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B.S. Information Technology or Computer Science?

Last response: in Work & Education
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January 6, 2011 1:16:45 AM

Hi everyone, and thank you for looking at this thread. I'm a current student (20 years old) at community college, soon to complete my general A.A. by Summer 2011, and then transfer to USF (a larger state college). There is a problem though. I'm trying to decide between doing Information Technology or Computer Science. Speaking with advisors has been a lackluster experience, as I'd be sent from one vague-answer advisor to another at both my community college and (soon-to-be) state college, until finally realizing that none of them knew what they (educated in counseling or business) had no idea what they were talking about. And, well, here I am now hoping that one of you guys can give me a little information on which to pick. Below I've listed some information about both "what I do not know" (which is the key question) and "what I do know" (which is data about my academic, technical, and personality background which will help you tailor an answer to me specifically.)

What I do not Know
First, of course, does with the job opportunities associated with my degree. I fear someone with an Information Technology degree may not be as competitive as someone with an Computer Science or Computer Engineering degree. This comes from the confusion of what specific difference there is between a BS-IT degree and BS-CS or BS-CE degree, which I've only gotten vague answers to and not the "you want this degree with this concentration, and based the people I've met and personal experiences you'll want something like these three." Here is a flowchart list between Computer Science and Information Technology:
http://www.poly.usf....ITflowchart.pdf
http://www.cse.usf.e...owchart2009.pdf


What I do Know
Second, here are the things that I do know. I am hands-on orientated, with skill in building, repairing, and maintaining computer hardware and networks. This is the vague idea of what I want to do in a career, and I say vague because without the knowledge to say for example, "well I know about databases now, and the class was fluid to me, and I like networks and hardware, so I'll do something in databases" there is no way to know whether I'd like databases vs. support vs. network admin. vs programmer and so-on. Also know I am not fluid with mathematics all the time, it takes time for me to learn mathematics and often struggle with rushed teaching (from poor teachers) but when learned it's easier to master. I understand that programming,whille rather programming that isn't geometric heavy (like video game design, which I don't want to do) or pure mathematics (like robotics, which I don't want to do either), deals with very little math beyond College Algebra and (sometimes) Statistics and is more language based learning (which I excel in), which leaves me interested in having programming knowledge. I also know that the information technology field is an area where learning, discarding that learning, and re-learning (because of new languages or techniques) is a common thing, such I am neither afraid of because it's very enjoyable.

Thank you much, and I know this is a mouthful for one post.. but I feel it's necessary to give you the "round idea" of the situation. I'm very hopeful someone can answer this with either personal or data-based experience, because you guys are literally my last hope on forums like this..
January 6, 2011 1:38:06 AM

I would go for the computer science degree.
January 6, 2011 1:50:46 AM

Hi Christop, and thanks for the reply. Problem is, there is a lot of engineering-calculus in the program (based on flowchart) and I'm a slow learner when it comes to mathematics.

Additionally, pursuing the Computer Science degree would mean I'd have to scrap my A.A. (about 20-30 of the credits will transfer over) in order to pursue it. Freshman year I compounded myself with all the pre-requisites in full class-load, but burnt myself out and couldn't stand it anymore. Sophmore year, I still had no idea what I wanted to do plus was tired of taking so many classes, and did part-time student, and essentially put accomplishing a degree behind by one year. Additionally I'm strapped for money, and will have to pay my way through college alongside getting grants. By taking up Computer Science that just means more time and credits.

If anything, I'm really worrying about the mathematics. How difficult is the mathematics in a Computer Science degree, well rather based on those classes? And is there any reason I should pick Computer Science over Information Technology, beyond the fact it's for prestige (at least that's what I've read.)

EDIT:
It also looks like my links aren't performing correctly. I made a tinyurl of them, hopefully will work.

http://tinyurl.com/23yncuo [Computer Science]
http://tinyurl.com/25kovuf [Information Technology]

Additionally they have a Computer Science minor with 15-20 credit hours available. Which would allow me to take some of their hardware or software related classes, which aren't available with the Information Technology program. Also, by looking at the flow-chart, many of the classes overlap which means if I wanted to change to Computer Science (at least at a certain point) I could do that without losing credits.
Related resources
January 6, 2011 2:49:18 PM

It sounds like you would be best-suited for an Information Technology program in my opinion. Your aversion to mathematics courses and confidence with a hands-on approach is the reason behind this. You're exactly right, CS programs require a hefty amount of advanced math, including Calculus and, if my memory serves me right, differential equations and a couple others (I am a former engineering student with many CS friends).

CS and IT are both very presitigious fields of study. You can make just as much (if not more) as a higher-level IT administrator as a computer scientist does. Some government IT administration jobs pay as high as $250,000 per annum plus benefits. It's also not unusual to find IT administrators in the private sector who are paid as much as $125,000 per year or more.

I will say this: Starting out in IT is a bit harder than in CS. IT does not require merely a degree. Certifications and experience play a major role in your career path. Continuing self-education is also crucial. CS allows for a bit less currency since programming lanuages do not change as often as the IT industry does (esp re: security practices, etc).

I am the same way. I can't grasp higher-level mathematics courses quickly but have a very strong interest in networks and IT as a whole. I am a hands-on individual who likes troubleshooting problems that do not involve cumbersome academic concepts such as math and advanced logic . I also do not like being forced into the same spot every day ad-infinitum to do my job. I like the sense of freedom that IT offers (ie - going out to client sites instead of being chained to a desk).

By far my most valuable resource in finding my current job was my experience working as a help desk tech at my university. It sounds trivial, but employers took this experience seriously and it has proven invaluable time and time again. This does not just apply to my experience, but other friends of mine who worked with me at my University IT department also experienced higher success finding employment after college with this experience. My friend Frank (CS) was hired immediately out of school as a programmer. His girlfriend, Rhy (MIS/IT), was also hired immediately out of school as a Support Specialist. It took me some extra time because I left school without graduating, but the experience I had there landed me the job I have now, a support specialist for a major hospital network in my town. I will, however, be acquiring some certifications soon, which my employer has implied will help me out greatly in the quest for seeking promotion into Networking. So if you can, get a job with your University's Help Desk.

I hope this helps and would be happy to answer any other concerns or questions you may have. :) 
January 6, 2011 3:49:28 PM

Thanks you much Teddy! Really appreciate you to take the time and explain the process in detail, but also tell me about your personal experiences with the field. I haven't been able to sleep or eat these past two months since I started trying to seriously think and go about my major, but with your post I feel much relieved..

The engineering calculus and engineering statistics classes really turned me off from going this path of Computer Science. I've read and heard from many programmers admitting that these are absolutely unnecessary when it comes to "real life" programming, unless of course 3D design, where at most college algebra and statistics would be needed (which I don't have as much trouble with when compared to Calculus or Differential Equations.) I also notice that some of the classes overlap with one another, leaving breathing room should I change my degree program to Computer Science down the road. I think I'll take up that Computer Science minor, or once I get into school and "get a feel for the environment," as they say, I could switch into Computer Science or look into their MS-IT program

Certifications shouldn't be too much of a problem, as a friend I met gave me some PDF books (TIA N+, CWNA, Networking Essentials) which I can study temporarily, and my community college has courses in advanced certifications with GNU Linux based servers and what-not.

I'll definitely start building my resume by getting a support-desk or local computer shop job, this way I won't be crap-out-of-luck once I graduate! This will not only look attractive to an employer, it's good experience for when I do enter my real field of choice (and some spending money so I can get off living on bread and peanut butter, ha ha).

Thank you a ton, now life feels a little more certain! Also, since you're also pursuing some Networking certifications.. I was wondering if you'd like to share these books. I'll send you a PM to explain further.
January 6, 2011 4:30:09 PM

deanfamily said:
Thanks you much Teddy! Really appreciate you to take the time and explain the process in detail, but also tell me about your personal experiences with the field. I haven't been able to sleep or eat these past two months since I started trying to seriously think and go about my major, but with your post I feel much relieved..

The engineering calculus and engineering statistics classes really turned me off from going this path of Computer Science. I've read and heard from many programmers admitting that these are absolutely unnecessary when it comes to "real life" programming, unless of course 3D design, where at most college algebra and statistics would be needed (which I don't have as much trouble with when compared to Calculus or Differential Equations.) I also notice that some of the classes overlap with one another, leaving breathing room should I change my degree program to Computer Science down the road. I think I'll take up that Computer Science minor, or once I get into school and "get a feel for the environment," as they say, I could switch into Computer Science or look into their MS-IT program

Certifications shouldn't be too much of a problem, as a friend I met gave me some PDF books (TIA N+, CWNA, Networking Essentials) which I can study temporarily, and my community college has courses in advanced certifications with GNU Linux based servers and what-not.

I'll definitely start building my resume by getting a support-desk or local computer shop job, this way I won't be crap-out-of-luck once I graduate! This will not only look attractive to an employer, it's good experience for when I do enter my real field of choice (and some spending money so I can get off living on bread and peanut butter, ha ha).

Thank you a ton, now life feels a little more certain! Also, since you're also pursuing some Networking certifications.. I was wondering if you'd like to share these books. I'll send you a PM to explain further.


This post made my day. Seriously. I'm really glad that I was able to help. :) 

Another thing that you may want to consider when getting out of school (or even beforehand if you can handle a full time workload), try applying with a contractor such as my employer, Robert Half Technologies. They are the ones that picked up my resume and really got me a head start in my current position. A lot of IT firms will hire on contractors as a sort of "trial run" to see if you know your stuff or not, then hire you on permanently. This is what's happening with me right now. The hospital I work for is going to be hiring me on full time here after my contract is up. The advantage is that you get the backing of a big name and their endorsement along with that, rather than going out yourself and trying for interviews, etc. AND, you don't have to bank on an interview to prove that you're capable of doing the job, you PROVE it.

You should also take some time to decide what you'd like to specialize in. IT is a very big field and has a lot of smaller subdivisions that you can really dig into. I myself am very big into network administration. Switches, Routers, Domains, Protocols, Security, etc are the things I like to deal with (which is why I'm going for my Cisco certs presently). Do not fret, you will, in the course of your studies and personal experience, figure this out naturally. Something in the field will catch your (increased) interest. That is what you should focus on. There isn't usually a specialization that you can choose in IT studies but some colleges and universities do offer this ability (usually something like "MIS with specialization/emphasis on InfoSec, Networking Administration, etc").

It is true, real-world CS jobs do not require a lot of mathematics to do well. However, the coursework in college is rigorous and difficult. A lot of people get "burned out" by the time they get through a couple of their math courses and change major to MIS (I can't tell you how many of my friends did this, but I'd say at least 50% of my "nerd" friends).

Another thing, when looking for a tech job, DO YOUR RESEARCH about the company you are applying to. There are a lot of companies out there that take advantage of entry-level IT guys like us and send them out to do jobs and never pay them. Google every single company you apply to before you go to their "interview" and make sure they're legit. I can't tell you how many times I applied to what seemed to be a legit company to find out that they are based in Columbia, the CEO is a jerk, and techs get paid 10-12 weeks after they do a job, if at all (this is what I get for job-hunting on Craig's List). Your best bet is to get on-board with a well-respected, established company for hourly pay. Don't do per-job contracting, you can get burned, badly. One last tip, if there's not a face-to-face interview, it's probably a scam or a bad company. I've never landed a job without at least one (if not two or more) face-to-face interviews before starting.

I'm sorry for throwing all of these random factoids at you, but I know how rough it was for me to learn all of these lessons on my own so I thought that I'd share them here so you don't have to :) 
January 6, 2011 10:29:20 PM

Thank you much again, all of this info helps a lot! It's almost a miracle to find so much specific information in one area, as it usually takes me 5-6 different phone calls or e-mails just to get a fraction of it.

Since you've mentioned Robert Half-Technologies, I've been paging through their job listings and taking mental note of locations, pay, job descriptions, and most especially the requirements. I've noticed a lot of these requirements (at least in the subjects i'm attracted to) involve more IT related, rather than architecture programming, degrees and experience. But, of course, having that Computer Science degree and knowledge would open doors to other things than IT, giving me something (but not as much) to think about.

Second, in terms of the Computer Science program, I've heard from students at other colleges that tests are very rigorous and are usually presented in an "on-the-fly" format. Not sure what particularly that's like, but it feels a Dante's Inferno all in itself. Ha ha!

Third, in terms of the MIS, sadly the Information Systems program is being shutdown in the 2011 due to lack of enrollment. However, they Information Technology is supposedly the more "technical/non-business based" of the two and will be expanding into an Masters program in 2011 to supplement! I was really excited to hear this, because then I can pursue the a more "specified" role -- err, rather -- have even more experience in a specific field (as electives in the B.S. program already let me specify 15 credits into an area, but obviously does not a more in-depth specificity.) I might go complete my BS-IT then do MS-IT, but am also contemplating on completing BS-IT then getting "real world experience" and then go for MS-IT. What is your opinion on pursuing a masters program, and might someone look down on an Information Technology degree because it lacks the Information Systems business (accounting, economics, management, etc.) courses?
http://tinyurl.com/2doc67v

And, finally, I better research the jobs throughly before I apply like you suggested. I knew that the video game industry has some serious infrastructure problems, where employers would hire waves of people 6-8 months before expected launch then fire them right after, but I never (naively) expected there to be fraudulent employers for the general IT field. I'll need to remember that it's not just me who is applying to them, but they who are hiring me, so we both find those similar needs and solutions.

This information has and will continue to help A LOT through the next months and years. I've spoke to a faculty member earlier, and he suggested I take some programming and calculus classes at my Junior College before dedicating myself to Computer Science just to see if I personally would like it, plus it would transfer over towards either IT or CS anyways. I've decided, then, to take an extra (well not "really" extra) semester and follow this suite which would finally decide which path to take (be it BS-IT > MS-IT or BS-CS). You're an amazing person, and I wish you the dearest luck and good will on completing your education certifications and landing a great job Networking!
October 8, 2013 12:17:31 PM

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