Computer science is a broad field, encompassing programming, networking, information technology (IT), and UX/UI. If you have a keen eye for detail and enjoy working with a high level of precision, earning a computer science degree might be an ideal path for you.
During computer science degrees, students learn programming languages, information theory, and how to develop software. Many programs offer specializations in areas like machine learning, data analytics, artificial intelligence, or software engineering.
Computer science degrees prepare graduates for diverse professional pathways. Graduates can pursue careers as security analysts, web developers, network architects, data scientists, and software developers, all of which earn above-average salaries and have strong job growth projections, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Keep reading to learn more about career options after earning an on-campus or online degree for computer science.
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.
Learn more about online associate programs in computer science.
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.
Learn more about earning bachelor's in computer science degrees online.
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.
Learn more about the best online master's programs 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.
Doctoral Degree in Computer Science
The length of a coding bootcamp varies, with the shortest running around 8-10 weeks and longer programs taking several months. Some colleges offer coding bootcamps that lead to a graduate certificate. Most coding bootcamps offer online or in-person options.
Learn more about the best online coding bootcamps.
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.
Many computer science graduates work in the technology sector. The tech industry employs computer scientists in roles like software developer, computer programmer, systems architect, and database manager. Computer scientists develop new software programs and operating systems, create web and mobile applications, and manage organization databases and computing needs.
Most computer science careers require at least a bachelor's degree, though certain roles — like computer research scientist — require graduate degrees. Candidates with computer science degrees can also demonstrate specialty skills through professional certifications.
The public sector relies on professionals with computer science degrees to make public services accessible in digital spaces, manage computer networks, and keep sensitive data secure from cyberattacks.
Federal departments like the National Security Agency, the Department of Defense, and the Internal Revenue Service hire candidates with bachelor's degrees in computer science to manage databases, test network security systems, and analyze data. State and local governments also employ computer science majors for these tasks.
Courses in public administration, taxation, or related areas can help with career prospects for computer science majors interested in government jobs. Most federal jobs require at least a four-year degree, though some advanced positions may require a master's degree.
The financial services industry relies on computer science professionals to design software programs, protect financial data, and develop custom applications. In particular, the financial sector relies on computer programmers, information security analysts, software developers, and web developers.
Computer science majors keep sensitive financial data secure, design customer-facing financial management programs, and create financial advising software. A graduate degree in computer science helps professionals advance to roles as data scientists or computer network architects. Taking classes in finance or business administration can help computer scientists succeed in the financial services sector.
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.
|Position||Median Salary||Job Growth
|Computer and Information Research Scientists||$122,840||16%|
|Computer Network Architects||$112,690||5%|
|Information Security Analysts||$99,730||32%|
|Computer Systems Analysts||$90,920||9%|
|Computer Science Teachers, Postsecondary||$85,180||4.2%|
|Network and Computer Systems Administrators||$83,510||5%|
Computer Science Professional Organizations
A technical professional organization with over 419,000 members, IEEE focuses on engineering, computing, and technology information professionals. Members can access technical and cutting-edge research, networking opportunities, and discounts on things like certifications. This organization also offers learning and career advancement resources, including certificate programs and a learning network.
CRA brings together over 200 organizations in computing research, including several professional societies. Founded in 1972, CRA promotes research and development in the computing fields. The association also publishes a bulletin, a policy blog, and a research journal to keep professionals current with developments in the field. CRA also offers career-focused best practice resources and workforce reports.
ACM provides learning and professional development resources for computing professionals. It also hosts a digital learning center, which includes online books, videos, and publications. ACM also hosts conferences and workshops to help connect professionals and build their skills.
Accreditation for Computer Science Programs
Prospective computer science students should always research program and college accreditation before applying. Accredited programs meet the highest standard for educating students, and attending an unaccredited program can affect job opportunities, professional certifications, and graduate school admissions. ABET grants accreditation for computer science degrees. Note that coding bootcamps typically do not participate in the accreditation process.
Learn more about the accreditation process here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a Computer Science Major Hard?
Many consider computer science one of the most difficult majors. With its emphasis on algorithms, programming languages, and technical concepts, the major can be challenging for some people. However, aptitude varies by student.
Is a Degree in Computer Science Worth It?
For many, a degree in computer science pays off. Most computer science careers offer high earning potential and strong job growth projections.
Should I Study Information Technology or Computer Science?
IT and computer science programs both prepare graduates for careers as data analysts, network architects, software developers, and web developers. However, IT careers tend to focus more on practical application and often involve working directly with clients, while computer science is more abstract and academic.
What Is the Highest Computer Science Degree?
A doctorate is the highest available degree in computer science. With a Ph.D. in computer science, graduates can pursue academic and research positions.
Does Computer Science Require a Lot of Math?
Computer science programs generally require courses in discrete mathematics and statistics, though actual computer science careers usually lean more on logic than math.