Computer Information Systems vs. Computer Science

If you’re considering a career working with computer technology, you will no doubt run across two educational paths that sound similar, computer information systems and computer science. While related, these two disciplines encompass different training, skills and opportunities, which you’ll learn about as we explore the following questions:

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What is Computer Science?

Computer science (CS) is the study of computation, its application in the development of computer hardware and software and the theoretical study of algorithms. Let’s break this down a little further:

Computation is any type of calculation that involves numeric as well as non-numeric steps and follows a well-defined model. Any mechanical or electronic device that performs computation is known as a computer.

Computer software is a set of computer programs that manage the general operation of the computer as a whole. These programs may each contain a simple set of operations used to execute small tasks in order to accomplish a specific function within the computer.

On a practical level, an education in computer science can help you gain the foundational skills you need to pursue work as a coder or computer programmer. The courses you would take in a computer science program include software engineering, data structures, software systems and programs and software theory.

In a moment, we’ll dive into computer science vs. computer information systems; but first, we’ll define what computer information systems is on its own.

What is Computer Information Systems?

The field of computer information systems (CIS) is a discipline within computer science. It focuses on the use of information technology and custom applications within the context of business.

Keep in mind that a computer information system refers to computers that collect, store, process, interpret and distribute data and information for an organization, and the people that operate them. This is different than the term computer operating system, which is a container for all of the programs, software and applications that make up the functionality of a computer or mobile device.

An education in computer information systems can help you gain both technical and business knowledge. You must combine technical, computer science know-how with the IT specific business knowledge needed to inform strategic business decisions. Typical courses include programming, web development, as well as database administration and system security and compliance.

What is the Difference between Computer Information Systems and Computer Science?

CS careers tend to be more technical than CIS careers. Where computer science professionals create software programs and applications, computer information systems professionals implement and manage the software for their organization.

The educational pathways for both professions do have some overlap in the foundational computer science skills that both types of professionals need in order to be effective and efficient in their work. However, computer science programs cover technical and theoretical knowledge thoroughly whereas a computer information systems program tends to be more specialized and practical.

In short, computer science professionals make software and systems, and computer information system professionals make strategic decisions about the features and uses of those systems.

What Careers are Available in Computer Science?

Jobs available to computer and information technology professionals are expected to increase by 13% on a national level between 2020 and 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics1. This growth will stem from an increased adoption of cloud computing, the need for data collection and storage and general data security needs.

Here are some of the job titles that someone pursuing a career in computer science may come across in the computer and information technology sector:

  • Cloud Support Specialist – A cloud support specialist is the initial support contact for customers. They manage the support queue to provide rapid response.

  • Cloud Services Associate – A cloud services associate helps people and businesses migrate computing infrastructures and applications into the cloud.

  • Computer Support Specialist – A computer support specialist, also known as a technical support specialist, analyzes, troubleshoots and evaluates computer network problems.

  • Entry-Level Network System Administrator – A entry-level network system administrator designs, deploys and administers wireless infrastructure and supporting network systems.

  • Network Technician – A network technician troubleshoots software and hardware issues, identifies repairs needed and then makes those repairs.

  • Computer Hardware Engineer – A computer hardware engineer develops and maintains the physical hardware needed for computers and devices to operate.

  • Database Administrator – A database administrator oversees database security, performance, and maintenance to ensure they are safe from security threats and operating as intended.

  • Information Security Analyst – An information security analyst prevents, or identifies and remedies, cyber threats to a business’s or organization’s sensitive data.

  • Software Engineer – A software engineer develops and maintains new and existing software used by computers or other devices.

What Careers are Available in Computer Information Systems?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics2, demand for computer information systems managers is expected to grow by 11% on a national level from 2020-2030. Most managers in this field will require at least a bachelor’s degree.

Graduates of DeVry University’s Bachelor's Degree in Computer Information Systems for example may consider careers such as:

  • Applications Programmer Analyst – An applications programmer analyst implements and analyzes the performance of software programs against performance standards and recommends solutions when they are not performing as intended.

  • Computer Programmer – A computer programmer writes coded instructions for computer applications and software.

  • Computer Security Specialist – A computer security specialist protects systems from security threats and vulnerabilities that would put the integrity of the system or its data at risk.

  • Data Analyst – A data analyst is responsible for an organization’s data and ensuring that key stakeholders can readily access and interpret data for use in strategic decision making.

  • Data Scientist – A data scientist is a type of data analyst that deals in big data and works to solve complex problems by analyzing and interpreting data patterns.

  • Penetration Tester – A penetration tester runs security audits and tests on specific areas of computer systems at scheduled times (compared to ethical hackers who run these types of tests at random). This is done in an effort to proactively identify vulnerabilities and avoid security risks.

  • Systems Analyst – A system analyst is also sometimes referred to as a business technology analyst due to the fact that their main function is to analyze, design and install information systems for businesses.

Are You Ready to Get Started on Your Career in Computer Information Systems?

DeVry University can help you start preparing to pursue a career in computer information systems. DeVry offers both a foundational Online Undergraduate Certificate in Programming Essentials as well as an Associate Degree in Information Technology and Networking. Our Bachelor's Degree in Computer Information Systems can be completed in as few as 2 years and 8 months3 with qualifying transfer credits.

Additionally, DeVry’s tech programs are stackable. This means that course credits earned in a lower-level program such as our Associate Degree in Information Technology and Networking can be applied towards our Bachelor's Degree in Computer Information Systems4.


1 https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm. Growth projected on a national level. Local growth will vary by location.
2https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/computer-and-information-systems-managers.htm Growth projected on a national level. Local growth will vary.
3Not including breaks. Assumes year-round, full-time enrollment.
4At the time of application to the next credential level, an evaluation of qualifying transfer credit will occur and the most beneficial outcome will be applied.