A computer science degree can open the door to a career in tech. It is a popular major among university students, many of whom go on to complete gradual-level degrees in computer science. However, a computer science associate degree is a great option for those who are looking to start a career in tech but don’t want to spend four years in a university program. Typically, you can earn an associate degree in just one to two years.
The short-term nature of an associate degree can also open the door to well-paying computer science jobs. We will discuss a few of the jobs you can get with just a computer science associate degree from a local community college below. We will also look at the earning potential of these jobs, as well as how you can earn even more through certifications in specific programming languages or other computer science specializations.
A computer science associate degree is also a great starting point if you want to pursue a bachelor’s degree later on. Many state college systems allow those who already hold an Associate Degree in Computer Science to transfer their existing credits into a bachelor’s program. This can help you earn a bachelor’s degree by only taking the additional computer science credits, meaning you will only need to spend an additional two years in school instead of four.
Computer science is an excellent choice for an associate degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting huge computer programming job growth of 26 percent by 2026. With an average salary of $46,000 per year for computer programmers with an associate degree and a mid-career annual salary of $87,000, a computer science associate degree is one of the most profitable associate degree programs.
A quick note on the math requirement of earning an Associate Degree in Computer Science. A computer science associate degree will require that you have strong mathematical abilities. Most computer science students are required to take at least basic calculus, and some advanced algebra.
Math is a critical component in computer science. Specifically, the knowledge and understanding of mathematical theories. Since lots of coding is based on these types of theories, computer science programs prepare students to solve the puzzles that computer engineers face every day. Math also teaches critical structural and formulaic problem-solving skills. These skills are essential to having success in a computer science career.
Now, let’s explore possible career paths you can pursue after earning your Associate Degree in Computer Science.
An Associate Degree in Computer Science can lead to a career in web development. As a web developer, you will be responsible for coding the backend of websites. This is also called the user interface. Programming a powerful user interface is crucial. Without a strong user interface, a website will not run smoothly, which can cause poor user experiences.
The user experience is also called the “client side” of a website. This makes sense, as it is the part of the website that users see and interact with on the website.
A job as a web developer will require you to know HTML and CSS programming languages. Most computer science students learn these programming languages in their program. The understanding of these languages gained through an associate-level degree will help you get a job as a web developer.
A computer science associate degree might limit your career to just web development. However, by earning a certification in Java, you will be able to expand your web development career into web design. By having both web development and web design skills and experience, you will be able to add “full stack development” to your resume. Full stack developers do both web design, and web development. They also typically earn more than programmers who only do web design or web development.
Web Development Career Trajectory
A good career trajectory for web development would be:
- Earn your computer science associate degree
- Obtain an entry-level web developer job to test the waters of this field.
- If you decide you like web development, you can obtain additional certifications in web design-oriented programming languages.
- Get web design, front end development experience
- If you enjoy both web development, and web design, go for a full stack developer position
Web Development Salary
Web developers make a very livable salary at a national average of $75,000 per year in the US. Web designers earn a little less at $65,000 per year. However, if you decide to pursue a career as a full stack developer, you can make significantly more than if you do just web design or web development. The average salary for a full stack developer in the US is $110,000 per year.
Certifications are typically both faster and cheaper than obtaining a higher-level degree (like a bachelor’s degree). Many certifications are also offered as short-term, self-paced online programs. By navigating your web development career this way, you will be able to save money on tuition costs, while also continuing to work full time.
The software development industry is currently seeing a high demand for programmers. An Associate Degree in Computer Science will qualify you for one of these positions. From a day-to-day standpoint as a software developer, you can expect to design the core structure of new software. You will be building the framework of computer programs that power businesses every day. You may also be on a programming team that designs and builds the specific tools and functions of the software.
A career as a software developer will also mean continuing to update the software by adding additional features that users request. You may also be in charge of fixing any potential bugs that cause the program to glitch. This is where it is necessary to understand mathematical theories. Just as mathematicians spend hours trying to find the missing link to an equation, you will be combing through thousands of lines of code to find the missing link, or the corrupted line of code, that is causing the software to glitch.
Quality Assurance Software Engineer
When you enter the software development industry after earning a computer science associate degree, you will most likely start in an entry-level quality assurance role. While QA engineers typically aren’t responsible for developing the software framework and functions, they are vital to the continued success of a computer program. QA engineers are primarily responsible for finding and fixing any potential corrupted lines of code that may be causing the program to glitch and freeze.
By starting your software engineering career in quality assurance, you will gain valuable insight into how to properly write the code that goes into building software. You will have to reverse engineer the programming whenever you locate corrupted code. Once you locate the corrupted code, you will have to figure out a way to rewrite the code in such a way that it does not get corrupted again in the future, while also working to ensure that the functionality of the software remains intact.
After you gain experience as a QA engineer, you can usually grow into a more development-based job as a software engineer. Though, it may be beneficial for you first to become certified in Java, Python, or both through an online computer science course. These are the primary programming languages used by software engineers. You may find it difficult to become a full-fledged software engineer without knowledge of these programming languages.
Embedded Systems Engineer
An additional career option in software engineering that you might find interesting is embedded systems engineering. An embedded system is a stand-alone machine that needs software designed specifically for that machine. ATM’s and the self-checkout kiosk at your local Whole Foods are a couple of common examples of embedded systems.
You may not think about it when you use these types of machines to withdraw and deposit checks and cash, or speed through the checkout line with you few items in hand, but these machines are just large task-oriented computers. Just like with your personal or work computer, they need an operating system. Embedded systems engineers build the operating system that powers these machines.
Software Engineer Career Trajectory
The software engineering career trajectory for those with a computer science associate degree will usually follow the path outlined below.
- Earn a computer science associate degree
- Land a job as a quality assurance engineer
- Learn how to find and fix corrupted code through picking apart that problem bug and putting the pieces back together through new, reinforced code
- Become certified in Java, Python, or both through an online computer science certification course
- Get a job as a software engineer or dive into the world of embedded systems engineering
To give you a better sense of what you stand to earn in a career in software engineering, an entry-level QA annual salary is $76,000 on average. When you get into software engineering, you can make significantly more, as an average salary for a software engineer is $110,000 per year. More senior engineers can make as much as $170,000 per year.
Application developers are the product management professionals in charge of building the applications that we use daily. This type of development is done for both desktop, and mobile devices, and mostly consists of object-oriented programming. This is specialized programming that is focused on helping the user to complete specific tasks such as organization or data entry.
Customer relationship management software (CRM) is an example of the work completed by application developers. These programs are used by companies both large and small and are especially helpful with keeping remote-based teams on task and on the same page. With functions that include sales pipeline management, task management, contact management, and communication abilities, along with a fully customized interface, there is a ton of application development that goes into building this kind of software.
Some application developers specialize in creating high-quality applications for mobile devices. More and more is getting done these days from our smartphones and tablets, along with Google’s line of Chromebooks. It has never been easier to get work done on the go. There are two types of operating systems that power our mobile devices – iOS and Android.
Android App Development
Android mobile developers build mobile apps that run on the most popular mobile operating system in the world. The Android mobile OS powers every mobile device manufactured by Samsung, LG, Motorola, as well as Google’s Pixel and Chromebook lines. Android also powers the Amazon Kindle line of tablets as well.
Android developers make comfortable salaries and typically no more than an associate degree is required. The average starting salary for an Android developer is roughly $77,000 per year, with more senior developers earning close to $130,000 per year.
iOS App Development
iOS developers build all of the apps that are available on Apple’s line of mobile devices. This includes the iPhone, iPad, and iPod, as well as the connectivity portion between the Apple Watch, and the iPhone.
iOS developers build their apps inside the Xcode development environment. This is a custom mobile development environment that was made specifically for mobile development. They also use a unique programming language called Swift, which is used solely for iOS development.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of all the opportunities that a computer science associate degree can unlock for you. It is no doubt one of the most profitable and flexible associate degrees you can get. So go forth and learn to code.