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IT vs Computer Science vs Information Systems

Information Technology (IT) is a relatively new academic degree program that provides students with comprehensive knowledge and necessary skills and training to become IT professionals and to meet the computer technology needs of users in industry, government, and academic organizations. Not only undergraduate programs but also graduate programs including Ph.D. degrees in IT have become very popular.

The IT program, as an academic discipline, covers the uses of computing technologies, i.e., computers, computer networking and administration, Web technologies, operating systems and system administration, information security, system integration, database development, social network administration, and computer programming. The undergraduate program offered by our department is based on the proposed curriculum by the ACM and IEEE-CS, two of the largest computing societies with membership and representation from the academia, industry and government.

While an IT program may seemingly be comparable to a computer science (CS) or an information system (IS) program, the three disciplines have distinct purposes.

Computing is not a single discipline but a family of related and complementary disciplines. Computer science programs emerged in 1970s and focus primarily on computation science (abstraction, algorithm development, scientific programming, compilers, and operating systems). Information Systems programs became popular during the 1980s and focus on the information aspect of technology, that is, managing information for organizational efficiency and collaborative decision making. The IT programs emerged in 2000s when the uses of computing technologies became so pervasive and influential. The following diagrams, all from the ACM/IEEE Computing Curricula 2005, depict the the computing space and illustrate the relationship between these disciplines.

Computing Space

The IT Discipline

The following figure, from the ACM/IEEE Curriculum Guidelines for Undergraduate Degree Programs in Information Technology, illustrates the major components of an IT program. The pillars are the well-known knowledge units such as programming, networking, human-computer interaction, databases and Web technologies, built on top of IT fundamentals (history, application domains, related disciplines, math, statistics, and sciences). Overarching the entire foundation are knowledge areas such as information security, professionalism, and ethics.  The KU IT program complements the above foundation knowledge and pillars with practical hands-on experience.

IT Pillars


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