Imagine Tank from “The Matrix.” Remember the mind-boggling way he read immense amounts of code to search for Neo, Trinity and Morpheus and directed them around the simulated world? Much like an information science major would read data and search through it for patterns, Tank did the same with his data. With the explosion of technology in the past two decades, information science majors have rapidly grown in demand, so life in “The Matrix” may be more possible than you realize. Whether your career interests lie in healthcare, teaching, design, usability or something else, information science probably plays a role in its function.
Read on to uncover the fascinating and essential role any information science major plays in our real world.
What You’ll Be Doing
Since information and the need to understand it exists in virtually every career field, the skills an information science major gains will keep them hot and in-demand. Information science as a major has numerous tracks like data science, cybersecurity, digital design or human-computer interaction. So whether you prefer the nitty-gritty coding details or the big-picture usability and access aspect, get ready to learn the basics of code apps like Python, Java, HTML and SQL. Don’t let the big monster of coding deter you from pursuing the major, because what you can do with it, in the long run, outweighs any minor hill to overcome.
While the major focuses on how to use data, once you learn that, you can apply your coding skills just about anywhere. “It [information science] was actually really flexible. Our big idea was to be centered around data and how data can be used for people,” University of Washington alum Danny Gonzalez said. Once you finish your degree, explaining the Google search algorithm or the code behind an interactive map? A piece of cake. From making your own websites to simplifying mass amounts of complicated data, you could apply your knowledge and skills in a field like history, economics or medicine.
Classes You’ll Take
Don’t worry, information science doesn’t limit itself to just sitting in front of a computer screen for hours on end. Students should expect to learn multiple coding languages but also develop skills in statistics, communication and ethics. You’ll examine issues like information ownership, privacy and access and learn how to use statistical techniques to find patterns in data. While your classes might cross into the computer science world too, information science focuses more on how preexisting data can help people. A class like Network Design will teach you about data link networks, flow control and network security. Another class like Data Structures and Algorithms will teach you about search algorithms and memory management. “We’re much more on the human end of computing. So the ways computer systems interact with organizations, individuals and society,” University of Texas Austin dean Eric Meyer said. Through information specific classes like these, you’ll ultimately learn how humans interact with technology and each other.
Internships for this major
Information science majors can find internships at startups like CONNX and Phenom People and big companies like Apple and Google, but you don’t have to limit your internship search to tech companies. Information science majors should expect lots of hands-on project work. You might focus on cybersecurity at the National Security Agency or help a startup design their website for maximum usability. “The great thing about information science is that it is everywhere. So, if people are interested in healthcare, financial services, the government or nonprofits, it really doesn’t matter so much,” University of North Carolina Chapel Hill career services coordinator Lori Haight said. While companies like Apple, Lockheed Martin Corporation or Visa might focus on different kinds of projects, they all share the similarity of staying on the lookout for information science interns who can contribute original ideas and use their programming knowledge to simplify information.
1. Systems Developer
While you scroll through your social media sites or file your taxes online, systems developers work behind the scenes to organize the information you input, which will then be used to fulfill tasks or present you with more relevant information. Coders build software to handle the backend organization of data for companies and organizations like Bank of America and ADP Systems. This kind of data organization and analysis doesn’t have a user interface, which means users or customers will never interact with that part of the system. For example, a user might pay their bills on their online banking site or deposit checks through a phone application. The user may not see all the work being done behind the scenes, but systems developers thrive in making the online world go ‘round.
2. IT Consultant
Information Technology Consultants advise organizations on how to make their current systems more efficient — talk about an essential worker. These long projects could last months but think of all the companies you’ll help by bringing them out of the stone age and into the 21st century, all with your handy information science skills.
3. Data Analyst
Having trouble conjuring up an example of what a data analyst even does? Think Penelope Garcia from Criminal Minds. Just like Garcia, a data analyst can find any information you need just by searching the right keywords in their endless databases. Data analysts clean, organize and search through large amounts of data to find useful information that will help companies and organizations better cater to their clientele and understand how to improve their tech systems. As a data analyst, you’ll bask in the glory of providing your employers with the information to work smarter, not harder.
4. User Experience Designer
Did you know that someone’s job actually revolves around making the perfect chat bubble curve on the shopping website you have pulled up on your computer? User experience design focuses on making technology and software understandable, useful and nice to look at. You’ll work on making user interfaces appealing so that clients want to return and spread the word about your easy-to-use and pretty-to-look-at software.
5. Social Media Administrator
Imagine a social media influencer times 10, where you actually get paid for endless scrolling on your new iPhone. Social media administrators lead an organization’s social media platforms and the content they produce. They’ll want to make sure they produce desirable and easily understandable content. So if you feel especially drawn to platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with a vision for ideal content for each, the social media administrator title calls your name.
“Information science is much more applied [than computer science]. It doesn’t go quite as deep into the technical details, but it provides you enough technical details that you can go right out into the workforce and apply it,” said Anind Dey, dean of the information school at the University of Washington.
“I’d say it [information science] was a phenomenal experience. I owe my success in my career mainly to the information school. How they push you and open up your mind to different perspectives is really magical,” said Danny Gonzalez, University of Washington alum.
“It [information science] gives students practical skills and professional skills that make them basically ready to go into a job from day one. But they really get to be masters of their own destiny in terms of what sector or what area of other business or nonprofits or government that they want to pursue because information and the technologies around them are everywhere. And so the skills are immediately applicable to a variety of contexts,” said Jennifer Stromer-Galley, director of Syracuse University’s undergraduate program in the School of Information Studies.