Are you interested in transitioning to a career as a computer or information technology professional? Are you seeking to upgrade your current computer skills? Then you may be wondering whether pursuing a Master’s Degree in Information Technology (MSIT) or a Master’s Degree in Computer Science (MCS) would be more beneficial. The two fields may look similar on the surface, but there are distinct differences.

An MCS program will typically focus on the computer, computing science and the software applications which run on multiple computing platforms. An MSIT program, on the other hand, will usually focus on the practical aspects of computing and meeting the needs of the computer’s end users.

Master’s in Computer Science

While there is quite a bit of overlap between MCS and MSIT degree programs, there are some clear differences in the MCS program in terms of scope, program curriculum and career paths.

The Computer Science Field

  • Computer science is, put simply, the science of computing. Computer scientists study computers, determine what they can do, and then create new software to take advantage of their capabilities. Computer science encompasses many disciplines, such as software engineering, artificial intelligence and hardware design.
  • Computer scientists study the underlying principles of computing, leading to computer applications in various fields.
  • Computer science is focused primarily on programming.

Curriculum

  • The essential concepts of computer science have their roots in physics, electrical engineering, mathematics and linguistics. Master’s degree programs may include instruction on the entire life cycle of computer application development, including programming languages and development frameworks, modeling and algorithm development, and software development techniques.
  • Core courses generally cover fundamental topics such as theory and systems. Theory courses may include algorithms, numerical analysis, performance evaluations and theory of computation. Systems courses typically include operating systems, database systems, software engineering, artificial intelligence, networks and graphics.

Potential Career Paths

  • Master’s of Science in Computer Science programs prepare students for professional careers in a variety of roles, including software development, computer science research, computer programming and analysis, web development, systems development, and software development engineering and testing.

Masters in Information Technology

Pursuing an MSIT degree is a smart choice for individuals who seek to specialize in the practical application of computers and software. Information technology professionals work in many different types of organizations, solving problems using the latest technology.

The Information Technology Field

  • Information technology is an academic discipline distinct from computer engineering, computer science and management information system. IT focuses on meeting the needs of users through the creation, application and management of computing technologies.
  • Information technology professionals study how to make information systems work to best solve problems, leading to their application in various fields.
  • Information technology is focused primarily on processing information.

Curriculum

  • Today’s employers are looking for skilled information technology professionals who also possess project management and problem-solving abilities. MSIT degree programs expose students to instruction in both business and technology, so they can understand how to integrate business needs with IT solutions.
  • MSIT technology courses generally cover the theory and practice of information technology systems analysis, design, creation and management. Courses may include advanced management of information systems, introduction to information security management and database systems management.
  • Business courses included in a typical MSIT program include financial accounting, organizational behavior and corporate finance.

Potential Career Paths

  • Master’s of Science in Information Technology programs provide a broad technical understanding of current and evolving technologies, so students are prepared to pursue careers in data processing, systems and software design, IT architecture, networking, and hardware and software development.

Information Technology Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for computer and information systems managers will grow much faster than the average occupation through 2018. Growth will occur as business technology needs expand, spurring demand for skilled IT professionals. However, a growing job rate may not guarantee employment in this industry. Prospective students are encouraged to conduct independent research regarding actual job growth rates, which vary according to location, education and experience.

The Distinct Differences Between MSIT and MCS

Now that you know the differences between a Master of Science in Information Technology degree and a Master of Science in Computer Science degree, you’ll be able to better decide which program is the best match for your skills and interests. For example, if you’re intrigued by the combination of business and technology, then earning an MSIT degree may be the right path for you. Enrolling in an MSIT degree program will not only give you in-demand skills, but it can also help advance your career possibilities in the growing field of computer and information systems. Ultimately it will be your decision as to which of these courses you’ll choose, but simply knowing the subtle differences between the two can make a life-changing difference.

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