What Is Computer Science? Education and Career Opportunities

There are two types of people in today’s modern world: those who rely on technology and those who create it. Those creators of technology have probably learned computer science at some point in their lives.
Computer science has positively changed our world by offering online education, making it accessible to everybody at a low cost. Modeling simulations have helped us manage global issues like climate change and pandemics.
But what is computer science? This article will provide a simple definition as well as highlight the requirements, education, and career paths for those aiming to study computer science.

What Is Computer Science?

Simply, it’s the study of computers and their systems. This includes software and hardware design, algorithms, and human interaction with technology.
Computer science belongs to a group of five distinct yet overlapping fields:
  • Computer science
  • Software engineering
  • Information technology
  • Information systems
  • Computer engineering
Together, these fields are called the computing discipline. They share their focus on computing, but they have different curricular and research perspectives.
Computer science is different from electrical and computer engineering in that it mainly deals with software and its systems. This includes the development, design, application, and theory of software systems.
Who Is a Computer Scientist? A computer scientist is a problem solver using technology to offer solutions. After gathering information, they use a programming language to give instructions to a computer that solves the problem.
There’s usually more than a single solution to a problem. Computer scientists use computational thinking to find the most efficient solution (e.g., the solution that requires the least number of steps).

Is Computer Science a Good Career?

We know from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that the median salary offered to computer and IT jobs is $91,250/ year. This is two times higher than the median annual salary for most other jobs ($41,950).
As a graduate with a bachelor's degree, you can expect an average of $77,000/ year. If you get a job that requires a computer science master’s degree, you can earn more than $126,000/year.
BLS expects a 22% growth in the computer science field during the 2020s (much faster than average). However, not all specializations have such a promising growth rate.
For instance, the need for computer programmers will drop by 10% over the next decade, so you have to choose your career path thoughtfully.

Advantages of a Computer Science Career

One of the most significant advantages of having an experience in computer science is that you can efficiently market your skills to almost every company.
All fields are now shifting towards digitizing their systems, so you have great control over your career path and won’t fall out of fashion any time soon.
Another advantage of learning computer science is that it allows you to enter various subfields and explore them. Computer-related subfields are related, and you can get accepted at different jobs like cybersecurity, academia, research and development, data science, and programming.

What Jobs Are Offered to Computer Scientists?

Computer science skills are transferable to almost every other field seeing as all roles require problem-solving.
There are also endless career options directly related to computer science, such as entry-level jobs at a help desk or advanced scientific research in computer information.
Here's a list of some of the most common computer science occupations:
  • Data Scientist
  • IT Consultant
  • Computer Scientist
  • Web Developer
  • Information Systems Analyst
  • Product Manager
  • Software Application Developer
  • Database Administrator
  • Cyber Security Consultant
  • Business Analyst
  • Multimedia Programmer
  • Computer Science Professor

How to Learn Computer Science?

Computer science is an inclusive field that sets minimal barriers to anyone interested in joining it. Many successful computer scientists were self-taught. If you can't afford a degree, you still have great chances in this field.

Self-Learning Computer Science

For an introduction to programming, you can check Harvard's CS50 curriculum, which they shared on Youtube.
This course has an academic approach and will help you learn the fundamental theories of computer science.
The Odin Project is another well-known free resource for self-learning. It offers free computer science courses, blog posts, tutorials, and an active community.
We also recommend StackOverflow, which connects beginners and professionals in the programming field. It's a question-and-answer website that offers creative solutions to its community.

Pursuing a Degree in Computer Science

First, identify the computer science field that you find more interesting. Would you instead focus on theory or practice?
You'll have to learn about the various subfields and specializations to make the best out of your investment in the degree. Remember, different disciplines are not equally promising in terms of career outlook.

A Master’s Degree in Computer Science

Suppose you have a bachelor’s degree from another field or aim to advance in your current computer science position.
In that case, you can consider an online master’s degree in computer science. It will give you a better understanding of the field’s theory and application and offer you higher salaries.
A master’s degree will also give you access to in-demand specializations like cybersecurity and data science. If you’re pursuing an advanced career in scientific research, you'll probably need a Ph.D.

Disadvantages of a Degree in Computer Science

The major downside of earning a degree in computer science is its cost. The annual expenses of the least expensive educational institutions are around $10,000.
However, the average cost of colleges and universities is around $20,000/ year. This can easily accumulate to $100,000 by the time you graduate. The student debt will make you less competitive as a beginner.
Another disadvantage of earning a degree is the time it requires. It takes 4 years on average to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. The master’s degree takes 2 more years to finish.
An online degree can be more affordable. Flexible online classes will allow you to learn while making a living. You can also gain practical experience by working on some projects while you study.

Conclusion

What is computer science? On a basic level, it's problem-solving plus computer skills, but there's much more to it. It's the backbone of today's technology-dependent world!
A career in computer science is projected to be promising in the near future. If you have the passion, the work ethic, and the necessary skill set, then the sky's the limit.