ACM Special Interest Group on Information Technology Education

IT Discipline

IT Discipline Summary
This five-page document is a summary of two ACM publications that define Information Technology (IT) as an academic discipline (PDF, 247 K).


Information technology is a label that has two meanings.  In the broadest sense, the term information technology is often used to refer to all of computing.  In academia, it refers to undergraduate degree programs that prepare students to meet the computer technology needs of business, government, healthcare, schools, and other kinds of organizations.   In some nations, other names are used for such degree programs.

IT is a new and rapidly growing field that started as a grassroots response to the practical, everyday needs of business and other organizations. Today, organizations of every kind are dependent on information technology. They need to have appropriate systems in place. These systems must work properly, be secure, and upgraded, maintained, and replaced as appropriate. Employees throughout an organization require support from IT staff who understand computer systems and their software and are committed to solving whatever computer-related problems they might have. Graduates of information technology programs address these needs.

Degree programs in information technology arose because degree programs in the other computing disciplines were not producing an adequate supply of graduates capable of handling these very real needs. IT programs exist to produce graduates who possess the right combination of knowledge and practical, hands-on expertise to take care of both an organization’s information technology infrastructure and the people who use it.

Compared to Other Computing Disciplines

The academic discipline of IT is quite new but is now recognized by ACM as well as IEEE as a peer in the menu of computing disciplines along side computer science (CS), information systems (IS), and computer engineering (CE). The below diagrams illustrate how IT compares to CS and IS, the other two most closely-related computing disciplines.




IT is a more applied computing discipline rather than being strictly theoretical in nature. Specifically, IT focuses on meeting the needs of users within an organizational and societal context performing the following for computing technologies:

  • selection
  • creation
  • application
  • integration
  • administration

Broad goals of an IT program

IT programs aim to provide IT graduates with the skills and knowledge to take on appropriate professional positions in Information Technology upon graduation and grow into leadership positions or pursue research or graduate studies in the field. Specifically, within five years of graduation a student should be able to:

  1. Explain and apply appropriate information technologies and employ appropriate methodologies to help an individual or organization achieve its goals and objectives;
  2. Function as a user advocate;
  3. Manage the information technology resources of an individual or organization;
  4. Anticipate the changing direction of information technology and evaluate and communicate the likely utility of new technologies to an individual or organization;
  5. Understand and, in some cases, contribute to the scientific, mathematical and theoretical foundations on which information technologies are built;
  6. Live and work as a contributing, well-rounded member of society.

Other documents

There are two ACM published reports that help define IT referenced against other computing disciplines and lay out the details of the IT model curriculum:

IT 2008: Curriculum Guidelines for Undergraduate Degree Programs in Information Technology. (Nov. 2008). Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and IEEE Computer Society.

Computing Curricula 2005 Overview Report. (Sep. 2005). Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), Association for Information Systems (AIS), Computer Society (IEEE-CS).

SIGITE has compiled a summary of these documents that can be downloaded here.