What can you do with a degree in computer science?
Computer science deals with computer data processing and computer systems. This primarily refers to working with programming languages and different programs (software solutions) in order to achieve the desired goal. With a degree in computer science, one can choose among a great variety of career paths – from cybersecurity to video game development.
Jobs in the IT area are in high demand worldwide, and students who opt for computer science as a major have excellent prospects. This is one of the reasons why colleges and universities with good computer science programs are quite popular. However, it should be noted that an education in this area can be quite challenging, in the realms of theoretical and applied computer science alike.
Is computer science hard?
Computer science as major can be quite hard for some students. However, this is not necessarily the case for students who have gained solid knowledge in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). This knowledge is accumulated throughout the entire childhood education, but the most important period is high school. Simply put, those interested in computers, problem solving, mathematics, and programming languages in their high school years will not have too much trouble reaching a degree in computer science.
To make the studies easier, one needs to recognize talents in time and continually work on their advancement. This is a rapidly changing field, as new technology keeps getting introduced, advancing certain processes, and, moreover, fundamentally changing the way people live. This is why it is important to keep in touch with new trends, during the studies and in later career alike.
Computer programming and other activities that involve computers are usually based on individual work. But this does not mean that it is not useful to connect with other students in order to conquer the various challenges that come up during the studies. The same goes for the period that follows upon the completion of the studies – keeping in touch with experts, and exchanging ideas and achievements, will make working in IT incomparably easier. To conclude, studying computer science does not have to be hard, but it takes a genuine interest in natural sciences, programming, and working with computers in general.
Types of computer science degrees
The scope of studying computers and information and later applying the acquired knowledge in practice largely depends on the exact kind of computer science degree you have in mind. The approach to studying computer science is not the same at every college and university. Some institutions are primarily focused on a theoretical approach, whereas others insist on practical knowledge required by employers. It is therefore important that one should be well informed before applying, to make sure that the school will meet your expectations. What you will learn also depends on the duration of your studies and the level of the degree you set out to pursue. Depending on your ambition, you can acquire the following degrees:
- Associate degree in computer science – this education program lasts two years and provides knowledge that enables one to work in IT, such as analytics competence and the basics of software engineering. It is, of course, convenient that an associate degree leaves room for further education towards a bachelor’s degree in computer science.
- Bachelor’s degree in computer science – this type of education usually takes four years (or two for students who already have an associate degree). This level of knowledge includes additional studying of data structures, artificial intelligence, programming principles, computer graphics, etc. With this level of education, you can work at a number of IT businesses, including working as software engineers. In addition to offering more knowledge and employment opportunities for better positions, bachelor of computer science (BCS) opens the door to the next level – master programs.
- Master’s degree in computer science – this education takes up to two years and offers advanced knowledge in robotics, cloud computing, analytics, and computers in general. Master of science in computer science (MSCS) implies acquiring expertise in a concrete area, which prepares one for working at prominent positions at companies all over the world (e.g., in cybersecurity).
- Doctorate in computer science – this segment of education lasts up to five years and involves serious scientific effort in order to do adequate research in a certain area. Enrolment usually requires a bachelor’s in computer science, but some universities insist on a master’s degree. PhD in computer science is a research degree and represents the highest level of academic knowledge. With this title, one can work at the most important positions at companies that do their business in the realm of revolutionary technologies.
Computer science fields
The choice of a field during your education will considerably affect your career path. Your choice depends mainly on your own ambitions and preferences. Get well-informed about what you will learn in order to make the best possible decision. There are many areas you can focus on; these are some of the most popular computer science fields:
- Cybersecurity – Unfortunately, the development of modern technology has opened the door to a wide range of malicious activity, making it necessary to develop countermeasures in the form of efficient modes of data protection. The focus is mainly on the methods of encryption and protection of large systems from cyber criminals. This area is closely linked to computer forensics, where advanced evidence gathering methods are implemented to search mobile devices and computers.
- Computer engineering – deals with the connection between electronic engineering and computer science. Using knowledge from this area, you will work on developing electronic devices and their specific software. This usually means working with – and for – smart devices such as mobile phones and computers, but it also encompasses working in the realm of devices for a wide variety of areas (e.g., aerospace engineering).
- Artificial intelligence – refers to developing software that will “teach” machines to perform tasks independently and solve problems they encounter “on their own”. This may sound like distant future, but this is an already well-developed field that is constantly gaining importance.
- Information systems – connecting and protecting computer systems that allow people to collaborate within organizations and around the world.
- Data science – the focus is on using analytics, statistics, and other parameters in order to locate and analyze different types of data based on mathematical models.
- Human-computer interaction – is concerned with creating software and hardware that facilitate the interaction between computers and their users. This is mainly achieved through creating a high-quality user interface, to make it as easy and efficient as possible to issue a command (using mouse, touchscreen, keyboard or voice).
- Software Engineering – If you decide upon this area, you will be involved in the entire process of developing a software solution, from design, through development, to testing and upgrades. To perform this job, one needs an excellent understanding of the characteristics of different types of systems, as well as a proper understanding of the users’ needs and habits.
Career opportunities with computer science degree
What can you do with a degree in computer science? It goes without saying that the number of options that lie ahead is vast, as we are talking about a very advanced area with many, many job opportunities. What all IT jobs have in common is – good pay, along with the fact that experts need not wait long for a job. Here are just some of the most popular options when it comes to computer science professional careers:
- Computer system analyst – analyzing hardware and software capacities and solutions within a company and creating functional solutions to advance the operations.
- IT project manager – planning, organizing and overseeing the work processes. Although they usually do not get directly involved into the details of a project, project managers must possess an excellent understanding of all processes in order to monitor them efficiently and provide timely input when it comes to unavoidable challenges.
- Data analyst – collecting and interpreting data and presenting it to the client in order to facilitate work or clarify the subject of research.
- Information research scientist – conceiving and designing new technologies and advancing the existing ones.
- Database administrator – maintaining the system and ensuring database security, and solving any problems that might affect operations in this realm.
- Video game developer – covering some or all areas of video game development, coding, testing and upgrade.
- Computer support specialist – analyzing and solving users’ problems regarding the use of computers, computer software and computer networks. Depending on the position and the organization of the company, the focus is either on assisting users or on resolving system problems.
- Programmer – developing software solutions for clients using programming languages such as Java, C#, Python, etc.
- Computer network architect – creating and maintaining a communication network for data exchange and communication between individuals (e.g., the employees at the company). This can refer to wide area network (WAN), local area network (LAN), or intranet.
- Cyber security analyst – implementing security protocols and advanced technologies to protect important data from external threats (primarily creating and controlling server protection, but also the protection of devices used by the employees).
- UX designer – ensuring a positive user experience with websites and software solutions. The objective is to facilitate the use for the end user, making it both accessible and pleasant (menu arrangement, access to various parts of the site, testing the target group, etc.).
- UI designer – creating the visual segment – the user interface – of the site or app so that the user has no problem recognizing the options and using them. The aesthetics must be in tune with the technical standards, such as page load time.
- Web designer – creating web pages, apps, or even video games for online use (browser games). This primarily refers to the frontend – designing and connecting elements that are visible to the user.
- Web developer – creating sites and apps using programming languages. Unlike web designers, web developers focus primarily on the background activities that ensure that the site or app is working well – i.e., the backend.
- Forensic computer analyst – investigating criminal activity online (identity theft, terror-related activities, industrial espionage, hoaxes, hacking attacks…).
With a computer science degree, one can work in all sorts of areas, because in the 21st century, everyone needs computer solutions (healthcare network, security structures, educational software within schools’ distance learning platforms, etc.)
How much do computer science professionals make?
Whichever area and degree you decide upon, you will be able to choose what you are going to do. The excellent news is that different sorts of positions bring along excellent pay, along with a number of benefits (health insurance, working from home, profit-sharing, etc.).
According to official information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a computer and information research scientist was $126,830. On the other hand, the average base salary for a computer scientist, according to the latest research, is around $103,000. Of course, one needs to bear in mind that salary depends on knowledge, experience and the concrete area of work, so the annual salary can range from $35,000 for entry-level positions to over $170,000 for experienced professionals.
This information is surely something to keep in mind when choosing areas to test your skills. A computer science degree can open many doors, if you are able to put the acquired knowledge to good use in the real world. This is a specific area, where the employers will primarily value cutting edge knowledge and the experience you possess, so it is paramount that your actual skills should fully reflect your degree in computer science.