General Questions

What is informatics?
What degrees are offered?
What is a cognate, and how does it relate to my future career?
Informatics / computer science / management information science, are they all the same?

What is informatics

Informatics is:

  • understanding the impact of technology and information on people.
  • the development of new uses for technology.
  • the application of information technology in the context of another field.

Information technology (IT) is rapidly changing the world, creating new challenges and opportunities every day. Informatics equips students to study IT, consider its social impact, and find ways to use technology to solve problems. The aim is to produce qualified information technology professionals who understand the ways people work with and use information, and who can develop solutions that are effective and easy-to-use. Usually, informatics is combined with another field of study or cognate. A number of cognates have been identified, such as bioinformatics, social informatics, business, new media, and health care informatics.

Informatics develops new uses for information technology and in order to solve specific problems in areas as diverse as biology, fine arts, health care, and economics. Informatics is also interested in how people transform technology, and how technology transforms us.

At the School of Informatics we emphasize problem solving, innovation, communications, and teamwork along with technical skills and knowledge. Our mission is to train students in state-of-the-art information technology and science with an emphasis on creative human applications, offering B.S. degrees in Informatics.

In many ways, informatics is a bridge connecting IT to a particular field of study such as biology, chemistry, fine arts, telecommunications, geography, business, economics, journalism, etc. Because of this, all undergraduate Informatics students choose a field or discipline that interests them (which we call a cognate). The cognate allows them to follow their own personal interests, and take courses in other programs at Indiana University.

Some cognates lead to recently recognized disciplines, such as biology leading to bioinformatics. Others lead to well-understood careers perhaps just emerging as disciplines, such as fine arts leading to top quality Web design, animations, and interactive art. For those interested in computers and programming, the computer science cognate adds further technology strength to our human-centered, problem solving curriculum.

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What degrees are offered?

Degree Programs in Informatics and Computer Science:

Undergraduate Programs

Graduate Programs

Certificate Programs

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What is a cognate, and how does it relate to my future career?

The B.S. in Informatics at IU requires students to choose a cognate area, or specific area of focus to better determine what kinds of people or systems that he or she would like to work with. View our cognates section to see the courses required to achieve each cognate and possible career options for each one.

A cognate area is an integrated program of courses taken outside of the School of Informatics. These courses emphasize the foundations, applications and/or implications of information technology in the chosen area. Here is an approved list of cognates:

  • Life Sciences
  • Computer Science
  • Business
  • Bioinformatics
  • Cognitive Science
  • New Media / Arts
  • Physics
  • Music / Arts
  • Social Informatics
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Informatics / computer science / management information science: are they all the same?


The program in Management Information Systems is a degree offered in the School of Business. Not surprisingly, it approaches computing in the context of business applications.

Computer Science

Computer science is the systematic study of computation, hardware systems, software systems, and networks, combined with the design and analysis of algorithms and data structures. It is the foundation upon which all branches of information technology rest. Students of computer science learn to design and implement systems to manage and visualize data, control robots, model human cognition, extract information from vast volumes of data, and build the tools used by other IT professionals. Informatics

Informatics requires an understanding of the same areas studied by computer scientists, but it is more focused on the best applications of these technologies and is therefore less technical, putting emphasis instead on social and psychological aspects of information technology. Informatics prepares professionals to use information technology to solve problems in a variety of settings. The degree emphasizes the development of new uses for technologies, always keeping in mind that needs of people and the best and most appropriate uses for technology.