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By submitting this request for more information, you are giving your express written consent for Lindenwood University and its partners to contact you regarding our educational programs and services using email, telephone or text - including our use of automated technology for calls and periodic texts to the wireless number you provide. Message and data rates may apply. This consent is not required to purchase good or services and you may always email us directly, including to opt out, at [email protected].

Home Blog Information Technology vs. Information Systems: A Career Outlook

Information Technology vs. Information Systems: A Career Outlook

November 22, 2023

Contributing Author: Alley Bardon

8 mins read

Interested in breaking into the technology field or advancing your tech career with a postsecondary degree? If you have existing knowledge about digital information and computer networks, you know a great deal about information technology (IT) and information systems (IS). However, you may have some important questions regarding where, exactly, one of these disciplines ends and the other one begins.

This article is designed to clarify this distinction while offering some key insights into the career pros and cons of both IT and IS. Read on for a succinct yet detailed summary of what each field has to offer in terms of degree requirements, necessary skills, job prospects, and key employers.

What Is Information Technology?

Information technology is “the use of computer systems to manage, process, protect, and exchange information.” While the IT field is as diversified and specialized as the community of IT professionals it employs, its core purview is using technology systems to “solve problems and handle information.”

Courses and Curriculum

College programs in IT focus on the processing and management of information, the development and maintenance of computer networks, and the technology that makes them possible. Common IT program coursework includes subjects like computer programming and architecture, software engineering and development, hardware configuration, database creation and management, cloud computing, and cybersecurity. IT places a particular emphasis on network troubleshooting, problem-solving, upkeep, and optimization.

Requirements and Certifications

While the desirable requirements and certifications for IT professionals will inevitably vary from one role to another, many employers require applicants to hold at least an undergraduate degree in IT or a related field. Higher-level positions often require a master’s degree. Common certifications in the IT field include the following: 

  • CompTIA Network+
  • CompTIA A+
  • CompTIA Security+
  • Microsoft certification in Azure Fundamentals

To demonstrate your proficiency in various areas of IT practice, you can also become a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), or both.

What Are Information Systems?

The field of information systems encompasses a far broader scope of functions and responsibilities than IT. “An information system or computer information system (CIS) is a set of interconnected people, processes, software, hardware, and networks,” according to Coursera. “Its primary goal is to manage data as it flows through the following five stages: input, processing, storage, output, and feedback.” While professional and academic institutions alike tend to view IT as a subset of IS, it is important to note that the two disciplines each have unique concentrations. While information systems technicians tend to focus more on business strategy and management, information technology technicians gear their focus toward technological equipment, programs, and processes.

Courses and Curriculum

At the college level, IS and IT programs commonly cover much of the same territory in terms of courses and curriculum. However, IS programs will likely require fewer and less advanced technology courses to shift concentration toward the more organizational, strategic, and business-oriented aspects of information technology. Key courses in an IS program might include Project Management, Systems Analysis, Data Analytics, Software Product Development, and IS Strategy. Across the curriculum, IS programs tend to stress how technology can optimize business processes and overcome business challenges.

Requirements and Certifications

Like the IT field, IS requires no universal and official certification or education for employment. However, most employers seek entry-level job candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree in IS or a related field, and leadership positions in IS often require (or may favor) candidates with a master’s degree. Common certifications in the IS field include the following: 

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  • Project Management Professional (PMP)
  • Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) 

Information Systems vs. Information Technology

Rather than positioning IT vs. IS head-to-head, it may be helpful to note that the two fields tend to overlap and work together. In the words of the independent technology education resource Noodle, “Think of IS as bridging the gap between people and the system, helping them make sense of information within that system. Meanwhile, consider IT as a subset of IS, helping people better utilize information through technology.”

Read on for a better understanding of the difference between information systems and information technology, as well as their many similarities.

Similarities

As discussed above, IS and IT both deal with computer systems and the flow of digital information, so they cover much of the same ground in both the academic and professional arenas. Furthermore, tech industry insiders generally regard IT as a subfield of IS. For this reason, the “two fields are interconnected, and professionals often find themselves working in roles that require knowledge and skills from both areas.” 

IT and IS share much of the following in common:

Necessary Skills

Because IS and IT professionals work in areas related to computer networks and digital information, they must share a common base of knowledge and foundational skills. Both IS and IT work require a comprehensive understanding of computer networks and digital information concepts, as well as general technical proficiency in these areas. Beyond these “hard” skills, employers also look for a similar set of “soft” skills in IS and IT professionals. These skills range from high-level critical thinking and problem-solving to effective communication and collaboration.

Careers and Jobs

Although they may ultimately reach very different professional designations, IS and IT professionals often travel similar career paths. IS and IT jobs tend to overlap the most in professions such as database administration, information security, system analysis, and project management. Those pursuing work in IS or IT must identify the skills and requirements of their chosen career path to optimize their employment viability and marketability.

Industries and Companies

IS and IT professionals not only share many of the same job titles, but they also commonly work for many of the same companies in many of the same industries. Of course, both tend to provide services in computer networking and digital information and are often employed by large advisement firms and service providers. IS and IT professionals, both as third-party service providers and internal staff members, share attractive job prospects in areas such as software development, healthcare, finance, manufacturing, marketing, and sales. They also span the business, government, and nonprofit sectors.

Salary and Benefits

IS and IT professionals often have similar salary ranges and benefits packages. In terms of benefits, these professionals receive health insurance, retirement plans, and paid vacation time, particularly if they are working on a full-time basis. IS and IT professionals may also receive monetary bonuses, enjoy flexible work schedules, and take advantage of various continuing education and training opportunities. Of course, it is important to note that both benefits and salary are bound to differ significantly based on your geographic area, industry, and years of experience.

Differences

The primary and most essential difference between IT and IS is the latter’s pronounced emphasis on business concepts, functions, processes, and applications. However, as IS professionals lead various projects and implement strategies in these areas, they might require IT professionals for their expertise in the technology that drives these strategies.

IT and IS differ in the following ways:

Necessary Skills

Because IT is a subset of IS, the skillsets of IT and IS professionals obviously must overlap. However, the concentration of the IT professional often requires a far higher level of technical knowledge and capability. “IT professionals require technical expertise in areas such as computer hardware, software, and networks,” writes the tech news outlet Geeks for Geeks. Meanwhile, “IS professionals require a broader skillset that includes technical expertise as well as knowledge of business processes, data management, and project management.”

Careers and Jobs

Geeks for Geeks goes on to state: “The role of IT is to provide users with the tools and infrastructure necessary to manage and utilize information effectively. The role of IS is to support business processes and decision-making through the effective use of data.” For these reasons, IS professionals are more likely to command management and executive positions such as information systems manager and chief information officer. 

Conversely, IT professionals are more likely to command specialized tech positions such as computer support specialist and software programmer. However, IT professionals can also rise through the ranks to oversee comprehensive technology plans and strategies as senior executives with titles such as chief technology officer.

Industries and Companies

While IT and IS professionals tend to work for many of the same companies in many of the same industries, IT professionals have a sunnier employment outlook with tech companies, particularly those that provide information technology services. On the other hand, IS professionals tend to find better job prospects in the fields of business and operations management.

Salary and Benefits

While the salary and benefits available to IS and IT professionals are quite competitive, it is often for different reasons. The wide skill base and business management focus of IS professionals give them a more direct career path to executive administrative positions, but the highly specialized technical focus of IT professionals often gives them a leg up in cybersecurity, software development, and other in-demand employment sectors.

For More Information

If you want to learn more about training and potential careers in the fields of information systems or information technology, you can visit the official website of Lindenwood University Online to request more information. You can also visit Lindenwood’s Technology Programs page.

For more details about your specific IS and IT degree prospects at Lindenwood, check out our undergraduate programs (the Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity and the Bachelor of Science in Information Technology) and our graduate programs (Master of Science in Cybersecurity Management and our Master of Science in Information Technology).

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