What Does it Mean to Study Computer Science?
Those seeking a college degree in computer science may find that such a technology degree opens the door to a variety of exciting career choices. As institutions, businesses, and organizations continue to integrate increasingly sophisticated computer technologies into their frameworks the need for individuals skilled in computer science continues to grow.
The job titles that fall under the heading of computer science vary from organization to organization. However, each position typically requires specialized training and experience with particular software and hardware programs. Individuals trained in computer science often specialize and work as systems analysts, database administrators, or computer scientists focusing on research and theoretical issues.
Despite what focus an individual working in the field of computer science chooses, all computer science careers have opportunities to solve problems, create new technologies, conduct research, and create innovative ways to apply computer technologies.
Career Education in Computer Science
Working professionals who specialize in computer science are often systems analysts, database administrators or computer scientists. The level of education or certification required by potential employers for these positions varies depending on organizational needs. As a general rule, employers are looking for candidates with a broad understanding of computer technologies, solid problem solving capabilities, and sharp analytical skills. In addition, it is important for such individuals to have the ability to multi-task. Those working in the field of computer science should be able to communicate clearly while also accomplishing many tasks simultaneously without losing focus.
It is also helpful for individuals working in the field of computer science to have knowledge about the kind of business or organization by which they are employed. For example, if you are seeking work in business systems analysis, it would be helpful to also have some educational understanding of business dynamics.
Prepare for an Education or Career in Computer Science
- Attend and participate in student fairs. Student fairs give your ideas an opportunity to be presented to the general public. This may stimulate networking opportunities with potential employers and/or other individuals who have the same interests as you.
- Visit potential employment sights. Placing a phone call to a list of potential employers allows you to introduce yourself while also learning what skills in particular the organizations are looking for.
- Enter a mentoring program. By being paired with another individual who is interested in this field, both individuals stand to benefit. Whether you are learning from a working professional or mentoring a younger student yourself, you may be able to learn many things from the experience.
- Request classroom or community presentations. Ask professionals to speak in your classroom or arrange for a presentation at a public venue. You can benefit both from the organizational experience and the contact between yourself and the computer science industry.
- Explore opportunities for internships from employers who specialize in computer science. Many employers offer such opportunities, in either paid or unpaid capacities.
- Create club sponsorship. Are there any existing computer science clubs or societies in your area? If so, consider joining. If there are not, consider starting one. You can build community support around your potential field while also bolstering out your college application and job resume.
What Can You Do with a Computer Science Degree?
Computer systems analysts, database administrators, and computer scientists generally work in controlled work environments such as research laboratories or offices. Given the advanced technology options available to many businesses and professionals it is often possible to telecommute. As networks evolve and expand, individuals can work from home and other non-office locations. Typically those working in the field of computer science work forty hours a week. There are times when evening and weekend work cannot be avoided in order to meet deadlines or deal with specific technological problems that require immediate attention.
Some individuals working in the field of computer science also work independently or on a contractual basis. For example, an organization installing a new computer system may require several systems analysts in order to get their system running efficiently. When the on-site work ends, the contract ends as well. Contractual work allows for individuals to specialize in very particular technological needs and have a great amount of control over their work schedule.
Those who work in the field of computer science should be prepared for long hours in front of a computer. Such individuals may be at risk for straining their eyes and back. Sometimes individuals develop hand and wrist complications such as cumulative trauma disorder or carpal tunnel syndrome. For these reasons it is very important for those working in the field of computer science to make sure they have a proper chair and lighting. In some cases ergonomically correct keyboards may be helpful.
There are a variety of career options available to those who pursue computer science majors. Here are a few common careers in the field.
Systems analysts work with practical technological applications and perform a variety of tasks. They design systems using both hardware and software, integrating new computer methodologies while also working to maximize the power of existing computer systems. The majority of systems analysts specialize in specific types of systems based on client needs. For example, if you pursue systems analysis you may choose to focus on systems for scientific, business, or financial systems.
Systems analysts also help organizations to network. In other words, they make it possible for all of an organization’s computer technologies to connect and communicate with one another internally. This allows the system’s users to retrieve information from the larger network in order to work on desktop computers. In order to design a system that successfully allows for technological sharing of this nature, systems analysts must design hardware and software programs that allow for such an exchange of data.
Systems analysts can find employment opportunities in a variety of settings including private industry, computer manufacturers, universities, research organizations and insurance companies. Systems analysts can also work on a contractual basis. Generally, contractual work lasts from two months to two years.
In 2014, systems administrators earned a median annual salary of $75,790, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
As the Internet grows so do Internet based businesses. Such businesses generate large amounts of information and there is a growing need to store and manage this information in efficient ways. Database administrators make it possible for large amounts of information to be organized and accessible.
Database administrators work closely with database management systems. After examining these systems they discern what management method would work best for the system. This discernment process involves properly identifying user requirements and creating computer databases. As database administrators put their ideas into application they must also coordinate and test all modifications they have made to the system. Database administrators are concerned with making systems operate with as few glitches as possible.
Database administrators also work with security issues concerning computers. They design and implement security measures to ensure data integrity within the operations system as well as creating backup systems to protect sensitive data. Based on 2014 numbers from the BLS, database administrators earned $80,280 in median annual salary.
Computer scientists develop and design hardware and software that allows personal and business computers to optimally achieve their tasks. This career requires a high level of theoretical knowledge, as well as understanding of how to deal with complex computer issues. Individuals working as computer scientists are considered to be inventors, theorists and researchers. They use their detailed theoretical understanding to explore and troubleshoot issues around new computer technologies and applications.
In academic or other research-based settings, computer scientists may work on a range of theoretical issues including programming language design, virtual reality development, and advancing the relationship between computer technologies and humanity. Computer scientists working in the realm of private industry often conduct research and apply their findings in actual settings. According to the BLS, computer and information research scientists earned a median annual salary of $108,360 in 2014.
Is Computer Science Right For You?
When considering enrolling in an online or campus-based computer science degree program, there are many issues you may want to consider. The following list of questions are intended to initiate some important considerations about whether a career in the field of computer science is right for you:
- What is the focus of the degree program you are considering?
- How many computer technologies does the program cover?
- What prerequisites, if any, are required in order to qualify for the program?
- Is the degree program accredited?
- What research opportunities does the degree program offer?
- When working with computer technologies, do you prefer to theorize, design, or maintain computer systems?
- How do you feel about sitting at a desk for most of the day? Does the thought of sitting for long hours pose a significant issue for you?
- What are the opportunities for advancement within your potential area of focus?
Computer Science Certification, Licensure and Associations
Individuals seeking to work in computer science may be wise to earn certification in particular areas of the field. Many employers consider such certifications a standard prerequisite for applying for positions within their organization. Individuals interested in seeking specialized software certification should discern which computer system programs they want to focus on and consult the manufacturers of the appropriate software.
For More Information about Computer Science Careers and Degrees
- “15-1141 Database Administrators,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151141
- “15-1111 Computer and Information Research Scientists,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151111
- “15-1142 Network and Computer Systems Administrators,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151142