It’s okay to admit it: It’s not always obvious what you’ll study in a certain major, especially when it shares similarities with other majors. What’s the difference between data science and information systems? What’s a science compared to a system, anyway?
In this blog series, we’re going to delve into a few commonly confused areas of study, so you’ll have all the information you need to choose a major that best fits your interests. In this article, we’re looking at the differences between computer science and majors similar to computer science—namely, computer science, computer engineering, data science, information science, and information systems. Let’s dig in.
At a Glance …
Before we go into detail on each subject, here’s a taste of what you can expect from each major:
- Computer science is great if you’re interested in the theory and design of computers—with some software design and informational processing techniques thrown in! (Admit rate to the computer science major at UIUC: 6.7%)
- Computer engineering allows you to put your engineering skills to use by creating and building computer hardware and systems. (Admit rate to the Grainger College of Engineering at UIUC: 23.0%)
- Data science was created for students who love the idea of data-backed decisions or using big data to improve a service or industry. (Admit rate data not yet available for new data science degrees at UIUC)
- Information science is the solution for people who want to solve problems by interpreting, organizing, and streamlining information. (Admit rate to the School of Information Sciences at UIUC: 68.1%)
- Information systems students combine technology and business to study the design and implementation of technology to support managerial decision-making with data. (Admit rate to the Gies College of Business at UIUC: 27.0%)
Who’s responsible for designing software, improving AI, and enhancing computer performance? You guessed it: computer scientists. If you study computer science, you can expect to learn all of that and more as you gain hands-on experience with building and designing computer systems. You’ll be on the cutting edge of problem-solving technology by using computers and algorithms to create new solutions in all kinds of fields. It’s also worth noting that the admit rate to the computer science major at UIUC is roughly 7%. That’s not to say you shouldn’t apply—just know it’s a highly competitive program!
What Careers Can You Expect From a Computer Science Degree?
Computer science degrees today have the potential to lead to some of the highest-paying careers available, including:
- Software Developer
- Machine Learning Engineer
- Computer Systems Analyst
- Web Developer
- Information Security Analyst
Computer Science Degrees at UIUC
- Computer Science
- Computer Science and Advertising
- Computer Science and Animal Sciences
- Computer Science and Anthropology
- Computer Science and Astronomy
- Computer Science and Chemistry
- Computer Science and Crop Sciences
- Computer Science and Economics
- Computer Science and Education, Learning Studies
- Computer Science and Education, Secondary Education
- Computer Science and Geography & Geographic Information Science
- Computer Science and Linguistics
- Computer Science and Music
- Computer Science and Philosophy
- Mathematics and Computer Science
- Statistics and Computer Science
Ready to build your own computer? Computer engineers focus on circuits, computer systems, electromagnetics, information processing, computer science, and more. If you study computer engineering, you’ll gain all this valuable hands-on experience while also learning about computer theory, foundations, big data, and beyond. You’ll know computers so thoroughly that you’ll be able to build and customize your own machine.
What Careers Can You Expect From a Computer Engineering Degree?
Start building and creating your dream machine through the following careers:
- Software Developer
- Computer Hardware Engineer
- Computer Programmer
- Game Developer
- IT Consultant
Data scientists are expected to be proficient in technical computer skills, but their primary focus is on managing and interpreting datasets. Understanding datasets—whether that data is about people’s favorite ice cream flavors or the intricacies of machine learning—is so important because it makes it possible to analyze and interpret that data to make informed decisions about real-world variables. You could find yourself interpreting data for your own projects, a small startup, or a Fortune 500 company.
What Careers Can You Expect From a Data Science Degree?
Data science is an increasingly popular degree, probably because it can lead to all of the following fields:
- Data Scientist
- Data Analyst
- Machine-Learning Engineer
- Machine-Learning Scientist
Information science has its technical side—you’ll learn programming as well as how to design information systems, services, and more—but its primary focus is (surprise!) information. An information science degree will teach you to learn how to organize, manage, evaluate, and interpret information to make it usable in the real world. You’ll be streamlining communications between people (and between people and computers) so everyone has more reliable and consistent access to the information they need.
What Careers Can You Expect From an Information Science Degree?
The sky’s the limit with an information science degree, but some of your possible careers are:
- Data Analyst
- Health Informatics Manager
- Systems Analyst
- Political Intelligence Consultant
- Web Content Manager
Information systems is a business degree that relies heavily on tech experience and what can be accomplished when the two meet. Choosing to study information systems means delving into the world of how businesses use technology. You’ll be expected to integrate computer information systems with administrative know-how in order to make decisions that are backed by data and technology that can also work for your company’s business model. With an information systems degree to support you, you can become a business leader in a digital era.
What Careers Can You Expect From an Information Systems Degree?
Ready to put your business acumen and tech experience to use? You could end up working in any of the following areas:
- Database Support
- Network Administration
- Systems Analytics
- Technical Sales and Support
With any luck, this post has given some context on majors similar to computer science so you can choose a major that’s the best possible fit for you. Whether you’re strictly interested in computers or are curious about overlapping with other fields, you’ve got options. No matter which field is the best fit for you, your future is bright!