Informatics and CS

Selecting a Computing Major

Undergraduate students can choose from Business Informatics or Computer Science.

There is high demand for graduates in all of our majors. And all are generally associated with fairly high salaries.

You may be interested in estimates on salaries and job outlook.

What's the Difference? Informatics and Computer Science

This recent blog post may help differentiate the two.


Informatics refers to information systems applied within the context of another domain.

Business Informatics is an emerging interdisciplinary field of study that combines computer science and business administration into one field. Integrating computer technology into vital business operations can provide a business with a competitive advantage based on innovative and superior application of information technology.

The Business Informatics major prepares students for a wide variety of careers, including systems analysis, application software development, web development, and database design.

While ISU's informatics programs are highly technical, to be successful informatics professionals must develop an awareness of behavioral, organizational, and methodological issues as they relate to software systems in a particular environment, such as business. Although the roots of Informatics are firmly anchored in Computer Science, students are taught to transcend the technological aspect and become familiar with the organizational and behavioral issues that are integral to the environment in which they are employed.

Informatics graduates have a stronger understanding of the operational facets and personnel issues of an organization, allowing them to interact more effectively in an organizational setting. Interpersonal skills and communication skills, often overlooked in CS programs, are vital in Informatics. Informatics students are generally better versed in assessing the needs of the end-users, and are therefore more capable of tailoring a software system to satisfy those needs.

Computer Science

Computer science is primarily concerned with the development of software and hardware.

  • The software component of CS, the portion most closely related to IS, is concerned with software development with respect to efficiency, effectiveness, and fault freeness.
  • A computer science curriculum educates the student in abstract reasoning about programs and, above all, develops his or her ability to develop large software components.
  • The use of the developed program, e.g., in a business setting, is not the main concern of computer science.

A computer science grad may be involved in all the various aspects of computing including the development of algorithms, systems software development, and hardware or software implementations. Most CS degrees prepare students for graduate school or industry positions as software engineers, systems programmers, or systems integrators.

CS professionals may be involved in developing advanced imaging systems, sensor and image processing algorithms, or integrated software and hardware systems. CS graduates may work as .Net software developers, iOS developers, computer graphics animators or game designers, or technical analysts. As computing, communications, and entertainment continue to converge, more CS professionals will be needed to develop sophisticated database techniques for managing complex and enormous databases, designing devices, interfaces, power supplies, etc.


Our informatics curriculum is made up of courses designed to provide students with the strong technical background needed to develop solutions to today's information challenges, and as such it is more technical than typical Information Systems programs while still being less math-intensive than most Computer Science curricula.


While Computer Science is concerned with the optimal design and implementation of software, Informatics concentrates on the most efficient use of the finished package.

  • For example, a database course in a true Computer Science curriculum focuses on the development of database software, examining such theoretical issues as the most efficient algorithms for locking mechanisms and deadlock detection.
  • A course by the same name in Informatics examines the importance of organizing the data so that, from a user perspective, database access will be most efficient.

Skill Differences

The skills of a typical Computer Science student differ from those of a student in Informatics.

  • The CS student has to exhibit a considerable gift for abstract reasoning, but is not expected to interact successfully with a large variety of disciplines as in Informatics.
  • Informatics students have a strong understanding of the management, marketing, and accounting facets of an organization, allowing them to interact more effectively in an organizational setting.
  • In addition, interpersonal skills or even communication skills are vital in Informatics. Informatics students are also better versed in assessing the needs of the end-users, and are therefore more capable of tailoring a software system to satisfy those needs.


All programs offered by the Department of Informatics and Computer Science offer broad-based, rigorous curricula that combine a solid background in technology and theory with a real-world approach to career opportunities and advancement to prepare students for a successful future in the evolving, fast-paced technology industry.

Technical Rigor

Prospective students and recruiters have inquired about the degree of technical rigor of the Business Informatics degree in comparison to a Computer Science degree. The diagram below shows a rough estimate of the technical content of ISU's Business Informatics degree compared to the Computer Science degree.

Techical centent of degrees.

You can find more on Technical Rigor here.

CS or Informatics?

View as html page: Letter to CS Students: Why Pursue an Informatics Degree

Informatics Links

Informatics as a Discipline

Degree Comparisons from Other Sites

Note that ISU's business informatics degree is similar to, but generally more technical than, most IS, MIS, or CIS degrees. However, these links capture the differences in very broad strokes.