A Student’s Guide to Computer Information Systems vs. Computer Science

Technology integration in almost every industry requires computer science and computer information systems expertise to power it up. Many industries seek strong CIS and CS talent to remain ahead of the curve. They understand that skilled technology professionals give them an edge in an incredibly competitive digital world.

But what should you study between computer science and computer information systems if you want to be a top pick by tech companies? The two may seem alike, but they have different career paths and focuses. Find out more as we compare computer science vs. information systems, illuminate what careers each prepares you for, and discuss the skills you should possess. You will discover how much you’ll likely earn and what career outcomes could be.


What Is Computer Information Systems (CIS)?

Computer information systems (CIS) is a field of study focusing on how computers and information technology can solve business problems and help manage business data and workflows. Organizations have more data today than ever, as most business processes are online. Business data is like oil — it’s valuable and fuels a business. Therefore, data management is an integral part of businesses as it helps improve business processes and performance and helps organizations comply with regulations.

With a high demand for businesses to conduct their data management better, studying CIS offers lucrative career opportunities for college students. A Computer Information Systems degree at the college level requires four years of full-time study to earn a bachelor's. 

The program sharpens skills that are widely applicable and in high demand by employers, such as programming, data analysis, cybersecurity, and web and database management. These skills remain highly valuable with more breakthroughs in technology. 

So, if you take a CIS course, you’ll gain skills in areas such as:

  • Programming/coding: Proficiency in Java, Python, C++, etc.
  • Data analysis: Ability to work with large datasets and transform raw data into useful insights.
  • Problem-solving: Logical thinking and ability to troubleshoot technical issues.
  • Technology troubleshooting: Diagnosing and resolving IT problems.
  • Project management: Planning, organizing, and leading technology projects.
  • Communication: Ability to explain technical concepts to both technical and non-technical audiences.


What Is Computer Science (CS)? 

Computer Science (CS) is the study of computers, how their systems work, and how to make meaningful products using computers. CS uses scientific principles and logical techniques to solve problems efficiently and develop technologies. It employs processes like algorithms, data structures, programming, networking, and interfaces.

Studying CS arms students with the knowledge to use coding procedures, artificial intelligence, mathematical algorithms, and the skills for software engineering. In many ways, a master's in computer science degree primes students to enter the vanguard human technology ecosystem similar to that in Silicon Valley.

While it’s understandable to think that computer science is similar to Information Technology (IT), looking at what exactly IT vs. CS offers paints a clearer picture of their differences. Information Technology focuses more on the practical application and management of existing technology and systems. IT specialists implement solutions, manage networks, troubleshoot issues, and ensure smooth daily operations. However, as we have learned above, computer science focuses more on the theoretical foundations of computing. 

In comparing IT vs. computer science, we can call IT the ‘gatekeeper’ who oversees innovations turning into operations. While computer science pushes boundaries, IT ensures the smooth passage of research advances through the ‘gates’ of real-world deployment and optimization within organizational settings.

Computer science students typically complete a 4-year program that provides a solid foundation in core CS topics. Although this is the duration for a full-time student, there are part-time programs that would take longer to complete.

If you’re considering pursuing a computer science degree, you’ll be equipped with programming skills, knowledge of database systems, algorithm thinking, software engineering, computer architecture, and more.


Is Computer Information Systems the Same as Computer Science?

If you are a student wondering whether to study computer science or computer information systems, it would be helpful to understand their differences. While the two overlap in some foundational courses and digital problem-solving abilities, there are a few variations between computer science and information systems, mostly regarding the focus of each. 

CS centers more on the theoretical and mathematical aspects of computing, like algorithms and data structures. In contrast, CIS centers on practical technology applications, such as building apps, security, and business data management.

Additionally, studying CS requires an individual to have more vital skills in mathematics, like calculus and discrete math, than one studying CIS. Computer scientists often work as software developers, engineers, or researchers innovating new technologies. On the other hand, information systems graduates typically work in IT consulting, project management, systems analysis, or business analytics roles.


Computer Information Systems vs. Computer Science Degrees

You should consider a few factors when considering a career in computer information systems vs. computer science. For example, CS careers focus more on technical aspects, such as algorithms, programming, and software engineering.

In contrast, CIS careers focus more on the practical application of technologies in business settings. You must also determine your business acumen, as CIS requires technical skills and a strong business understanding to integrate systems. CS focuses more on computational concepts. Below are career opportunities for information systems vs. computer science graduates. 

System Analyst

A system analyst is a nexus between business needs and their technology capabilities. They analyze how businesses and organizations use technology to support operations and meet their goals using technology solutions. In addition, they design information systems solutions by selecting appropriate hardware, software, databases, and networking components. 

Some roles require a Master of Computer Information Systems for a system analyst. Besides that, a system analyst must be passionate about making technical implementations based on business needs and priorities. As a system analyst, you must also be technologically savvy and possess business acumen.

Since the 1400s, when the printing press was one of the earliest technological inventions, technology has evolved fast. It has transformed the business arena, which is on the frontline of technological advancements. Thus, businesses must keep pace by hiring qualified system analysts to help them thrive and achieve their goals, resulting in a high demand for analysts.

A qualified analyst can rise to senior managerial roles from a junior system analyst position. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, system analysts can earn up to six figures annually today. 

Database Administrator (DBA)

With a CIS degree, you can be a database administrator — an IT professional responsible for managing and optimizing database systems that are essential to an organization. Since database administrators perform tasks related to database installation, monitoring, maintenance, security, backup and recovery, and upgrades, they should have business and technical skills.

Digital transformation, data growth, emerging technologies, security risks, and other reasons keep the DBA role in high demand, with some organizations needing several people in this type of role. Again, most businesses are moving their data to cloud databases for easier management. As such, DBAs have the potential for gradually expanding responsibilities, managerial roles, executive positions, and even specialist career paths.

A database administrator career is rewarding, with junior DBAs typically earning close to $100k annually in the current market. Mid-level DBAs can take home even more than that, while senior DBA annual salaries can reach up to $140k. 

Cybersecurity Analyst

Studying computer information systems can also provide a solid foundation for a career as a cybersecurity analyst. As a cybersecurity analyst, you monitor networks, systems, and firewalls for signs of suspicious or malicious activity. You examine and investigate data sources to detect anomalies, policy violations, or evidence of attacks.

Responding to security incidents requires using security tools, technologies, and open-source software to monitor, log, analyze, and automate protection activities. Therefore, you must have technical and analytical skills and data and network security knowledge.

Did you know that figures from cybercrime costs are higher than some countries’ GDP? Worldwide cybercrime damage costs grow yearly and are expected to hit $9.5 trillion by 2024. These staggering numbers highlight a major callout — there is a great need for cybersecurity analysts. The Bureau of Labor Statistics agrees with this as they project that the cybersecurity field will grow by 32% by 2032, much faster than the average for most occupations.

The cybersecurity field is high-paying, even for entry-level analysts who can earn around $100k per year. Generally, a cyber security analyst can expect to earn $64,000 to $122,000 annually, with the figures increasing with seniority.

Software Developer 

Software developers fulfill the software needs of organizations, individuals, and consumers by identifying essential requirements and opportunities in target markets. They research existing programs and workflows to uncover potential areas for improvement through coding and building new software applications or programs.

A software developer role typically asks for a bachelor's degree in computer science and strong programming abilities in languages like Java, Python, C++, etc. You also need knowledge of databases and web development. Additionally, you should possess excellent problem-solving skills to think through issues and debug errors logically.

High-growth companies and startups frequently need to rapidly expand their engineering teams to launch new products and scale. Large corporations and government agencies also want developers as they adopt more digital systems. Interestingly, there aren't enough software developers to fill in the positions.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, software developers can earn around $130k annually today. It’s worth noting, however, that experience level, programming technologies used, location, industry, and company size impact compensation. Large tech companies in major metropolitan areas often pay higher salaries.

Business Intelligence Analyst

A business intelligence (BI) analyst collects, analyzes, and reports on organizational data for strategic business decisions. They evaluate internal organizational data and external industry benchmarks to identify growth opportunities and areas for performance enhancement. Through systematic analysis of existing systems and workflows, BI analysts provide strategic insights into optimizing efficiencies and boosting profit margins.

A bachelor's degree in computer science, information systems, statistics, or business is often required to be a business intelligence analyst. In addition to industry knowledge, BI analysts also need analytical, coding, and complex problem-solving abilities, as well as expertise in data visualization tools.

Like most other tech jobs, there is a strong demand for business intelligence analysts from various industries due to the growing importance of data-driven decision-making. Companies across all industries rely more on BI strategies to optimize operations and gain competitive advantages through customer insights.

BI analysts often scale up to business intelligence managers, architects, and analytics managers. In today’s market, junior BI analysts can earn up to $75,000, while the salary for principal BI Analysts can reach $150,000.


CIS vs. CS: Which Degree Is Right For You?

When it comes to choosing between an information systems degree vs. computer science, it can be confusing to understand which one best suits your interests and skills. Computer science and information systems are both important and contribute to technology optimizations. However, knowing where they differ is essential so you can understand the right direction to take. 

Understanding that CIS prepares for careers like systems and database admin, while CS leads to jobs in software development, data science, and artificial intelligence makes a huge difference. Recognizing the distinctions can allow you to choose the path that best aligns with your interests and career aspirations. 

A degree in computer science generally prepares you for the following careers:

  • Computer Scientist 
  • Computer Programmer/Engineer 
  • Software/Web Developer 
  • Information Security Analyst 
  • Data Scientist 
  • Computer Engineer

A degree or master’s in computer information systems prepares you for the following careers:

  • Computer Information Systems Manager 
  • Database Administrator 
  • Computer Systems Analyst
  • Network Systems Administrator 
  • IT Project Manager
  • IT Auditor Computer Network Architect 
  • BI Analyst
  • Technical Support Specialist

That being said, the two fields overlap, and choosing one doesn't mean limiting your career options to just that track.


Get a Master’s in Computer Information Systems at California Miramar

Computer Information Systems is an in-demand field that prepares students to manage how technology supports business goals and operations. CIS graduates gain skills in networking, database administration, and implementing and integrating suitable IT solutions within organizations. Along with that comes a rewarding career and attractive perks.

Hone your technical expertise with California Miramar University's Master’s in Computer Information Systems. Our program provides students with an opportunity to gain advanced technical skills that are invaluable for a career in the high-demand field of information technology. 

The MBA in Data Analytics at California Miramar University also provides students with advanced analytical skills to help businesses make better decisions and improve operations. You learn to extract meaningful insights from large and complex data sets through a STEM-designated curriculum focusing on data science, machine learning, and predictive analytics. 

Apply now and look forward to experiencing a 21st-century global education from a student-centered interactive learning environment. We provide online and hybrid learning modules from professional staff and cutting-edge technology to accommodate diverse schedules.