Career Path Series: Computer Science

Developer coding using a computer science degree

Computer Science is currently one of the most in-demand professional fields. Its growth exceeds the average for all other occupations in the United States by more than double, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By 2029, there will be more than 531,200 new jobs in this area. Nearly all major U.S. industries employ computer scientists. Jobs are available in a variety of organizations ranging from state and federal government agencies to private companies and public corporations.

This blog will explore computer science-related careers and the education and professional experience required to pursue such roles.

What Is Computer Science?

It is important to understand the definition of computer science. On a very basic level, it is problem solving with computers. It encompasses both the study of theoretical algorithms and the practical problems involved in implementing them through computer hardware and software. Computer science has many branches, including artificial intelligence, software engineering, programming, and computer graphics.

Computer Science Careers

Computer scientists primarily concentrate on the programming and controlling of computers to store, communicate, and retrieve information. The work of computer scientists falls into two different categories. The first is designing and building software or software development.

Software developers identify user needs, build programs, test new software, and make improvements. There are two types of software developers: applications software developers and systems software developers. Applications software developers primarily design computer or mobile apps, such as games, for consumers. Systems software developers focus more on enterprise organizations, creating operating systems-level software for business, industrial, medical, and general computing applications.

The majority of computer scientists follow the software development career path. Job opportunities occur in a wide variety of settings including software and computer services companies as well as financial and healthcare organizations.

The second category of work into which computer scientists can fall is in the development of effective ways to solve computing problems. This includes the storing of information in databases, sending data over networks, and providing new approaches to security problems. Possible career opportunities include computer systems analyst, database administrator, and information security analyst.

Computer systems analysts, also called systems architects, study computer systems and identify opportunities to make them more effective and efficient. They use data modeling and conduct in-depth research to identify performance issues and trends.

Database administrators store and organize data using specialized software. They ensure data is available to authorized users and protected from unauthorized use, while optimizing performance and conducting support services.

Information security analysts or cybersecurity professionals plan and carry out security measures to protect computer networks and systems. They stay on top of security trends to prepare for breaches, investigate violations, and execute disaster recovery plans.

Technical Skills

Some of the top skills employers look for when hiring include programming, mathematical reasoning, and the ability to analyze data. Programming incorporates knowledge of algorithms, data structures, and coding skills in languages like C/C++, Java, and Python. A solid grasp of mathematical theory as well as proficiency in statistics, calculus, linear algebra, and other advanced mathematical concepts highly benefit computer scientists. Basic data analysis skills are crucial as data plays a key role in many advanced practices, including artificial intelligence and predictive analytics.

Required Education

For those looking for the quickest way into the field, coding or programming bootcamps are a good option. They provide short-term, intensive training focused on building job-ready skills where students learn the fundamentals of coding. These programs serve to teach programming languages as well as common industry tools and software. Bootcamps are available in-person, online, or in a blended format and are offered in full or part-time formats. According to a study conducted by RTI International, the median cost of a full-time course is $11,900 while part-time comes in around $7,500. 

College degrees are another option and those looking to enter the field can choose between an associate and bachelor’s degree. Both options can lead to profitable career options, as advanced qualifications increase graduates’ chances of securing high-paying positions. According to PayScale, professionals with a bachelor’s in computer science make an average of $85,000 annually, while associate degree graduates in CS make about $65,000 per year.

An associate degree in computer science prepares students to implement technology-based solutions to a variety of problems. You will learn how to improve operations, secure information systems, and enhance services. Graduates are hired into entry-level positions in areas like computer programming, web development, and data science. There is also the option to transfer to a computer science bachelor’s program.

Bachelor’s degrees in computer science address mathematical and theoretical foundations of computing. Courses vary but they usually cover the design, development, testing, and documentation of a range of operating systems, programming languages, database management, and software development.

Those holding a baccalaureate degree can work as database administrators, information security analysts, network architects, or software developers. For those already working in the field, earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science can lead to a salary increase or advancement to a management-level job with more responsibility. There is also the option to continue with formal education by pursuing a master’s degree, allowing for even further advancement in the field.

A couple of schools to check out for undergraduate opportunities include EdAssist Education Network partners Franklin University and Southern New Hampshire University. Both award two and four-year degrees in Computer Science. In other options, Ivy Tech Community College offers a cost-effective online associate program while Fort Hays State University provides an affordable option at the bachelor’s level.

Now is the time to explore your educational and professional options as the need for qualified computer science professionals is at an all-time high. Take advantage of the high demand and find the right career and educational path for you! 

Written by: Julie Skolds

July 15, 2021

About the Author

Julie Skolds

Julie joined Bright Horizons EdAssist Solutions in 2017. She has over 15 years of experience in higher education, specializing in transfer student advising and evaluation. She holds a Master’s in Educational Administration.