This page is for students trying to decide between our CS and CIS options in Computer Science.
The material is taken from: Computing Curricula 2005: The Overview Report (Computing Curricula 2005 - 4/11/05 DRAFT)
Computer science spans a wide range, from its theoretical and algorithmic foundations to cutting-edge developments in robotics, computer vision, intelligent systems, bioinformatics, and other exciting areas.
We can think of the work of computer scientists as falling into three categories:
- They design and implement software. Computer scientists take on challenging programming jobs. They also supervise other programmers, keeping them aware of new approaches.
- They devise new ways to use computers. Progress in the CS areas of networking, database, and human-computer-interface enabled the development of the World Wide Web. Now, researchers are working to make robots be practical aides that demonstrate intelligence, are using databases to create new knowledge, and are using computers to help decipher the secrets of our DNA.
- They develop effective ways to solve computing problems. For example, computer scientists develop the best possible ways to store information in databases, send data over networks, and display complex images. Their theoretical background allows them to determine the best performance possible, and their study of algorithms helps them develop new approaches that provide better performance. Computer science spans the range from theory to programming. While other disciplines can produce graduates better prepared for specific jobs, computer science offers a comprehensive foundation that permits graduates to adapt to new technologies and new ideas.
The shaded portion in the figure below represents computer science. Computer science covers most of the vertical space between the extreme top and extreme bottom because computer scientists generally do not deal with "just the hardware" that runs software, or about "just the organization" that make use of the information that computing can provide. As a group, computer scientists care about almost everything in between those areas (down as far as the software that enables devices to work; up as far as the information systems that help organizations operate). They design and develop all types of software, from systems infrastructure (operating systems, communications programs, etc.) to application technologies (web browsers, databases, search engines, etc.) Computer scientists create these capabilities, but they do not manage the deployment of them. Therefore, the shaded area for computer science narrows and then stops as we move to the right. This is because computer scientists do not help people to select computing products, nor tailor products to organizational needs, nor learn to use such products.
Information systems specialists focus on integrating information technology solutions and business processes to meet the information needs of businesses and other enterprises, enabling them to achieve their objectives in an effective, efficient way. This discipline's perspective on "Information Technology" emphasizes information, and sees technology as an instrument to enable the generation, processing and distribution of needed information. Professionals in this discipline are primarily concerned with the information that computer systems can provide to aid an enterprise in defining and achieving its goals, and the processes that an enterprise can implement and improve using information technology. They must understand both technical and organizational factors, and must be able to help an organization determine how information and technology-enabled business processes can provide a competitive advantage.
The information systems specialist plays a key role in determining the requirements for an organization's information systems and is active in their specification, design, and implementation. As a result, such professionals require a sound understanding of organizational principles and practices so that they can serve as an effective bridge between the technical and management communities within an organization, enabling them to work in harmony to ensure that the organization has the information and the systems it needs to support its operations. Information systems professionals are also involved in designing technology-based organizational communication and collaboration systems.
A majority of Information Systems (IS) programs are located in business schools. All IS degrees combine business and computing coursework. A wide variety of IS programs exists under various labels which often reflect the nature of the program. For example, programs in Computer Information Systems usually have the strongest technology focus, and programs in Management Information Systems can emphasize organizational and behavioral aspects of IS. Degree programs names are not always consistent.
The shaded portion in the figure below represents the discipline of information systems. The shaded area extends across most of the top-most level because IS people are concerned with the relationship between information systems and the organizations that they serve, extending from theory and principles to application and development; many IS professionals are also involved in system deployment and configuration and training users. The area covered by IS dips downward, all the way through software development and systems infrastructure in the right half of the graph. This is because IS specialists often tailor application technologies (especially databases) to the needs of the enterprise, and they often develop systems that utilize other software products to suit their organizations' needs for information. (This figure does not reflect the attention that information systems programs devote to core business topics.)