Explore the field of computer science and technology, learn more about computer technology careers, and future outlook for jobs to answer, "What is computer science?"
Computer science is the study of computer hardware and software. When you enroll in a degree program, you can choose from many specialized areas of study, from artificial intelligence and cryptography to computer engineering and software development.
Computer science graduates work in various settings, including computer software companies, game development, financial services, and government. They also work in research and for social media companies and manufacturers, to name a few.
Technology is ever-changing, and for those working in computer science, it means keeping abreast of those developments. One of the most significant examples is artificial intelligence (AI). The purpose of AI is to mimic human intelligence, used in automotive, retail, health care, and sports industries.
The manufacturing industry develops and manufactures 3D printers for the medical community, dentistry, and architecture. Companies such as Nike and Ford Motor Company are among the top users of 3D technology.
Robotics uses AI and other technologies to complete tasks that might otherwise be too dangerous for humans to perform. The medical field and automobile manufacturing industry both use robots. Along with the safety advantages, robotics can increase productivity.
Computer vision and natural language processing are the technologies that allow phones to recognize faces and Siri to understand commands. Alexa is another example of voice recognition technology. Self-driving cars, the health care field, and law enforcement currently use computer vision. These are just a few examples of computer science and evolving technological changes.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the computer science industry is projected to grow 15 percent through 2031 .
This is faster than average for all occupations. Industries using computer science majors include security, health care, government, education, and agriculture.
The salary you can earn as a computer scientist depends on the industry. According to the BLS, the annual median wage for computer and information technology occupations is $97,430 as of May 2021 .
The BLS reports a high median salary of $131,490 for computer and information research scientists with a master’s degree and $120,520 for computer network architects with a bachelor's degree. Network and computer systems administrators earn a median wage of $80,600 for those with a bachelor’s degree, and computer support specialists, who are not always required to have a degree, earn a median wage of $57,910 .
You may want to enter one of the more common fields when exploring potential computer science careers. Among them are UX design, web development, and mobile app development.
Computer hardware and software engineers are among the customary positions for computer scientists. You may also find yourself working in other fields, such as:
AI Engineering: Artificial intelligence engineers create computer systems that can do the tasks that humans would otherwise do.
Information security analyst: This position requires you to ensure computer network security.
Computer science teacher: If you love to teach others about computer science, you can earn a teaching certification and work in secondary education.
IT project manager: A project manager leads a team of computer professionals in projects from conception to completion.
As a computer science student, you can choose a major that best meets your interests and career goals. Whether your goal is to work as a computer programmer or your interest is in software development, a degree in computer science will provide you with the foundation needed to enter the workforce.
Many schools offer internships so you can gain hands-on experience and begin building your resume. Some areas of computer science are:
Software developer: As a software developer, your job will be to design computer applications. Most positions require a bachelor’s degree.
Computer programmer: Computer programmers write code for software programs and applications and test them for functionality.
Network systems administrator: In this role, you’ll oversee the day-to-day operation of computer networks.
Hardware engineer: If you’re interested in designing the parts for computers, you may want to pursue a career as a hardware engineer.
Video game designer: If you enjoy working with a team of creative people, you may be interested in a career as a video game designer. Your role will be to design games for computers and other electronic devices.
A computer scientist should have a strong command of mathematical formulas and good analytical skills. Many positions require teamwork, so you’ll want to be comfortable working with others. You may work under tight deadlines, so time management skills are essential.
A career in computer science usually requires a bachelor’s degree, so you’ll want to begin building your resume with a solid educational foundation. You’ll benefit from science, math, and technology classes as a high school student.
You can expect a bachelor’s degree in computer science to take four years. Your first two years are typically spent taking general education coursework, and you’ll need to select your specialization. The area of computing that most interests you will determine your course of study and the electives you’ll need to complete.
Read more: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science: A Guide
A degree in computer science can lead to a career as a system programmer, software developer, web developer, network administrator, software tester, product manager, and engineering manager, among other professions. You can also find work as a data scientist, or you may want to teach computer science at a higher education level.
Read more: What Can You Do with a Computer Science Degree? 10 In-Demand Fields
Most positions require a bachelor’s degree in computer science. You can increase your employment prospects by obtaining a graduate degree. Certification programs are also available should you specialize in an area you didn’t cover in your degree program. Completing a certification program can increase your earning potential and help to build your resume.
Certification programs are available in many areas of computer science. You can find programs for IT security, cloud computing, and as help desk technicians.
You may want to take one of Microsoft’s certifications, beginning with their entry-level technology associate program. Cisco and Oracle also offer certification programs for computer science professionals.
If your interest is in Google or IBM computing, you can earn a certificate in computer science or IT. Some programs you can complete in less than a year.
Certificate programs can help you specialize in an area you didn’t get to study when working on your undergraduate degree and can enhance your resume. Certificate programs can also help you stay on top of your career by keeping up with the latest technology.
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Computer Science covers a broad range of specializations. If you’re considering a career in computer science, explore courses and degree options on Coursera. If you're new to computer science, consider taking The University of London's Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Specialization, covering basic computing fundamentals and mathematical foundations. If you're ready to pursue a degree, explore your options for earning a bachelor's or master's degree in computer science online.
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US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Computer and Information Technology Occupations : Occupational Outlook Handbook, www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm." Accessed January 27, 2023.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.