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Computer Science or Info Tech?

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the library-sciences dept.

Education 380

An anonymous reader writes "I am currently completing my final year of secondary schooling, and in the next few weeks I need to submit my university (or college to all you Americans) preferences for processing. I've decided that I want a career in the IT industry, but am unsure of whether to apply for a Computer Science course or an Information Technology course. I understand the difference between the two courses (CS being the study of the principles and concepts involved in Computing at a more fundamental, and often more sophisticated level, and IT being a more practical, application based approach to computing), but would like to know from anybody who has studied either or both of the courses what kinds of careers each course would lead into and what would you recommend for someone such as myself, having a broad range of interests and wishing to dabble in everything before deciding where to specialise?"

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choose scientist over technician (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19866769)

CS, of course.

This at least gives you the dream that you will not just be reinventing wheels for company XYZ.

Re:choose scientist over technician (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19866899)

Yeah. Basically the IT majors are people who couldn't understand how to write code with any language more complex than Visual Basic. They tend to be into pegging. Mostly they are good for taking equipment out of the box but don't let them boot it up.

Re:choose scientist over technician (5, Interesting)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866971)

OK I know the above is flamebait, and is bad because it obscures a true issue. Namely, that I teach senior IT majors at a decent engineering university and often they don't know how to do even some of thesimplest stuff I would expect, even for windows users. They are often confused about what bits and bytes are, and when I asked them some basic operating system things they were pretty confused (like the fact that the operating systems allocates memory). If I ask them to write a 10 line C++ or Java program they moan. I actually think some of them may have been computer phobic, as crazy as that sounds.

Re:choose scientist over technician (4, Funny)

Organic Brain Damage (863655) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867029)

Consider Software Engineering if you like to write programs. Computer Science if you like to discover new algorithms. And IT if you like to golf and sit in the corporate box seats of your Fortune 2000 companies' vendors.

Re:choose scientist over technician (3, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867283)

That's because many IT majors I have encountered went into IT because they wanted to be business majors, but didn't want to do as much with accounting or finance. On top of that, many go into IT because they think it can make them a lot of money "working with computers" (ha!) and computer science looked "too geeky".

I've met both UNIX and Windows sys admins in the real world who are products of some of these courses -- and let me tell you, they leave a lot to be desired. Even UNIX admins often fail to understand fundamental UNIX concepts like awk and sed; they find vi confusing; and they can't fathom how pipes work. These are the same ilk who write shell scripts that look like they were written using some poorly-written DOS .bat -> shell script converter, including plenty of UUOCs and UUOEs.

It makes me wonder: how do these people even get these jobs?

CS vs IT (5, Insightful)

pentalive (449155) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866773)

So which do you prefer being - A system admin (follow IT) or a programmer (follow CS). They are not mutually exclusive. As a system admin I do a lot of programming. My boss in my last job favorite question was - "How can we automate this?". I like being a system admin myself - I get out of the cubicle more that way.

p.s. first post and actually fairly on topic :^P

What's with that L on your forehead ? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19866805)

What's with that L on your forehead?


Re:What's with that L on your forehead ? (2, Funny) (142825) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867273)

Lots of Idiotic Serparated Parenthesis.

Re:CS vs IT (4, Informative)

Fubar420 (701126) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866881)

Parent is absolutely correct -- I work in IT, though I studied CS. The difference is in what you tend to code:

  At the end of the day, CS writes the big applications, but you only write a couple at a time. IT/IS writes glue -- they take every service they need to run and make it run together - various directory services, authentication engines, web services, etc, etc..

Ask yourself, ultimately, do you want to write code that others rely on, or do you want to make a programmers code work the way it's supposed to? ;-)

Re:CS vs IT (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867587)

While you could well be right, the one absolute in university-level computing courses is that everything is relative.

Some places have an old-school CS course that teaches strong theory and is quite mathematical. This is probably good for someone who wants to deal with challenging programming work in the future: the kind of person who wouldn't just be writing a web front-end to use a database, they'd be writing the compiler and the database engine. These courses probably won't teach you to program in this week's greatest programming language or web/DB framework. What it will give you is a solid understanding of the principles and exposure to a broad range of ideas. With that sort of perspective, a CS grad should make short work of getting up to a reasonable level of competence in any industrial languages and technologies.

Sadly, it seems like an increasing number of places now run a "computer science" course that is basically just the latest industrial buzzwords. If you're looking at a course that teaches things like VB, XML, Windows/Linux system administration, business studies, web design, and the like, then IMHO that's not really computer science at all, it's just vocational training.

The potential scopes of other courses, such as "Information Technology", "Information Systems", "Software Engineering", are similarly wide-ranging, so it's hard to give advice about which course is best for someone without being able to see the details of what each really covers.

Re:CS vs IT (4, Insightful)

Stormx2 (1003260) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867513)

Actually this isn't quite correct, at least not where I live (UK).

IT is drudgery. It involves looking at how people use computers in everyday tasks... The fact that you read slashdot shows that you will find IT hugely boring, seriously. I've done two seperate IT courses, one for GCSE and one for A-Level. Both were as bland and meaningless as eachother.

During coursework I tried my hardest to get down to some technical points, but the specification doesn't allow for that kind of thing. It is more of a kind of "look how magic computers are? they run on magic!" kind of course, you never get down to the nitty gritty.

CS on the other hand is a level-up. The social sides of computing is less studied, and computers themselves are more studied. ICT is a general "I can do computers, me" course, whereas a CS degree is a) more interesting b) more challenging c) employers will recognise b :)

Re:CS vs IT (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19867551)

I was an IT major and switched to CS for several reasons:
* CS is more dificult, that's why I originally chose IT! I feared the math (IT requires 2 math courses while CS was closer to 9 but all ultimately most courses had a math background. CS is more math centric but you appreciate the inner workings of the field
* IT is more high level and you never quite dwelve in deep enough to appreciate things
* A good CS major can do any job an IT major can, but an IT major can not do everything a CS major can, so don't limit yourself!
* Whether you want to do sys admin or programming CS is a good choice, you'll learn how things work and you'll be better at troubleshooting advanced concepts.
* CS teaches you the theory. It's less practical application oriented but once you understand and appreciate the theory you can easily lean anything.
      - Consider: A job might require you to program in visual basic to interface with an Oracle DB. If you went in IT, they might have taught you to use VB and Oracle, so you're all set. In CS, it's unlikely you did either but you took a programming languages course and a DB theory course which enables you to learn almost any language in a day. Now consider you get asked to switch from VB to C# and a mysql db. In IT you never touched either and you don't understand the basic language concepts so its harder for you to pick up both. With CS you still have the theoretical background with enables you to pick it up in a day. The same analogy trancents multiple areas (not just programming) like networking, operating systems, etc. This also applies to those who don't get a degree and just get a bunch of certs, eventually those certs become obsolete and its harder for those without a CS degree to adapt.

The only thing IT has over CS is some basic business courses, but if you get a CS degree, getting an MBA is trivial.

Re:CS vs IT (1)

soloha (545393) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867755)

If I had mod points, I'd mod you up. That was the best and most complete explanation so far. I totally agree with you. As a graduate with a CS degree I have experienced this first hand time and time again where I work, and personally.

Plan for Them Both, Take Your Time & Pick One (4, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866785)

I understand the difference between the two courses (CS being the study of the principles and concepts involved in Computing at a more fundamental, and often more sophisticated level, and IT being a more practical, application based approach to computing), but would like to know from anybody who has studied either or both of the courses what kinds of careers each course would lead into and what would you recommend for someone such as myself, having a broad range of interests and wishing to dabble in everything before deciding where to specialise?
Well, I've never been through the British education system, only the American one. So I'll give you the advice I would give anyone I know in America.

If you're planning on doing a two year technical college kind of thing then I recommend you to do otherwise. The auxillary courses that a four year technical college gave me have to a great extent been useful (possibly more so than the technical courses I took).

Assuming you've got a four year college plan, I would recommend you make two separate plans from your college's website. Take the IT path and pick out all your generals & then all your electives (it doesn't have to be accurate, just a rough guess). Then do the same with computer science. I'll bet you'll see that a lot of general electives overlap so take mostly those your first semester. While you're there, I think you'll be exposed to more students in the same and other realms. How do you so easily discount electrical engineering when IT & computer science are your obvious choices?

In America, there would be absolutely nothing wrong with changing from one to the other in the middle of your college career. It might mean more work but that's better than a lifetime of regret. In fact, it's almost expected you change your mind five or six times in college where I went to school. Sure, it'd take people five or six years to graduate but it's their choice.

I would recommend you do the above for not only IT & CSci but also EE & Computer Engineering (kind of a cross between CSci & EE). In my undergrad, I took CSci, Math & Music Theory courses to a heavy extent. I finished one class away from a math minor and one class away from a music minor. I'm really happy that I was able to take those diverse courses that were often a refreshing break from Computer Science. But, in the end, I almost wish I had committed to the Computer Engineering course even though it would have edged out the extra math and music I took because it is such a demanding program.

In the end, there's jobs in both these fields. I can't argue for one over the other because I don't like IT/Business people. Why do I hate them? Because I don't think they really care about anything other than money and they're often performing trivial jobs ... so maybe I feel sorry for them more than I hate them. I'm sure you're a very different person than I am, so it would be pointless for me to recommend you take CSci because in all likelihood, we have different values of different kinds of work.

Re:Plan for Them Both, Take Your Time & Pick O (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19866877)

Sorry about the AC, can't remember the last time I posted on /.

Anyway, I did both IT and EE and it worked out great. I got a 2 year degree in CIS (Computer Information Systems) and went right on and completed a 4 year in Electrical Engineering. What has this done for me? Made me have a lot of opportunites and not be locked into one field. One day I'm writing C code and working on embedded projects and the next I'm setting up a Linux server and creating a MySQL database. Never boring and monotonous

Get a 4 year for sure. Don't do EE unless you like Math and/or pain as it has lots of both. Personally everyone I know looks much more highly on a guy who went through EE than a CS guy. All the EE guys who take CS classes can't believe how easy they are :)

Plus if you go EE you can do IT, you can be a code monkey (CS) and you can do EE stuff. Can't do that with a IT or CS degree.

Hey, you can't spell geek without EE man.

Re:Plan for Them Both, Take Your Time & Pick O (1)

Petrie_SMG (755866) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867289)

This fellow has the right idea.

It's well worth it to pursue two degrees at the same time. It takes more time, obviously, but you shouldn't be in such a hurry to graduate anyway. Most universities in the USA allow this. However, I am not certain if it is possible overseas.

You could take both CS and IT, CS and EE, or EE and IT. You would either graduate with the two degrees and have many options for your career or sample both to discover which degree you prefer.

It is easier than it sounds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19867377)

Another point is free time. Even though you'd be going for two degrees - even hard, technical degrees - don't worry that you'll do nothing but work. You'll have time to do other things and enjoy yourself - it is university, after all. I got an engineering degree and a language degree, and also two minor concentrations, during my five years as an undergraduate and I still had a swell time to boot. Graduate school, on the other hand, doesn't leave me much free time :-)

Re:Plan for Them Both, Take Your Time & Pick O (2, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867479)

Well, I've never been through the British education system, only the American one. So I'll give you the advice I would give anyone I know in America.
To put this in context, that's pretty much the equivalent for someone asking a question about kernel programming being told:

Well, I've never used C, only the Perl one. So I'll give you the advice I would give anyone I know writing a Perl script.
I.e. it may be good advice, but it is completely irrelevant to the question. The UK and US education systems are very difficult, especially at the university level. The US system regards university as a progression from school, and is based around teaching students. The UK system regards university students as adults who are meant to be responsible for their own learning and is based around the idea of creating an environment in which students can learn. In a UK university, it is not uncommon for students to have around 20 hours of supervised time a week (often less), and be expected to learn on their own at other times.

There is a significant difference in the content and structure of the courses arising from this. A US degree intends to provide a general education focussing in a specific area. A UK degree aims to provide a specialised education. In the US, a student is offered a place at a university (typically sponsored by a specific department) and can graduate with any degree they meet the requirements for. In the UK, a candidate is offered a place on a specific course. It's often possible to transfer to other courses taught by the same department (between masters and bachelors degrees, for example, since these often have the first year or two in common), but it is generally very hard to transfer between unrelated degrees (it basically involves dropping out and starting again).

With this clarified, I'd offer the following advice:

An IT degree is likely to be a vocational course, while a CompSci degree will be an academic degree. This doesn't always hold, however. A CompSci degree from a former polytechnic is likely to be a more vocational course trying to pretend it's CompSci, and is also likely to be less valuable than a real vocational course from the same university. If you want a vocational qualification, then go for IT, but get it from a university with a good reputation for vocational degrees; irrespective of what you do, a good vocational degree is likely to be more valuable than a poor academic one. Generally academic degrees give you more flexibility, while vocational ones will give you an advantage getting your first job in the field. If you are completely sure you want to be a programmer, then you should probably look for a Software Engineering degree, rather than IT. If you want a more SysAdmin type job then go for IT. If you aren't completely sure what you want (and, remember, you have to be sure you won't change your mind in three years), then go for CompSci, and keep your options more open.

Re:Plan for Them Both, Take Your Time & Pick O (2, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867535)

That's a thoughtful post, but the idea in it all that I like best is this: Don't make up your mind so easily.

Unless you're stubbornly sticking to a single path, going through college will probably change your view of where you'd like to be in 10 years. And then after you get out of college, setting out in the real world may change that view again. Working for 10 years on a given career path might make you want to change paths, or even change careers altogether. Things change more often than young people imagine. The life expectancy is more than 80 years these days, and you have no idea what mutations your life will undergo in that amount of time. Certainly, whatever path you pick for the time being, it'd be best to work your ass off and try to excel. You should work at it as though it might be your permanent path, but it may not be.

I've taken a bit of a strange path myself. I've been fixing computers for money since I was 10 and holding down IT jobs since I was 16. I started out a Computer Science major, hated it, and switched over to being a Philosophy major (of all things) with a minor in Literature. After college, I had a brief stint as a professional writer of sorts, hated it, and went back to fixing computers. In the years since, I've worked my way up from being a helpdesk tech to being an executive.

Honestly, I don't think the most important thing you learn in college is the subject matter of your particular major. The *most* important thing is learning how to work and to think in some way that works for you. You have to learn to juggle a lot of work, how to deal with people, and how to communicate your ideas. You learn how to make friends and how to cope with unexpected situations.

Even with subject matters as technical as computer science and information technology, the direct applicability of what you've been taught in classes will be limited. In real life situations, real life experience will serve you well. In my years of working in IT, looking at formal education and certifications never seemed to be a good sign of whether that person would be able to fix problems or to keep things running well. Surprisingly, I've found my philosophy studies have helped me get jobs and helped me do well in the industry.

I'm weary of giving advice and I'm certainly not advising that people take up philosophy as a means to getting a computer job. I guess I'm just saying that your life probably won't take a straight line, and you'll just have to find your own path. There is no "right answer".

Re:Plan for Them Both, Take Your Time & Pick O (1)

jonathanweaver (534939) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867537)

eldavojohn has pretty much nailed it. A long time ago I signed up for a three-year CS programme at Uni as an ancillary field of study (not a 'major'). Ten months later, the department (in their superior wisdom) issued a fiat that all the non-four-year CS track students would study IT instead. Since I needed to stay at that Uni for my primary field of study, leaving in a huff was not an option. Nonetheless, for me the change was excruciatingly frustrating and I have yet to forgive the fleshy-headed mutants who decided they knew what I wanted better than I. There were others in my undergrad CS^H^HIT track who really enjoyed the change. A substantive subset of the shitty coders suddenly shone because they didn't have to think like machines, or spend hours hunting down some logical flaw in a data structure or an algorithm. Their intuitive/natural ability to solve NP-complete problems with blinding flashes of insight came to the fore; they got good grades, and they enjoyed the programme, and they graduated with skills they were likely to use because They didn't care that most of them were shitty coders. It was enough that by the end of the programme they could usually tell the difference between good and bad coders. Meanwhile, those of us who had signed up so we could learn to code realised that if we chose to instruct machines for a living we would always work for these newly-discovered betters. By then, as you might be able to imagine, we despised them. Not one of us took a job programming computers. The most interesting thing about this rambling story is that many of the shitty coders were also bad at IT, and some of the really good coders wound up being good at IT too (although admittedly none of the good coders enjoyed IT studies or were happy with the change). Bottom line seems to be that experimentation in your first year is a good thing. Also, make sure you aren't locking yourself into something longer than a semester that can change after you register for it.

depends, of course (2, Interesting)

squarefish (561836) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866789)

You'll probably be more locked into programming with the CS route and the IT option will let you get into programming while also being more open in the future for project management, design, and planning. I personally think the IT degree would be more geared towards the higher level exec and may be easier to make bigger bucks in the long term, and possibly short term, if that's one of your factors. Find out if the IT program prepares you for the PMP or any other major cert, which could be very useful to you in the future.

Re:depends, of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19866865)

bull shit.

it's how you freak it.

some people go cs and *want* to get locked in to programming.

if you look at the role the programs play in an organization, and focus on realizing that
through your code, mgmt will see that and you will move into the land of the paper pushers
with an actual background in how things work, instead of some abstract notion of project
managment theory. when you're a manager, your techies will respect you all the more for
knowing WTF is going on, instead of pushing some gantt chart that is completely disconnected from reality down their throat.

Re:depends, of course (0)

squarefish (561836) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867463)

it's how you freak it.

True, but freaking it is not something programmers and known for. Programmers are stereotyped due to the lack of other skills and knowledge often associated with IT or MIS degrees. I'm currently earning a BSMIS, which covers human resource management, networking, web development, DB development, data mining, and a whole slew of management, financial, planning, and resource courses. Soft skills are much more important for management than it is for programming and most programmers are lacking soft skills. We could argue about this all day, and I won't do that, but I still think my statements are totally on base. An MIS degree has not stopped anyone from being a programmer, but it's the focus of the degree. In my personal opinion, and I work for one of the largest financial operations in the world, I think that an upper management, admin, or more executive role will be more obtainable with the more generic IT degree. Another is that there tend to be fewer hard-core programmers in the US. Combine that with the outsourcing surge and you end up with a position that is either likely to be transferred to India, or you'll be too valuable that lacking soft skills will hold you back from climbing the corporate ladder. All the higher up execs are there because they know management and currently the corporate world will take a project manager from a soda company with no IT experience and place them as a project manager on an encryption related migration for one of the largest banks in the world- it's where I work and what I see everyday at the corporate level.

anyone can freak it, but why be a freak if you don't have too?

Re:depends, of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19867647)

I personally think the IT degree would be more geared towards the higher level exec

I think you meant MIS or CIS here. An IT degree oft-times is simply an amalgam of techie coures along with some sort of "senior design project" (e.g. three tier web site or a network design) tossed in. With IS, MIS, CIS, and in a few schools BIS you generally end up with a business background while giving up some of the tech coursework.

In the end CS folks are qualified to do just about anything short of hardware design (primarily EE and CE territory) as long as their electives and personal interests support it. And not to diss MIS folks, but a CS degree with a minor in business or econ is more than a match for most of the MIS type degrees. One way to mitigate this is to do a major in MIS with a minor in CS.

Re:depends, of course (1)

squarefish (561836) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867731)

You're right, I'm currently in a BSMIS program and that's what I was associating with my recommendation.

How is your math? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19866799)

Do you like math? Are you good at it? What about algorithms? Do self-balancing binary search trees give you a boner? If you answered yes to lots of these questions, stick with Computer Science.

On the other hand, "IT" sounds like a "Microsoft Office with some introductory Java on the side" course. You might want to find some better middle ground if you actually want to do some serious work.

I would avoid IT (4, Interesting)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866815)

What you may want is a Software Engineering degree. I went into Computer Science since my university didn't offer SWE, and occasionally I took a CIS/IT course. What I noticed was that the students were typically very low quality students and had little interest beyond what was right in front of them for the assignment. The course material was also very superficial, even where we had overlaps. Our CS networking classes could actually train you to be an entry-level admin. Not at all true of the IT program. Programming? Our freshman entered CS with almost as many credits as their seniors graduated with.

You can focus on whatever you want in CS, so take it if you like IT work. It'll pay a lot more than an IT degree and carry more weight when you switch jobs.

Re:I would avoid IT (2, Insightful)

QX-Mat (460729) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867067)


Avoid information degrees like the plague. They're half assed awards aiming at the market a poor programer will find easy - mostly web systems. I believe in a hierarchy of programming and sadly the information or enterprise courses aim to make web monkeys - web monkeys find it harder to breakout of their web niche which is quickly becoming over populated with causal programmers (who are coming more and more skilled!) such as college grads and drop outs.

I did a software engineering degree with electronics (Computer Systems)... Most of my computing modules were all Computer Science, the rest were extended project classes, instead of more pointless CS with distracting formal theory. Quite often the formal theory is there to make the theory more abstract and thus something to teach, when it shouldn't be any harder than memorising precedent and flow.

A lot of universities offering CS courses should really be rename them to Software Engineering. My best advice would be to check the course syllabus and and pick one with a strong software engineering focus, and plenty of time to do that "wow" dissertation you want.

If you can't talk about your dissertation in geek, it's probably not specialised enough. Some of my "peers" created a DVD, others a website, and one a relational back end to a portal... I'm ashamed to admit that because they used some formal theory (ie: design models) the could score highly. To date I believe none of them understand the languages they used nor the concepts they copied. The standard of code was also extremely poor. :(



Re:I would avoid IT (1)

Felix Da Rat (93827) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867707)

I'd have to agree with MikeRT on this one for the most part. I'm an American who went to Scotland for my University; I was returning to education after a long break in the office world. My Uni only had CS or IT (and some cross-overs with EE). I really wish they would have had a SE course as that is what most people there seemed interested in. I really doubt that most people who get CS degrees stay in Academia doing research, so SE would be a better fit for most.

The following is all my personal take on the differences between the two we had available, so take it with a grain of salt. It seemed like most of the students on the IT side of the department were taking it because they figured 'IT makes decent money, and I know how to use a computer'. With courses on both light weight technology and people-person skills, the IT course seemed to be for cranking out office managers, with people who really shouldn't be in that role.

There was a very high attrition rate from CS to IT during my First and Second years. After that the courses suddenly got a lot more interesting. This is my personal feeling, but I really think the professors pretty much wrote off the IT students.

I would favor CS (in case you haven't guessed), at least for undergrad. If you're plan is to go into Management, I believe you would stand a much better chance getting your BSc in CS and then getting an MBA than trying to rely on an IT education for your career.

Get a job (3, Insightful)

also-rr (980579) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866819)

For most people qualifications only serve to prove a minimum standard of competence. Yes, a degree is both necessary and a good choice - it helps develop your skills, and also makes you eligible for jobs where someone has made a degree a check box requirement - but other than getting past the first round it makes little difference to the prospect of being hired.

So instead of worrying exactly which degree to take, just get the one that you think you will enjoy most. It's going to be your life for years - if you don't enjoy it, it'll kill you. I did engineering, because it was fun, and I got offers from the IT industry when I graduated as well as elsewhere. There were plenty of people with maths and physics degrees heading into IT as well.

Much more important is to get employment in the right field. Even if it's an unpaid weekend job, or summers doing network admin stuff. Steady employment and a track record is much more impressive than anything most of your competitors will have at the start of the mad rush to hire graduates. The closer it is to your field the better, and if you can pick a company that will keep having you back and give you more impressive things to do that's great.

Even if they (or you) don't want to turn things permanent after college, then you will already have a headstart on networking in your field, proof you can work for a week in an office without putting laxative in the coffee and good things to talk about at interviews.

Depends (1)

Rydia (556444) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866823)

If you want to work for the industry (Intel, Microsoft, Cisco), you'd want CS. If you would rather be a a programmer or admin in the CS department of a non-industry company, than IS would likely be more useful.

Re:Depends (2, Interesting)

pyite (140350) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866869)

If you want to work for the industry (Intel, Microsoft, Cisco), you'd want CS. If you would rather be a a programmer or admin in the CS department of a non-industry company, than IS would likely be more useful.

That's a horrible metric. I work in the financial services industry (i.e. not the tech industry). I'm not even in a programming position (I'm in network engineering), and myself and a lot of the people I work with have either engineering, computer science, or math degrees. When you move into the developers, I would say that 85-90% of them have a degree in one of those three fields. Information technology degrees are highly uncommon.

Degree (1)

fadethepolice (689344) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866827)

Get a degree in electrical engineering with minor in computer science. You will get as good an education in programming, but will have an advantage over straight computer science majors because of you knowledge of hardware.

Re:Degree (1)

Longtime_Lurker_Aces (1008565) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867769)

I have to fully disagree. I have met people before who say similar things that a degree in X or a few years working will make you "just as good" of a programmer.

NO! It may make you as familiar with syntax as a CS major, but it does not rival the software development and problem solving skills of a CS degree. In CS you take classes in programming, algorithms, data structures, project management, testing, and a large range of practical and theoretical courses. Any other degree is necesarrily going to leave some of these out.

At my school, we had a IT-like degree called information systems. It was basically what people changed their major to after they found out CS was too hard. Every year CS got like 200 incoming freshman, but by sophomore year 80 of them would be IS majors, 20 something else, and only 100 still in CS.

MIS (2, Interesting)

coop247 (974899) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866833)

I started out in CompSci for 2 years, and then switched to (and graduated) MIS. Trust me, the finance/accounting/management courses you have to take with MIS are much more valuable than physics and calculus. MIS will get you a variety of jobs, CompSci pretty much sticks you with programming.

Re:MIS (2, Insightful)

The One and Only (691315) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867205)

Having switched the other way, I have some other observations to make:
  1. Most (but not all) of the students in your situation were the ones who "washed out" of CS. There's sort of a general hierarchy of majors--hard science and engineering majors are the toughest, people who wash out or don't want to take the workload of those drop down into business or communications, and people who can't even take that drop down into education. Liberal arts exists somewhere alongside "business on down". This, best of all, illustrates the state of the US education system.
  2. While "finance/accounting/management" may be useful things to know, the intellectual challenge of those courses is far below that of physics and calculus. I was able to absorb most of accounting by half-listening to lectures, while management was split between "leadership" (i.e. whatever inane bullshit is in vogue that you have to regurgitate and forget about later) and "operations" (i.e. applied statistics, which was actually rather interesting). Not only could I have learned most of the business stuff in my spare time, I practically did.
  3. If you really want (or need) to know about business, an undergraduate degree isn't going to be worth shit. Get an MBA on top of a technical degree. Then maybe you're qualified.
  4. "MIS will get you a variety of jobs"--I knew one MIS graduate who's a "management trainee" for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. He might even be a full fledged manager now. I was roughly acquainted with another, who managed customer support for an online poker site (I guess that's close enough to technology?), only to quit his job and travel the world as an online poker player. And, of the jobs available to MIS grads when I was majoring in the program, there was really nothing that wasn't also available to CS grads--internal IT at companies, technology consulting for stodgy accounting/consulting firms. Believe it or not, one of the hot areas was Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. Yeah. That's about the extent of what MIS grads get to work on, and they compete for those jobs with underachieving and unambitious CS students. (And I'm not at an MIS backwater--my school's program is competitive for the region in MIS, although it's about middling for CS.) MIS is a vaguely tech-oriented business degree--it's not the business-oriented tech degree they market it as. That's why the diploma still says "Business Administration".

If intellectual challenge, working with bright classmates, and self-respect is worth anything to you, MIS is a trap that you'll have to fight your way out of.

Re:MIS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19867673)

The point of college is not to find you a job, but give you tools you can start your life with, and hopefully will be useful for many years.

This guy said he likes to dabble and explore. University is the time to learn how to learn, and expose oneself to a broad variety of patterns that exist in different disciplines.

I'd recommend a study path such as engineering (as general as you can get), computer science from a college which is world renown for it, physics, etc. For a minor I'd recommend a broad set of courses in the humanities to balance out the technical mind with an understanding of the patterns of humanity.

The first few years out of college are likely to set a person's career path.

Getting more "practical" is, IMO, a waste of money, because you get paid to learn the practical once you enter school. Plus, many of the more "practical" things you can get 80% of the way there by spending some time reading up on the web and applying your foundations to what you already know. I personally think that spending more time learning about the "practical" is not terribly productive. Being taught the theoretical, and being forced to find the mappings from the theoretical to the practical will train your mind far better than having the practical fed to you on a plate.

For the early career years, employers are going to be more interested in hiring someone who shows an aptitude to quickly being able to recognize not only the technological but also the human patterns that lie behind problems and know how to work to solve them, and has a strong presence and communication skills. This is where a strong set of humanities courses will be extremely valuable, as well as getting involved in totally unrelated campus activities that require one to listen to others and learn how to communicate.

In the end, you don't want to leave college with a skill, but to know how to THINK.

Areas that I don't think they teach enough in college include learning how to view situations from a position of strength rather than a position of weakness (I see the latter ALL the time in a corporate environment, and it's tied closely to fear - fear of losing a job, etc) and how to find one's internal self-confidence and charisma and expand it to all areas of their life. Everyone has self-confidence in some aspect of their life, and charisma in some aspect of their life, but various fears prevent us from using it in other areas and prevent us from stretching to look into exciting jobs that could lead to much more. I'm not talking about learning to be cocky but about learning how to manage irrational fears and be able to tap on personal strengths to let one expand their comfort zone.

I'm kind of surprised that more posts don't reflect this kind of thinking. I'm 42 and recently left a great corporate job to stretch out on my own. I look back and see in many of my former colleagues, their thoughts and decisions reflecting a "position of weakness" which is keeping them trapped in positions where their creativity is undervalued and is severely limiting what they could accomplish. In the corporate world, there are those on the top (the C's, who everyone is working for), the executives (the V's, who are working the system with significant personal gain but are still working for the C's), and everyone else, who are actually doing the work that keep the company alive. The corporate system has worked out so that a balance of adequate compensation and the natural uncertainty and turmoil surrounding a job search create a well of comfort for the doers which tends to foster a resistance to stand out and risk falling out of the well. This structure sucks in new hires with promises of great potential and gradually wipes away their risk-taking and creatively thinking minds as the occasional bee sting one gets when exploring the hive of possibilities leads to the growth of a general fear that eventually makes many people stop exploring even though its in their best interest to do so.

I am getting off track, but a friend of mine relayed a conversation from a former associate still at the firm, who apparently said he felt consultants were "selling their souls" and making a lot of money doing it. It's funny that this person says that from a position where that extra money he could be making is lining the pockets of the V's and C's in his firm, while consultants like myself are effectively cutting out the middleman and pocketing the money for our kids' education and taking more time off to enjoy life.

Where I'm going with this, is that the "position of weakness" mentality appears to be reaching down to people who are not even in college and is making them consider decisions which close doors unnecessarily in their bright future. The person who posted this needs to stop worrying about getting a job and instead focus on getting the greatest breadth of experience possible. I have never heard of a person dying from starvation while exploring the world in university. He'd be advised to consider Steve Jobs' [] approach as one of his perspectives.

Are you kidding? (-1, Offtopic)

cb_abq (894167) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866847)

Is this really on the top of Slashdot?

Re:Are you kidding? (1)

oskard (715652) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867155)

Is this really on the top of Slashdot?

Everything that is on top of Slashdot is on top of Slashdot at one point or another.

Computer Science (1)

yohanes (644299) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866849)

If you are as you described "having a broad range of interests and wishing to dabble in everything", then you can learn practical things yourself while you study the computer science.

My vote: CS (3, Informative)

kravlor (597242) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866851)

I hold a BA in Computer Science, and would highly recommend its study. The principles you learn are not solely relegated to computer science -- at least, not most of them. I've been able to successfully apply them to the fields of physics and mathematics in college, and continued to do so to problems in my research in the fields of nuclear engineering and fusion energy science today. It certainly has aided my job as a scientist -- a position you may not have considered relevant to CS/IT. Keep it in mind, we always need more bright people! :)

That said, I'm a bit of a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to IT. It certainly is helpful to be able to solve a problem with the tools at hand. IT problems tend to be a bit more lucrative to solve (or solve more efficiently than those who came before you).

If you plan on being a creative problem-solver in your chosen line of work, seriously consider the perspective a CS background can offer. In my mind, that gives you the ability to pick up whatever the latest nifty tools/utilities that help you solve your day-to-day problems.

Re:My vote: CS (1)

ruben.gutierrez (913239) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867111)

Not trying to troll, but I think you have a BS in CS. I know, I read the Art and Science of Computer Programming, too, but...

Cherry-pick! (2, Interesting)

davecb (6526) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866855)

If you really want to understand the subject, take overlapping courses from both specialties. You'll need to know how both communities think to do well in either.

I had to do this in math: to understand calculus, you needed both the practical eamples, taught only in the engineering course, and know how the theroms worked, taught only in the "pure" maths courses. So I took one and audited the other, and and aced them both after getting an F in the previous term (;-))

This worked for computer science and software engineering too, and in my current job consulting in IT, I use a lot of science...

Repost? (2, Insightful)

Keebler71 (520908) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866871)

Is it just me or does this question (or a variant thereof) seem to appear at least every couple months?

Repost?-Apprenticeship. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19867187)

"Is it just me or does this question (or a variant thereof) seem to appear at least every couple months?"

Maybe because the education system really doesn't have an outlet (a "try before you buy") so to speak.

I would also give the same advice to anyone going anywhere. Know thyself. Kind of hard to head off into the unknown without that first step.

CS for me (1, Informative)

Raven15 (152175) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866883)

I'm a CS, so my opinion is probably biased. When people tell me they're in IT, that has the connotation that they're less skilled than me. I hear that and I picture them installing network cards, rebooting machines, updating antivirus software, and pulling network wire. As a CS, I know how to analyze programs for efficiency, do complex math, learn new languages quickly, etc. Because I'm a computer enthusiast I can do all of those IT things, but it's not really my job. It's like an automotive engineer - because I can create new cars from scratch, of course I can fix the basics. I definitely consider myself to have taken the harder path.

I'm not trying to rag on IT guys, of course. I appreciate all of the stuff they do. I've been in situations where I've had to do the network and server admin, and it kept me from being able to program. IT guys are welcome to the day-to-day issues of keeping things running - I'd much rather be doing the creative work.

Maybe its differnt here in the states... (1)

riffzifnab (449869) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866885)

But IT is more of implementation of systems while CS is coding. So if you want to build networks, be a sys-admin/net-admin/DB-admin go IT. If you want to write code go CS. Now some one should probably mention software engineering as well but I'm a little hazy myself on what they do. I assume more of a planning and management of software projects.

Oh and we have universitys here in the states too, its just a different classification of schools. Colleges are smaller, uiversitys are larger.

Re:Maybe its differnt here in the states... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19867203)

Your size definition isn't that accurate. Here in the states it's more that a University is made up of multiple colleges. Each college is pseudo-independent. So you may get accepted to the university, for general courses, but you still have to apply to each college for their specific courses.

If I had to do it again.... (3, Informative)

canuck57 (662392) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866887)

I would go for accounting and a minor in computers....

First, all anyone cares about 3+ years down the road is you have a degree in something more technical than basket weaving. I have worked with computers my entire career and have a technical degree but it is not Comp-Sci. When the new manager finds out what the degree is, I get no problems as it is a harder degree to get that Comp-Sci.

Second, by having a degree in something other than computers gives you a business advantage. Say you had accounting, then configuring SAP or some other ERP system and understanding a credit and debit, journal entries etc. will all be simple to you.

One good thing about college/universities is they teach you how to learn... using that you can self learn any I/T skill you will need. In fact, a C/S degree does not adequately prepare people technically anyway, and many with a C/S come into the work force thinking they are prepared when they are not. They soon realize that technical skills development is a life long endeavor in this I/T business.

The other advantage is if you don't like it you have a second career path... I/T is not for everyone. And if you have the smarts to be really good technically in I/T, getting a degree leading to a CA should not be hard at all.

Re:If I had to do it again.... (1)

neiko (846668) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867237)

True, 3+ (I'd argue 5 at least) years down the road you probably could get put into a developer position with an accounting degree...but that's after 3+ years. You might as well have gone back to school and gotten a second degree in CS at that point aside from maybe working as an accountant during that time, but then you have no real work experience as a developer AND no educational experience. As an interviewer for our development department I would have a hard time hiring someone who came in and said they self taught themselves programming while they were keeping the books and wanted to jump into production'd have to really WOW me.

If your reading slashdot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19866897)

Your a nerd! Study CS. It's harder but more rewarding.

CS, Easily (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19866907)

At my company, we're actually starting to actively avoid hiring IT students because they don't have the propper background for half of the web development that we do (when it comes time to do Java, Python, and anything reasonably difficult Javascript type work). Most IT grads can't seem to pick those up.

The possible exception is if you dream of being an admin, and you can find a good IT - Server/Network Administration type courses. Of course, you could probably still take the CS courses and then take IT electives in that case.

Whatever. (1)

lancejjj (924211) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866921)

I'm in the IT industry, and I have been for the past God-knows-how-many years.

I work with a bunch of excellent IT professionals, and many of them don't have any kind of technical degree. That being said, I think a strong foundation in computer science is very useful.

An understanding of how "computers work" and what is possible versus impractical or even impossible is, in the least, advantageous. It -is- useful to know how the guts of an operating system works, and why. It is good to know about the details of memory management, compilers, and how to design a correct algorithm and understand its efficiency.

But, of course, you could be successful without formal education in those areas.

In short, whatever you decide, just make sure you get a great education and that you get as much out of it as you can. And remember, if you didn't learn everything you wanted to while at university, you can always go back to school and learn about more stuff.

Follow your passion (1)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866941)

Do what you love to do. This is your one shot at life. For me, the choice was CS. I can't even imagine what an 'IT' degree is. CS will lay the ground work to create and understand any IT technology.

Re:Follow your passion (1)

Verszou (790017) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867211)

This is actually very sound advice - the "do what you love to do" part. My guess is that whatever unique qualities you have to offer this world they will come out regardless of the kind of education you choose. Twenty years ago I decided that even though I was probably leaning more towards CS that something more was neeeded, so I choose an education that combined CS and Business Administration.

My CS skills probably never got developed the way they might have been had I chosen to go the pure CS way, but since my interest was mostly there I made up for it in my own studies along the way. And having an understanding of business helped me work within the financial sector.

Overall I'd say this has worked out for me, but there has been times of frustration when I wondered if having a straight CS education might have been better for me. For a lot of years I was the business-oriented guy who tended to get the techie problems because they seemed to get solved when sent my way. Now, being older I find that I tend to leave the technical problems to younger programmers who like the challenge of doing the technical stuff for it's own sake, while focusing more on the business rules and how to best support the clients i work with in getting solutions that work at a low development cost.

So, I guess my point is that you should not be frightened about making choices because what you learn during your studies may come in handy at another time in your career, and what you don't learn during your studies you can always make up for later in life if your priorities change.

Re:Follow your passion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19867771)

I agree, do what you love to do. This will help ensure that what you love will become work, and then you'll be as miserable as the rest of us.

Ergo, the best option is to do what you hate to do. That's why I have a degree in rectal inspections.

Re:Follow your passion (1)

MajorTomServo (1128375) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867833)

CS will lay the ground work to create and understand any IT technology.
I've been in the field for awhile (since the early 90's) and I concur. After exiting the military as an electronics tech, I decided to work on an IT major. That was a mistake. As somebody who hacked Vics, Cocos (OS-9 Baby!), and Atari800s back in the day I started looking at all the CASE and RAD crap they had us doing with absolutely no understanding as to what was going on behind the scenes. After three years (and an easy 3.9 GPA) I dropped out of that program, and I've been tooling away on a CS degree since then (nothing like being a university senior in your late 30s..heheh).

Even if you're an applied guy like me (I admin UNIX and do a bit of application development), actually writing part of a protocol stack or tearing a part a database engine is worth its weight in gold. A course in programming languages can make you look at learning a new language in a different (and more efficient) way. And as others have said, the mathematical underpinnings still apply.

The Achilles' heel for a lot of CS folks is the lack of a business background (which MIS guys will try to flaunt). Get an MBA if that's your gig and dominate them.

Go for computer science (1)

StarvingSE (875139) | more than 7 years ago | (#19866977)

I would say your best bet is to go the computer science route. At least in the US, the "IT professional" major is Management and Information Systems, or MIS. This type of course mixes business classes along with some basic programming curriculum. It is usually the case that students who couldn't get through the CS program switch to MIS since it involves less math and theoretical thinking. (Not ragging on any MIS majors, this is just my observation).

In the end, most computer science majors will end up in the IT industry somewhere either as developers, networking people, or whatever. I think it's really beneficial to go through the traditional CS coursework and understand the theory and principles of the technology. You can always get internships or co-ops to learn the "practical IT" type of work.

Dear CmdrTaco and the Rest of the World, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19866987)

Americans use the words "university" AND "college". We know them both! Amazing, I know.

Re:Dear CmdrTaco and the Rest of the World, (1)

level_headed_midwest (888889) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867773)

We use them both because they mean different things. In the US, a college is a two-year institution that grants associates' degrees and certificates while a university is a four-year or more institution that grants at least bachelor's degrees, and many also grant masters' and doctoral/professional degrees as well.

I don't know if there are the equivalent of two-year community/junior colleges in England, so that might explain a lack of the word "college" in an Englishman's vocabulary. I suppose an analog of that would be how there are very few "traffic circles" over here in the U.S., so the word isn't in our general vocabulary. Apparently neither is the ability to drive one, as the only one I know of has far more accidents per year than a flat intersection with roughly as much traffic.

Always start off with the most difficult option... (1, Troll)

The One and Only (691315) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867017)

I would pick CS or even EE to start off with, if you have any ability to change later on. Why? Having switched from an IT-esque major (Management Information Systems) up to CS, it's a lot easier the other way around. CS requires, at least in my experience, real math and science courses that more than cover the weak requirements for graduating with a "lower" major, so if you start off there, you're covered no matter what and don't have to take calculus or physics again--whereas with lower majors, you more than likely will take the bullshit versions of these classes and have to retake the real versions of them later on.

College, and the assortment of majors within, are something of an intelligence test. A hard science, comp sci, or engineering degree demonstrates you're intelligent--an IT or business IS degree suggests, at best, that you preferred to party and didn't really give a shit about your education. (There is some value to a business degree, but it's almost always preferable to get an undergraduate degree in a legitimate area of study and, if necessary, an MBA later on.)

This advice, along with my personal experience, are admittedly US-centric. But, as a general rule, it's more personally satisfying and impressive to achieve a more difficult goal, rather than an easier goal. Most of the stuff I learned in my business degree I could have picked up in my spare time with little effort (and, in reality, often did; my attendance was atrocious during those years)--my EE, math, and CS classes were nothing of the sort and were a constantly rewarding challenge.

Re:Always start off with the most difficult option (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867457)

College, and the assortment of majors within, are something of an intelligence test. A hard science, comp sci, or engineering degree demonstrates you're intelligent--an IT or business IS degree suggests, at best, that you preferred to party and didn't really give a shit about your education

I take grave offense to this. Sure, if you go to some no-named school that only has a bachelors in Business Administration, or get a General Business degree, sure. But if you go to a good school, such as the University of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, etc., they all have very competitive Business Schools. Myself, I go to Madison, where getting into the university isn't necessarily the easiest thing to do (didn't have any problems with that), and have been in the Business School for the past year, taken courses in it for the past year and a half. The professors I've studied under are simply brilliant, and expect quite a bit more than mediocrity. I'm on a fast-track approach for double-majoring in Finance and Economics, but have also taken more than introductory courses in Accounting, which require you to think very critically. If you decide to major in Operations and Technology Management, then you will undoubtedly have to have strong mathematical skills. Actuarial Science major? You'd better believe those people are smart and willing to work hard. We also have a very competitive Accounting program, and allow some (re: not very many) Accounting students to earn both a BA and a MACC, as well as a very beneficial internship, in the span of 5 years. In addition, we also have the one of, if not the, most prestigious Real Estate programs. And for Finance, Real Estate, and OTM/OIM, all benefit dramatically from having a good foundation (better than one introductory Micro and one introductory Macro) in Economics. Also, Finance, Real Estate, OTM/OIM, and Actuarial Science all require high degrees of mathematical competency. Oh, and planning on going on to get a Masters or PhD in any of those? You'd better be damn near a Mathematics major's level of math skills. So while we might actually have some social skills and social lives, we are also very dedicated to our educations.

Re:competition (1)

turtledawn (149719) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867677)

Being a competitive business school just means it's better than its business-school peers, not that the program is actually conceptually difficult. Finance does not involve mathematics, I'm afraid- just a lot of arithmetic. Actuaries are probably the only program you mentioned that would use much in the way of anything beyond algebra, since they're primarily statisticians.

Re:Always start off with the most difficult option (1)

mikers (137971) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867533)

I'm going to offer a slightly different angle from my experience.

hard science, comp sci, or engineering degree demonstrates you're intelligent--an IT or business IS degree suggests, at best, that you preferred to party and didn't really give a shit about your education. (There is some value to a business degree, but it's almost always preferable to get an undergraduate degree in a legitimate area of study and, if necessary, an MBA later on.)

True, but there is a hitch. In my case, I took the most challenging program I could find that interested me. And it was challenging and worthwhile, the one little problem was that as a result of _really_ challenging myself: I ended up with slightly lower grades than are ideal to get into an MBA, LLB or whatever other program you want. My grades weren't low, they were just average. Not something that grad-schools want.

Therefore, if you are smart and work hard (have taken IB or Advanced Placement in high school and did well) and have the ability to take a challenging program and truly excel -- take the harder program.

If you are of more average smarts and work hard, you can still take the harder program, but be prepared for average grades that MBA programs will turn their collective noses at.

Ironically, completing a hard/challenging degree with average grades may _not_ be the best thing if you want 'future expansion' capability. Maybe take a slightly easier program and excel at it (I know of people who did exactly this and they are now in law school -- whereas people with true difficult bachelor degrees couldn't get it).

Not fair, but thats how it works.

You have to decide (1)

nwbvt (768631) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867023)

This is something that you are going to have to decide, you can't ask slashdot and get an easy answer that way. Generally speaking you are going to have the CS people telling you to take CS, and IT people telling you to take IT, which really isn't helpful. At the end of the day, you have to determine which road is the one you want to go down. If possible, you may want to take the first year without declaring a major and just explore the two options (plus anything else you think you may want to do, its perfectly possible you will decide IT isn't the path you want to go down at all, and there is nothing wrong with that).

BTW, we call them universities over here in the States as well.

CS or Tech (1)

thethibs (882667) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867049)

Where are you most comfortable—talking about things or doing them? If the former, go for CS. Otherwise, you are welcome to join the rest of us in the gritty real world.

Kidding aside, if you really do have a broad range of interests and want room to tinker and explore, you would probably find the narrowness of a CS curriculum stultifying. Tech will give you all the interesting and useful parts of CS and a rich gamut of other topics as well.

plan an escape route (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867069)

If you're bright enough to get into university, you're at least bright enough for most of the vacancies you will find for IT (programmer, admin, cleaner, whatever) jobs.

Most courses are far too academic and let's face it, behind the times, to be relevant for IT job-seeking. Stuff you learn in the first year of your course will either be mainstream or have sunk-without-trace by the time you graduate. Therefore only stuff you study in the final year will be relevant to employers.

Most IT jobs are sheer drudge - documentation, testing, meetings, debugging. You will soon realise this, once the novelty of being paid actual money wears off.

Therefore I'd suggest studying a course that will give you a "plan B" for a career if you decide IT's not for you.

Go for CS (1)

debuglife (806973) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867083)

CS / CompE is nice because it gives you true flavor of computer science. It makes you understand the entire chain - How you write software, how it is compiled & Assembeled, What is the role of the OS, How it gets converted to machine code, How the processor runs this machine code etc etc.

Its more fun ! than to train to write 100 line scripts. Think about it. How much fun will it be to have a processor run off the OS you wrote this term. (Here at MIT, the have a course where they make you write one - it is 6.828. Check it out).


Simple... (1)

VVrath (542962) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867089)

If you want to leave university (having spent an easy three years doing sod all) to join some faceless corporation's graduate training scheme, then do an IT degree. If you are actually interested in computers and want to work in a technical field (coding, system administration etc.), then a Computer Science / Software Engineering / Computer Systems Engineering degree is the way forward. Or at least that's how the dividing line was when I left uni in 2003.

Depends on how far you want to go with your life (1)

anticypher (48312) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867117)

Over the long term, a CS degree will serve you better than an IT certificate. If you want to be the guy designing new protocols or designing new computers, follow CS (or Electrical Engineering). If you want to be the guy configuring routers and swapping hard drives, reaching your maximum potential a few years out of school with no further advancement, go for IT.

IT guys can jump from job to job much easier, because IT jobs are almost McJobs at this point. But if you value having a longer career, stick with the more solid CS or EE degrees.

Whenever I'm working with people on complex projects, I can tell who took the time to complete an advanced degree, and who took the easy route with IT certificates. The people with more education will react differently when faced with an unknown, they can draw on a much broader base of knowledge picked up in Uni. IT guys who learned in an accelerated Vo-Tech school will hit the manuals hoping the manufacturer solved the problem for them and there is some hidden command to make things work.

If you have the marks to get into a good 4 or 5 year CS or EE program, jump at the opportunity. While in a longer program, you can always pick up a few IT certs during your internships or work experience programs the last two years of school. You'll then be just as employable out of Uni as the IT guys, but in the long run your background will take you much further.

the AC

CS or IT? (1)

scolbert (1122737) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867131)

How about this simple question: what do you like to do? Do you like programming/software development or system admin/management stuff? I am in IT but with a class computer science background. Which I find useful. I think IT is easier to "pick up" while class computer science is better learned in school. Most IT guys, from a programming perspective, are more hackers because they lack the computer science background. A good percentage would know a tree from a linked list if it hit them over the head. And that's not a good thing.

Sammy at IT / Personafile []

Neither (1)

conail (1128359) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867145)

The advice about taking lots of electives early is sound, but the European systems usually have a prescribed series of course with little ( CS > IT > Bus.Adm. It's a broad generalization to be sure, but it's also lodged firmly in the minds of employers, at least in the UK. Having said all that, I've studied all above except IT (as degree programs) and if I had the chance to do it over, I wouldn't. Instead I'd probably pick up some cisco certificates out of high school and screw the tuition.

depends on how good you are at math (1)

teh_chrizzle (963897) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867159)

if algorithms make your heart beat faster, then go for cs.

if the thought of calculus makes you wince, go for IT.

regardless of the actual presence of math in either field, a CS curriculum will be much heavier on math *stuff*.

another option that is emerging in some colleges in the US are "media" programs [] that focus on content for the web. these are creative programs that focus on the web with opportunities to focus on design, graphics, writing, or A/V production for delivery to the web.

Computer Science (1)

kevin_conaway (585204) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867169)

Go with Computer Science. Theory trumps practical knowledge nearly every time. If you understand the fundamentals of computing, you can use that knowledge and apply it elsewhere with great success.

Value Creation vs Loss Management (1)

king_ramen (537239) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867171)

CS = software development = creation of value = creation of money
IT = operational lubricant = stop money waste = preservation of money

From a financial perspective, value creation trumps loss management. If you like both, go CS. If you really like IT, it is worth it to do what makes you happy.

CS vs IT (1)

slipcue (855318) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867183)

A lot of the responses touched on the differences. This is truly comparing apples and oranges. Studying CS prepares you to be a "Scientist", a problem solver and a creator. The person that said studying physics and math is a waste in comparison to studying business topics is mis-informed. Without studying physics and math how could we advance computing? I guess the designers at Intel and AMD don't study these fields. CS goes deep into how everything works from hardware to software to algorithms. With a CS degree the whole world of computing opens to you. You could go into video games, chip/hardware development, software development, software engineering, business startup, research...the list goes on and on. Just remember a CS degree requires a lot of discipline. I graduated with a fairly high GPA and it required a lot of late nights. On the average (including classes) I spent about 10 hours a day, every day (weekends included) studying computer science. Now that does not mean IT topics (business side) are not valuable to learn. But you could learn these topics in an MBA program. More than likely if you want to be successful in your career an advanced degree is required. I plan to get an MBA and finish my Masters in CS. Good luck.

How about product testing? (1)

neiko (846668) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867199)

Everyone here has mentioned the two obvious professions that one can go into with these two degress, IT Admin and Programmer from a CIS and CS degree respectively. But at my job we probably higher just as many, if not more, product testers than we do product developers. As a product tester you get to do a lot of system administration work setting up mock customer installations with every possible host/device configuration you can try and think of. You have access to the latest and coolest software that you'll anticipate a customer having, and you'll also have more opportunity to write automation code. Nothings worse than releasing a new build to test and not getting any idea back about basic functionality for a few days as people hand test components. Anyways, for something like product test you're probably better off with a CS or EE degree. You'll absolutely need either a EE or CS to do development, but anyone can go do IT with any of the three degrees.

Combine the two! (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867207)

Computer Information Science Technology!

I knew this chick who had CIST and well... she wasn't hot but she was pretty popular with some guys and stuff...

Re:Combine the two! (1)

polyex (736819) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867499)

Make sure you wear a rubber, dude. She gets around,like a record.

Get a CS degree (1)

rockhome (97505) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867227)

Everything you learn in an "IT" programme you can learn by getting a CS degree. The real, practical difference is that, with a CS degree, you'll know
  why you are choosing certain solutions.

I've worked with a great deal of people whose education is some kind of IT programme and they are limited in their ability to understand the underlying
reasons behind what is happening with their systems. With a CS degree, you can also move between an software development career and an IT career
if you decide. Very few of the "IT" folks that I have known are capable of writing large scale, efficient code. There is a tremendous difference between writing
a shell script to automate an rsync process and writing an application designed to analyze several million tuples of data.

IT is so basic it can easily self-taught (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19867257)

IT is so basic that it can easily self-taught with a little practice (do what is used at your school etc.) setup NIS, set up LDAP do all that stuff. On your own, it is cheaper and frankly, configuration is the realm of monkeys and employers know this. IT gets no respect because they do nothing which deserves respect. It is very simple stuff, even on large multiuser networks with 1000s of seats or more. As long as you don't waste your time with cheap garbage you'll do fine. That's the real secret.

Don't do CS either. Do something useful. Do you want to program? Are you sure? Go into engineering do something useful. You can pick up software engineering on your own just by reading books and papers.

Your university will not teach you properly or teach you relevant info, it is up to you to learn. Too many students fly through by the seat of the pants not doing anything else but just pseudo-learning from classes. Be proactive, learn on your own.

Theoretical vs Practical (1)

Traa (158207) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867265)

I studied CS about 20 years ago (started in 1988) in Utrecht, The Netherlands. I didn't know it at the time but apparently the CS curriculum in Utrecht was leaning strongly towards the theoretic knowledge rather then teaching practical experience. I found theoretical computer science to be very difficult and sometimes so abstract it was hard to see how it related to day-to-day computer use. Turing machines, Set theory, computer language paradigms, Algorithm Complexity theory, etc. Now, 20 years later, I notice that nearly the only relevant knowledge I have from my education is all that theoretical stuff. It still holds and can be applied to the algorithms I need to understand/create to do my job as a staff engineer. The practical classes at the time dealt with what then where modern computers and most of that knowledge is now dated and near obsolete.

All that said, my first advise is to do what you enjoy though :-)

CS / IS differences. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19867279)

I don't know if this really says anything relevant, but during my college career whenever I would tell an IS kid I was in CS they would say the same thing: "Yea, I was going to do CS but I didn't think I could handle the math." I received that response at least 20 times.

Take your time (1)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867281)

The way I figured out what I wanted to do was to actually take a year off after my freshman year of college (majoring in Chemistry) and I kind of fell into a job as a programmer. I had been doing it as a hobby since the age of 10 but had never really considered doing it for a living until I fell into that job. But that's when I decided that's what I wanted to do. I never finished my degree. I did go back, but ended up dropping out again several years later. And now, here I am 15 years later and I'm back in school studying Chemistry and Biochemistry and planning on med school. So, just remember, it's never too late to change careers!

1) aim high and 2) learn a profession (3, Interesting)

wwwillem (253720) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867349)

Starting with number two, ask yourself the question: "do you want to know everything about nothing or nothing about everything". The best illustration I guess about these two extremes are getting a degree/masters in nuclear physics and on the other side doing an MBA. The former falls for me in the category 'learn a profession'. Now the interesting thing is that people can move in their career (and most will) from being a specialist to becoming more generic, like moving into management. But I don't see that happen the other way around.

Translating this to CS/IT: a programmer can easily become a sys-admin, but I don't see that happen so quickly the other way around. BTW, I'm saying all this with 25 years experience behind the belt. I've even been a short while on the other side of the fence, teaching CS/IT at the university.

The other part --aim high-- is simple. Which of your two options would be the biggest challenge to complete. Pick that one!! You can always downgrade, it's much tougher to upgrade.

Whatever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19867351)

Really, it's your choice. The grass is always greener on the other side of the hill. When you regret something that you did, at least it's better that you made the decision yourself rather than acted upon others' ideas.

My 2 cents.

Study CS. Become a quant. (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867429)

Of the three really good young people, all with robotics and control experience, who worked on our DARPA Grand Challenge robot vehicle, two are now in financial engineering. One is running a hedge fund out of Santa Fe that's driven by program trading. One is in the Bahamas with an offshore fund. The third is running an iPhone group at Apple.

But these are top people. If you can handle the math, get an undergrad CS degree, then an MBA. If you're further down the food chain, an IT career is an option.

Pick what is best for YOU! (1)

polyex (736819) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867439)

I see some people saying they went down the MIS route after deciding the Science degree was not as valuable in the workforce. What they should be admitting is it was not worth how much more difficult it is for them to achieve the science degree. We do Software development, and while there are certainly exceptions (some outstanding) most of the competent software engineers are very smart guys who have a strong science and mathematics background from school. I don't think there is anything wrong with the idea of people pursuing IT type degrees, but its like comparing apples and oranges when it comes to the folks with a science degree. Its unfortunate that I always see ignorant people speaking as if the two are interchangeable, which may be possible in one direction (CS doing IT work), but not the other way around to the same level of sophistication. I often see folks coming from a CIS degree or whatever attempt programming. While some can "get the job done", I feel they are limiting themselves by not having enough of science/mathematics background when it comes to developing the most elegant engineering solutions. Its as if by coding they feel they just "jump ahead" of others and yet be just as competant. The argument is ridiculous. I feel they are cheating themselves in this regard. I see the exceptions once in a while, but those guys were pretty much eating and breathing advanced computer science or mathematics before they even hit high school, out of self interest in these subjects, thus making the college degree that they decided to get (or not get) less important. Computers are a popular field now and I have seen in the last 25 years or so a steady and increasing number of folks who know less and less about the most technical concepts of computers (especially in the United States, G*d save us) enter the field. These folks were fewer in number when the field did not pay as well or have so many opportunities for folks without strong science/mathematics backgrounds. This is OK, IMHO, the field is better off with more diverse backgrounds. I think the question the original poster asked is a little strange. You should ask yourself what are your abilities and what part of using computers do you enjoy most and how hard you want to work at being the best at that you can be. You may find you want to be the best sys admin in the world, just dont do it because you want to get into computers with the least amount of work to "get the job done".

Re:Pick what is best for YOU! (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867585)

In the same way someone with an MIS or IT degree are limited in the software development field, so are CS. None of these majors really teach you what you need to -develop software-.

CS majors are a bit ahead because they can write complex algorythms and do a lot of low level things, but thats just a fraction of what software development is. Very, very few colleges will offer the appropriate software development and engineering classes required to do real software development and architecture, but those, along with the more passionate people with the appropriate experience, have the skills. Everyone else is just part of the peanut gallery.

If you end up working for Intel, Nvidia, or game companies (stuff that uses CS quite heavily), you'll have the upper hand simply because of all the CS (not software development) stuff involved, but as soon as you end up in the business world, CS skills and MIS/IT are more or less useless: your elective classes and experience will be all whats left thats useful, aside for the odd thing in an entire project that calls for these skills.

You need to do more checking (1)

hedrick (701605) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867525)

If I were in your position I'd ask more questions about your options. What kind of students do they get? What kind of jobs do those students get? I'm an IT manager in a university. Our university has a small "IT" program in the communications school. Based on some postings here you'd think it would be populated by wash-outs. But the students we've had from it have been really sharp. We hired one of them. He's not a hard-core developer (though he has the skills to be one if he wanted to), but rather someone who bridges the gap between technology and understanding user requirements. And he's really good at it.

Furthermore, CS and IT aren't the only options. You could also consider math or some discipline in which you're interested, where computers are used.

Maybe I'm unusual, but when I evaluate prospective employees, I look for evidence that they have relevant skills. Programming is something that you can (and often do) learn outside of class. I'm more interested to see what kinds of programs you've written and what you know about development than what your major was. However I would also give you credit for having studied something challenging, preferably something that would be useful for your career. Computer science is certainly a good possibility, but so are a number of other fields.

CS will make you a better IT person (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867577)

IT people who don't understand CS tend to make bad decisions. Also beware of thinking you don't need to learn IT after you know CS - that leads to the stereotype of the CS geek who lives in his little theory world which can't actually be implemented. But trying to do IT without knowing how any of the things you're working with actually works is a recipe for disaster. If you think of IT as 'solving business problems by applying CS' you'll do OK.

so... (3, Insightful)

nomadic (141991) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867589)

Double major.

Irrelevant (1)

Etyenne (4915) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867605)

Your choice of curriculum in higher education is not relevant to your career path, at least not for people in IT. The field is full of self-taught and people with degree in unrelated disciplines (math and history being prevalant in my circle). Your degree may help with the first job or two, but that's it. After that, it's all about your network and your soft skills: leadership, people skill, reliability, etc.

But don't despair just yet. University is actually of great help with starting your network, and provide plenty of opportunities to improve the soft skills necessary to succeed in the job market. So, do go get a degree. Any degree will do, just choose a discipline that interest you and will keep you motivated.

If I where 18 again, I would do philosophy. And I would probably end up in the same place, only a bit wiser.

Depends on a zillion things (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867655)

Choose CS or IT should not be an Ask Slashdot, it should be your own decision. What do you WANT to be doing ? Do you want to do cerebral research stuff, or would you be happier fixing computers and working with users ? What kind of demand is there in your area, and would you be willing to relocate for a true CS position ?

IT is cheap and plentiful, and you can find work in a heartbeat (as long as you're not too picky). CS is a whole different ballgame, it's somewhat ethereal and from a retarded middle manager's perspective, it doesn't directly translate into profits. On the other hand, there are quite a few retarded managers who demand CS qualifications for glorified IT work (particularly government and other big-money-small-brain entities).

You might as well have asked Vi vs Emacs.... you'd get the same kind of fuzzy, emotional, largely useless response.

IT: stationary engineering for a new generation (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867657)

"Information technology" is a lot like stationary engineering [] as a career. Once upon a time, around 1900, stationary engineering was the hot field to get into. People were needed to run the high technology that made the wheels of the world go around - steam engines, generating plants, heavy industrial machinery. It was a new field - vast amounts of machinery were being built and installed, the technology was advancing rapidly, and the world was changing drastically as, for the first time in history, power was being made and distributed in quantity.

A century later, there are about 120,000 stationary engineers in the US. It's a union job, and a good one. Regular hours, OK working conditions, some shift work. It's a routine job, but one that needs to be done. That's where "information technology" is going.

Information technology was once a showpiece operation. Company computers were in glass-walled rooms and people would look in on the shiny machinery. Now they're racks in dark basements and warehouses. The same thing happened to stationary engineering. Steam engines [] and generating stations [] were once showpieces. Today, facilities like that are in bleak locations. Visited a boiler room lately?

Vague? Look to what you want to know (1)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867759)

There are a lot of different roles in the "IT industry". Since you don't specify what exactly you think you'd like to do, you're going to get a lot of responses that are all over the place.

For getting your first IT job, the nature of your degree doesn't matter a whole lot. Your knowledge, skills and interests do. For getting your second job, your degree matters even less, and your resume and demonstrable skills matter even more.

Choose a degree that is going to give you the knowledge you want for the field you want to enter. Most of the smartest people that I work with, programmers, engineers, system administrators, do not even have a computer- or engineering-related degree. They have degrees in physics, music and meteorology. But these are the guys that have a passion for the type of work they do, so they came into this with a rich skill set and a desire to learn more.

If you don't have this skill set and don't think it's likely you'll pick it up by the time you're ready for a job, I would recommend sticking to an IT-related degree, only because it's going to force you to take the right classes to build that knowledge up. If you're more interested in doing things like management, or the business side, take lots of business classes. If you're more interested in programming and practical implementation (appropriate for most corporate software development), I would encourage engineering classes/degrees over science ones.

I'm afraid I can't give you a specific degree recommendation because your requirements aren't specific enough. But I can say that the degree itself matters less than you might think in IT. (Now, if you were going into business/management, the degree matters a lot more. It's a cultural thing.)

Does your university give you access to a counselor? Make an appointment to see him or her and ask the same question. You might even approach the problem by coming up with a list of classes that you'd like to take, and see what degree naturally lines up with those classes.

Also, if you intend to work IT in a corporate setting, I would definitely pick up some business/finance and maybe even some management classes along the way. Sometimes the best technical solution is not the best solution for the business, and it's irritating to deal with really smart technical people that are really dumb from a finance perspective and don't understand that ("Sunk cost? What's that?").


Biff98 (633281) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867779)

There is no question in my mind. I had to make a similar choice and if I had to do it all over again I'd choose Computer Science. I'm currently a Sys Admin (heavy in the IT arena, not so much a coder) and probably will remain so for my career. But from my experience it's a LOT easier to be trained as a Computer Scientist and apply all that powerful knowledge to very practical problems. I would imagine it's MUCH harder to be trained in practical IT stuff then attempt to be a Computer Scientist after the fact. In fact I've observed a few folks who fall into this category, and they just don't have the "depth" of knowledge that Computer Science folks have. Unless you know you just want to be an "IT Guy", declare Computer Science.

My advice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19867791)

Are you British? If so, go with CS. If you go to a good university it will allow to work in any number of areas were numeracy and analytical thinking is valued, e.g. banking, consultancy, etc etc as well as programming. (In the UK what you study at university is not hugely important for your career as long as it is something that teaches you to think)

who needs UNI? (1)

PenguSven (988769) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867797)

Don't be so quick to assume you NEED to go to uni to get a decent job. I LOVE the look on peoples faces when (after learning im on $150K @ 23 y/old) they ask "where did you goto uni?" and i say "i didnt even finish H/School".

learn computers on the side of a real science (1)

cathector (972646) | more than 7 years ago | (#19867813)

do math or physics with a minor in either CS or IT.
you can pick up whatever computer skills (and theory) you need in the marketplace,
but the harder sciences really benefit from being learned at school.
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