With an ever-increasing range of highly specialized fields entering the public consciousness, it is sometimes easy to confuse similar terms, such as information technology and information systems. While similar names often implies a certain amount of fundamental overlap, there is usually a significant difference between the knowledge and experience involved in pursuing such specialties' respective degree programs. The various information technology and systems degrees are a prime example of this; while definitely interconnected in many ways, and dependent upon each other for innovation, there are underlying concepts in either pursuit which do not correlate directly to each other.
So, how are information technology and information systems degrees different?
What Is an Information Technology Degree?
Information technology concerns itself with every modern, practical application of the storage, tranmission and analysis of computerized data. Between information technology and information systems, information technology is a much broader concept, with a wide range of specialized pursuits. In the modern day, information systems training reflects what is essentially a specialty of information technology, though it remains one with its own distinctive areas of focus to which IT (as it is commonly understood in the present) doesn't readily apply. Other, more specifically IT-related specialties include cybersecurity, database administration, and computer systems networking. As a general rule, information technology is on the cutting edge of computer technology today, with data storage, security and management being of more importance than ever before.
What Is an Information Systems Degree?
An information system is an integrated network of components; this includes hardware, as well as (typically, in the modern day) software components, along with the fundamental ideas for how information is to be processed and stored. The point of an information system is to collect, store, process and recall information (often, but not exclusively, computer data) as needed. Prior to modern computational methods, the US library network's Dewy Decimal System (DDS) was an information system (one that is still in use today, computerized and otherwise). As a degree program, information systems is all about the design, implementation and maintenance of these complex and efficient networks. While its practical application is normally computerized, its theoretical foundation isn't specifically rooted in computer technology, and information systems students focus on a combination of technical skill and underlying concepts — how information is most efficiently organized, for easy referencing.
What Degree Program is Right for You?
A bachelor's degree in information technology, particularly with a specialized focus on a highly in-demand field like cybersecurity, will lead to high-paying jobs on career paths with a high potential for advancement. Some graduate degree programs will prepare students for jobs that pay between $90,000 and $110,000 to start. Information systems degrees lead to career fields that are growing somewhat more slowly than those related directly and solely to information technology, but even here the job opportunities are growing significantly faster than the average career in the US. An information systems manager with a computer science background can expect to earn up to $70,000 to start, with a median annual salary of as high as $135,000 for experienced professionals, and a position that occupies more of a supporting role as opposed to information technology's cutting-edge frontier.
Fundamentally, the difference between an information technology degree and an information systems degree is one of practical, cutting-edge application, versus a highly focused and in-depth theoretical knowledge of how information is efficiently organized and managed. In the modern, highly computerized age, both of these programs overlap significantly, and either one relies upon the other professionally for certain aspects of technological innovation and refinement. Either degree, despite their underlying differences, can lead to lucrative and professionally rewarding career paths, with multiple avenues for administrative and executive advancement.