Information Technology Vs Computer Science – What’s Best For You?


You know that a career in technology is perfect for you, but you are not sure about what path to follow – should you study information technology (IT) or computer science (CS)? What’s the difference? What would be your best option? Read further to discover exactly what IT and CS are, and explore the educational requirements, skill sets, career opportunities and potential salaries of each.

What Is Information Technology?

Fundamentally, IT is all about using computers and networks to handle information. You can view it as the brainpower behind the scenes that makes sure information is stored, processed, sent and retrieved smoothly. In simple terms, IT professionals are the problem-solvers who use technology to make businesses run better and more efficiently.

IT covers a broad range of focus areas. These include:

  • Network administration. As a system administrator, your job is to ensure that information travels smoothly.
  • Cybersecurity. The job of a cyber security analyst involves protecting information from digital threats.
  • Database management. This involves IT professionals organising and managing data.
  • Software development: This involves creating programmes and applications to be used by business.
  • Web development. A web developer is responsible for creating attractive websites that are easy to use, and they are often responsible for the ongoing performance of the website.

What Is Computer Science?

If IT is the practical side, CS – the study of computers and digital systems – is the brains behind the operation. CS professionals are responsible for designing and developing software and systems which involve understanding algorithms, data structures, programming languages, and using theoretical knowledge of computing to innovate.

Within the world of CS, there are exciting specialisations:

  • Artificial intelligence. This involves working on enhancing computer intelligence and enabling machines to learn.
  • Data science. This involves analysing and interpreting data in order to make insightful decisions.
  • Software creation. . As a software developer you might create the systems that control networks.
  • Computer graphics. This involves designing graphics for digital applications.

The Educational Requirements Of Each

If you want to pursue a career in technology, then attending a recognised educational institution and getting an accredited diploma, certificate or degree is critical. Employers will generally show preference for candidates who have completed recognised courses that reflect a quality education and relevant skills.

In South Africa, many universities and educational institutions offer both IT and CS degree and diploma programmes.

Skill Sets And Specialisations Of Each

  • IT professionals need skills such as troubleshooting, network management and proficiency in specific software and hardware. IT allows for specialisations in areas like cybersecurity, database administration, and systems analysis.
  • CS professionals require strong programming skills, algorithmic thinking, and problem-solving abilities. In CS, you can specialise in artificial intelligence, machine learning, software engineering, or data science.
  • There is some overlap, particularly in areas like software development, where both IT and CS professionals may excel. Choose a path that aligns with your interests and career goals.

Career Opportunities And Industry Demand For IT Vs CS

The choice between IT and CS often depends on your passion and desired career trajectory.

  • IT professionals find opportunities in roles such as network administration, IT consulting and software development.
  • CS graduates may pursue careers as software engineers, data scientists or machine learning specialists.

Those with qualifications in both the IT and CS fields are in high demand globally, and South Africa is no exception. As businesses digitise and technology evolves, the need for skilled professionals in both areas continues to grow. In deciding what qualification to pursue, and to keep up with new opportunities, stay in touch with industry trends.

Added to this, the rise of emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and the Internet of Things, is creating innovative new career paths in both IT and CS.

Salary And Career Potential

According to Talent.com, the average IT specialist salary in SA is R660 000 per year or R338 per hour. Entry-level positions start at R330 000 per year while the highest skilled workers may earn as much as R700 000 a month. Another source, http://www.savarsitystudent.co.za, states that experienced IT managers (with at least a bachelor's degree in computer science) can earn an average annual salary of between R1.1 million to R2.5 million. Of course, salaries differ widely based on experience, specialisation and location.

Career progression in IT often involves moving into leadership roles such as IT manager or chief information officer. CS professionals may advance to roles like software architect or project manager. Continuous learning and staying updated with industry trends are key factors for career growth in both fields.

About The IIE’s Varsity College

The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE) of which Varsity College is a brand, is South Africa’s largest registered and accredited private provider of higher education. At Varsity College we understand that no two students are the same or learn the same. That’s why we make sure a student’s education is shaped around them; how they like to learn, what they are passionate about, what makes them tick, and what makes them thrive. Our Education by Design approach allows students to grow into their best, and creates a space where they can live, learn and play – their way.