Home Blog Computing vs. computer science: Which one is right for you?

Computing vs. computer science: Which one is right for you?

February 22, 2022
Graphic showing different images of computers and data workflow. Text: "Computer Science or I.T.?"

As digital and IT roles become more prevalent, the lines between them also seem to become more blurred. While it may not matter as much in the day-to-day workings in the field, it’s important for prospective employees or graduate students to have a clear picture of what skills are expected of them and which concentrations match their interests. This is especially true in reviewing the features of computing vs. computer science.

Together, let’s explore the identifying factors of computing, computer science, and the role that a master’s in computing can play in achieving your career goals.

What is the difference between computing vs. computer science?

Although computing and computer science are closely related (and often used interchangeably), there are some nuances that distinguish the two and can help you make key choices to guide your career path.

Computer science is the study of computers, including computational theory, hardware and software design, algorithms, and the ways that humans interact with technology.1 You might think of this as the study of computers themselves, including the various parts and capabilities that define them. Professionals who study computer science often go on to become computer and information research scientists, software developers, information security analysts, or web developers and designers, among dozens of other lucrative roles.

Computing, on the other hand, considers the role of computers and their management within organizations.2 More simply, it’s the study of what computers can do; its key focus is the ways in which we can use computers to accomplish tasks, streamline processes, exchange information, and much more. In looking at the typical career paths for computing vs. computer science, there’s some overlap; however, those in computing might instead choose to become a software engineer, lead systems engineer, business analyst, and senior risk engineer. Computing also has a natural correlation to cybersecurity, which has its own distinct focus, areas of expertise, and job opportunities.

What is a master’s in computer and information sciences?

For anyone looking to build on their undergraduate education or professional experience, a Master of Science in Computer and Information Sciences is a smart, comprehensive way to stay ahead of the evolving industry. It’s a well-respected, graduate-level degree whose curriculum usually covers:

  • Computer and information security
  • Information technology
  • Database analysis, administration, and architecture
  • Mobile computing
  • Software tools, packages, and design
  • Fundamentals of AI and machine learning
  • System and enterprise architecture

In addition to all of these technical skills, you’ll also learn problem-solving and management techniques to prepare for leadership roles and help you foster healthy team dynamics.

Let’s use Marquette University as an example to better understand the degree: the online M.S. in Computer and Information Sciences at Marquette is a 36-credit hour program with three opportunities to start per year. You can either complete this program part-time or full-time, with a mix of synchronous and asynchronous components. There’s also an option for career changers to complete a Foundations in Computing course to prepare them for all of the course work ahead.

Depending on which of our four pathways you choose [M.S. in Computer and Information Sciences, M.S. in Computer and Information Sciences (Cybersecurity Focus), M.S. in Computer and Information Sciences for Career Changers, or M.S. in Computer and Information Sciences for Career Changers (Cybersecurity Focus)], you will take a combination of general computer and information sciences courses and required and elective Information Assurance and Cyber Defense (IACD) Specialization courses. All of these courses reflect the topics outlined above, as well as other, more nuanced subjects that you can add to your schedule, like mobile health and the Internet of Things.

Why do a master’s in computer and information sciences?

As you weigh your computing vs. computer science professional development options, you may wonder why you should pursue a master’s in computing instead of completing online bootcamps, or even whether it’s worth earning a master’s degree at all. Firstly, it’s important to note that while there are a lot of great, short-form courses and certificates in computer and information sciences, a master’s program is more focused and rigorous. The faculty who lead these programs are extensively trained and deeply experienced not only in computer and information sciences, but also the art of teaching in a clear and thought-provoking manner.

Similar to other graduate degree programs, a master’s in computer and information sciences will also provide you with valuable networking opportunities (both with your teachers and your cohort), career resources, and more one-on-one support than other, short-term options. You can use these to your advantage while seeking new positions or advocating for a promotion within your current one. If you’re just breaking into the industry, this designation will overshadow your unrelated work experience and help you stand out among other candidates for high-profile positions in data science, healthcare technology, cybersecurity, IT, and more.

There are a few different graduate degree paths you could take in the computing field, including a master’s in computer science, information technology, computer engineering, or information systems, to name a few. Pay attention to the degree name and curriculum, as it likely means there’s a specialization or specific career path in mind. For greater flexibility, many students choose to earn a master’s in computer and information sciences vs. computer science because of its numerous applications and universal recognition. Although the broad definition of computer and information sciences can sometimes cause confusion, it gives you the freedom to pursue professional opportunities and recreational endeavors that others might not be able to experience—designing your own app, for example.

Is a master’s in computer and information sciences worth it?

Whether you evaluate this degree in terms of your return on investment, the outcomes that it produces, or the quality of the program and its experience, a master’s in computer and information science delivers on multiple fronts. Of course, your results will depend on the program that you choose; that’s why it’s best to enroll in a well-regarded program from a university that can deliver on its academic promises. For example, Marquette's online M.S. in Computer and Information Science is ranked the #14 best online master’s in information technology, as well #3 for best online student engagement and #5 for best services and technologies in an online IT program.3

When you consider all of the benefits of this degree, take note of what’s tangible, such as a higher earning potential, the opportunity to earn a promotion or change your career, and an impressive, sharpened skill set. But don’t forget about the intangible aspects, like your increased confidence, the freedom to pursue your interests, and the influence you can wield at the forefront of technology. There’s no better way to future-proof your career than with a sought-after combination of passion and expertise.

Advance in computer and information sciences in as few as 2 years

If you’ve weighed the pros and cons of computing vs. computer science and found that computing is the right direction for you, then it’s time to put your plans into action. Browse our four different M.S. in Computer and Information Science pathways to choose your focus, or talk to a Marquette University admissions advisor to find what’s right for you. With face-to-face virtual classrooms, dedicated instructors and strong academic support, we’re here to give you what you need to accelerate your career.