Both information systems (IS) and information technology (IT) are burgeoning industries that offer job opportunities that have long-term professional growth potential. The fields are related in more ways than that, however. In fact, the terms information technology and information systems are sometimes used interchangeably, but that is a misnomer. There are similarities and differences in the two fields.
IT is a wide-ranging term that describes the technological transfer, storage and accessibility of information. Thus, IT falls under the IS umbrella — it deals with the technological components that are used in the information systems themselves. By definition, IT is the study, design, implementation, support or management of computer-based information systems.
Speaking of components, IT encompasses hardware, software, databases and networks. The emphasis of IT is to manage technology and help users make the most of its functionality. Careers in IT typically require a degree in computer science or information science; those who graduate can find employment in cybersecurity, database or network administration, infrastructure management, business intelligence, computer programming or software development.
An information system is a type of platform or collection of platforms that exist to manage a set of information or a technology product. For instance, the hardware and software used to create, maintain and access an electronic health record is an information system. The computers, hard drives and other electronic devices used to store, keep and distribute patient records are part of the system. These electronic devices on their own may be referred to as an information technology system, even though they’re part of a particular information system.
IS can also be described as an overarching umbrella term for the systems, people and processes that businesses use to create, store, manipulate and distribute information. IS is the bridge between technology and the user.
When it comes to available careers in the field of information systems, the opportunities are plentiful. Actuarial sciences, analytics and programming, communications, computer security and auditing are a few common fields.
IT is a subset of IS. The fields are certainly related, but those interested in a career in technology should research and understand the difference in the two fields. Careers in each area require separate degrees and preparation. While both deal with computers the majority of the time, they have very distinct paths that demand separate education and training.