Sometimes the things people see in television shows and movies can be confusing or even misleading. One such misperception is that professionals who work with advanced technology or computers can be referred to as computer science or computer information systems experts.
These two terms have been frequently incorporated into movies and shows in a way that suggests that they are the same career. However, to refer to these terms as the same can lead to confusion for someone who may be interested in pursuing a career in one of these exciting and growing fields. Aspiring students need to distinguish between these two distinct professions to determine the most fitting career path. But first, let’s highlight the playing field.
What is Computer Information Systems?
Although it has a lot in common with the traditional study of computer science, the study of Computer Information Systems (CIS) focuses on the practical applications of computer technology through the study of a broad range of subjects. Professionals in this field may have knowledge and expertise in topics such as software design, communications or business. They are the experts to turn to when it comes to applying technology to business applications.
A typical course of study for a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems includes coursework in programming, international technology, project management and economics. Students learn how information systems function in a business environment and study network theory, system administration, enterprise architecture and database management along with finance, statistics and marketing.
Careers in Computer Information Systems
Computer information system jobs are available in a wide range of industries outside of IT. Earning a CIS degree can open opportunities to some of today’s fastest-growing career tracks. Computer information systems careers can include:
- Database Administrator
- Project Manager
- Systems Analyst
- Chief Information Officer
- Chief Security Officer
- Information Systems Manager
Computer Information Systems Required Skills
People who obtain a computer information systems degree may have a strong knowledge of software and programming languages like Java, Visual Basic and SQL. Other common skills required in the CIS field are:
- Problem-solving abilities
- Flexibility in a team environment
- Change management
- Project management
- Ability to understand user requests and experience
- Organizational skills
CIS professionals should note that when it comes to job hunting, companies are paying extra close attention to the soft skills mentioned above. According to Robert Half, even the most technical jobs in the digital era require negotiation, marketing and writing skills. So, even if you have strong technical expertise to show off, add value to your profile by highlighting your other aptitudes.
What is Computer Science?
A computer science degree program emphasizes the theoretical and mathematical foundations of computing. A computer science career is for those interested in programming, from databases to business applications coding. Computer scientists typically have backgrounds in algorithms, software architecture, writing code, design patterns and data structures.
Individuals pursuing a computer science degree can expect to take courses such as Logic and Computation, Computer Architecture, Linear Algebra, Calculus, Probability and Statistics, Operating Systems, Computer Networking, Artificial Intelligence, Multimedia, Computer Graphics and Game Design.
Careers in Computer Science
Possible career opportunities for a Computer Science professional might include:
- Computer Systems Analyst
- Computer Programmer
- Computer Support Specialist
- Software Development Engineer
- Information Technology Consultant
- Web Developer
- Java Developer
- Cybersecurity Specialist
Required Skills for Computer Science
- CS-related math skills (e.g., linear algebra, calculus, statistics)
- Java, C++, Python and CSS
- Software engineering and development
- Linux operating systems
Which Degree is Right for You?
There are certainly similarities between computer information systems and computer science, but the focus and goals of each differs in many ways. Computer science focuses on the design and development of all kinds of software, particularly the kind that allows different devices to operate.
Computer science majors typically write programs and work with operating systems and computer architectures. CIS, on the other hand, is more about examining the relationship between organizations and their information systems and making them as seamless and effective as possible.
When deciding on one of these computer-related career paths, it’s critical to be clear and detailed about exactly what it is you’re looking for in a career. By researching potential professions carefully, you’ll be able to discern the differences and similarities between several possible programs of study. Gathering data about your prospective field and carefully evaluating it will allow you to make an informed choice about the best career path for you.