Computer Science Degree

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Why Pursue a Career in Computer Science?

A degree in computer science prepares individuals with the skills and knowledge necessary to understand and develop systems of information.  Degrees in computer science provides students with a cross section of academic courses including various sciences and mathematics to efficiently automate algorithmic processes at scale.

Computer science is a relatively new field of study, but has grown complex as the pace of technology has increased over the last few decades.  Students will be exposed topics such as learning:

  • How computer systems work
  • Study effective software development techniques
  • Utilize numerical methods to solve problems with a computer
  • Apply technology to an array of problems
  • Understanding the development and structure of operating systems
  • Use mathematical systems to develop electronic circuits
  • Study techniques and tools of software design, development, tests, and maintenance
  • Perform abstract studies of computers and their capabilities
  • Learn to manipulate programming languages and code across various computer systems & devices
  • Study various methods of storing and retrieving big data via computers
  • How to implement system solutions in theory and practice

Degrees in computer science are available from the associate level to the doctoral, with lower level degrees typically involving practical applications and higher level degrees more committed to research and development.

What is Computer Science?

Computer Science may be seen by some as a catch-all term in this day and age as frequently as it is used in every day conversation.  As a foundational science, computer science is not the same as computer information systems nor is it the same as information technology.

The essence of computer science is an area of study focused the theoretical bedrock of 1) computation and 2) information.   By unpacking these facets of computer science, you will get a clear understanding of the term and its applicability in school, work, and beyond.

1. Understanding Computer Computation

The definition of computation is any type of calculation utilizing a prescribed algorithmic model to process data and/or information.  The nature of computation allows for calculations to include both non-arithmetic and arithmetic steps so long as it adheres to a well-defined model.

A computation can be seen as a physical phenomenon within a closed system like a computer.  These physical systems can include the following types of computers: DNA, digital, mechanical, quantum, molecular, wetware, analog, and microfluidics.  For additional research, you can dig into a variety of computational theories include physics of computation, natural computing, and digital physics.

In terms of mathematical models, there are diverse models and algorithmic theories developed to efficiently handle an array of computations.  A list of common computational models includes the following:

  • Computability – The computability theory closely tied to mathematical logic and recursion theory along with Rice’s theorem.
  • Formal Language – Formal language theory starts with the notion that languages are seen as sets of operations over an alphabet akin to the automata theory.
  • Computational Complexity – The theory of computational complexity starts with whether a problem can be solved with a computer which is bound by space and time complexity.
  • State – A state model includes PRAM, Turing machine, and finite state automation.
  • Logic – A logical model of computation in computer science that uses programming languages like Prolog, Datalog, and ASP to solve problems.
  • Concurrent – A concurrent model breaks down an algorithm into order-dependent units or components which includes process calculi and actor model.

2. Understanding Computer Information

Volumes upon volumes of books have been written about information.  The definition, importance, and elasticity of information are widely understood.  In this section, we will focus on its applicability to computer science.  More specifically, the five most vital aspects of the processes and techniques related to information pertaining to computer science including: capture, processing, generation, presentation, transmission, and storage.

  • Capture – Capturing information is the genesis of computer science. Information can be captured through simple modules like a sensor which simply detects changes in its environment and sends that information to another electronic device.  On the other end of complexity of information capture is a computer with multi-operational states.
  • Processing – How information is processed is another important piece of the puzzle after it has been captured. A common set of processing techniques include encoding, compression, encrypting, and packaging in sequential or parallel in a centralized or distributed network.
  • Generation – Information needs to be generated after being captured through some mechanism or system. The three most common types of information generation are computation, composition, and formulation.
  • Presentation – Once information has been captured and processed, it is important to provide users with a systematic presentation of the information. Presentation of information can include display methods and visualization for users and computers.
  • Transmission – The transmission of information is the transfer of data, voice, signal, image, or video through single-point or multi-point channels. A common set of channels are copper wiring, wireless communication, computers, and optical fibers.
  • Storage – Lastly, computer science pays special attention to how information is stored. The most common types of storage methods are digital, optical, magnetic, and holographic.

Employment in Computer Science

Individuals with a degree in computer science are qualified for a varying number of jobs. From network administration, to repair, to research and development, individuals with a background in computer science will find no shortage of opportunities.

This is due to the increased dependence on computers and the continuing trend toward complexity for technology as a whole. Positions are available with government institutions, private corporations, and everything in between. Retailers of computers often employ individuals with degrees in computer science for positions in repair or sales.

Research positions require doctoral degrees, which may take up to nine years to complete depending on the student and the program taken. Such positions will have individuals utilize current technology to develop and realize the next generation of technology.

Such positions are highly lucrative and in high demand due to the limited number of professionals available. Students able to demonstrate skill and acumen in research and design will be highly sought after by companies or agencies developing new and exciting technologies.

Computer Science Requirements

Typical requirements for incoming computer science students is important to understand.  Likewise, working adults seeking to enter the field and upskill in CS will need to spend the time to understand specific skills needed in the field.

Colleges have built computer science curriculum around elements of engineering, math, computing essentials, and physics.  High level math and physics knowledge is essential to deconstruct problems and synthesize data into relevant pieces.

You would be wise to take an array of psychology, linguistics, and sociology classes to help admissions teams understand your level of professionalism.  A one-dimensional computer scientist may be acceptable in some cases but a multi-dimensional student will tend to fare better.  In computer terms, if students spend time understanding how others think they can more accurately build programs to satisfy user intent.

Obvious tools for CS majors is computer programming.  Full stack programmers are abound and learning a handful of languages would behoove any incoming freshman.  The sheer number of online code camps and programming classes will help kickstart your coding prior to stepping into class.  Practice good habits and develop clean code to establish a preferred baseline for your future.

For precise information about course requirements by college or university, make sure to investigate schools listed below and request information from schools on your short list.  From this centralized method, you will be able to quickly assimilate information about course requirements, admissions, and financial aid prior to applying to the school.

What are the Top Jobs with a Computer Science Degree?

A computer science degree is a window into a variety of computer-based specialties you need to know.  The CASB or Computer Sciences Accrediting Board provides great resources for students and professional computer scientists.  We have culled a list of areas within computer science that you may find interesting as you work towards the completion of your college degree.  These areas of specialty and their respective resource pages include:

Artificial Intelligence Computer Graphics
Computer Design Cryptography and Computer Security
Information Technology Computer Forensics
Computer Architecture Operating Systems
Database Management Computer Networking
Computer Engineering Computer Installation and Repair
Computer Theory Software Applications
Software Engineering Web Design


Computer Science Salary Breakdown

College graduates earning a degree in computer science can expect to receive a higher than average rate of compensation.  In fact, computer science has yet again been selected as the #1 best paying college degrees as seen on our recent survey published here.

The median base salary for a computer scientist is around $70,000 as an aggregate number.  It is important to know the salaries for computer scientists can vary greatly depending on the job, city, state, and years of experience.  Here is a quick breakdown of each to give you a working baseline of salaries for computer science majors by each set of important criteria.

Top Paying Computer Science Jobs (MSC)

  • Principal Software Engineer                 Salary Range: $103,179-$173,233
  • Senior Software Developer                    Salary Range: $77,827-$139,688
  • Senior Software Engineer                      Salary Range: $87,154-$149,786
  • Software Programmer                            Salary Range: $66,246-$122,939
  • Software Development Engineer          Salary Range: $81,451-$123,878

Top Paying States for Computer Scientists – Median Annual Income

  • California                           $116,170
  • Washington                       $111,949
  • Massachusetts                   $98,748
  • New York                            $97,382
  • Texas                                   $92,722

Top Paying Cities for Computer Science Majors – Median Annual Income

  1. San Jose, California                    $125,978
  2. San Francisco, California           $124,892
  3. Seattle, Washington                    $112,609
  4. New York, New York                   $100,744
  5. Boston, Massachusetts               $99,555

Median Income for Computer Scientists (MCS) by Years of Experience

Less than 1 Year Experience      $72,237

1-4 Years’ Experience                  $81,607

5-9 Years’ Experience                  $99,118

10-19 Years’ Experience              $113,194

20 + Years’ Experience               $127,232

Note: the average salary for individuals with a degree in computer science will vary greatly based on the level of education, type of work, and experience.  Individuals interested in computer science may also be interested in network administration, mathematics, or physics.   A list of top computer science programs from accredited colleges and universities can be found on our blog.

Six Computer Science Associations You Need to Join

Below you will find a list of the six most important trade associations and organizations in the computer science domain.  For further research, please consider researching these institutions to help further your career in CS.

  1. IEEE Computer Society (IEEE)
  2. International Association of Computer Science & IT (IACSIT)
  3. Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
  4. Association for Women in Computing (AWC)
  5. Computing Research Association (CRA)
  6. Association for IT Professionals (AITP)

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