A CERIC-funded research project has produced a free guide to explain the fast-changing field of computing and to inform decision-making around related education and career paths. Computing Disciplines: A Quick Guide for Prospective Students and Career Advisors was developed by an international research team led by Calgary’s Mount Royal University.

The colourful graphic-oriented guide shows that there is no single computing discipline but at least five that have been identified by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM):

  • Computer Engineering (CE):  Is concerned with the design and construction of computers and computer-based systems
  • Computer Science (CS):  Covers the widest range of computing topics from its theoretical foundations to the development of new computing technologies and techniques
  • Information Systems (IS):  Is focused on integrating information technology solutions and business processes
  • Information Technology (IT):  Programs prepare students to meet the computer technology needs of business and other organizations
  • Software Engineering (SE):  Is the discipline of developing and maintaining large software systems

Guide authors Randy Connolly, Janet Miller and Faith-Michael Uzoka provide an overview of each of these disciplines, and related careers, core courses, key tasks and sample jobs. It is designed to support prospective students, as well as career practitioners and academic advisors who guide students in determining which computing discipline best suits their interests, talents, skills and abilities.

The project identified a need, surveying thousands of computing students (and prospective students) from Canada, the US and Africa, and demonstrating that students do not always understand the difference between computing disciplines. Research also found that existing career resources often treat computing as a single discipline, typically computer science, and do not list all the computing disciplines recognized by the ACM.

The guide notes the complexity of the field, highlighting that not every computing program in a college or university will have one of the five ACM discipline titles. For example, there are now undergraduate degrees in Game Design, Cyber Security and Computer Apps. Many universities also offer mixed majors, such as with Health Sciences. Additionally, job titles in a company might not sound like the post-secondary program. For example, Network Administrators could have backgrounds in Computer Science, Information Systems or Information Technology.

The authors conclude by emphasizing the diversity and opportunity in the computing field, and the message that computing is much more than just programming.

Download the guide at: ceric.ca/computing.