If you have a lot of patience, an eye for detail, and enjoy work that requires a high level of precision, a computer science degree might be right for you.
Graduates with a computer science degree can pursue careers as computer and information research scientists, computer network architects, and computer system analysts.
As demand for new and better technologies increases, the need for highly skilled computer science professionals is also expected to grow. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 16% job growth rate for computer and information research scientists between 2018 and 2028. The BLS also reports that these professionals earn a median annual salary of $122,840.
Read on to learn more about how to earn a computer science degree and what potential computer science jobs and careers you can pursue after graduation.
What Kinds of Computer Science Degrees Are There?
Colleges and universities offer computer science degrees at every level, including associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. Each degree prepares graduates for different careers. In addition to degree-granting programs, learners should also consider coding bootcamps. This section covers the different kinds of computer science degrees available.
Associate Degree in Computer Science
An associate degree in computer science introduces students to the field and provides foundational training, which graduates can use to enter the workforce or pursue a higher degree. Learners take classes in data structures, computer networks, programming languages, and database management systems.
Earning an associate degree generally takes two years for full-time students. Graduates can work in roles like web developer or computer support specialist. A transfer student with an associate degree can go on to earn a bachelor's degree in two years.
Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science
A bachelor's in computer science trains undergraduates to develop computer software, write code in multiple programming languages, and solve computing problems. During a bachelor's program, students can specialize in areas like data analytics, software engineering, and information security.
A bachelor's degree in computer science meets entry-level requirements for many coding careers, including software developer or information security analyst. Most bachelor's programs take four years, but an enrollee with an associate degree or transfer credits can complete the degree in less time.
What's the Difference Between a BA and a BS in Computer Science?
Computer science majors typically earn bachelor of science degrees, but some colleges also offer bachelor of arts in computer science programs. The degrees have different general education and graduation requirements and offer different specializations, though they qualify graduates for many of the same roles.
A BA generally allows more electives outside the department and often includes a foreign language requirement, while a BS usually includes more major-related credits and specialization options. Prospective students weighing computer engineering vs. computer science degrees will generally find that computer engineering programs only offer a BS or a bachelor of engineering option.
Master's Degree in Computer Science
A master's degree in computer science provides advanced training in algorithms, programming, and computer systems. Many programs offer specializations in areas like data analytics, information security, mobile computing, or software engineering. This focused, graduate-level training helps computer science professionals advance to leadership and supervisory roles.
Earning a master's degree in computer science generally takes two years, but some online computer science degrees offer accelerated or self-paced options that take less time.
A master's degree can lead to careers like computer and information research scientist or computer and information systems manager. These growing fields offer high earning potential.
Doctoral Degree in Computer Science
A doctoral degree in computer science prepares graduates for careers in research or academia. During a doctoral program, a graduate student takes advanced courses in their specialty and completes a dissertation.
Earning a doctorate is a significant time commitment. Completing a Ph.D. in computer science typically takes 4-5 years, divided between coursework, comprehensive exams, and dissertation research and writing. Some programs can take up to seven years.
Many tenure-track professor positions require doctoral degrees. In 2018, computer science professors earned a median wage of over $85,000 per year.
What Can You Do With a Computer Science Degree?
Computer science is a versatile degree that trains students for many different career paths. With a computer science degree, professionals can work in software engineering, web development, computer programming, information security, and software development. Other computer science careers include network architect, systems analyst, and game developer.
Computer science graduates can also work in the technology sector, government, financial services, healthcare, or communications. These industries increasingly rely on digital services to serve their customers and patients, and computer scientists help develop websites, manage data, and keep computer networks running smoothly.
Industries like finance and government also rely on cybersecurity professionals to protect data from cyberattacks and data breaches.
This section explores roles for computer science students in top industries. In addition to the following industries, computer science students can also work in business, education, or entrepreneurship, or they can serve as computer science teachers, technical support, or business managers.
What Kind of Salary Can I Earn With a Computer Science Degree?
Computer science careers generally offer above-average salaries with strong job growth potential. These include careers as data scientists, information security analysts, and web developers.
The median computer science salary varies by job title, industry, and location. However, several careers, including computer and information research scientist and information security analyst, offered median salaries of over $90,000 per year in 2018. The following table includes the median salaries and projected job growth rates for common computer science careers.