Computer science covers a wide range of occupations from entry-level help desk personnel to computer information research scientists. Continuing education or obtaining one or more certifications may help qualify you for additional job opportunities in this field.
If you have already earned a degree in another discipline, check out online computer science master’s degree programs to explore a specialization in this industry.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Getting a Computer Science Degree
Computer science majors are highly marketable in nearly every major U.S. industry according to U.S. News & World Report. Perhaps the greatest advantage of earning a computer science degree is that you have earned it and no one can take it away from you. In a 30-plus year-long career, that degree may follow you and may be your constant companion throughout your job searches and changes.
Another advantage of a degree is that you may explore the various subfields of computer science, such as cybersecurity, data science, research and development, academia and programming. Having a broad knowledge of these areas may allow you to find more topics that interest you as a specialization or for career options.
If you’re interested in continuing your education beyond the associate or bachelor levels, then advanced degrees are another option for you. Advanced degrees typically require more classes, research, a final thesis and defense of that thesis. Master’s and doctoral programs may open the door to additional opportunities in this field.
Most computer systems analysts and web developers have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, but some have a bachelor’s degree in another discipline or an associate degree in computer science. Computer and information research scientists typically have a master’s degree in computer science but make a significantly higher salary than the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These scientists are building out new computer technology and finding innovative uses for already existing technology.
On the downside, earning a degree in computer science, on average, requires two years for an associate degree, four years for a bachelor’s degree and one to two (or more) additional years for a master’s degree. This time spent may be a challenge in pursuing your career. Online classes, on the other hand, may allow you to pursue your degree while earning a living and gaining experience.
The expense of working on a degree also may be daunting. Even the least expensive colleges and universities can set you back $10,000 per year and the average cost is just over $20,000 per year. That expense can easily pile up to $100,000 or more over four years.
What Are Common Computer Science Major Requirements?
The requirements for a computer science major varies depending on the university and the type of program. Some computer science degrees may have more rigorous mathematics courses while others focus more on teaching advanced programming skills. In general, a computer science degree has a core curriculum that covers the fundamentals of computer science and advanced topics such as algorithms and computation theory. Here are some common computer science courses you may find when comparing programs:
- Introduction to computer science
- Introductory statistics
- Software engineering
- Data structures
- Data management and logic
- Files and databases
- Web design
- Computer networks
- Information management
Is Computer Science a Good Major?
Deciding to major in computer science and focusing on one or more of its disciplines is no easy task. Computer sciences require math skills, organization and attention to detail, especially for programmers and data scientists, and pay may vary between disciplines.
Customer service skills are needed for computer support specialist positions, but the salaries can be significantly lower than other related computer-oriented occupations at just over $55,000 median salary in May 2020. Higher salaried positions may have more entry requirements, but these roles typically require an associate degree or postsecondary classes.
You also have to assess your own skills, motivation level, financial resources and interests to know whether computer science is a good major for you. Some colleges and universities offer interest tests, skills assessments, and career guidance. If you’re not already enrolled in a computer science program, there are similar resources available to you through career counselors, psychologists and employment assistance firms.
Computer Science Job Outlook and Salary
The outlook for long-term job and career growth is good. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that computer science occupations will grow at a rate of 13 percent between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than for other occupations. Salaries in computer and information technology jobs are much higher with a median of $91,250 per year, which is significantly higher than the median annual wage for all occupations of $41,950.
But the growth rate may not be positive depending on different specializations. For example, the BLS projects that the need for computer programmers will decline over the next 10 years at a rate of 10 percent, so you have to be careful as to which path to take. Alternatively, the 8 percent growth rate for database administrators.
For computer science occupations, graduates can expect to earn an average of $77,000 per year for bachelor degree level positions to more than $126,000 per year for roles that require a master’s degree in computer science or related field depending on your location and job. The BLS projects growth in this area to be faster than average, so an investment in education now offers long-term benefits in both the number of available jobs and potential salary growth.
For those of you who decide to pursue a degree and to work a full-time job, your efforts can be aided by the company you work for. Employers that offer flexible schedules, tuition reimbursement and career mobility can be competitive and hire promising and qualified candidates.
Last updated: September 2021