Your Digital Future: A Guide to Computer Science Degrees

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Key Infor­ma­tion:

  • Com­put­er sci­ence blends the­o­ry with prac­ti­cal appli­ca­tion, prepar­ing stu­dents for roles in soft­ware devel­op­ment, sys­tems and hard­ware design, user expe­ri­ence, and IT or prod­uct management.
  • In addi­tion to cod­ing boot­camps and cer­ti­fi­ca­tions, degree options range from Asso­ciate to PhD, enhanc­ing job prospects in tech.
  • Crit­i­cal think­ing and cre­ative prob­lem-solv­ing are key skills in com­put­er science.
  • Real-world expe­ri­ence and pro­fes­sion­al cer­ti­fi­ca­tions sig­nif­i­cant­ly boost com­put­er sci­ence grad­u­ate employability.

What is Computer Science?

Com­put­er sci­ence is the study of com­put­ers and com­pu­ta­tion­al sys­tems, with an empha­sis on the math and sci­ence behind soft­ware, the sys­tems and hard­ware used in every­thing from sim­ple devices to advanced AI appli­ca­tions, and the design of use­ful tech­nol­o­gy. When we hear “com­put­er sci­ence” we tend to think of peo­ple cre­ate end­less codes of soft­ware in dif­fer­ent pro­gram­ming lan­guages. But com­put­er sci­ence is a unique blend of the­o­ry and prac­tice, allow­ing stu­dents with a wide vari­ety of skills and inter­ests to find the right career path. For both prob­lem solvers and cre­ative thinkers, learn­ing more about com­put­er sci­ence degrees is always a good way to start the col­lege enroll­ment process.

What Computer Science Degree Should I Get?

Com­put­er sci­ence has a range of degree options for begin­ners and advanced pro­gram­mers, engi­neers, U/X design­ers, entre­pre­neurs, or busi­ness lead­ers. Asso­ciate and Bach­e­lor’s degrees are often first steps toward entry lev­el posi­tions in tech indus­tries or IT man­age­ment. A bach­e­lor’s degree is pre­ferred by employ­ers as these degrees include more foun­da­tion in the­o­ret­i­cal back­grounds of com­put­ing and hands-on tech­ni­cal expe­ri­ence. Mas­ter’s degrees and PhD pro­grams will allow stu­dents to spe­cial­ize in spe­cif­ic kinds of soft­ware devel­op­ment or IT man­age­ment, cre­at­ing access to high pay­ing jobs in health­care, busi­ness, and a wide range of indus­tries. Pro­fes­sion­al cer­ti­fi­ca­tions are becom­ing more pop­u­lar for learn­ing spe­cif­ic pro­gram­ming lan­guages or tech­nolo­gies. These cer­ti­fi­ca­tions are also help­ful for future tech­nol­o­gy or net­work man­agers and Chief Dig­i­tal Officers. 

There is always debate about the dif­fer­ence between get­ting hired based on pri­or expe­ri­ence and self-taught pro­gram­ming skill and get­ting hired based on hav­ing a degree or cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. There are advan­tages to start­ing a career either way. But a qual­i­ty bach­e­lor’s degree in com­put­er sci­ence is sure to gen­er­ate inter­est by employ­ers, mak­ing it an invest­ment worth considering.

How Do I Choose the Right Program?

Com­put­er sci­ence degrees cast a wide net. As you research dif­fer­ent com­put­er sci­ence pro­grams, you will find dif­fer­ent areas of focus, dif­fer­ent types of resources, and var­ied oppor­tu­ni­ty for intern­ships and real-world expe­ri­ence. Here are a few steps to take as you con­sid­er your next com­put­er sci­ence program:

  • What skills will I learn? Depend­ing on what career or job you think fits best, care­ful­ly review the focus areas and emphases of each pro­gram. Com­put­er sci­ence is a blend of tech­ni­cal, ana­lyt­i­cal, design, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and man­age­ment skills. Some pro­grams will pre­pare you for one of these focus areas bet­ter than anoth­er. Review the pre­req­ui­sites and required cours­es for each pro­gram and think about what will pre­pare you best for the future.
  • What do I need to know? Some degree pro­grams may have more eli­gi­bil­i­ty or entry require­ments than oth­ers. It may be worth com­plet­ing a few under­grad­u­ate math cours­es first to show an insti­tu­tion that you have the back­ground need­ed to be suc­cess­ful in their pro­gram. You may need to spend some time with a sim­ple pro­gram­ming lan­guage or have a small project port­fo­lio first to make your grad­u­ate pro­gram appli­ca­tion stand out.
  • What resources do they have? This is an impor­tant ques­tion if you are study­ing one of the more tech­ni­cal parts of com­put­er sci­ence, as you will need qual­i­ty online pro­gram­ming and learn­ing tools to suc­ceed. Also con­sid­er the avail­able stu­dent sup­port and career ser­vices. You will need good sup­port if you are in a tra­di­tion­al, online, or accel­er­at­ed program.
  • What part­ner­ships do they have? A key fea­ture of many pro­grams is an indus­try or cor­po­rate part­ner that gives stu­dents oppor­tu­ni­ty to begin work­ing before they even grad­u­ate. If you are going into cyber­se­cu­ri­ty, you should have a good indus­try part­ner avail­able for intern­ships. If you are going into health­care or finan­cial tech, you will want oppor­tu­ni­ty to expe­ri­ence these work­place envi­ron­ments while you are still learn­ing. Intern­ships and net­work­ing are key in suc­cess­ful com­put­er sci­ence careers.

Being a Successful Computer Science Student

If you have decid­ed to start your jour­ney toward com­put­er sci­ence, there are a lot of things to know from the begin­ning. You can like­ly get a decent job by grad­u­at­ing from a com­put­er sci­ence pro­gram and land­ing the right inter­view. But com­put­er sci­ence is kind of unique as a degree field because there are a lot of things you can do a stu­dent to increase your oppor­tu­ni­ty for high pay­ing and grat­i­fy­ing indus­try roles. As a stu­dent you should be will­ing to build a port­fo­lio of your tech­ni­cal work and a net­work of men­tors and con­tacts. You should take as many oppor­tu­ni­ties as you can to get real-world expe­ri­ence on mar­ketable prod­ucts. Hackathons and any team-based projects can help shape your career goals and pro­fes­sion­al iden­ti­ty. Work­ing with entre­pre­neurs and star­tups is always a valu­able way to boost your tech­ni­cal and soft skills. Com­put­er Sci­ence as a field is con­stant­ly chang­ing and grow­ing. Learn­ing how to be adapt­able and cre­ative as a stu­dent will set you up for future success.