Computer Engineering

How Are Information Technology and Computer Engineering Different?

For open positions in technology, many applicants have degrees in information technology or computer engineering. Hiring managers must understand what education, skills, and experience in both fields bring to the table.

My company provides business networking services in Las Vegas. Information Technology and Computer Engineering are very different professions.  Let’s explore both of them in this article.

Computer engineering deals with analyzing and solving problems related to computers. Computer engineers know software and hardware, so they can choose the best solution. Sometimes, a new computer will make a program run more efficiently. Other times, a software change proves cheaper and easier to implement.

“The knowledge of both the “body” and the “mind” of a computer helps computer engineers work at the microscopic level and on a large, system-wide scale,” according to Virginia Tech’s computer engineering website.

Alternately, information technology concentrates on how technology is used and the services of technology.

“Information Technology produces frontier research on the economic, business and organizational implications of digital technologies. [Students] are expected to acquire a solid grasp of underlying information technologies and principles of information theory, along with their organizational and economic implications,” according to MIT Sloan’s IT Ph.D. website.

Learn more about what students study in each field and how they overlap.

What Do Information Technology Students Study?

At the bachelor’s degree level, IT students learn the fundamentals, including system analysis, programming, software planning, and testing, database management and IT Infrastructure.

The master’s degree level becomes more diversified with a lot more technology degrees. For example, Georgetown University offers an Online Master’s in Technology Management degree with the following courses:

  • Business Intelligence & Data Analysis
  • Cloud Computing and Virtual Data Centers
  • Cryptography & Network Security
  • Cyber Threats & Vulnerabilities
  • Enterprise Modernization
  • Ethics in Technology Management
  • Financial Analysis for Technology Managers
  • Information Security
  • Managing Diverse Organizations in a Flat World
  • Managing Technology
  • Project Management
  • Systems Requirements and Analysis

Other programs may focus on business fundamentals or technical designs as well as information technology. Students have a wide variety of concentrations with the IT umbrella.

What Do Computer Engineering Students Study?

Computer engineering programs usually focus on the design and development of computer hardware. Students also study software programming, physics, circuits, computer architecture, and microprocessor design as they work toward their bachelor’s degree.

Many students pursue a master’s degree immediately after their undergraduate courses or while they are working in the field. This makes it a little tougher for learners hoping to switch fields because many programs don’t cover foundational courses. It’s not uncommon for computer engineering students to pursue master’s degrees, and so advanced degree programs in computer engineering often skip over foundational coursework.

Carnegie Mellon University offers a computer engineering track with the following concentrations available:

  • Cyber-Physical Systems
  • Wireless Systems
  • Computer Security
  • Data and Network Science
  • Integrated Systems Design

Other programs focus on Advanced Circuits, Robotics, Digital Electronics, Microcomputer Design, and Digital Signal Processing, along with many other specializations.

How Do IT and Computer Engineering Overlap?

Here’s an analogy describing how IT and computer engineering interact. It’s not perfect, as job roles tend to bleed into one another based on needs and responsibilities. However, it provides a great visual representation.

Think of computer engineers as architects and construction professionals that design and create a building. Computer scientists are specialists that install and maintain systems. That would equate to the plumbing, appliances, and electrical systems in a home. IT professionals use and optimize the systems in the home to achieve positive results such as a nice dinner or warm house.

These fields interact a lot and it might be useful to study job descriptions for roles in each field to better understand the skill sets learned in each one.

How Does the Degree Influence Career Paths?

Career pathways will vary depending on whether a student chooses IT or computer engineering. However, professionals often veer off track to pursue opportunities and interests in other areas. Hiring managers reviewing resumes should carefully review the work experience of each candidate to see what they have accomplished and how their skills may be transferred to the open position. Computer engineers and information technology specialists should highlight their skills and training in reference to the job they are applying for.

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