Are you creative with an analytical mind that gets excited by the idea of problem-solving? If so, then a career in computer science might be a great choice for you.
If you choose to pursue this field, the degree program focuses on studying software systems and their theoretical and practical applications. You’ll be immersed in the principles of mathematics, engineering, programming languages, and software development. Some students choose to specialize in a specific area such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, web or video game development.
This complete guide will help you decide if earning a degree in computer science is right for you. You’ll discover everything you need to know in terms of education requirements, career opportunities, and salary expectations for computer science graduates.
What You Can Do With a Computer Science Degree
For students interested in getting a degree in computer science, this could potentially be the best decision of your professional career. Your employment prospects are expected to be incredible due to the increase in demand for graduates. The field of computer science is expanding rapidly, and statistics show it’s likely to grow 15% from 2015 to 2029. This number is significantly higher than average when compared to all other occupations in the country.
Which Industries Can Work in?
With that in mind, you might be wondering which industries you can work in with a computer science degree. Fortunately, computer scientist opportunities are vast in a variety of industries. With the knowledge of how to create and improve software, there are plenty of options for you. Essentially, there are opportunities in virtually any industry you can think of, thanks to the growing use of technology. In most industries, obtaining a job as a computer programmer seems to be the most common; however, you are certainly not limited to that. To start, let’s take a look at some of the most popular industries in need of computer science graduates today.
Is agriculture the first thing that comes to mind when you think of computer science? Probably not, but it’s becoming an incredibly high-tech industry. Imagine being in charge of designing and improving robots with fingers to pick the perfectly ripe tomatoes.
The truth is, technology is revolutionizing agriculture as we know it, and it’s only continuing to grow. The farming industry is expected to include more robotics, Earth observation, and computerized livestock monitoring in the near future, among other advancements.
Utilizing your degree in this industry could benefit you in terms of lower job competition since agriculture seems to be one of the less focused industries in post-secondary school. Students can prepare for possible positions as a data scientist, research scientist, or software engineer.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
In the rapidly expanding world of artificial intelligence, the opportunities are endless. There are a large number of available positions, coupled with a shortage of AI experts. For this reason, a computer science graduate that is highly skilled in this field can expect to be paid top dollar.
One of the highest-paid careers in AI is a machine learning engineer. This position goes far beyond programming and involves creating machines that can complete specific tasks without being instructed. If you study a combination of AI and machine learning, you could set your sights on big-name companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook, or you could work for one of the many up-and-coming AI startups.
Another highly paid career in AI is a deep learning engineer, another type of computer scientist. Their primary goal is to develop computer systems that mimic human brain functions. These engineers work in areas that utilize facial recognition systems, advanced robotics, and autonomous (self-driving) vehicles. Since this is a fairly new industry, advancements will allow AI to remain relevant for many more years to come.
Most people can agree that vehicles are becoming increasingly more complex and sophisticated over time. This advancement can only equate to more job positions opening up for computer science graduates that specialize in automotive systems.
Graduates are often employed as automotive hardware developers, working alongside traditional designers to create “smarter” cars. Their primary jobs are working to connect vehicles to wireless networks and creating systems that withstand more wear-and-tear over the years.
It’s clear that, as long as the automotive industry continues to evolve, computer scientists will play an integral role. Other positions that are open to CS degree holders are high-tech strategists, researchers, innovators, and Chief Technology officers.
Many students are interested in pursuing the path of cybersecurity. So, what exactly does this entail? Upon graduating, you can find work in health care, finance, government, or retail, just to name a few. Regardless of the institution you work for, as a cybersecurity consultant, your main role is to protect a company’s confidential information from cyber breaches and hackers. To prepare for a career in this specialty, students should take courses such as programming and ethics in combination with computer forensics.
There are a variety of job positions in the world of cybersecurity once you’ve earned a degree. Some of them include security architect, cryptographer, security analyst, security engineer, cryptanalyst, and security software developer. Each of these positions is in demand, therefore earning significantly higher than other IT professions.
If you enter the education industry, as a computer scientist, you can expect to design and improve systems that will benefit teachers, students, and administrators alike. You will likely work with programs that are related to online learning, information security, and improving in-seat curriculum delivery. You could work anywhere from primary to secondary school, to the college or university level. Positions are only expected to increase as institutions rely more and more on distance learning.
A job that many master’s degree holders don’t consider is teaching computer science at a middle or high school level. You would have to obtain additional teaching certification before securing a position; however, it can be an incredibly rewarding career choice for those who want to influence future generations.
Are you one of the many people that believe computer science majors can only work for a major software company? This belief is far from the truth. One of the leading employers of computer scientists is the finance sector. Finance is at the forefront partly due to the industry using more advanced computer programs over the years, especially for things like trades. This reliance on technology opens up the doors for graduates to obtain positions as programmers and software developers. The main focus in these roles is developing and improving financial technology (fintech), as well as creating algorithms for fraud detection and risk management.
Aside from a career as a programmer or developer, you might want to consider securing a job as a data scientist or quantitative analyst. In this case, you’ll likely be working in a bank or investment firm. On the other hand, risk management analysts usually work for insurance companies or other financial institutions.
If being employed by the government sector interests you, there are many potential career paths available. With that said, it’s important to keep in mind that there will likely be standard entrance exams that you’ll have to pass as well. This industry is highly sought-after, so you may have a lot more competition if you choose to pursue work in this sector. You receive great benefits and job security while working for the government, which are the primary reasons it’s so competitive. If you do obtain a position in this sector, it can be a very rewarding career with unlimited growth opportunities.
So, where can computer science majors find government positions? If you possess the right skill sets, you may be eligible to work in places like the National Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, and Internal Revenue Services.
Last but not least, graduates also open themselves up to pursuing a career in healthcare. This industry is likely not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of computer science; however, it’s being rapidly transformed by technology around the world. Computer scientists can help clinics and hospitals become much more efficient.
If you choose the health care route, you can find work as a research scientist, data programmer, or software specialist. These are the same traditional computer science career paths, only through the lens of improving healthcare for both staff and patients.
Still not sure how your computer science skills could play a significant role in this industry? Consider the use of wearable health monitors, such as Doppler monitors and portable electrocardiograms (ECGs). This technology continues to grow and requires improvements. In addition to that, in this profession, you can work to improve web-based information portals for patients to do things like schedule appointments and view their test results online.
Computer Science vs. Computer Engineering Degree
Are you wondering about whether you should pursue a computer science or computer engineering degree? Many programs use similar discipline names for different degrees which can make it quite confusing for prospective students. Both are excellent degree choices if you have an interest in pursuing a career in technology. They have many similarities but with that said, it’s important to consider the differences between the two, so you find the right program to help you reach your goals.
It’s important to note that computer science began as a branch of Mathematics. If you earn your degree in computer science, your focus will be on troubleshooting software issues. You’ll be fully immersed in learning computing theory, algorithms, and programming languages. A common programming language is known as C++.
On the other hand, computer engineering started as a branch of electrical engineering. Students learn to design and solve problems for hardware and software interfaces. This role is different from that of a computer scientist. Computer engineers develop, prototype, and test things like microchips and processors.
While we’ve already covered jobs for computer science majors, let’s discuss some possible career paths for computer engineers. Graduates can find work specializing in robotics and cybernetics, hardware systems, medical image computing, or computer and network security.
Degree Categories That Fall Under Computer Science
If you choose to study computer science, it’s important to be familiar with your options. There are many potential areas since there are so many categories that you can choose to major in. Some students pursue an associate’s degree, while others go on to earn their bachelor’s degree and beyond. The requirements will vary with each degree category and career path you decide to take.
When you major in computer programming, you’ll become educated in the complex systems of computer software and web design. This major requires a great deal of creativity, problem-solving skills, and imagination.
Students can often find work immediately upon earning their Bachelor’s degree, or they can continue their studies at a graduate level. Possible career paths include programmer, computer graphics artist, computer system engineer, or web designer.
General Computer Science
If you haven’t decided on a specialization, you can major in general computer science. This area is more of a theoretical study, covering a broad range of specializations. It can help keep doors open in a variety of different industries. This CS degree prepares you for more advanced studies, and it can open up the doors for a research position in computer science.
The possible career paths for a general computer science major is much broader. Graduates may find opportunities working as a professor, mathematician, financial analyst, actuary, research scientist, technical writer, or programmer. Many doors will open for you when it comes to technology-related jobs, especially if you pursue a graduate degree.
This field of study focuses on storing and transferring information. Students will learn to develop in-depth skills in mathematics, communications, algorithmic reasoning, and computing. The primary goal of an information science program is to prepare students to work in an industry that is forever evolving.
This degree can also help prepare you for a management role within the industry. For this reason, information science majors can find work as a computer science professor or IT manager if they wish to pursue a leadership position. They can also choose the career path of a computer programmer, systems analyst, software or hardware engineer.
Management Information Systems
Management information systems are a mixture of computer science and business. This major will prepare you to solve business problems by applying information technology principles that you’ve learned. Students will develop a deep understanding of computer technology and how it can be used to help a business succeed. You’ll also learn about telecommunications, office automation, and managing inventory control.
Quite often, this program focuses on helping students find co-op placements and internships. These opportunities help graduates gain experience for pursuing a career as a systems analyst, director of materials and inventory, quality control manager, or operations analyst.
In a systems analysis major, you’ll examine how computer systems work together. The job of a systems analyst is to customize computer systems for the benefit of an organization. They also help it run more efficiently. Prospective students should be aware that this field of study requires an in-depth understanding of advanced mathematics.
If you hold a bachelor’s degree in systems analysis, you can land a variety of positions, such as a comptroller, systems engineer, systems analyst, or statistician, to name a few. Some students even go on to become college professors or entrepreneurs.
Education Requirements for Computer Science Careers
Necessary Skills to Become a Computer Engineer
To become a successful computer hardware engineer or software engineer, you need a specific skill set. On one hand, there are hard skills that you’ll learn in your studies, which are teachable and measurable. On the other hand, there are also some important soft skills that you have to possess to make you a good employee. These skills are meant to be a general rule of thumb for becoming a computer engineer.
Some of the hard skills you need include coding and programming, SDLC knowledge, electrical engineering, networking, cryptography, databases knowledge, and code reviewing. Your ability in these areas will play a role in which positions you are eligible for. Don’t worry if you don’t currently have any experience in these areas. Your associate degree or bachelor’s degree program will make sure you are prepared in terms of hard skills.
In addition to hard skills, there are other important soft skills that you’ll need to succeed in computer engineering. One of the most important fundamental skills you can have in any career is the ability to communicate well. Regardless of whether you work in a team setting or independently, you’ll need to effectively communicate with your clients, including understanding a client’s needs, explaining possible problems along the way, and report writing. Lastly, resilience is another important skill you’ll need. Being resilient means you’re able to work well under pressure in the fast-paced field of computer engineering. You must be able to adapt accordingly to an industry that is constantly changing.
What Do I Need to Study in High School to Study Computer Science?
Are you currently in high school and wondering what courses you’ll need to study computer science at a post-secondary level? Or maybe you’ve already graduated and you’re wondering if you’ll need to take some extra courses on the side. Regardless of where you’re at in your education, there are certain subjects you should study in high school to enroll in a computer science degree program.
Computer science programs have a big emphasis on mathematics. If you don’t enjoy or aren’t good at math then you may have difficulty when it comes to studying computer science. You should take advanced math courses in high school to pursue a career as a computer scientist or something similar.
Many universities also look for applicants that are strong in subjects like IT, physics, and computing. If you have any experience in these areas, it will look great on your college application. The most important thing to remember is that you can always go back and upgrade your courses if need be before enrolling in a computer science degree program. That’s just one of the perks of taking online courses and distance learning.
Education Requirements for Career in Computer Science
Most computer science careers will require you to hold at least a bachelor’s degree due to the extent of the knowledge you’ll need, such as an information security analyst or a software engineer. With that said, there are many careers within the field, and we can’t possibly generalize for all of them. Some students will earn their associate’s degree and become web developers, programmers, and computer systems administrators. We do know that bachelor’s and master’s degree holders make significantly more than graduates with an associate’s degree.
If you wish to take your studies even further and pursue a career in advanced computer science research, you’ll need to earn your Ph.D. For students interested in teaching at an academic level as a computer science professor or working for private research companies, a doctorate is necessary. It’s important to thoroughly research your ideal profession because each has its unique educational requirements.
Salary Expectations in the Field of Computer Science
Entry-Level Computer Science Jobs
While it’s possible to land an entry-level computer science job without a degree, you’ll need to demonstrate the necessary skills. If you do hold a degree, the chances of you landing a position are significantly higher. So, what can you expect from a computer scientist salary? According to statistics in 2021, these are the average salary expectations for entry-level positions:
- IT specialist or tech support – $33,203
- Computer programmer – $43,370
- Database administrator – $56,391
- Cyber security specialist – $82,565
- IT Project Manager – $71,421
- Web Developer – $57,017
- Quality assurance analyst – $47,178
Further Education to Increase Your Salary
If you’re a computer scientist who is interested in furthering your education to increase your salary, you have several options. It’s always worth upgrading from an associate’s to a bachelor’s degree, or from a bachelor’s to a master’s degree. The field of computer science is always evolving and growing. Anytime you further your education, you increase your earning potential at your current workplace or with future employers.
Consider adding more programming languages to your resume. It can be beneficial in virtually every computer science career. Some of the most popular are C++, C#, Java, Python, SQL, Perl, PHP, JS, and iOS. If you. have not learned any of these languages in school, you can always take courses online to further your studies.
Certificates and Secondary Degree Programs to Increase Your Salary Potential
Some computer science professionals decide to pursue additional certificates in addition to their degree to increase their salary potential. Obtaining a teaching certificate will allow you to teach at a middle or high school level. It’s entirely up to you and which career path you’re currently on and where you want to be in the future.
You can also choose to earn another degree in addition to computer science. Depending on your chosen career path, a secondary degree in mathematics or a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) could help increase your salary potential. Some of these disciplines overlap a bit and tend to go hand-in-hand.
How to Determine if Computer Science is Right for you
Turning Passion into a Career you Enjoy
If concepts like computer technology, mathematics, online coding, and solving problems excite you, then you could turn that passion into a career you enjoy. We already know that computer scientists are in high demand across the board. Now you just need to make sure you fully meet all of the requirements you’ll need to pursue the career you’re passionate about. Every vision starts with a plan. Sit down and write out exactly how you’re going to get there, but remember to be flexible and open-minded along the way.
Will a Computer Science Salary Meet my Needs?
If you’ve decided to pursue a computer science degree, then you might be wondering how you can tell if the salary will meet your needs. The answer is simple. First, decide which career path interests you the most. Research the minimum salary that people make in that profession in your state. Get a feel for the median entry-level salary for that job and decide if you’d be willing to accept that wage when you’re first starting in the industry. Also, keep in mind that it’s just a nationwide average and you do have the potential to make more.
Remember, you decide what you want to major in. If you’re worried about the salary for a particular profession, then you’re not locked into it. You can set your sights on a profession that will land you an above-average salary right out of university.
Final Things to Consider Before Going Into Computer Science
We hope this comprehensive guide helped you decide if going into computer science is right for you. The most important thing to reflect on is if you’ll be happy studying and working in a highly analytical field, focused on problem-solving, and requires a great deal of creativity and resilience. If that sounds like you, then you’re already off to a good start on your journey to becoming a computer scientist.