Guide to College Majors in Computer Studies

What is Computer Studies?

A college degree in computer studies can open up a wide variety of career opportunities for graduates of computer studies programs. Degree programs in computer studies are thought of as the liberal arts programs of the computer world. Computer studies degree programs provide basic training in all aspects of computer education, from hardware design to computer programming.

Students who graduate from a degree program in computer studies have a broad enough understanding of the computer world to work in a variety of environments and industries. Those holding a computer studies diploma are also eligible to further their education, either in computer studies or in a more specialized field, like computer programming or software design and development.

Computer studies degree programs provide solid knowledge to students who are interested in computers but do not yet need to specialize in a specific aspect of the industry. Online degree programs in computer studies can also aid working professionals in gaining a basic knowledge of computer and Internet processes, allowing them to streamline their company and make doing business more efficient.

Most degree programs in computer studies combine theoretical studies with hands-on application, either in a computer laboratory or in a work-study setting. This allows the student to put what they have learned to work immediately, without having to wait until they enter the workforce to gain experience.

Another important aspect of typical computer studies degree programs is web site design. As more companies shift to the online environment, there is an increased need for individuals who are capable of creating and maintaining an efficient, user-friendly web site. Working professionals enrolled in computer studies degree programs can use this to their advantage, in that they would no longer need to rely on outsourcing web design and maintenance or keeping an extra employee on-staff with computer training. Instead, they would be able to handle these things personally.

There is a wide range of degrees and certificates available for those interested in computer studies. Many of these degree and certificate programs are available entirely online. Some are geared toward the student just beginning their computer training, while others are directed at those already working in an industry and who wish to use computer training to enhance their careers.

General computer knowledge is often only the beginning of the student's computer studies training. Many degree programs will allow the student to customize his or her degree in order to suit the needs of the student. Others allow the student to choose an emphasis or concentration within the computer studies degree program. Many computer studies degree programs also offer a wide variety of academic minors that supplement and enhance general computer studies training.

Is a Major in Computer Studies Right for You?

If you are interested in how computers work, and have often wished that you could design your own computer programs, design a web site, or just operate computer applications more effectively, you may want to consider applying to a degree program in computer studies. Computer studies can be a rewarding major that can lead to many future career prospects for individuals who are willing to apply themselves.

Some common characteristics of people who graduate from degree programs in computer studies include:

  • Computer literacy
  • Communication skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Troubleshooting
  • High level of organization
  • Logical thinking
  • Reading comprehension
  • Writing skills
  • Deductive reasoning
  • Electronics knowledge
  • Patience
  • Mathematics

Online colleges, universities, and distance learning programs also offer online degree programs in computer studies. This makes it much more realistic for the working professional or individual trying to raise a family to get the education that will help them advance in their profession or start a career in a new profession. Most classes offered by these programs have extremely flexible schedules and are specifically designed for people who cannot attend a traditional college or university for one reason or another.

Preparing for a Computer Studies Degree

There are many things students can do in order to prepare to enter a degree program in computer studies. If students are planning to attend a traditional four-year college, then it is important that they make sure that their high school classes meet the requirements of that college or university. Most colleges and universities require at least four years of English, three years of mathematics, and two years of science and social studies.

Before applying to a major in computer studies, make sure that you take any and all computer courses that are offered by your high school. Some schools have after-school programs for those interested in computers. These classes will give you a familiarity with computers that will be necessary when studying computers at the college level.

If at all possible, try to gain some work experience prior to enrolling in a degree program in computer studies. This could be anything from working at your high schools tech support desk to getting an after-school job at the local computer outlet. These jobs can give you a familiarity with the environment computer experts exist in and the constantly changing computer equipment available on the market.

Career Education in Computer Studies

Computer studies is a very broad field, so there are many training options available in both a traditional college setting and in an online learning environment. Some courses use a combination of online learning and classroom work. Others require the student to complete a certain amount of work-study time in the computer field before graduating. Students should be sure to carefully research the programs they are interested in before applying in order to make sure that the degree program will meet the needs and fit the learning style of the student.

Certificates in Computer Studies

Most certificate programs in computer studies are intended for students who already have some computer training but wish to specialize within their field in order to enhance their careers. These computer studies certificate programs each have a different emphasis. Many programs are available online or through flexible distance learning programs. Credits earned from certificate programs can often be applied to earning a Bachelor degree should the student decide to enroll in an undergraduate degree program in computer studies.

Some examples of certificates that can be earned in the field of computer studies include:

  • Web technology
  • Internetworking
  • Computer science
  • Computer information systems
  • PC hardware
  • Web page design and development
  • Programming
  • Computer studies education

If you use computers at your work and are interested in learning more about them, there is a good chance that your employer would be willing to pay for your education in earning a computer studies certificate. Employers are always eager for those already working for them to become more proficient in computers. For them, it means that they won't have to hire more workers with computer specialization. For you, it could mean upward mobility in your company.

Associate Degrees in Computer Studies

An associate degree in computer studies provides intensive training in computers in a liberal arts environment. Earning an associate degree in computer studies requires the student to fulfill several general education requirements in the following areas: math, science, social studies, English, and humanities.

Associate degree programs in computer studies are very popular among those wishing to gain employment in the computer industry. Associate's degree programs typically last two years for students enrolled full-time, though some can be completed in less time.

Some students may pick up an emphasis or concentration in order to customize their computer studies degree somewhat. Most students learn the basics of computer programming, networking, Internet operations, Web design, how to use most common applications, and more.

Students graduating from an associate's degree program in computer studies should be able to enter the workforce as computer programmers, software support staff, tech consultants, computer analysts, and communications operators, among other careers. These careers are widely available and provide valuable experience needed in order to gain a more advanced job placement.

The first year usually consists of many fundamental computer courses, along with some basic programming training in languages such as Visual Basic. A great emphasis is placed on the ability to create high quality documents on a computer, how to communicate via networks, diagnosing and solving computer problems, and using software. Other courses often required involve business math, accounting, and other business courses, such as team building and management.

The second year of a degree program typically revolves more around programming languages. The student is taught the basics of more complicated programming languages, such as JAVA and C++. Advanced Visual Basic training is also common. The student is also usually required to complete some systems design and analysis courses, as well as some advanced business classes, like project management. The student will also learn how to create and maintain databases in the second year of associate's degree training.

Credits earned while the student is pursuing an associate degree typically can be transferred to a bachelor's degree program in a similar or related field. Students can also earn certificates in specific aspects of computer studies in order to supplement their computer studies education.

As this field expands and grows, more and more employers are requiring their employees to have some kind of formal computer training. Salaries and benefits are often contingent upon training, education, and experience. In order to stay competitive, most people looking for work in the computer industry should earn at least an associate's degree, if not a bachelor's degree.

Bachelor's Degrees in Computer Studies

The first two years of bachelor's degree training in computer studies usually consists of minimal computer training with more of an emphasis on fulfilling general education requirements. Computer courses taken during this time are likely to include beginning programming courses, applications courses, and networking courses. Work-study is also available for eligible students, usually working for the college's information technology services department, maintaining the college's databases, maintaining the web site, and providing technical support to students, faculty, and staff.

The final two years of study in a computer studies degree program are usually more intensively centered around computer training. The student typically learns advanced programming languages, software development, systems analysis, and maintenance. Computer diagnosis and problem solving skills are traditionally developed through classes taught in computer laboratories, as well as through work-study programs.

The goal of the bachelor's degree program in computer studies is to produce a very well- rounded individual who knows as much about programming as they do about hardware design. Graduates should be able to competently perform almost any task involving a computer.

Students enrolled in bachelor's degree programs in computer science should emerge with a vast general knowledge of computers and what they are capable of. This makes them especially prepared to further their education in a specialty master's degree program of their choice, depending on their strengths and interests. Certificate programs are also available in order to help the student specialize in the field of his or her choice after graduation.

Bachelor's degree programs in computer studies are concerned with giving the student a general computer studies education in a liberal arts setting. Students interested in applying to a Bachelor degree program in Computer Studies should be aware that there are just as many general education courses in math, science, social studies, and English as there are computer courses. However, liberal arts training is appealing to employers, as it indicates an experienced, well-rounded personality, so the bachelor's degree should certainly worth the extra work.

As computers become more and more important to today's businesses, employers will be looking for competent staff members who can effectively maintain the company's computer systems. This means that employers may also start demanding that applicants have at least an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree. As competition for tech jobs increases, those with degrees may be more likely to get jobs quickly, and be paid competitive wages.

Bachelor's degree programs in computer studies are available through traditional four-year community and technical colleges and universities, as well as through many accredited online and distance learning degree programs. Online learning can be a good option for working professionals who need the flexibility of distance learning so they don't have to leave their jobs in order to continue their education.

What Can You Do With a College Degree in Computer Studies?

There are many career options available for those with a degree in computer studies. Since computers have become central to doing business in today's environment, companies in every industry have people on staff specifically to design, maintain, and manage their computer information systems. This means that those with computer knowledge can look for work in nearly any industry they choose.

Computer Studies Career Paths

Technical Support Staff

Technical support is an increasingly popular job choice for those looking for entry-level positions in the field of computer studies. This requires providing assistance to individuals in a variety of industries, helping them identify and solve computer problems either over the phone, via e-mail, or in person. These jobs can provide valuable problem-solving experience to those just beginning their careers.

This job requires excellent communication skills and quite a bit of patience. Technical support staff personnel often communicate with people who do not know very much about computers. This means that the support staff must be able to explain procedures in simple terms so that the individual they are trying to help can understand. They also must be careful listeners in order to understand the nature of the problem as their client attempts to explain it to them.

Computer Marketing

Having knowledge of computers can also help you sell them. Knowing the ins and outs of a quality product and what specific things make it perform better than the competitor's product can be an essential selling tool in today's computer market. As computer buyers become more informed, their decisions are often based on whether or not the individual attempting to sell them the computer can satisfactorily answer their questions.

Buyers need to be convinced that the model computer they are purchasing is going to fulfill their needs. To the buyer, a computer is an investment. The computer marketer needs to know his or her stuff in order to sell a product that will meet the buyer's needs and expectations, thereby making the buyer a repeat customer.

Technical Consultant

Some smaller companies do not have the means or the need to keep a technical support team on staff. These companies will often hire technical consultants. Technical consultants can either be an individual freelance consultant or a consultation firm. These individuals charge a specific rate and temporarily aid the company as they set up a new computer system or update their current system. The consultants work with the company to decide what hardware and software is right for the needs of the company. After the system is installed, they aid in training the employees and provide temporary technical support to the company.

Computer Programmer

If an individual has a penchant for programming languages, they can make a good career out of being a computer programmer. Computer programmers take specific instructions and design parameters and translate them into a language the computer can understand. This means that the programmer must have very good communication skills, as they must understand what their employer wants and then tell the computer exactly how to do it. Programmers usually know more than one programming language, including Visual Basic, JAVA, and C++.

Computer Studies Trainer

As schools expand their information technology training facilities, more teachers will be needed to train the expanding technology workforce. Computer studies trainers will work in the classroom and the computer lab to give students the skills they need to enter the technology industry with confidence. Computer studies trainers are being integrated into public school systems at the elementary and high school levels, as well as in undergraduate college programs, so computer studies trainers will be able to train whatever age group they are comfortable with.

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