Computer science jobs are among the fastest growing occupations, but don't let the word science intimidate you. While research and math can play an important role in some computer science jobs, others may put emphasis on your ability to solve problems and think creatively. There are plenty of options if you're wondering what can you can do with a computer science degree even if you don't love math. Computer science jobs often include the following:
- Analyzing what functions and features users need in hardware and software.
- Developing hardware, software or apps to address user needs.
- Recommending new ways for people and computers to interact with one another.
- Creating new computer languages, tools and other resources.
- Working with a team to develop or improve computer technology.
What Are Computer Science Specializations?
When it comes to what jobs can you can get a with a computer science degree, being a computer scientist is certainly one of them. Within that occupation, workers may focus on a specific aspect of technology such as programming, robotics or data.
However, there are also specialized computer science programs available at many schools. These can lead to other occupations within the field. Here are some computer science job descriptions for those who pursue computer science specializations:
- Computer systems analyst: Makes sure that a computer system's architecture is stable and secure and helps to solve complex computer problems.
- Database administrator: Ensures that databases are secure and safe and backs up systems in case of outages, security threats or other issues.
- Network systems administrator: Makes sure that network systems are operating smoothly and up to date and installs and/or oversees local area and wide networks as well as intranets.
- Software systems developer: Designs, creates and assesses software and makes modifications to improve performance and functionality.
What Are the Educational Requirements for Computer Science Workers?
Educational requirements for computer science jobs can vary. Some positions may require an advanced degree while others are available to those with a computer science associate degree. However, most will need workers to be familiar with the following:
Computer Science Degree Programs
A computer science degree is required by most employers, but not every job requires the same level of education. Some students start with a certificate or associate degree so they can enter the workplace quickly. Then, they earn an undergraduate or graduate degree while working. Many schools make this convenient by letting students earn a computer science degree online.
If you're wondering what a computer science degree could be, here's a brief overview:
- Certificate: As a short-term program, certificates in computer science often focus on teaching computer languages and programming skills. The curriculum may cover topics such as C++, Java and computer architecture.
- Bachelor's Degree: Completed in four years, a bachelor's degree often gives students a choice of computer science specializations to study, such as information security or software engineering. If you get a bachelor's degree and are a computer science major, jobs you can get include those of database and network administrators.
- Master's Degree: An advanced degree isn't required for most computer science jobs with the exception of computer scientists. They typically have a graduate degree. However, a computer scientist average salary is six digits so it may be worthwhile to pursue this level of education if you want to maximize your earnings.
Computer Science Schools
You should have no trouble finding computer science programs. Technical schools and community colleges offer certificates and associate degrees while most four-year schools have bachelor's and master degrees in the field.
If studying on campus would be difficult, you can earn an online computer science degree. Many computer science schools offer these nowadays, and they can be a convenient way to schedule study times around work and family obligations.
Computer Science Certification
Certification is important to show employers you have the necessary expertise for a job. Within the field of computer science, there are vendor-specific certifications as well as credentials offered by industry groups.
Typically, certification requires passing an online exam and paying a fee for testing, and in some cases there can be more than one component of test-taking. Some of the vendor-specific certifications that are available through organizations are listed below.
- Cisco: Offers numerous certifications including Cisco Certified Network Professional Routing and Switching (CCNP) and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA).
- CompTIA: Certifications through CompTIA range from A+ certification to Linux+ and Security+.
- Microsoft: Some of Microsoft's certifications include Microsoft Technology Associate and Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate.
There are many other certifications available, which are not vendor specific and applicable across a broader spectrum. Examples include the Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) and Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), both available through the industry group ISACA. These certifications may have education or work experience requirements.
Career Advancement for Computer Science Workers
On-the-job experience is an important part of advancing in the field. While computer science programs can provide knowledge and skills, employers may prefer those with hands-on experience for lead roles and supervisory positions.
Getting an advanced computer science degree can also help increase your chances of a promotion or higher income. Don't forget that you can earn a computer science degree online if you want to work while going back to school.
Financial Aid for Computer Science Programs
Skills and Qualities
You'll need more than a computer science degree to work successfully in the field. Professionals with the following skills and qualities may be more likely to see promotions and command higher incomes.
- Systems analysis: Computer systems include many parts, and workers need to be able to analyze the components to understand where issues may arise.
- Complex problem solving: Just as computer systems can be complex so too can solutions related to them. Computer science professionals must be able to work through multiple levels of issues to create workable programs or eliminate bugs.
- Deductive reasoning: The cause of computer issues is not always obvious, and computer science workers may have limited information available to help them pinpoint the problem.
- Problem sensitivity: This refers to the ability to anticipate potential problems before they occur. It's crucial to preventing flawed computer systems, hardware or software from being issued.
Career Outlook and Salary Information for Computer Science Jobs
It's hard to imagine going through the day without touching a computer, and both businesses and people rely on them for everyday tasks. While computer workers have been in demand in recent years, income and job growth can depend on a person's specific tasks. For instance, a computer scientist average salary is much different than that of a computer support specialist. The table below looks at the range of salaries paid nationwide for computer science jobs, as well as the job outlook for selected computer science careers.
Projected Job Growth
|Computer and Information Systems Managers||391,430||$152,860||11.3%|
|Computer User Support Specialists||630,700||$55,050||10.6%|
|Computer Systems Analysts||587,970||$93,610||8.8%|
|Computer Network Support Specialists||181,360||$68,050||6.4%|
Professional Resources for Computer Science Workers
Looking for more information? Here's where you can read about computer science certifications and industry trends.
- Microsoft Certification - Microsoft offers a number computer networking certification options for a variety of programs.
- Association of Information Technology Professionals - This industry group oversees certifications such as Network+.
- ISACA - Originally known as the Information Systems Audit and Control Association, this industry group promotes best practices for workers in information systems and technology positions.
Expert Q&A on Computer Science Schools
There are varying levels of education for those who are interested in computer science jobs. To get more information on the importance of higher education or vocational education in this field, we spoke with Hernan Londono, associate vice president for technology and CTO at Barry University, in Miami Shores, Florida.
What is the typical educational path needed to enter this career?
Educational path certainly influences career opportunity. This is because the so called "Computer Science field" is one that can be accessed via various areas of study or specialization, where the depth and scope from area to area varies. There are a number majors one can chose, such are Computer Science (CS), Computer Information Systems (CIS), Information Technology (IT), and even some legacy programs such as Management Information Systems (MIS). While there might be some overlapping in the substance of study across these programs, it is more common to encounter divergence, particularly in the case of CS, because of its heavy emphasis in core architecture of technology components, design and development of both hardware and software systems, which is not so much the case for other alternatives more centered on management and/or operations of the systems, as it is more customary for CIS, IT, and MIS. Another element that influences the educational path of these degrees, and that also brings another element of distinction to CS, is that CS degrees traditionally require a student to study advanced mathematics in a way that someone who is granted a CS degree will also graduate with a minor in Mathematics, or a double major in CS and Mathematics. This element alone is seen as one that makes the CS degree a lot more rigorous than other alternatives already listed.
How long does it typically take to complete education in the computer science field?
Like with most post-secondary areas of study, there are several variations according to rigor, and depth of study, for associate and bachelor degrees, two and four years respectively, for more advanced degrees such as masters, two-three years after having completed a bachelors. For terminal degrees such as doctorate degrees, the time varies extensively depending of course requirements and area of research -- traditionally, four to six additional years after having completed a masters.