Informatics and CS

Business Informatics, Health Informatics & Computer Science

Why an Informatics Degree?

A student recently informed me that she was a Computer Science major. When I inquired why, she responded that she liked computers. So I asked what she wanted to do when she graduated. She told me that she wanted to work for a business developing software. I asked if she wanted to develop system software for a business like Microsoft or Apple, or develop application software for a company like GM or Farm Bureau.

What does it matter? It matters because Computer Science programs prepare students for one purpose, and Business Informatics programs prepare them for another. Most Computer Science programs focus on teaching students to develop systems software like compilers and operating systems, in addition to heavily covering algorithms and data structures. CS programs often require courses like discrete math, linear algebra, Calculus I through III, and supporting courses in the sciences like Physics or Chemistry. When I graduated with a degree in Computer Science from the University of Texas and accepted a position as a software developer for Conoco, Inc., one of the top Fortune 100 companies, I discovered that while my CS coursework prepared me to develop systems software, I knew little or nothing about how application software contributed to the success of the overall business, or even how businesses in general operated. Fast forward thirty years, and a GM recruiter recently told me that they had hired many graduates from some of the more prestigious CS programs in the US, but almost none of those graduates had any idea of the overall role of software systems in the organization and had a lot to learn.

Business informatics degrees address that shortcoming. Business Informatics focuses on developing software and hardware systems that make it possible for a business to function more effectively from an IT perspective, ultimately providing an organization with a competitive advantage based on superior application of information technology. Our Business Informatics program is technically rigorous, requiring Programming I and Programming II, Web Development: Client-Side Programming, and Web Application Development, in addition to courses in software design, database design, and development and implementation methodologies. Our students are required to serve an internship that exposes them to concepts and technologies beyond those introduced in the classroom. Equally important, however, is the requirement that Business Informatics students take professional development courses, as well as courses in accounting, management, marketing, finance, and technical writing.

Hence, our Business Informatics graduates have a stronger understanding of the operational facets and personnel issues of an organization than typical Computer Science graduates, allowing them to interact more effectively in an organizational setting. Interpersonal skills and communication skills are vital in Business Informatics. Business Informatics students generally have better interpersonal and communication skills, and are typically better versed in assessing the needs of the end-users, therefore making them more capable of tailoring a software system to satisfy those needs

So what do you want to do when you graduate? ISU’s Department of Informatics and Computer Science can prepare you no matter your answer, but we can do a better job if you are aware of all of your options and choose the shortest path that leads to your dreams!

Contact us at ics@isu.edu for more information.

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