IT vs. Programming: Which Career is For You?

  • 11 mins read

IT vs. Programming: Which Career is For You?

IT vs. programming: if you’re asking this, you’re probably at a crossroads in your education and you’re wondering which career path is better. Careers in tech require a unique skill set that is equally technical and creative. There’s emotion and strategy sprinkled throughout every possible tech career imaginable. IT and computer programming are among the most popular.

IT is a great option if you would refer to yourself as a “people person.” A majority of work in IT revolves around solving problems for clients so their tech systems and devices run smoothly.

Computer programming requires an engineer’s mind. You should be curious about how systems work, building and taking them apart easily to create programs using markup languages known as “code.”

Both paths are fulfilling in their own way, but choosing between the two can be daunting.

IT vs. Programming: What are the pros and cons?

There’s quite a bit of overlap between computer programming and IT careers. Many tech careers are going to have a significant number of commonalities, and a great number of differences. Of course, both IT and computer programming require a thorough understanding of computers and their inner workings.

However, both also use similar skill sets very differently. 

Some people are naturals within either field, so the pros and cons of the job are weighed relatively evenly. It’s possible to pursue both career paths at the same time, or switch after earning experience within them.

Your biggest priority going into your career should be finding what is the most fulfilling for you, personally and professionally.

IT Pros and Cons

IT technicians service hardware and software.

IT is an extremely lucrative career path. Many people are drawn to it for the potential earnings alone, before they take a deep dive into what the job description entails. Some IT managers can expect to earn six figures annually

There is tons of job security within IT. Every industry in every market will require IT professionals for something. You may even start in one industry, decide you hate it, and transfer your IT skills to somewhere that is more suitable for you.

You’ll have plenty of room to learn and develop your skills in IT. Even if you’re 10 years along in your career, there will be something new for you to learn.

However, IT is incredibly competitive. Since many IT professionals own their business and even more are deciding to work freelance, IT is incredibly competitive. It may take several months to a year to get steady work.

Many IT professionals rely on energy drinks to get them by because their hours are long and sporadic. This is great if you have a lifestyle that requires you to be “on the go,” but these work hours are not for everyone.

Plus, since your IT skills are so valuable, your friends and family will likely ask you for lots of free advice. This is mostly a compliment, but remember that time is money! Set healthy boundaries wherever you can.

Computer Programming Pros And Cons

Programmers spend a lot more time working “in” computers rather than on them.

Computer programming can be an extremely emotionally fulfilling career. Making complex software requires a heightened level of creativity that may be absent in other fields. The possibilities are endless.

Plus, you have plenty of opportunities to work remotely. Computer programming, like web development, can be done from the comfort of your home in many circumstances. You can typically work anywhere that has a reliable internet connection.

Occasionally, you can even become a computer programmer without a 4-year college degree. Many programmers do earn a Bachelor’s degree, but not out of necessity. Higher education makes you a more competitive prospective employee to potential employers.

However, you will be doing a lot of sedentary work. You’ll spend long, sometimes daunting hours at your computer desk. It’s important to invest in an ergonomic desk chair, and it’s even more important that you stretch regularly, prioritizing exercise.

Your work is often fast-paced and repetitive. The repetitive tasks associated with writing code can help you streamline your workflow. Unfortunately, you are required to keep up with frequent updates in the meantime.

The ever-changing work environment of a computer programmer is not for everyone. You must have an incredibly strong work ethic in computer programming. For many programmers, this is a rewarding element of the job.

For others, it’s the difference between a long career and a short-lived experimental endeavor.

IT vs. Programming: Which has a better salary?

Careers in tech are known for having higher-than-average annual salaries.

Computer programming and IT are among the most popular tech career paths, largely because they pay so well.

As of 2023, the rate of inflation is affecting everyone’s annual salary, so exact numbers are expected to change frequently. Still, salaries for IT and computer programmers remain among the most competitive in the United States.

Your salary, in any career, will largely depend on your education, skills, and resume experience. More competitive candidates will make more upon entry, while those who are starting out will work their way up the corporate ladder.

Either way, the pay rates in tech alone are enough for many to pursue a career. Especially in times of economic uncertainty, tech careers usually do well, even in turbulent financial climates. 

Typical IT Salary

As with any career in tech, you will get paid more based on your experience level. If you’re just starting out, you should expect to make the minimum possible salary for your industry.

An entry-level IT technician makes about $43,000 in the United States. More experienced IT technicians make about $70,000 annually. 

It is well worth it to work your way up the corporate ladder in IT. An experienced IT manager can make up to $130,000 annually in the United States.

It also takes very little time to establish an abundant IT career.

Thanks to the minimal educational and certification requirements, many develop a solid base of clientele within their first year.

If you are a freelancer, you can increase your service rates over time, too. Salaried IT techs might take a bit longer to earn more, though–it all depends on your employer.

Typical Computer Programmer Salary

The average computer programmer makes about $68,000 annually in the United States. Again, this varies based on your experience level, the company you work for, and the state you live in.

Your salary will increase as you grow your portfolio and resume.

Computer programmer managers make, on average, $72,000 annually, but they can make upwards of $110,000 with the right resume experience and job opportunities.

Computer programming requires intensive technical skills to do the job right. As a result, employers are willing to pay computer programmers more money.

The more complicated your work, the more you tend to make. Again, this varies, but computer programmers make a stable wage even at the very basic entry-level, especially as salaried employees, versus contracted freelancers.

Education And Credentials

You can step into a career in IT or computer programming without a 4-year degree. However, many employers find value in college degrees and certifications.

Over 25% of IT technicians don’t hold a traditional degree from a 4-year institution. Instead, IT techs will prove their skills to potential employers with relevant resume experience. 

At the end of the day, employers just want to know that you can do the job and meet their expectations. I talk about this pretty extensively on my post about starting a computer repair store with minimal education.

You can even get some IT certifications fully online within just 4 weeks.

Double-check the reviews and ratings of an institution before you decide to get certified through them. It’s easy enough to find who is reputable and who isn’t, but take your time finding an accredited institution to get your IT certifications.

Computer programmers often need to do even less to find success in their career. A lot of the work is self-taught through bootcamps, books, podcasts, and videos. Collaboration and building a network can be more valuable to a computer programmer than a college degree in many cases.

Earning credentials or college degrees is optional for these careers, but it’s a path worth considering, since you’ll be seen as more competitive to potential employers. You may even earn a higher starting salary versus candidates without a degree or certification.

Deciding Between IT And Computer Programming

If you’re a self-starter who loves to work remotely, computer programming might be your dream job. You can use your creativity to complete potentially life-changing projects. 

If you are great at fixing other people’s problems quickly and efficiently, you should try out IT. Similarly, if you’re comfortable with fluctuating hours that vary per-project, you’d be a great IT tech.

Either career is optimal for growth in various industries. You can choose to work within a field that inspires you, regardless of what that field may be. There will always be job security in IT and computer programming.

Some people even find time and energy to balance between the two simultaneously. This works well for freelancers, but might grow more difficult if your desire is to become a salaried employee.

Freelancers, naturally, lose out on benefits like health insurance and have to find their own insurance plan. It can become costly relying on freelance work for your whole career.

Still, many find fulfillment in being their own boss. The possibilities are endless, and you can find ways to use all of your skills in equilibrium.

The world is your oyster.


Are IT and computer programming the same?

No! While they do require skill sets that overlap, there are striking, undeniable differences between the two careers. For example, a computer programmer will be more focused on writing code than an IT technician. An IT tech will need expert problem-solving skills, and are often called by clients to fix things at random times. They are similar jobs, since they’re very technically driven careers, but the differences are palpable. It’s crucial to thoroughly understand the differences between the careers before picking one.

Is IT better than computer programming?

There’s no competition between the two. One is not “better” than the other; rather, they both offer a set of challenges and rewards that are determined by the individual pursuing the career. There are also tons of subfields in IT and computer programming, making it impossible to say which is fundamentally “better” to pursue. Plus, you may find that one feels “better” for you than the other at one time, but your opinion changes after experience with the other. IT or computer programming might be better for you, as an individual, depending on your unique skills and goals.

Does IT or computer programming pay more?

Computer programmers tend to have higher starting salaries than IT techs in the United States. Several factors will go into your starting salary in either field. For example, starting salaries vary by state and even the individual company. You can set flat-rates for your services as a freelance IT tech or computer programmer, instead of getting paid hourly. Plus, your resume experience, skills, and certifications will determine how much you make as an IT tech or computer programmer. If you stay determined, you could exceed your own expectations with the amount you make as an IT tech or computer programmer.

Is “computer programmer” an IT job?

They can overlap, but they are not the same. Computer programmers write code that creates programs. IT techs fix programs within those systems. You may work alongside computer programmers as an IT tech, and vice versa. Still, a computer programmer is not technically an IT job.

Are computer programmers happy?

Computer programming is often an extremely emotionally fulfilling career. Many creative people love computer programming because of the vast number of things that they can create. For example, if you love video games, you can find a lot of happiness making video games as a programmer. On average, computer programmers tend to be happy with their jobs.