The study of computers and computational systems, Computer Science is largely algorithms and protocols that make up information processing. Common areas of study include programming languages, software engineering, artificial intelligence (AI), database systems, security, vision and graphics, human-computer interaction, and bioinformatics and theory. Computer Science is in use in almost every business, from financial to healthcare to software.
This popular, albeit competitive, degree is conferred at almost every level, including certificate, associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral levels. Mobile app design, electronic music engineering, programming languages, software development, and video game design (amongst much else) is all encapsulated in this field.
An associate’s degree in computer science is a good way to dip your toes in the water of this field, but is unlikely to stand out amid baccalaureate-degree holders. Generally a 2-year program requiring 60-66 credits, graduates will learn the basic practices for maintaining computers and computer systems. A standard curriculum will include web development, pre-calculus, and information systems management, along with software engineering, an introduction to statistics, and operating systems. Programming in C++ and Java will likely also be incorporated.
Baccalaureate degrees in computer science can be earned in the standard 4 years, but it’s not atypical for computer science majors to spend six years earning their degree, especially if the math and science requirements are steep. Data structures, systems operation, theory of computation, data communication, software engineering, and calculus are all on the docket for a bachelor’s in computer science.
A bachelor’s degree for this major can come in two forms: a bachelor of art or a bachelor of science. The BA and BS share the same foundation, but the bachelor of art will be surrounded by a liberal arts curriculum, while a bachelor of science will focus more heavily on math and science. A BS is ideal for engineering and other math-intensive fields, while a BA is good for technical professionals and leaders. The degrees are ultimately viewed similarly in the working world.
A Master’s degree isn’t necessary for all fields of Computer Science, but can be required when research and development are part of the career goal, such as with AI. Computer language theory and advanced algorithms are core aspects of a master program, along with software development. Depending on the top of program, they can often be completed in one or two years and there a few options, depending on whether the institution requires a thesis or project as the final culmination of the degree.
A PhD in Computer Science is typically reserved for academia. Programs take between 4 and 7 years and are solely dedicated to the a single specialization, typically towards a new discovery in that field.
With technology advancing at a rapid pace, certification plays a different role in Computer Science than it does in other fields. There are any number of classes, certifications, programs, and licensing options available to computer science graduates, and they’re largely to keep professionals up-to-date on all of the latest technology, innovations, and discoveries. Even for those with a doctorate in computer science, periodically taking courses and certifications will play a vital role in this career.
Careers in this field include: Application Analyst, Applications Developer, Data Analyst, Web Developer/Designer, UX Designer, Systems Analyst, Software Engineer, Multimedia Programmer, Games Developer, Forensic Computer Analyst, Database Administrator, Cyber Security Analyst, Network Engineer. Salaries vary based on focus, but entry-level salaries are typically between $58,000 and $66,000.