Computer Science Degree: What Is It and What Can You Do With It?

Doug Wintemute, MA
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Updated April 12, 2024
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A computer science degree teaches you how to code and design software. And once you graduate, you can qualify for many well-paying tech jobs.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

A computer science degree equips you with valuable technical skills many employers and industries seek. In this program, you’ll learn how to code, design and analyze algorithms, and develop software. You’ll also learn to think critically, problem-solve, and create new technologies.

Depending on your skills and interests, you could even use your computer science major to launch a career in non-tech fields like business, finance, and healthcare. As the role of technology expands, the demand for computer science professionals will continue to grow.

What Is a Computer Science Degree?

A computer science degree involves computers and computer systems. These programs teach you how to design, test, and analyze different systems and software.

You’ll also study the theory and mathematics of computation so you can find solutions to problems.

Common computer science courses include:

  • Algorithms
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Data structures
  • Discrete algebra
  • Web development
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Operating systems
  • Cybersecurity

A degree in computer science can help you develop in-demand hard skills like coding, networking, technical writing, and design and development. Some of the soft skills you’ll learn include critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, collaboration, and organization.

Featured Computer Science Programs

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Types of Computer Science Degrees You Can Get

Your career opportunities will depend on your training and education. Here are the major types of computer science degrees and credentials you can earn and what you’ll learn in these programs.

Certificate in Computer Science

  • Program Length: <1 year
  • Potential Jobs: Computer support specialist, web developer

Though not technically a degree, a certificate in computer science generally costs less than a degree and can qualify you for several entry-level computer science jobs.

You’ll learn skills like coding, programming, and computer networking. An undergraduate certificate provides a basic foundation in computer science, whereas a graduate certificate can help advance your career.

Many colleges offer certificates in areas like web development and software development.

Associate Degree in Computer Science

  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Potential Jobs: Computer network support specialist, computer technician

An associate degree in computer science usually includes coursework in computer systems, information technology (IT), and programming. You’ll strengthen your programming skills while learning about operating systems, web development, and database administration.

If you later decide to pursue a bachelor’s in computer science, you should be able to transfer some or all of your credits toward a four-year school.

Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Potential Jobs: Computer network architect, computer programmer, software developer

In a bachelor’s in computer science program, you’ll master foundational computing skills while taking upper-division coursework in your concentration. You may take classes in areas like network administration, database management, and software development.

A bachelor’s degree meets the entry-level requirements for most IT and computer science jobs.

Master’s Degree in Computer Science

  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Potential Jobs: Computer scientist, lead software developer, senior software engineer

A master’s in computer science provides advanced training in areas like computing theory, systems architecture, and software development. Most master’s programs offer concentrations that include managerial coursework.

A master’s degree can help you qualify for leadership roles, which often boast high salaries. For example, many employers prefer candidates with master’s degrees for positions like lead software developer and senior software engineer.

Doctorate in Computer Science

  • Program Length: 4-5 years
  • Potential Jobs: Computer science professor, senior computer scientist

A doctorate is the highest degree you can get in computer science. In this program, you’ll take advanced classes and write a dissertation. After meeting coursework and doctoral examination requirements, you must defend your dissertation.

Many computer science Ph.D. graduates work in research or academia as computer scientists and professors.

Students Speak

“If you are looking to get a job as a developer at most tech companies, a bachelor’s [in computer science] is all you need. … If you are looking for a job with more of a data focus, getting a master’s degree and taking coursework related to data science and statistics can help.”

image of Alejandro Cantare

 — Alejandro Cantarero, Ph.D., Data and Product Leader

5 Popular Computer Science Major Concentrations

Your concentration in college can greatly impact your studies and future career. Here are some of the most common computer science major concentrations you can pursue.

  1. 1

    Artificial Intelligence

    In an AI concentration, you’ll study human-computer interactions, natural language processing, and machine learning. You’ll also learn about AI principles and how to program AI software.
  2. 2

    Cybersecurity

    A cybersecurity concentration trains you to protect sensitive information systems and networks. You’ll study subjects like cybersecurity principles, information security policy, digital forensics, and cryptography.
  3. 3

    Game Design

    A game design concentration focuses on video game development and planning. You’ll take classes such as game programming, graphics theory, and game design. You’ll also learn how to manage the game development process and work with a team of game designers.
  4. 4

    Robotics

    In a robotics computer science concentration, you’ll study robotics principles, control systems, and machine learning. Classes typically cover subjects like engineering and programming.
  5. 5

    Software Engineering

    Software engineering students learn how to create software systems using engineering approaches. You’ll take classes in program analysis, the software process, testing methods, and development process management.

Can You Get an Online Computer Science Degree?

Many schools offer online computer science degrees. These programs feature more flexible schedules, often offering asynchronous options.

There are usually no major differences between online coursework and on-campus coursework. Many online schools even have virtual labs that allow you to complete the same practical assignments as in-person students.

Online students may have fewer peer-to-peer engagement opportunities than their on-campus counterparts, but online programs can simulate this using forums and virtual classrooms.

Accreditation for Computer Science Programs

Before you apply to any computer science degree programs, make sure the schools are accredited.

Accreditation recognizes schools and programs that meet high standards. Independent, nonprofit accrediting agencies evaluate schools on their student learning outcomes, academic missions, and faculty qualifications.

Institutional accreditation ensures your degree will be recognized by employers and other schools. Attending an accredited school also means you can apply for federal financial aid.

Individual computer science programs can pursue programmatic accreditation. Look for programs accredited by ABET. Students who choose an ABET-accredited program can feel confident their computer science degree will provide a rigorous and relevant curriculum.

You can check prospective schools’ accreditation statuses by using the U.S. Department of Education’s accreditation database or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s school directory.

What Can You Do With a Computer Science Degree?

The types of computer science degree jobs you can qualify for will depend on your degree and concentration. As a whole, computer science graduates have tons of career options.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the addition of nearly 377,500 computer and information technology jobs every year until 2032. The median annual salary for workers in this sector was $100,530; more than double the median salary for all jobs.

10 Popular Computer Science Degree Jobs
JobMedian Annual Salary (May 2023)Job Growth Rate (2022-2032)Minimum Degree Required
Computer and Information Research Scientists$145,08023%Master’s
Software Developers$132,27025%Bachelor’s
Computer Network Architects$129,8404%Bachelor’s
Information Security Analysts$120,36032%Bachelor’s
Computer Systems Analysts$103,8009%Bachelor’s
Database Administrators$101,5109%Bachelor’s
Computer Programmers$99,700-11%Bachelor’s
Network and Computer Systems Administrators$95,3602%Bachelor’s
Web Developers$84,96016%Bachelor’s
Computer Support Specialists$59,2405%Associate

Source: BLS

Students Speak

“Study what you love. Many courses in school do not translate directly to on-the-job skills, and that’s OK. … If you have an interest in math or statistics, adding this coursework to your computer science studies can open a lot of doors.”

image of Alejandro Cantare

 — Alejandro Cantarero, Ph.D., Data and Product Leader

Is a Computer Science Degree Worth It?

While a computer science degree appeals to many students, it’s not for everyone. Working in computer science requires a significant commitment to and interest in computers and technology. You also need to be willing to adapt to industry changes.

Weigh the pros and cons of a computer science degree to determine whether this path is right for you.

Pros of a Computer Science Degree

  • check-circleA degree can lead to high-earning careers that exceed the national median salary.
  • check-circleComputer and IT jobs are experiencing high demand.
  • check-circleComputer science’s broad scope provides you with educational and professional flexibility.
  • check-circleYou can innovate and make improvements for people, businesses, and society.

Cons of a Computer Science Degree

  • x-circleAs a computer science professional, you’ll need to pursue continued education and upskilling.
  • x-circleMany computer science jobs experience fierce competition.
  • x-circleThe computer science field is highly technical, which may not appeal to all types of students.
  • x-circleYou may need to specialize to be competitive — and specializing can mean more education and upskilling.

Frequently Asked Questions About Computer Science Degrees


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