Information Systems vs. Information Technology: Which Degree Is the Right Path for Me?

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Are you interested in turning your tech-savviness into a fulfilling career? If so, there are a wide variety of technology-related career paths to choose from, each with its own unique specializations and employment opportunities. That said, it can be difficult to pin down which disciplines and education tracks align with your personal interests and professional goals. What types of roles and responsibilities are in high demand? What’s the difference between jobs in information systems vs. information technology? How can you stand out from other applicants competing for the same positions? Answering these questions can go a long way toward launching your technology career. After all, every IT expert has to start somewhere.

Visualization of an enterprise information system

The technology field is rapidly expanding, leading to a high demand for candidates with the right technical skills, knowledge, and experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in computer and information technology occupations is expected to grow 12% between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than the national average. While there are plenty of entry-level positions available for job seekers without formal training or education, most companies prioritize applicants with degrees in information systems, information technology, computer science, or other tech-focused programs. But what sets these concentrations apart, and how can you tell which degree program is right for you?

Information systems vs. information technology: What’s the difference?

First, it’s worth noting that most technology degrees have a lot of overlapping coursework, as students must be able to understand the intricacies of computer networking, data storage, and systems architecture before joining the workforce. Of course, each specialization prepares students for different roles post-graduation, so it’s important to select a concentration that matches your personal preferences. To help you accurately assess your options, be sure to consider how careers in information systems are different from those in information technology.

Information technology

The field of information technology (IT) is focused on the digital and physical infrastructure that facilitates organizations’ internal and external operations. Professionals in this line of work are responsible for the design, implementation, support, and management of critical IT assets, from laptops to data storage units and much more. This includes rolling out new software updates, troubleshooting users’ technology problems, replacing outdated hardware, and scaling up a company’s computer systems to meet operational demands.

Since nearly all organizations depend on efficient and reliable computer-based information systems, there is a pressing need for IT experts who understand how key applications should function. Some of the possible career paths for information technology graduates include:

  • Help desk technician
  • Network administrator
  • Security specialist
  • Software engineer

What makes IT roles different from other tech-oriented occupations is that they often involve a lot of hands-on responsibilities. Addressing technical challenges at the enterprise scale requires a deep familiarity with common computer issues, such as faulty hard drives, mismatched software versions, unoptimized networking protocols, and more. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, IT professionals typically work directly with computer equipment and interconnected systems that are used to create, store, manipulate, control, and/or transmit data. At its core, the IT field is all about solving specific business problems by integrating modern technologies and ensuring they work as intended.

Information systems

In contrast to careers in IT, professionals in information systems (IS) are much more interested in how computer networks and applications are managed within the context of modern business environments. Whereas IT experts spend most of their time dealing with technology directly, IS workers are more concerned with how people and processes can support or hinder the performance of their organizations’ internal applications.

This big-picture perspective is crucial for developing and maintaining efficient computer-based information systems, especially in complex industries like finance, manufacturing, and construction. In a sense, IS professionals bridge the gap between more business-focused executives and full-time techies, ensuring all technology assets serve a specific function and add tangible value to their organization. Some popular career options in the information systems field include:

  • Database administrator
  • Computer network architect
  • Information systems manager
  • Systems analyst

Studying information systems can help students better understand how companies disseminate information internally, create efficient business applications, and make high-level decisions about their IT investments. This specialization essentially blends technical expertise and business savvy, which can set job seekers apart from other candidates who may only have a background in tech support. For example, IS professionals often have a firm grasp of how information is generated, shared, and secured within their specific organization.

Knowing how a company utilizes business intelligence is crucial, as even small upgrades projects can lead to major disruptions for employees in other departments. These types of roles often require a high level of organizational thinking and a knack for solving complex problems, in addition to technology expertise.

Launch your technology career with an online information systems degree from UAB

Technology is rapidly evolving to meet the needs of modern businesses, opening a variety of career possibilities for tech-savvy candidates with the right educational backgrounds. The University of Alabama at Birmingham is proud to support aspiring young students by offering an online information systems degree program tailored to the modern career landscape.

Through a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems you can gain the sort of real-world insights and technical skill sets you need to pursue a variety of roles in the IS field. The information systems coursework provides instruction on key topics in information management, including business programming, systems analysis, data communications, and more.

To learn more about UAB’s unique information systems curriculum, explore the information systems program page or reach out to an enrollment advisor today.

Recommended Reading:

Computer Information Systems vs. Management Information Systems

4 Reasons Why Business Skills Can Help You as an Information Systems Professional

Sources:

UAB Collat School of Business: Online Information Systems Degree

 Computer and Information Technology Occupations by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Information Technology by National Institute of Standards and Technology

Information Systems by National Institute of Standards and Technology