporate machiner

  • I minored in IT with a CS major. It would have been easy to have changed after the intro courses, but from what I saw, the IT side was a joke at my school. Taking the time to look at them both helped make the decision easy. At the time, these graduates were going off finding programming jobs during the end of the dot-com boom, but most of them were the first to go in the bust. The true CS students that were in it for the science and not the money are still doing fine.

    If you want to have a business degre
  • by Viv ( 54519 ) on Sunday July 15, 2007 @02:26PM (#19869215)
    My background: I am a student at the University of Oklahoma. I have recently graduated with a bachelors in Computer Engineering, am about to graduate with a master's in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and am set to attend the MBA program in the fall.

    At the University of Oklahoma (and at most universities in the USA), universities break up into Colleges by discipline grouping, and each College generally has an associated "quality" level. At the University of Oklahoma, and at most US institutions, this perceived quality level breaks down as follows:

    Tier I:
    Tier II:
    Tier III:
        Liberal Arts
    Tier IV:

    Depending on the University in question, individual programs within the various tiers may move up or down a level. The University of Texas, for example, has an outstanding Computer Science curriculum that is organized under the "Science" banner, but it is without a doubt a Tier I program, UC Berkley's Chemistry program is Tier I, etc. And I'm sure there are universities with absolutely terrible engineering programs that might be better off as falling under Tier II. But that said, in general, the discipline groupings break down as above.

    At the University of Oklahoma, the Computer Science department falls under the umbrella of the College of Engineering. They have to take all the calculus the engineers do, one of the two engineering physics undergrad classes, and an additional hard science chemistry class. (ie, they swap out Eng Phys II for Chem II). The Computer Science curriculum is considered by most folks in the College of Engineering to be a tier II engineering curriculum, which is to say that it's considered to be an average program in the College of Engineering (... but because engineering falls into Tier I, it's still a Tier I program...)

    Now to the point:

    At the University of Oklahoma, our "IT" degree is known as Management Information Systems (MIS). It falls under the business college. It's like this at most universities in the USA. At most universities in the USA, it also happens to fall on the lowest rung of the business college; it's the very lowest tier. At the top are accounting, finance and economics, then everyone else, then at the very bottom is MIS. It's bad when even the marketing majors have more to be proud of.

    MIS is where all the kids who tried and failed at CS end up. MIS is where a lot of the kids who tried and failed at accounting, finance and economics end up. MIS is where the dregs go. It is at the bottom of the barrel. Most of the time, the MIS programs are so bad that they fall out of Tier II (as above) directly into Tier III or IV.

    Now, this is not to say that everyone who is in MIS is a low quality churl. But because it's where the low quality churls end up, you will often find that it's what's expected of MIS majors. Many people, myself included, have zero respect for MIS degrees.

    I guess IT could be different in Britain, but I doubt it.

    I would recommend going for either an engineering degree or a computer science degree, and if you really want business exposure, take some business classes as electives or pursue an MBA style graduate degree.

    And as another piece of advice: If you haven't already, become skilled at public speaking; take some classes if you need to. There are many, many sins that can be made up for when you have the ability to give a good presentation.

Promising costs nothing, it's the delivering that kills you.