Computer science is one of the fastest-growing fields in the international and US markets and a computer science (CS) degree is a great way to break into this lucrative industry. The best candidates for a CS degree would be those who have a deep interest and passion for computing as it is an incredibly difficult major for those not comfortable with computers or technology.
Most computer science programs will focus on the elements of programming, information technology, and computer engineering. Programming is the art of speaking to a computer. Programmers are needed in nearly every industry ranging from game development to big-time finance firms. Information technology is based on managing networks and the flow of information. There are separate degrees for IT, but CS majors typically need to know at least a base understanding of IT. Computer engineering is learning how to design and maintain the hardware the keeps computer system working.
Additionally, computer science degrees offer a great deal of flexibility, meaning that students in these programs can take coursework that will allow them to work in their careers of choice. While many of the courses will be the same across different computer science degree programs, there are some classes in each degree program that will be more job-specific.
Students entering these programs should inquire about how program graduates are using their degrees. The answers to this question will help students to decide on the computer science degree program that’s right for their career and life goals.
Pros and Cons of Getting a Computer Science Degree
Computer science is a very broad and easily applicable field, so CS graduates have a great job market to look forward to when graduating. In addition to the flexibility of the degree, there’s a high demand for skilled computer science majors, and the computer science salary can be very high for even entry-level positions. On the other hand, a CS degree can be very difficult and many end up dropping out because of this. It is advised that only those interested in the science itself, not just the money, pursue a degree in computer science.
While it is true that many of the pros and cons that mark the computer science bachelor’s degree program can also be present in a master-level program, the pros far outweigh the cons.
The truth is many people have bachelor’s degrees today, and while these degrees still have value, an advanced degree can give a job seeker an edge. According to Career Builder, almost 40% of employers now want employees who have advanced degrees. What’s more, people who hold advanced degrees can earn as much as $30,000 more a year than those who don’t have a master’s degree. For those who specifically hold an MS in Computer Science, this could translate into salaries as high as $116,000 a year or more. For many in the field, the salary prospects are even higher than that, with some making almost $150,000 a year.
An article on the Northeastern University website points out that a Master of Science in Computer Science gives degree holders more career options. Many master’s degrees in CS today provide students with experiential learning. These degree programs give students real-world problems to solve. The advantage of this type of program is that students are ready to hit the ground running once they complete their programs. They’re already accustomed to solving difficult computer science problems in the classroom. Therefore, it’s easier for them to solve them on the job.
Additionally, an advanced degree comes with more job stability overall. Many people seek out computer science bachelor’s or master’s degree because they believe that if they lose their job, they’ll easily find another one. This reasoning is sound. It is predicted that there will be an increase of over a half-million computer and information technology jobs by the year 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Top Computer Science Schools
U.S. News & World Report currently rates Carnegie Mellon University as the top-rated CS degree. Massachusetts Institute of Technology is also one of the most prestigious technology schools for a reason; their CS program has consistently been applauded as one of the best in the country. Companies like Google and Microsoft regularly hire MIT graduates. The University of Florida Gainesville, is one of the best online schools. It’s completely accredited and offers competitive pricing as well as flexible times. For those looking for a CS degree while working or taking care of a family, other highly-rated online programs are offered at City University of Seattle, Pace University (New York), and Saint Leo University to name just a few.
For students who are weighing the pros and cons of a computer science degree, the success of these graduates speaks volumes. But what about the student who may not have access to one of the top schools for reasons, like current work or family obligations? Is it still worth it to pursue a degree in computer science even if it’s at a lesser-known university? According to a CNBC article, it is. The article points out that the job of the application software developer remains difficult to fill for many businesses in 2020. Those who have the skills to do this job are very likely to land the job, and at the end of the day, the value of education often boils down to what the student is willing to put into it. No matter how a person looks at it, getting a CS degree offers real advantages to the people who hold them.
Popular Computer Science Degree Jobs
A web developer creates and maintains websites. The responsibilities can range from creating simple websites for restaurants to full-blown web applications for startups. The median salary for a web developer is $73,760, according to the BLS. Job prospects for these professionals are expected to rise by 13% through the year 2028. This has largely to do with the fact that no modern business can get by without having a presence on the web. However, this simplifies things a bit. The reality is that most businesses need more complex websites, with functions like shopping carts, reply forms, and animation- and video-hosting capabilities. Those who hold computer science degrees are in the position to become web developers and to create those complex websites.
A finance programmer deals with the constantly changing world of bank transactions. They deal with the programs and codes that manage the millions of dollars a bank may process in a day. Being a programmer for a finance firm can be a stressful job, but the pay is the reward. An average salary for a finance programmer is $89,920 (BLS).
Additionally, with the advances in digital currency, programmers who work in the financial industry will be on the cutting edge of the global economy. Called FinTech, financial technologies are used to create cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. Whereas FinTech once really only applied to trading or banking, it is now used in just about every sector there is, according to Investopedia.
Game developers create games that fuel the ever-growing game industry. Whether it’s for mobile game apps or console gaming, there is a huge demand for qualified game programmers. This field is difficult, with knowledge of complex math a necessity.
It’s also necessary for the modern game developer to work closely with the game designer. In some settings, there is no differentiation between the designer and the developer. As such, it’s useful to cover what each of these game professionals might contribute to the creation of a game. Many times, the degree programs associated with these jobs have coursework that overlaps. As such, it’s helpful to provide an overview of some of the classes game designers and game developers might take.
Possible classes include Introduction to Programming, Scripting for Designers, 3D Modeling and Animation, Interactive Animation, Digital Game Development, Information Technology, and Digital Games, Game Mechanics, Game Systems Integration, Software Development, and Artificial Intelligence.
An article on the Seattle PI website additionally points out that many of the classes in these degree programs are focused on subjects that lie outside the realm of design and development. For example, when game developer students are asked to take classes in subjects like English literature, character archetypes, and storytelling, it is with the understanding that the technical side of video gaming is nothing without a story.
In some respects, the IT manager is both a computer science specialist and computer systems generalist. This person helps an organization upgrade its computer systems. He or she also meets with vendors and works to protect the office system’s computer network from malware and hackers.
Technical skills aside, the IT manager spends much of the day meeting with various company bosses and other key people. This IT worker has both hard and soft skills, which translates into a big salary. The median salary for the IT manager is just over $82,000 a year (BLS).
Information Security Analyst
Anyone who has ever had to deal with a computer virus or malware probably has a healthy respect for the people who create the remedies for these and other related issues. The person who does this job deals with cybersecurity threats, computer bugs, and all manner of computer maladies.
Given how much of people’s personal information is online these days and how many cyberattacks take place, the importance of this STEM job cannot be overstated. As it stands, the demand for information security analysts is expected to grow by nearly 32 percent by the year 2028.
Many people who hold this job go the computer science degree route, though there are now degree programs that are geared specifically for cybersecurity. It’s also possible for ISAs to get job-related certifications that further the training they get in their degree programs.
In terms of upward mobility, those who work in this field have a higher than average chance of moving up in their careers. On the low-end of the pay scale, information security analysts make almost $58,000 a year. On the high-end, they bring home almost $160,000 a year. Median-range salary is nearly $100,000 per year.
Is a computer science degree worth it? These careers and the accompanying salaries on this list certainly make it seem that way.
Salary and degrees don’t mean much to people who hate their jobs. Even the highest-paid job becomes drudgery if the job comes with a lot of stress and pain.
Fortunately for those who pursue careers in computer science, particularly those who work in programming, job satisfaction is high. That’s one reason why US News and World Report ranks computer programmer as tenth on its Best Technology Jobs list. Additionally, many of the jobs on US News’ Best Tech Jobs list promote job satisfaction, as well as provide a comfortable living for those who hold the job. Also on the list are software developers, web developers, and IT managers.
Finally, many people who work in computer science enjoy working at careers in the field into their 60s. They love their careers, so they stay in them for a long time.
So: Is a Computer Science Degree Worth it?
While there are many pros and cons of a computer science degree, the pros far outweigh the cons, particularly for those who are willing to get an advanced degree in computer science. Getting a CS degree is notoriously difficult, but for those who manage to stick it out throughout the course of the program, there are many good things to look forward to. There’s prestige for being able to stick it out through a tough degree, a job market that’s actively searching for CS majors, and competitive pay even for entry-level positions.
Additionally, many people who have computer science degrees go on to satisfying careers with long-term career prospects. The work is interesting and varied. Computer scientists work in diverse fields, like information security, video game development, and IT management. In this respect, a degree in computer science is in some ways a good general degree. What this means is that holders of this degree can move into almost any field. The degree allows them to tailor their studies toward the industries they’re most interested in working in once they graduate.
So, is this degree track worth it? Given the income and the satisfaction that usually results from having a computer science degree, it’s probably safe to say, most definitely, it’s worth it.
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