General Question

vicnav's avatar

What's the difference between these IT related college degrees?

Asked by vicnav (136points) January 18th, 2010

1. Computer Science
2. Information Technology
3. Electrical Engineering

Which of the three degrees are most apealing to you?

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13 Answers

MrItty's avatar

Computer Science – designing software systems, coding, programming, creating applications

IT – using computer software systems, data entry & processing, database access, configuring systems

Electrical Engineering – working with the hardware, putting together the physical machines.

I’m CompSci. We tend to look down on IT folks, rightly or wrongly. We have absolutely 0 to do with the Electrical Engineering folks.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Our IT department consists of over 4500 people, and covers all mainframe applications, and about 300 internally created software systems. It does not cover the usage of the systems; that’s left up to the business areas IT supports.

Electrical engineering is more the design of the hardware, and is usually a 5 year degree.

njnyjobs's avatar

Electrical engineering
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Electrical Engineers design complex power systemsand electronic circuits.Electrical engineering, sometimes referred to as electrical and electronic engineering, is a field of engineering that deals with the study and application of electricity, electronics and electromagnetism. The field first became an identifiable occupation in the late nineteenth century after commercialization of the electric telegraph and electrical power supply. It now covers a range of subtopics including power, electronics, control systems, signal processing and telecommunications.

Electrical engineering may or may not include electronic engineering. Where a distinction is made, usually outside of the United States, electrical engineering is considered to deal with the problems associated with large-scale electrical systems such as power transmission and motor control, whereas electronic engineering deals with the study of small-scale electronic systems including computers and integrated circuits. Alternatively, electrical engineers are usually concerned with using electricity to transmit energy, while electronic engineers are concerned with using electricity to transmit information.

Beta_Orionis's avatar

While I mostly agree with @Mrltty’s breakdown, I will point out that there’s actually a much greater amount of overlap between EE (or ECE) and CS these days. The two categories can range from well integrated to nearly indistinguishable depending on the route you choose. Certainly they’re not absolutely unrelated.

noyesa's avatar

Computer Science is a broad field that studies almost every imaginable aspect of a computer. There are subdivisions of it, like Software Engineering, that do pertain to the design of computer applications, but software development does not explicitly have anything to do with computer science. Edsger Dijkstra once put it “Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes. ” Computer Science is often abstract and academic. I’m studying Human-Computer Interaction, for example, which has absolutely nothing to do with IT or electrical engineering, and is something of an emerging field in Computer Science education.

IT is usually a shortened degree program that focuses largely on vocational training in maintaing computer network infrastructure. This only seems to be available at certain schools. The Computer Science department at my school is considered to be one of the best in the country and we don’t have any programs that pertain specifically to IT, whereas another nearby University, which isn’t very prominent, in place of a true Computer Science program has an assortment of such degrees, like “Computer Network Technology” vs the standard BS Computer Science. Our programs allow you to focus more on database systems and network programming, but largely from the approach of designing distributed systems and network-ready computer programs, not system maintenance.

Electrical Engineering has nothing to do with either, and often has nothing to do with computers. My school has an EECS department (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science). EE has nothing explicitly to do with Computer Science. We also have a Computer Engineering program, which focuses specifically on the application of Computer System design, and touches briefly on Computer Science, but is still largely an Electrical Engineering program. I would say EE and CE are 80% similar.

Sarcasm's avatar

@MrItty For EE, when you say putting together machines, do you mean slapping some video cards and RAM on motherboards? Or do you mean soldering and creating little robots and such?

noyesa's avatar

@Sarcasm Neither of those is really close to what Electrical Engineering is. The desk job of an electrical engineer is often creating electrical diagrams in some kind of CAD software. Electrical engineers design circuits of all kinds, not necessarily pertaining to computers. Almost any kind of circuit board you find in modern day electronics is created by an electrical engineer.

Computer Engineering is a field of electrical engineering that pertains to the design and manufacture of computer components, staying almost specifically focused on the electrical side of things. Still, this has nothing to do with swapping out computer hardware, but actually designing the hardware someone else would be swapping out.

While some electrical or computer engineers might create some components, the actual component assembly would be carried out either by machines (fabrication plants these days will accept a CAD file and start spitting boards out) or electronic assemblers, which are people who read the diagrams and assemble the components. The engineer his- or her-self often has nothing to do with the actual assembly of the components.

nisse's avatar

Mritty gives a pretty good answer. I’m comp.sci myself, but i wouldn’t say i look down on the IT-crowd or the hardware people, we all do different things that are all needed.

IT-stuff is everything like some coding software, databases, designing GUIs, managing IT-projects, understanding internet routing and such. It’s basically the “social science equivalent” of computer science, or the “softer” stuff.

Electro engineering is the circuitry underlying all the computers, the low level stuff is resistors and circuitry, and lot’s of physics, semiconductors. When you go more advanced you get a tad more math than either IT or comp.sci, so you may be more fit for tasks such as signals engineering, specialized hardware engineering, circuit design, or anything which demands more proficiency in math or physics. It’s basically the nitty gritty of getting dug down into the pure details of the underlying electronics. If you choose to go even deeper an electrical engineer can almost turn into a physicist. This is the “harder” stuff.

Comp.sci is in between electrical engineering and IT. We get some of the IT stuff and some of the electrical stuff (but not that much). We also have areas which are considered mainly computer science, for example advanced algorithm design (how to solve problems efficiently with a computer), parallell processing, cryptology, logic but we do a fair amount of coding and also learn about IT-projects, and methods for developing of advanced software as well. I would probably say we get the most coding time out of all the branches, although i know IT gets alot as well. We also get a tad of the hardware stuff.

I chose comp.sci because i am not a hardware geek and i find the low level electronics stuff boring. I could probably have become an IT-major, because i like some of the softer stuff with building GUIs and usable apps easily, but at the time i was starting the IT-field felt too young, and overhyped. By today it has matured somewhat.

I wanted a good, usable all round education in computers, so i chose comp.sci.

There are ofcourse many overlaps between all three of these fields, and if you start in one of them usually you can do your masters in one of the others if you find that more interesting down the road.

noyesa's avatar

@nisse I think what you’re saying is a bit of a misinterpretation of what IT is. Most IT jobs have nothing to do with developing software. That would more correctly belong to the field of Software Development, which is mostly populated by computer scientists and software engineers.

IT pertains mostly to data management. IT personell might design a database system, architect a computer network, and manage network security for an organization. IT is rarely associated with software development, even if a developer works on software employed in the IT industry. IT staff would be the end user of DBMS, management software (the entire Microsoft Server suite, for example), and networking hardware. Running a computer network at even a small to medium sized company can constitute a full time IT staff.

Computer Science, at least in the academic sense, has nothing to do with electrical engineering or IT. It is the study of both computation and expressing something from another domain within the domain of the computing machine. It is very abstract and doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with software development, which is a discipline in its own right.

nisse's avatar


Well, it might just be that way at my college, but my friend in IT has more courses in coding and how to work as a coder ant than i do. You may technically be right as I am only speaking from my own experience of my education. YMMV.

noyesa's avatar

@nisse Yeah, the full time IT person at my company did the same thing in college. He had to take elementary programming courses, some stuff on database design, and a few other ultimately worthless (for him) classes.

He never does any programming short of scripting on occasion. Most of his job is managing network resources, scaling the capacity of the network, and ensuring its security.

Beyond college, IT generally involves zero programming. I’m sure you could get some kind of development job with an IT degree with some strong work experience, but most IT grads matriculate into IT jobs, where they will end up doing no programming that they don’t choose to do themselves (scripting tasks, etc).

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sujan06's avatar

Associate’s Degree

An associate’s degree is normally earned at a community college and is earned in two years. It usually focuses on general education requirements that can be later used towards completing a bachelor’s degree after two more years of study. Some associate programs are also geared towards a specific profession such as one in the healthcare industry, computer technology, or business administration. Visiting an online college’s program of study page can provide you with some ideas.

Bachelor’s Degree

While a person can use an associate’s degree towards a bachelor’s degree, most students enroll straight into the bachelor’s degree program. Programs can be found in virtually every field of interest from animal husbandry to languages to fashion design. These four-year programs provide the foundation required for attaining the majority of jobs in the United States. Roughly two years of the program are spent on a broad general education covering subjects commonly seen in high school: mathematics, English, sciences, history, and languages. Traditionally, students spend between 15–18 hours per week in the classroom.

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