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Comparing computer science, information technology and cybersecurity

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This article has been vetted by University of Phoenix's editorial advisory committee. 
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Kathryn Uhles, Dean, College of Business and IT

This article has been reviewed by Kathryn Uhles, MIS, MSP, Dean, College of Business and IT

This article was updated on 04/04/2024.

Technology is a constant in many people’s lives. Whether during leisure time or at work, people interact with countless computer applications every day. It takes dedicated work from numerous professionals to create these applications before they get to your hands — and to keep them running smoothly.

If you’re passionate about technology and understanding how it works, you can learn more through flexible, online programs at University of Phoenix, where IT programs often focus on three key areas: computer science, information technology and cybersecurity.

The fields have similarities, but each is a distinct discipline. Here, we explain each field of study and what roles they encompass.

Prepare for an IT career — and have the freedom to learn when you want online, 24/7/365.

What is computer science? 

Computer science combines multiple disciplines, such as the study of algorithms, data structures, web development, computational thinking, abstraction of information and the design of computers. It’s the study of information transfer and transformation.

Computer science intersects with disciplines like math, engineering and even psychology. In addition, it offers a broad range of subdisciplines, like artificial intelligence (AI), database systems, security, human-computer interactions and graphics.

Why is computer science important? It plays a pivotal role in driving tech innovation. It’s the engine that powers technology breakthroughs and advancements, including:

  • Machine learning
  • Data science
  • Robotics
  • Software development

Computer science is prevalent in various sectors of society, from healthcare and entertainment to finance and manufacturing. Computer science is used to create systems to handle vast amounts of data, solve complex problems and improve process efficiency.

At its core, computer science shapes technology’s future and the ways people interact with it.

Computer science education and certificates 

A Bachelor of Science in Computer Science (BSCS) focuses on information technology hardware and software. Those who complete a degree in computer science, once in a role geared to their special training, may focus on programming. They may also conduct testing, which means they simulate various issues that might arise in real life to see if the device or program processes the request or solves the issue and continues to function normally.

In addition to a bachelor’s degree, computer science professionals can pursue additional certificates at University of Phoenix to fine-tune their expertise. These certificates include but aren’t limited to:

Certificates can take anywhere from 8 to 10 months to earn, but the core courses in each program teach valuable skills you can showcase to your current or future employer.

Careers in computer science 

Careers in computer science are available in various industries, especially as the tech industry continues to grow. A BSCS can prepare you for several different roles in the industry, including:

  • Application developer: Application developers can design computer software or applications for web platforms, but the job title tends to focus on mobile device applications. App developers write code in various programming languages and test it for efficacy. They work in multiple sectors, including business, entertainment and education. They also have a similar salary track to software developers; in May 2022, for example, they earned between $71,280 and $198,100, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
  • Computer consultant: Computer consultants provide expert assistance that helps organizations troubleshoot their problems. They also help install new hardware and maintain current computer systems. Computer consultants sometimes have different titles, like computer support specialists. While education requirements for this role can vary, high-level consultants often have vendor certification and a bachelor’s degree. As of May 2022, computer support specialists earned between $42,440 and $115,220 annually.
  • Information technology analyst (IT analyst): IT analysts are sometimes called computer systems analysts. They study an organization’s existing IT infrastructure (computer systems and procedures) and design appropriate improvements. This helps the organization function more efficiently. As of May 2022, IT analysts earned between $61,390 and $161,980 annually, according to BLS.
  • Software developer: Ever wonder who creates the apps that let you complete tasks on your computer? It’s software developers. They design, code, test and maintain computer programs to meet user needs. As of May 2022, BLS reported these professionals earned between $71,280 and $198,100 annually, according to BLS.

The salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location, and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guaruntee employment, salary level, or career advancement. BLS data is not geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

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What is information technology? 

Information technology (IT) refers to the systems that people develop to create, store, exchange and use information. This can include hardware, software, networks and telecommunications.

IT also explores how people use computers, mobile devices and the internet to store, retrieve, transmit and manipulate data.

Given IT’s broad scope, it is essential to modern life and touches sectors ranging from business and education to healthcare and entertainment.

IT education and certificates 

University of Phoenix offers multiple degree pathways to enter the IT field, including a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology. Other potential options include a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science or a Bachelor of Science in Data Science.

For those who want to expand their expertise, the Master of Science in Data Science and Master of Information Systems programs offer two options for doing so. The latter program offers a competency-based track for professionals who have significant work experience and industry knowledge. Competency-based degree programs enable self-motivated and disciplined students to take four classes concurrently, move through the content at a self-governed pace and work with a faculty member as needed. This is a good opportunity for those who want to complete their degrees faster.

If you already have a degree in IT, certificate programs can augment your education and help expand your knowledge in a specific area. Certificates can be assets to showcase on your resumé.

Careers in information technology 

If you’re thinking about entering the IT world and are exploring careers in information technology, it’s worth noting that employment in computer and information technology occupations is projected to have an estimated 377,500 open positions each year, according to BLS.

Information technology jobs are constantly evolving, but a bachelor’s degree in information technology can help prepare you for a role as an information systems manager or director.

Information systems managers and directors usually plan, coordinate and direct their organizations’ computer-related activities. Most of their work involves looking at the existing computer needs and recommending upgrades, but it can also involve ensuring security among IT programs. To become an IT systems manager, a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field is typically sought after. In May 2022, BLS reported computer and information systems managers earned between $97,430 and $239,200 annually.

What is cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity, and its subset, information security, is how people and companies protect their systems, networks and programs from digital attacks. Cyberattacks typically target sensitive information to access, change or destroy it. It’s a major tactic for extortion and interrupting business.

Cybersecurity is an extremely important field as more businesses move their infrastructure online. But businesses aren’t the only entities that need to worry about it. Private individuals and public organizations must also secure their data and information. That’s where cybersecurity professionals come in.

J.L. Graff, MBA, associate dean of UOPX’s College of Business and Information Technology, recognizes the importance of cybersecurity and the need for professionals in the field to combat cyberattacks. He cites, for example, how the healthcare industry alone had experienced more than 100 data breaches in just the first few months of 2024.

“Change Healthcare, a medical payment processing company, was a recent target of a suspected ransomware attack,” he says. “According to the American Hospital Association, it was ‘the most significant and consequential incident of its kind against the U.S. health care system in history.’ Industries across the globe are in dire need of cybersecurity professionals to protect information systems.”

Cybersecurity education and certificates

Previously, people interested in cyber protection and security began their careers by earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Today, thanks to the growing need for cybersecurity, there is a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity tailored specifically to this field.

In addition to bachelor’s programs, cybersecurity professionals can pursue certificates to expand their knowledge on specific topics. University of Phoenix offers several options for cybersecurity certificates, including:


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Careers in cybersecurity 

Careers in cybersecurity allow professionals to apply their backgrounds in mathematics, science and engineering to solve cyber issues. They also prevent unauthorized access by individuals, state actors and those who seek to disrupt, exploit or otherwise wreak havoc.

BLS reports that the salary range for an information systems security analyst was between $66,010 and $174,540 annually as of May 2022.

According to BLS, information security specialist positions typically require a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field and real-world work experience.

A cybersecurity expert may also work in a computer science field to assist teams with security precautions and analyses of new products for security flaws and other problems.

In addition to information security analyst jobs, a cybersecurity degree program can help prepare graduates for work in roles we’ve previously discussed, such as IT specialists and systems analysts.

Infographic on differences between computer science, information technology and cybersecurity

Earning a degree in cybersecurity, computer science or information technology

Ultimately, earning your degree in cybersecurity, computer science or information technology can open pathways to a rewarding career in technology, whether that’s at a tech company or in another industry where you help an organization keep its IT platform running.

An information technology degree from University of Phoenix can help lay the groundwork for these careers. Here are just a few to consider:

  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science — This degree program teaches you how to apply information technology theory and principles to real-world business challenges. Advanced concepts in math, programming and computer architecture are covered.
  • Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity — This program teaches top skills such as security policies, network security, information systems security and cybersecurity.
  • Bachelor of Science in Data Science — Gain fundamental skills and knowledge to analyze, manipulate and process data sets using statistical software. Learn ETL (extract, transform, load) processes for integrating data sets for business intelligence and more.
  • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology — This program is designed to teach top skills such as business process, cybersecurity, information systems, operations and systems analysis.
  • Master of Information Systems — Go beyond building computers and managing your queues with an MIS. Learn technical and leadership skills necessary for developing and managing information systems.
  • Master of Science in Data Science — Learn to analyze, design and manage complex and unorganized data sets for businesses — and increase your leadership capabilities. Strategically apply data science to optimize functionality, scalability and system performance. Plus, gain career-relevant skills in topics like artificial intelligence, database administration, data warehousing, data visualization, machine learning, statistical analysis and more.

To learn more about how our online degree programs can help you develop these skills within a flexible schedule, request information about an information technology degree today.

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Michael Feder is a content marketing specialist at University of Phoenix, where he researches and writes on a variety of topics, ranging from healthcare to IT. He is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars program and a New Jersey native!

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