By far the most common reaction that I get when I tell people that I’m majoring in Information Technology (also commonly shortened to IT) is a blank stare followed by the question “What is that?” I don’t blame them, since I knew very little about it before I embarked on my college search and figured out that this was something I wanted to pursue. I’ve since learned that IT is far more than just the help desk you call up when something malfunctions on your laptop or phone. It’s an incredibly diverse and interesting field concentrated on creatively solving problems and finding solutions using resources and information that are usually already available.
To start with the basics, the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) defines information science and technology as, “the science and practice dealing with the effective collection, storage, retrieval, and use of information.”
Some of the first institutions that dealt with information science were the libraries that cataloged large volumes of information in the form of books and academic journals. Today, there is a separate field of library science, and information science is much more focused on technology and what can be done with it in terms of storing, retrieving, and even creating more information so that people can have a better understanding of the world.
After I explain this definition to whoever has asked me about information science and technology, the next question that I’m usually asked is how it differs from computer science. Though both fields are deeply tied to computers and other forms of technology, the main difference is that while computer science is focused on the coding and development of new hardware and software, information science and technology is focused on how the hardware and software that have already been created can be implemented to solve business or other problems in everyday life. The hardware and software allows information scientists to organize and make sense of large amounts of information and use it to solve complex problems.
This does not necessarily mean that information scientists do not use code in their jobs since information science and technology requires a deep understanding of how software and applications work in order to be used to the best of their abilities. However, coding does not play as central a role in this field as it does in computer science.
Within the broad field of information science and technology, there are quite a few areas of specialization that are offered to students in this major. Some examples include information security, network architecture, database administration, systems administration, and even web design and game development.
Information science and technology professionals can also take on project management roles in their careers and serve as liaisons between the technology and other departments of a company since they have they have the technical expertise and ability to communicate with different groups to accomplish goals.
As, today practically, all fields rely on technology in some way, there is an increasing demand for people with information science and technology degrees. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the expected growth for Computer Systems Analysts between 2012 and 2022 is, on average, 25%. Other fields related to information science and technology such as, Information Security Analysts and Computer Network Architects, are also experiencing similar growth rates showing that information science and technology is a fast growing field with lots of opportunities for those who are interested.
Information science and technology programs vary greatly from school to school. One specific difference that should be taken into account is the technical level of the program and what specific programming or other computer science courses may be required to complement the information science and technology courses. Some interesting programs to check out include:
- Auburn University
- New Jersey Institute of Technology
- Pace University
- Rochester Institute of Technology
- Syracuse University
- University of Southern California
- Virginia Tech (which has Accounting and Information Systems and Business Information Technology)
Overall, students studying information science and technology are learning how to best use technology to organize and retrieve information so that it can be used to solve problems more effectively.