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The Technical and Practical Difference Between Computer Science and Data Science

February 11, 2021

There are many avenues that can be taken to pursue a degree in information technology. Computer science was one of the first, having been around since mainframe computers were first invented in the 60s. Since then, fields of study in IT have expanded greatly, including the rapidly growing field of data science. But what exactly are the differences between computer science (CS) and data science?

In general, computer science majors are more interested in developing a solution to a problem, most often through programming. While data science majors do utilize programming, their focus is on evaluating and mining data to learn and understand trends to better improve processes and outcomes.

When breaking down the two areas into more detail, computer science is often an umbrella major that provides the opportunity to gain programming knowledge and an understanding of computer architecture while also learning about database management, software design, and operating systems.

Students then often choose a concentration where they wish to pursue more specific knowledge based on their career plans. Web design, networking, machine learning/artificial intelligence, and app development are some examples of areas of study. For this major, the majority of the courses taken are labeled as “computer science” courses.

Graduates with a degree in computer science may find themselves with a career as a website administrator, software developer, enterprise architect, or software engineer.

A degree in data science shares many similarities with computer science, and in some cases is considered a subset of computer science. Students, like computer science majors, learn basic level programming skills, database management, and machine learning/artificial intelligence fundamentals.

Differing from computer science, however, languages specific to data science, such as Python and SAS, are part of the curriculum, as are courses in and project and strategic management. For this major, the courses are split between business, data science, and computer science courses, with the majority of courses in the area of analytics.

The combination of business management, computer science, and analytics courses position students for careers as data scientists, machine learning engineers, and data engineers.

“Occasionally, data science and CS are perceived to be the same thing, most likely because data scientists do some programming,” reports Discover Data Science. “But computer scientists and data scientists have different end games. Computer scientists generate software that data scientist’s use, while data scientists apply that software to identify trends and find significance through statistics.”

For students unsure of which degree they are interested in pursuing, they should consider their areas of interest. Love programming, understanding how computers work from the inside out, or web development? Consider a degree in computer science. If you love math, understanding the “why” of a problem, and “big data,” then data science is the degree for you.

Capitol Tech offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in both computer science and data science. For more information, email