Over the past few years, the demand for computer science professionals has skyrocketed. The field continues to expand, offering professionals lucrative careers where they can work on solving complex problems in a wide range of industries, including healthcare, education, and finance. So, what is computer science and how can you break into this profitable industry?
If you want to know what computer science is all about, keep reading. In this guide, we define computer science, discuss its different branches, and talk about its importance. We also discuss the skills you need to break into computer science, and the educational paths you can take to break into this tech field.
What Is Computer Science?
Computer science is the study of computers and their systems. This field is broad and includes aspects of theory, design, and development of hardware and software. It also includes the algorithms and data structures that enable computers to effectively solve problems.
Students in this field get to learn about different programming languages, software engineering principles, computer architecture, databases and their management, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and human-computer interactions.
Computer Science vs. Computer Programming
It can be difficult to distinguish the differences when it comes to computer science vs programming. Although related, they are not the same. Computer science is a broad field that encompasses many different areas, including computer programming, but also software engineering, the creation of algorithms, and the architecture of computer systems.
Computer programming, on the other hand, deals with the practice of using code that serves as instructions for a computer to solve specific problems. It involves the creation of apps, software, and systems using different coding languages and related tools.
Why Computer Science Is Important
Computer science is important because it’s a field that impacts many aspects of our daily lives. Computers are capable of solving some problems more effectively than humans, and innovations and advancements require professionals who are dedicated to pushing the field forward.
In addition to allowing humanity to solve many problems, computer science is in demand, meaning that it is a field that offers ample career opportunities. Current tech trends show that computer science will be a pivotal element in the future of workforces around the world.
Computer Science Is in High Demand
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 1,622,200 software developer jobs in 2021. The job outlook for this profession is expected to increase by 25% between 2021 and 2031, which is much faster than average and shows that the demand for computer science is on the rise.
Computer Science Across Industries
There is no escaping computer science, and its influence extends across all areas of human activity. In manufacturing, for example, computer science is used to improve products and make supply chains more effective. In healthcare, computer science is leveraged to create new forms of treatment and design security systems for patient data. In retail, computer science is used to predict trends, improve stock storage, and streamline supply chains.
Here are a few other industries that are known to employ computer scientists:
- Research laboratories
- Software companies
- The government
- Financial service providers
- Defense contractors
- Telecommunications companies
- Entertainment businesses
Branches of Computer Science
There are various branches of computer science that focus on solving specific problems. If you’re pursuing a computer science degree, you’ll have a chance to pivot into one of these specializations. See below to learn about the different computer science branches that you can specialize in.
This area of computer science focuses on developing intelligent machines that are able to perform tasks that would typically require human intelligence. This might include speech recognition, natural language processing, and image analysis.
Algorithms and Data Structures
This computer science branch is focused on the creation and implementation of algorithms, or sequences of steps that computers can take to perform specific tasks. Algorithms are used to efficiently retrieve, store, and utilize large volumes of data.
Computer architecture is a branch of computer science that focuses on the design and organization of computer systems. Professionals in this area of computer science work on creating and improving software, hardware, and memory systems.
Professionals specializing in this branch of computer science are dedicated to researching the relationships between people and computers. Their responsibilities include studying the ways in which users interact with technology and using that knowledge to create user-friendly interfaces.
Networking and Communications
This area of computer science focuses on the creation, implementation, analysis, and management of data communication systems and computer networks. Professionals in this area are in charge of setting up local, wide area, and mobile networks for organizations.
Cryptography and Cyber Security
Cryptography and cyber security professionals use their computer science knowledge to help organizations protect sensitive information. They study existing security systems, design new ones, implement them, and upgrade them as new technologies and cyber threats emerge.
Video Game Development
Video game development is an area of computer science dedicated to the creation and production of video games. Professionals who choose this path can get involved at different stages of the process, from conception to programming, design, development, and testing.
What Does a Computer Scientist Do?
A computer scientist does a variety of things depending on their specialization, but they all start by studying the theory, design, development, and application of computer software and hardware. They then utilize this knowledge to solve problems using technology.
A computer scientist can use their skills to improve security systems, develop new software, and optimize the use of resources. For instance, suppose you operate a coffee chain and you are looking to improve efficiency in deliveries. You could call up a computer scientist to use their knowledge of computers and the data you have collected to come up with ways for you to make faster deliveries.
What Skills Do Computer Scientists Use?
Computer scientists’ skills include problem-solving and critical thinking, which are fundamental to all tasks they undertake. In addition, they need strong analytical skills, an ability to follow projects from start to finish, and other common skills such as:
- Breaking down a problem into smaller parts
- Thinking about how a problem can be addressed using technology
- Analyzing data collected using a computer
- Simulating real-world problems using computers
- Creating visualizations and graphics to show off data
Important Soft Skills for Computer Scientists
Good computer scientists must also have a range of soft skills to help them engage with clients and collaborate with peers and project stakeholders. Strong communication skills are important, as is the ability to reduce complex technical ideas into simple terms that can be shared with people without technical backgrounds. Organizational skills are also paramount for people in this field.
Computer Science Education Paths
There are many paths you can pursue to start a career in this field, but a computer science major is the most common one. You can also enroll in a top coding bootcamp, get a computer science certification, or study using online resources to build a portfolio and start applying for roles or freelance projects. The right choice for you will depend on your experience, career goals, and available resources.
What Do You Learn in a Computer Science Major?
As a computer science major, you will learn the fundamentals of the field, and in most cases, you will also have a chance to learn about the field in which you want to specialize. Keep reading to learn about the core components of typical computer science bachelor’s degree programs.
- Programming. Programming is a key component in all computer science degrees, and popular programming languages that you might learn include C, Python, CSS, and Java.
- Algorithms and data structures. You will learn how to design algorithms and how to use basic data structures such as arrays, trees, and linked lists.
- Databases. You will learn to handle databases and the ins and outs of retrieving, storing, and utilizing data for problem solving.
- Artificial intelligence. This includes the basics of artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as how to implement algorithms for decision-making, pattern recognition, and predictive modeling.
- Web development. Many programs teach students the basics of web development, including how to set up the front end and backend of a website, how these parts interact, and how to create user interfaces.
Careers in Computer Science
Once you learn the basics, you can start looking for entry-level computer science jobs that match your interests and career goals. Keep reading to learn about common careers you can pursue with computer science training.
Software developers analyze user needs and design, create, test, and maintain software systems, applications, and tools created to respond to those needs. They can work in a wide variety of fields and are in high demand across industries.
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Database administrators are in charge of designing and managing large-scale databases. They are responsible for the creation of systems that ensure the security of and easy access to stored data. According to BLS, these professionals make a median salary of $101,000 per year. The job outlook for the field is 9%.
Computer systems analysts help organizations by analyzing business processes and data to identify areas of opportunity. Their recommendations help businesses make better use of their resources and optimize workflows. Systems analysts earn a median salary of $99,270 per year, according to BLS.
Cyber Security Specialist
A cyber security specialist is tasked with protecting organizations and individuals from cyber attacks. They install and configure firewalls, test for vulnerabilities, respond to threats and incidents, and educate users about cyber security practices. These professionals earn a median salary of $102,600 per year according to data presented by BLS.
Data scientists use different analytical tools and techniques to transform huge amounts of data into actionable steps that organizations can take to reach their goals. They categorize data, design algorithms, and use visualization software to inform stakeholders of their findings. According to BLS, data scientists earn a median of $100,910 per year.
The Future of Computer Science
Computer science is a field that focuses on utilizing technology to solve problems. Professionals in this field learn the theory and practice of how computers work and can branch out into various fields depending on their interests and career goals. Some fields include artificial intelligence, cyber security, and human-computer interactions.
This is a growing field with plenty of opportunities and a strong job outlook, so if you’re passionate about technology and have a knack for problem-solving, you should consider it. You can pursue a degree or enroll in a bootcamp to learn the fundamentals and start a successful career as a computer scientist.
What Is Computer Science? FAQ
Yes, computer science is hard because it involves a lot of complex mathematics, problem-solving, and abstract reasoning. However, if you are naturally gifted in these areas and are determined to learn the ropes, it can lead to a very satisfying career with a strong job outlook and opportunities across a wide variety of industries.
No, computer science does not count as engineering, as they are different fields. Computer science has a heavy focus on the theoretical aspects of how computers work, while software or computer engineering is a branch of computer science and is more focused on practical aspects of software creation.
Computer science degrees are often classified as Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees at the undergraduate level. There are many areas of computer science to study, such as artificial intelligence or human-computer interactions. Students invested in the field often go on to study a Master of Science (MS) degree to further advance their careers.
Information technology and computer science differ in that the former focuses on the practical applications of technology, while the latter has a strong focus on theoretical aspects and the principles of how computer systems work.
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