Computer Science vs. Computer Information Systems: Which Major Is Right for You?

by Tobin Perry

You like technology and you can see yourself building a career in the field. As you think about choosing a college major, you see two possible options that look quite similar and you want to compare: computer science vs. computer information systems.

The two degree programs offer valuable insight into the technology that individuals use every day, in almost every facet of their lives. But which one is best suited to your interests and abilities?

While the majors may look similar, they offer unique educational foundations depending on what field you want to pursue. Azusa Pacific University designed the programs to equip students with different skill sets for their specific calling. If you’re considering which path is right for you, here’s what you need to know:

4 Questions to Ask About Computer Science vs. Computer Information Systems

Since it can be such a tough call to decide between these two majors, it’s helpful to think through some questions as you plan your academic career. These four are a great place to start:

  1. Are you interested in the scientific and mathematical aspects of computer science? A computer science degree focuses more on the theory and mathematics behind the technology, whereas a computer information systems degree centers on some of the practical applications of technology, such as building apps, providing security, and designing games.
  2. Would you like to pursue a graduate degree in computer science? A master’s in computer science can provide a terrific opportunity to move up into management positions or become a thought leader in the field. If you’re already thinking about graduate school, computer science would give you the best theoretical background.
  3. Would you like to work independently or as a freelancer? Because a computer information systems degree focuses on the business applications of technology, you’ll find a variety of opportunities to serve as a technology consultant for businesses. For people with an interest in entrepreneurship or who simply want more control over their time, this may be the best direction to take.
  4. Are you an abstract thinker? Computer science is best suited for people who enjoy abstract thinking, particularly related to mathematics. Concrete thinkers tend to enjoy putting theory into practice. A computer information systems program does that by focusing on using technology to solve business problems.

George Thomas, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Engineering and Computer Science at APU, sums up the decision with his advice for students exploring both majors.

“I would ask students what their long-term aspirations are, whether they want to be a creator of new and advanced software systems or work to support and maintain existing systems,” Thomas said. “I would ask about math skills and affinity, as the computer science major demands more math than computer information systems.”

Computer Science at APU

APU has designed the B.S. in Computer Science to prepare students to create systems that analyze, transform, and describe information. The coursework includes a strong focus on calculus, discrete mathematics, computing fundamentals, operating systems, database management, and data structures.

“The ideal computer science major would be good in abstract thinking, usually demonstrated by strong math skills,” said Thomas. “Usually the student will have aspirations to work in top-notch software companies and often have a clear inclination to higher degrees in computer science.”

Computer Information Systems at APU

APU’s B.S. in Computer Information Systems prepares students to become professionals with an expert understanding of the intricacies of cutting-edge technology, including its effects on business and the means for keeping vital information safe. The coursework includes classes that help students get a firm grasp on object-oriented and structured programming, modern operating systems, and database management and development.

Computer information systems majors benefit from many opportunities to work together in groups and create projects that provide firsthand experience to strengthen their résumés.

Who might be interested in exploring a computer information systems degree from APU? “Someone who enjoys coding and is interested in maintaining and managing software systems,” Thomas said. “Usually the student would want to work in business applications of computer software.”

Interested in attending Azusa Pacific University to hone your technical skills? Get in touch with the Department of Engineering and Computer Science to learn more about which program is right for you.