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.
Pros and Cons of Getting a Computer Science Degree
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 sub-fields 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 further explore those that interest you for 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 computer programmers 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. 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.
Computer science majors are highly marketable in nearly every major U.S. industry according to U.S. News & World Report. This is a disadvantage for some jobseekers.
The expense of working on a degree 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.
How to Know if This Major Is the Right Fit for You
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 average salaries are significantly lower at just under $55,000 per year than they are for other related computer-oriented occupations. 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 a computer science major is right for you. Some colleges and universities offer interest tests, skills assessments, and career guidance and you should take advantage of those opportunities. 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.
Long-Term Career Overview for Computer Science Majors
The outlook for long-term job and career growth and opportunity is good. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that computer science occupations will grow at a rate of 11 percent over the next years, which is much faster than for all occupations. Salaries in computer and information technology jobs are much higher at more than $88,000 per year which is more than twice that of the median annual wage for all occupations of $39,810.
But, the growth rate for the different specializations is not all in growth mode. For example, the BLS projects that the need for computer programmers will decline over the next 10 years at a rate of -9 percent, so you have to be careful as to which path to take. Alternatively, the growth rate for information security analysts is an impressive 31 percent and 10 percent growth rate for database administrators.
For computer science occupations, graduates can expect to earn an average of $74,000 per year for associate degree level positions to more than $120,000 per year for roles that require a master’s degree 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 in salary growth.
For those of you who decide to pursue a degree and to work a full-time job, your efforts are often aided by the company you work for. Employers that offer flexible schedules, tuition reimbursement and career mobility are the most competitive and hire the most promising and qualified candidates.
Last updated: March 2021