As a computer scientist, you will work with computers and computational systems. Unlike computer and electrical engineers, most of your work as a computer scientists deals primarily with software systems and software. This normally includes the design, theory, development and application of software systems.
Computer scientists can study things such as artificial intelligence, computer networks and systems, computer databases and security, human computer interaction, numerical analysis, programming languages, theories of computing, software engineering and more.
Understanding how to program software is important as a computer scientist, but it is just one part of the field. Computer scientists also analyze and design computer algorithms to solve computer problems and study how computer hardware and software perform. The problems that you will work on can range from very abstract, such as what problems may be solved with computer and algorithms, to the more tangible, such as designing software applications that can perform well on smartphones and other electronic devices.
What Is Computer Science?
Computer science is a computer discipline that spans both practice and theory. It is a field that requires you to think in abstract and concrete ways. Computer science is at its core a science of solving problems. Computer scientists have to be very adept at modeling, analyzing and solving problems with computers and software.
Some of the major duties that computer scientists do on a daily basis include the following:
- Consult with management and customers to determine the IT and software needs in the organization
- Thinking about and conceptualizing math and computational related challenges in an organization
- Developing new products and solving practical computing issues
- Conducting hardware and software research that involves modeling and experimentation
- Working as part of a computer science research team with IT professionals, programmers, and software engineers to solve computer science problems and devise new products
- Working to improve how current computer and software systems operate
- Develop new computer and hardware systems and materials.
There is a strong need for a variety of computer and information technology professionals today who are skilled in computer science and related fields. The BLS states that jobs in this field will increase by 13% from 2016 to 2016. This is faster than average for all occupations. In total, it is anticipated that there will be 546,100 new jobs added in this sector by 2026. Demand for more computer science-related workers is stemming from a greater interest in cloud computing, collection and storage of data and information security.
As a computer scientist, such as a computer systems analyst, you can expect to work more than 40 hours per week in many jobs. Computer systems analysts held 600,500 jobs in 2016. They primarily worked in these fields:
- Computer systems design and related services: 28%
- Insurance and finance: 13%
- Management of companies and enterprises: 9%
- Information: 8%
- Government: 6%
Computer systems analysts and related computer scientists can work either directly for a company or as subcontractors. Many of these workers are employed by an IT contracting company. It is becoming more commonplace today for companies to outsource their computer science, computer programming and IT needs to contracting organizations.
Some of the related occupations in the computer science field are:
- Computer network architect
- Computer programmer
- Computer support specialist
- Computer and information research scientist
- Computer and information system managers
The BLS reports that all computer and information technology professionals earned a median salary of $82,800 in 2016. This was much higher than the median salary for all occupations at $37,000 per year.
Computer and information research scientists earned a median salary of $111,800 in 2016. The top 10% earned more than $169,000 per year. Top industries in terms of salary for these computer scientists were:
- Software publishers: $125,000
- Research and development in sciences: $123,100
- Computer systems design: $115,800
- Federal government: $105,900
- Colleges and universities and professional schools: $72,000
Some of the best cities in America for computer science-related jobs are:
- San Jose, California: $130,000
- Huntsville, Alabama: $92,600
- Seattle: Washington: $108,000
- Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina: $94,500
- Boulder, Colorado: $99,000
- San Francisco: $113,000
- Washington DC: $104,000
- Raleigh, North Carolina: $95,000
- Austin, Texas: $84,300
- Boston, Massachusetts: $101,000
With a computer science degree, you will have the education and skills to work at some of the best tech companies in America. Below are some great ones to consider:
- Texas Instruments
- Citrix Systems
- SAP Americas
Online Degree Option
A popular option for students interested in computer science who work is to earn a degree in the field online. Computer science degrees are generally well suited to learning entirely online. This is advantageous because you can continue to work full time in many cases while earning your degree. Also, you can often apply what you are learning to your current computer science projects at work.
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Online Master’s Degree
- Information Technology (MS)
Online Bachelor’s Degree
- Computer Information Systems (BS)
- Information Technology (BS)
- Software Engineering (BS)
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Your best bet for getting started in computer science is to earn your bachelor of science in computer science. Students in bachelor’s programs will study modern programming languages, operating systems, do analysis of algorithms and data structures, and learn how to build the computer and software tools that allow them to solve complex computer software problems.
Many bachelor’s programs in computer science allow the student to choose a specialty, such as computer networking, computer security, information systems, game programming, or data engineering.
Having a bachelor’s degree in this field is very helpful to getting started at entry level computer science jobs, but to move into management and executive positions, it is commonly required to earn a master’s in computer science. A master’s degree in computer science will teach you specialized knowledge in computer science theories, practices, methods and strategy, as well as advanced knowledge of current programming languages.
Students also learn about computing architecture, engineering, design and construction, and advanced understanding of computer software, tools, design and packages.
Requirements for admission with vary, but below are the requirements for admission into the master’s in computer science program at Carnegie Mellon:
- GRE scores required
- Updated resume
- Statement of purpose
- Three letters of recommendation
- 3.0 GPA in undergraduate work
The curriculum will vary, but this is the required program at Colorado State University for its online master’s degree program:
- Object Oriented Design
- Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
- Parallel Programming
- Software Product and Process Evaluation
- Database Management Systems
- Machine Learning
- Distributed Systems
- Foundation of Fine Grain Parallelism
- Introduction to Distributed Systems
- Computer Architecture
- Fault Tolerant Computing
- Artificial Intelligence
Computer science is a very broad field, and many degree programs offer many specialities where you can focus your studies on your area of most interest. Below are the specializations available at Georgia Tech’s master’s in computer science program:
- Computational Perception and Robotics
- Computer Graphics
- Computing Systems
- High Performance Computing
- Human Computer Interaction
- Interactive Intelligence
- Machine Learning
- Modeling and Simulations
- Scientific Computing
- Social Computing
- Visual Analytics
Computer science degrees are not inexpensive, but there are many grants and scholarships available for students who have the proper qualifications and interests. Below are some of the scholarships available that can be applied to many computer science programs:
- ExCEL Computing Scholarships: Various amounts
- AACE International Competitive Scholarships: Various amounts
- CyberCorps Scholarship for Service Programs: $20,000 to $30,000 stipend
- Xerox Technical Minority Scholarship: $1000 to $10,000
- Sarder Scholarship: $2500 scholarship
- SMART Scholarship: Various amounts
- AFCEA Cyber Security: Various amounts
- Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship: $10,000
- EDSP Board of Directors Scholarship: $1000 to $5000
- Ford Motor Company Tribal Scholarship: $3000
- ESA Foundation Scholarship Program: $3000
Some of the most valuable certifications in the IT field today are:
- Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP)
- Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS)
- CompTIA Security+
- Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD)
- Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)
- CompTIA A+
- Project Management Professional (PMP)
- Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE)
Professionals and students interested in computer science may consider joining these related associations. Belonging to these popular and influential groups can help to further your career.
Earning a computer science degree will offer you the ability to obtain many excellent, high paying jobs. As computer and Internet technology continues to grow in importance in the coming years, having a computer science degree will provide you with the key to earning a good living with many promotion opportunities available as you increase your education.