A degree in computer science can open doors to a career in the fast-growing tech sector. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there’ll be a 15 percent increase in the number of computer and information technology jobs between 2021 and 2031. If you are looking to work in this expanding field, you may be asking: What is a computer science degree?
This guide will inform you about all the different types of computer science degrees, possible concentrations, career paths, computer science job outlooks for affiliated professions, and the salary range for the highest-paying jobs. Read through the descriptions of computer science degrees and courses below to find the right path for you.
What Is a Computer Science Degree?
A computer science degree is a program that teaches students about the systems and algorithms that computer scientists use and interact with through programming languages. Computer science degrees educate students in both theory and practice. Students also gain analytical, problem-solving, and logical thinking skills by earning a degree in computer science.
The description of many computer science degrees includes a broad range of skills and graduates can also work as software engineers, software developers, database administrators, and systems analysts.
Computer Science Degree Job Outlook: Quick Facts
- According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook of computer and information research scientists is estimated to grow by 21 percent. This means that computer science degrees have a job outlook that is higher than the average for all occupations.
- According to BLS, computer and information research scientists earn a median pay of $131,490.
- According to PayScale, the average salary for a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science graduate is $81,000 per year.
Is Computer Science a Good Major?
Computer science is a good major. A major in computer science opens the door to learning more about the most in-demand disciplines in tech, such as information science technology, network security, data science, and database management. In addition, a computer science degree is good because the roles it prepares you for often come with high salaries.
Types of Computer Science Degrees
The types of computer science degrees you can get include an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and even a PhD in Computer Science. With this, you can choose between an in-person or online computer science degree.
With each of the different types of degrees in computer science, you can focus on many tech-related fields. This range of opportunities includes computer programming, software development, web development, and information communication technology.
Associate Degrees in Computer Science
The types of Associate Degrees in Computer Science include an Associate of Science and an Associate of Applied Science in Computer Science. A computer science associate degree combines basic theory and practice and is typically available as an in-person or online degree program.
After graduating with an Associate in Computer Science degree, many people pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, while others start working immediately. Earning an associate degree takes around two years if you follow classes full time.
Bachelor’s Degrees in Computer Science
Computer science bachelor’s degree programs encompass the mathematical and theoretical foundations of computers. Numerous schools offer different Bachelor’s Degrees in Computer Science, including a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Computing, Bachelor of Science, and Bachelor of Applied Science.
Additionally, certain schools may provide multidisciplinary Bachelor’s Degrees in Computer Science, such as a Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science, a Bachelor of Mathematics in Computer Science and Engineering, or a Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science. Learn more about the different types of computer science bachelor’s degrees below.
Master’s Degrees in Computer Science
A Master’s in Computer Science prepares students for profitable professions in IT. Computer scientists create innovative computer technology to solve commercial, healthcare, education, and scientific concerns.
Computer and information systems manager, computer and information research scientist, and computer hardware engineer are all possible roles for graduates with computer science masters degrees.
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What Will You Learn in a Computer Science Degree Program?
In a computer science degree program, you’ll start with introductory courses on how computers work, what the commonly used encryption tools are, and the efficiency of information systems. You’ll also learn to verify and provide solutions to computer and network problems. Everything you learn in a computer science degree program will involve both practical and theoretical applications.
In advanced programs, students study complex topics involving the evolution of state machines, program correctness, computational complexity, and cryptography. Your computer science degree curriculum might also include Boolean algebra, database management systems, formal methods, discrete math, software systems, probability, statistics, set theory, linear algebra, calculus, and differential equations.
Most Common Computer Science Degree Courses
Despite the numerous specialization avenues for a computer science professional, there are some computer science degree courses that students must take in their foundational years, regardless of what they plan to venture into. Some of the essential courses for computer science degrees are listed below.
- Calculus. Mathematical equations and the effects of additional factors on algebraic equations are visualized graphically in calculus class. Topics covered include limits, maximizing and minimizing functions, and the mean value theorem and its applications. Several applications used by computer science students contain calculus equations.
- Principles of Computer Networks. In this course, you will learn about fiber optics, computer science theory, network security, and satellite networks. Intranets and extranets are introduced, as well as how organizations use intranets to handle information fast.
- Cyber Security Fundamentals. Basic cyber security issues are introduced in this course. It teaches computer science students about computer network defense and analyzes various digital assaults and exploitations.
- Data Structures. This course covers algorithmic design and analysis, which are often used to solve software engineering problems. With this course, students learn how to alter structures like real-world computer scientists.
- Comparative Programming Languages. This course teaches students how to identify the optimal programming language for a given problem or environment. It examines the advantages and disadvantages of several languages and illustrates them via real-world examples.
Popular Specializations for Computer Science Degrees
Computer science is a very broad discipline that can lead to many professions. As a result, schools offer numerous computer science specializations that can help students focus on a specific aspect that’s related to their chosen fields. These concentrations in computer science include the following:
- Artificial Intelligence. In this computer science concentration, students will study topics such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data mining. It prepares students to work in the field of AI using predictive modeling and other AI techniques.
- Computer-Human Interface. This computer science specialization lets students focus on how people interact with computer systems and how those interactions can be improved. Students may study topics such as compatibility, responsive design, and UI design.
- Game Design. In a game design concentration, students will focus on the study of computer science as it relates to video game development. This means they will study topics like game engines, video game design, and machine learning.
- Computer Graphics. Students who choose this specialization learn how to generate computer graphics and practice how to properly display those graphics on different devices. They also study computer-assisted design, image processing, and more.
- Information Security. In an information security computer science concentration, students will learn how to protect an organization’s networks, software, internal systems, hardware, and more. They will study various techniques that attackers use and how to combat them.
Best Major for Your Chosen Career Path
Why Should You Get a Degree in Computer Science?
One reason why you should get a computer science degree is that it’s one of the fastest ways to enter the competitive tech field. In addition, the degree will help you learn fundamental programming techniques that will prove important if you work with major tech companies in the future. Discover more reasons to get a computer science degree below.
- High median salary. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for computer scientists is $131,490, which is above the median salary for many other occupations. In addition, specializing in an affiliated field, such as computer and information research science and computer network architecture, means you can earn a higher annual salary.
- High employment opportunities. The BLS expects a significant increase in the number of available computer science jobs in the near future. For instance, available positions for information security analysts are expected to grow by 35 percent between 2021 and 2031, while software developers are expected to have 25 percent growth in the same timeframe.
- Learning new in-demand skills. Current professionals may need to learn new skills to land certain jobs. Completing a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Computer Science offers highly sought-after skills that can lead to specialized roles in the industry. Talents like app and web development are skills some students master for personal development or industry-specific learning.
- Build personal knowledge. Students interested in computer science can profit from studying topics that they enjoy while also learning various in-demand science skills. Anyone interested in pursuing a career in computer science should choose programs that meet their ambitions and needs.
- Prepares students for a future in tech. Degree holders in computer science have skills that are transferable to various professions, which gives them the chance to explore a diversified range of options across a wide range of industries. This is one of the reasons why computer science degrees are so valuable.
How to Choose the Right Computer Science Degree Program for You
When choosing the right computer science degree program for you, there are several factors to consider. These factors include accreditation, cost, learning format, faculty credentials, and specialization options. Below, we’ll discuss these factors in detail.
Accreditation ensures that a program meets educational standards set by a regional or national accrediting body. It also guarantees that employers will recognize and trust the quality of your credential. For computer science, ABET-Accredited programs are preferred for their rigorous curricula.
Check with program faculty members to determine whether anyone is currently engaged in research that is linked to your own areas of interest. You can also look into where faculty members received their own education and whether or not they have received any accolades.
When it comes to getting a degree in computer science, cost is very important. Potential students should make sure that they know about all costs surrounding the programs they’re interested in before committing themselves. The cost of degree programs can be determined by checking the school’s website or asking for additional information. This is important because some computer science schools are more affordable than others.
Many computer science programs cater to both part-time and full-time students. Some colleges and universities offer accelerated programs for students who are eager to get started. Additionally, prospective students should consider if synchronous or asynchronous learning styles are the most appropriate for them. Many schools today offer fully online computer science programs.
While some schools allow students to specialize in a specific aspect of computer science in their bachelor’s degree, some don’t. Further, if you’re going to choose a specialization, you have to ensure that the school you’re enrolling in offers specializations that are related to your preferred topic.
Best Computer Science Degree Programs in the United States
The best computer science degrees have a robust curriculum and a team of lecturers and staff that are willing to go above and beyond. This ensures that students get both the theoretical and practical knowledge needed to harness the career opportunities attached to the field. Below are some of the top computer science programs in the US you should consider.
Even if you only want to get a two-year degree, you can still look out for the best computer science associate degrees. Below, we have listed the top CS programs for associate degree seekers. Take a look at the best options:
- Cochise College
- Columbia College
- Pittsburgh Technical College
- Southern New Hampshire University
- University of the District of Columbia
If you want to earn a bachelor’s degree, you will want to make sure you look into the best computer science bachelor’s programs. The top programs will teach you in-demand skills that will directly benefit you in your career. These are the best undergraduate computer science programs at the bachelor’s level:
- Cornell University
- University of California, Berkeley
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- Harvard University
- University of California, Berkeley
The best master’s programs for computer science teach students the in-depth knowledge and technical skills they need to level up their careers and take on senior computer science roles. These are the best graduate computer science programs that you can enroll in:
- Boston University
- Drexel University
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- Nova Southeastern University
- University of California, Berkeley
Best College and University Computer Science Schools
Financial Aid Options for Computer Science Degrees
The average cost of one year of tuition at a public four-year school in the United States for the 2020 to 2021 academic year was $9,400, according to NCES. Thankfully, there are many different computer science financial aid opportunities available to students at all levels.
You can pay for a degree in computer science using federal student aid, loans, and scholarships. Read on to learn more about the many options available to you.
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Loans from the federal government can be used by students looking to earn a degree. Repayment of student loans issued by the federal government will begin after graduation. The terms and conditions of the government’s student loans dictate how the money can be used.
Compared to private student loans, financial options from the government offer better interest rates, more flexible repayment options, and even tax benefits for students who use them responsibly. To be eligible for federal student loans, students must fill out the FAFSA application form. The earlier you submit your FAFSA, the more likely you are to be awarded financial help.
Work-study programs are government programs that employ students in part-time positions both on and off the university’s campus. Full and part-time undergraduate and graduate students who demonstrate financial need are eligible for the program’s financial aid. When possible, work-study positions are linked to a student’s academic program. Most work-study students earn more than minimum wage.
Scholarships are available to students pursuing a computer science degree who are unable to afford their education. As opposed to other forms of financial options, such as loans, scholarships do not need to be paid back. As a result, they are one of the most sought-after kinds of assistance.
Each scholarship has its own set of requirements for submission. It’s not uncommon for computer science scholarships to be awarded based on a student’s academic or athletic achievements. A student’s financial need or membership in a minority group may also qualify them for certain scholarships. Computer science majors may be eligible for department-specific scholarships offered by their schools.
Depending on the student’s financial situation, tuition can be paid through private or federal loans. The majority of private loans are financed by banks and other financial organizations. This form of financial aid requires repayment and may have negative terms for borrowers. Private loans provide the advantage of allowing you to spend the money however you see fit.
Grants for computer science students usually come from state, federal, and local governments. To be eligible for most programs, applicants must show financial need. You can get computer science grants of any size. Grants are a type of financial aid that does not need to be repaid. Therefore, students should begin searching for grants as soon as possible.
Scholarships for Computer Science Majors
Even though new policies and programs have been put in place to help ease the burden of student debt, it can still last for years. However, a student’s loans can be cut down with help from scholarships, grants, and work-study programs.
There are many different scholarships for computer science majors, each with its own eligibility criteria and award amount. Below is a list of computer science scholarships you can look into.
Google Student Veterans of America Scholarship
This scholarship is available to US veterans who are pursuing a degree in computer science or computer engineering. You can apply if you’re an undergrad or a grad student. To be considered for this program, students must be able to maintain high academic standards. In addition, proof of veteran status, such as an honorable discharge or good standing with one’s military branch, must be provided by the students.
- Eligibility Requirements: Must be a veteran or on active duty, enrollment in a computer science or engineering program, high academic standards
- Amount: $10,000
IEEE President’s Scholarship
The Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair’s most excellent student project is honored with this prestigious award each year. Projects that win can be in the fields of electrical engineering, computer science, or any other IEEE discipline. To be eligible for the award, contestants must be fair finalists.
- Eligibility Requirements: Fair finalist, enrolled in an IEEE discipline
- Amount: $10,000 (payable over four years)
Lockheed Martin STEM Scholarship
Applicants must be American citizens and provide proof of financial need. Recipients must be enrolled, or plan to enroll, full-time in an accredited institution’s higher learning program. All high school seniors, first-year college students, and sophomores are eligible to apply. Applicants must have a 2.5 GPA or higher and be interested in a paid internship at Lockheed Martin.
- Eligibility Requirements: 2.5 GPA, interested in paid internship, enrollment or plans of enrollment in an accredited institution of higher learning program
- Amount: $10,000 (renewable for up to $40,000 total)
Most Popular Scholarships by Specialization
Student Loans for Computer Science Majors
Students also have the option to take out a private or public loan to fund their education. Public loans are facilitated by the government and usually have relatively fixed interest rates. Private loans are given by several banks and lenders and typically require a credit check to be approved. Below, we provide more information about student loans for CS majors.
What Is the Average Student Loan for Computer Science Associate Degrees?
According to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average student loan debt for an associate degree graduate was $20,400 in 2018. Since this figure is several years old, we can also assume that this figure has grown with the rising cost of college.
What Is the Average Student Loan for Computer Science Bachelor’s Degrees?
In the same report from the NCES, the average student loan for graduates of a bachelor’s degree program was $27,800. This statistic covers students who have completed computer science bachelor’s degrees. As such, the average student loan debt for computer science graduates should be close to this figure.
What Is the Average Student Loan for Computer Science Master’s Degrees?
The NCES estimated that graduates in Master of Science courses not linked to education got their degrees with an average of $66,070 in student loan debt in 2016. Again, this figure is dated and is likely higher today because the cost of tuition has gone up for programs across the country.
How to Get Into College for Computer Science
To get into college for computer science, you should follow the school’s application process carefully. For example, to get into a bachelor’s degree program, a high school diploma and a GPA of 2.0 are generally required. Additionally, most programs request SAT or ACT results from incoming freshmen. Prerequisites in English, natural science, and social science may also be required of candidates.
The application process for how to get into a computer science program at a graduate school is usually more complex. You need a transcript from a completed bachelor’s degree program, 3.0 GPA, and GRE scores, depending on the school. Here’s how to get into the best computer science programs:
- Strive for excellence in all your relevant courses.
- Do something you love to show off your computer science skills.
- Participate in computer science-related activities outside of school.
- Make sure that you acquire the practical computer science abilities you need.
- Work towards gathering experience for a master’s degree.
How to Get Into the Best Colleges and Universities
How Can You Get a Computer Science Internship While in College?
You can get a computer science internship while in college by maintaining your GPA, building a strong resume, and gaining hands-on experience. The best internships for computer science majors are often competitive, so you will need to put your best foot forward. Read through the tips below to learn more about how to get CS internships.
Computer Science Degree Salary Outlook
The average computer science degree salary depends on the level of your degree. As you gain more advanced skills and years of professional experience, you will be able to negotiate a higher annual wage. Below are some of the average computer science degree salaries for various education levels.
|Computer Science Associate Degree
|Computer Science Bachelor’s Degree
|Computer Science Master’s Degree
What Job Can I Get With a Computer Science Degree?
The jobs you can get with a computer science degree are in high-paying fields in information technology, ranging from application development to web design. In addition, you can qualify for many other careers with a computer science degree, such as software developer, systems analyst, network architect, or security analyst.
Graduate degrees in computer science can help you specialize and learn profession-specific technical skills. An advanced degree also gives you the capacity to increase your earnings. For example, graduate programs with a software engineering concentration can land senior-level software engineering positions.
All of this is to say that the CS degree jobs you can get depend on your level of education. Some of the best computer science jobs are listed below and organized by degree level.
Top Computer Science Associate Degree Jobs
If you graduate with an Associate Degree in Computer Science, there are a wide variety of positions available to you. Even with just a two-year degree, you can start a lucrative career in the tech field. Below are the best computer science associate degree jobs:
- Web Developer
- Computer Support Specialist
- Computer Programmer
- Network and Computer Systems Administrator
Top Computer Science Bachelor’s Degree Jobs
Earning a bachelor’s degree opens up even more career opportunities. Bachelor’s in Computer Science jobs include entry-level positions across the field. Here are five of the top jobs for computer science bachelor’s degree holders:
- Software Engineer
- Mobile App Developer
- UX designer
- AI Engineer
- Database Administrator
Top Computer Science Master’s Degree Jobs
Jobs for Master’s in Computer Science holders typically pay more and require more expertise. If you have an advanced degree and are looking for employment, consider these Master’s in Computer Science jobs:
- Computer and Information Research Scientist
- Computer Network Architect
- Software Development Engineer
- Software Developer
- Information Security Analyst
Highest-Paying Computer Science Jobs
In this section, we have compiled all of the highest-paying jobs you can get with a computer science degree. We broke down the highest-paying CS jobs into different levels, so you can find the salary that matches your educational and career goals. Find out how much you can earn with the highest-paying jobs in the computer science field below.
|Highest-Paying Computer Science Jobs
|Entry-Level Salary (0-12 Months)
|Early-Career Salary(1-4 Years)
|Mid-Career Salary (5-9 Years)
|Experienced Salary (10-19 Years)
|Information Security Analyst
Professional Computer Science Organizations and Resources
For personal and professional development, networking with other scientists and engineers is critical. Professional societies organize conferences, produce journals, and assign reviewers and editors to publications in the science field. They set professional and educational standards for their members and give job and career assistance.
Is a Computer Science Degree Worth It?
Getting a computer science degree is worth it. As mentioned earlier in this article, the software engineering field will experience 25 percent growth by 2031. In addition, the job outlook for many related professions is higher than average with computer scientists predicted to see 21 percent growth in job openings.
A computer science degree is a good choice because you can go into a wide range of professions. By studying computer science at the undergraduate level, you can prepare yourself for a lucrative career that offers opportunities for advancement and specialization. In addition, a Master’s Degree in Computer Science is also worth it because you can unlock high-paying senior-level roles.
Additional Reading About Computer Science
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Computer Science Degree FAQ
A computer science degree is not hard if you are familiar with technology. The discipline demands patience, problem-solving skills, and creativity. Preliminary statistics and analytical courses can help you perfect these skills. In addition, computer science involves a commitment to learning and understanding core concepts. Though a CS degree is not hard for most, you may face a high learning curve if you are new to computers.
Good minors for computer science majors include math, computer engineering, artificial intelligence, and business management. The best minors for computer science are sometimes in a non-computer-related field. This gives students a wider range of possibilities if they decide that working with computers isn’t for them. However, a minor in a related field, such as game design, can also help you specialize and learn more about computer science as a discipline.
How long a computer science degree takes will depend on which type of degree you want to earn. For example, you can get an Associate in Computer Science degree in two years. Meanwhile, a bachelor’s degree will take around four years. Lastly, a computer science master’s program may take anywhere from one to three years, depending on the school you attend.
There is no reason not to major in computer science if it is a subject that interests you. Computer science is a growing field with great job security. Plus, computer science graduates often earn high annual salaries. Unless you are completely uninterested in the field, computer science is a great major.
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