Is a Computer Science Degree Worth It?
- Computer science is an ideal choice for students who enjoy math and problem-solving.
- Majoring in this field can lead to lucrative careers that will remain in high demand.
- A four-year computer science degree is challenging, but well worth the investment.
Nearly every industry uses technology to conduct business, which means they require educated professionals who can develop software, design websites, and manage databases. This trend has contributed to the high demand of computer science degrees as well as their surge in popularity among college students.
These days, majoring in computer science can open the door to an array of high-paying fields, such as software engineering, web development, information technology, and network systems administration.
Due to the substantial demand for these highly skilled professionals, many companies are struggling to fill positions. In 2019, there were more than 665,000 computing job openings but fewer than 72,000 computer science graduates to fill them.
Majoring in computer science can open the door to an array of high-paying fields, such as software engineering, web development, information technology, and network systems administration.
This shortage of skilled workers — along with the field's excellent return on investment — makes computer science one of the most highly sought-after college majors.
While its value is evident, a computer science degree isn't the right choice for everyone, as it requires rigorous math courses and a propensity for both analysis and problem-solving.
A four-year degree is also prohibitively expensive for some students, which is why alternative options — such as coding bootcamps and certificates — are increasingly popular.
Regardless of your exact goals and background, a bachelor's degree in computer science remains the industry standard and can help to launch a career that is both personally and financially rewarding.
Pros of Earning a Computer Science Degree
- Prepares You for a Wide Variety of Jobs: Computer science degree-holders possess skills that are relevant to a number of occupations, allowing them to explore a diverse range of opportunities in many industries.
- You'll Be Part of a Growing Industry: The number of jobs for computer and math occupations is growing much faster than average, making computer science one of the most viable degree options.
- Opens the Door to High-Paying Careers: Computer science graduates earn some of the highest starting salaries of any major. If pay is important to you, a computer science major should rank toward the top of your list.
- Computer Science Degrees Are in High Demand: Companies are currently experiencing trouble filling computing positions because the number of computer science graduates entering the workforce is far less than the industry demand for them.
Cons of Earning a Computer Science Degree
- Strong Emphasis on Concepts and Theory: Most computer science courses heavily emphasize theory, so if you're not interested in abstract thinking, you probably won't enjoy a computer science program. Students who are further along in their knowledge of computer systems may consider a concentration that focuses on practical application, such as software engineering.
- Limited Classroom Availability: As the number of undergraduates majoring in computer science grows, colleges are straining to meet demand for these courses, making it difficult to secure a spot in a computer science class.
- Big Focus on Mathematics: Many students pursue computer science specifically for its lucrative benefits. If you tend to struggle with math and problem-solving, though, this degree may not work for you.
- High Cost of a Computer Science Degree: Plenty of professional coders and programmers earn certificates through online learning platforms or attend coding bootcamps that are a fraction of four-year university costs. However, if you're aiming to work at a top tech company like Apple, Google, or Amazon, you'll most likely need at least a bachelor's degree in computer science.
How Hard Is a Computer Science Degree?
To succeed in computer science, you need to feel comfortable working with technology. This discipline also requires a combination of patience, creativity, and problem-solving.
Computer science majors should prepare to take several statistics and analysis courses.
Students considering a computer science major should prepare to take several statistics and analysis courses, as computing concepts have mathematical foundations.
Like any area of study, a computer science major requires dedication to learning and mastering the concepts. If you have little to no experience working with computers, you may have to overcome a steep learning curve.
Computer science is generally considered a difficult and competitive major. You can expect to spend long hours learning concepts and applying them through your own coding projects, and you may find it challenging to keep up with your peers.
Ultimately, though, as long as you're passionate about the discipline and ready to devote the necessary time and effort to your studies, you can achieve your goals.
Computer Science Salary and Job Demand
Perhaps the most alluring part of a computer science degree is the high salary outlook for entry-level computing positions. With computers ingrained in nearly every aspect of modern business, employers are willing to pay top dollar for these technical experts.
A degree in computer science can lead to roles in a variety of industries outside big tech, such as healthcare, postsecondary education, telecommunications, and business. While salaries can vary greatly by degree level and occupation, the median salary for computer science professionals is roughly $88,000.
Median Computer Science Salaries
- Computer Scientists: $122,840
- Software Developers: $105,590
- Database Administrators: $93,750
- Computer Systems Analysts: $90,920
- Computer Programmers: $86,550
- Web Developers: $73,760
- Computer Support Specialists: $54,760
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Additionally, computer science graduates held the second-highest starting salary projection in 2019 at around $67,000. These high salary outlooks are primarily driven by a surge in employer demand, which far exceeds the number of computer science graduates entering the workforce.
Jobs for data scientists alone are projected to increase 16% from 2018-28, while the job outlook for software developers is an even higher 21%. As companies struggle to find specialized workers, computer scientists will likely continue to enjoy strong salary prospects.
List of Popular Computer Science Careers
- Data Scientist
Data scientists are responsible for maintaining collections of data. Duties vary by industry type but typically include creating and preserving databases for analytical processes.
- Business Analyst
While business analysts' core responsibility is to maximize financial opportunities, they also handle a broad array of daily tasks, such as analyzing cost benefits, identifying trends, and improving business processes.
- Software Engineer
These engineers design and maintain computer software to meet company needs. Additionally, software engineers are responsible for testing code to ensure system functionality.
- Database Administrator
Database administrators maintain and organize company datasets. They may also be responsible for issues related to configuration, security, and data backup and recovery.
- Information Technology Specialist
These specialists provide tech support to users in their organization and assist with network connectivity issues, hardware and software components, and general troubleshooting.
- Full-Stack Developer
Full-stack developers ensure functionality on both the front and back ends of a website. They are typically proficient in multiple programming languages and are heavily involved in the strategic planning for any given project.
- Software Developer
Software developers focus on designing and testing applications and programs. They may be involved with the creation of one specific program or the system that powers all other programs.
- Web Developer
Web developers use coding languages to create and design websites, focusing on either the front or back end, depending on company needs.
Will Computer Science Stay in Demand?
Over the last several years, the number of people employed in the computer science field has steadily risen. As technology continues to evolve in the workplace, demand for employees who excel at working with computer systems should grow accordingly.
The number of computer science jobs is projected to grow 12% between 2018 and 2028 — much faster than the average for all occupations.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of computer science jobs is projected to grow 12% between 2018 and 2028, making it one of the more viable fields.
While there are concerns over artificial intelligence (AI) eventually automating some of these occupations, specifically basic coding jobs, programming experts remain skeptical. In fact, many believe AI tools will help speed up processes, allowing them to become even more productive.
So Is a Computer Science Degree Worth It?
Students who possess an aptitude for math and science will likely find a career in the computer science industry extremely rewarding. The high earning potential and promising industry growth are strong reasons to pursue a computer science major.
If, however, you're apathetic toward computer systems or struggle with math and technology, this degree may not be a good fit for you.
As with any college degree, you need to consider multiple factors and look beyond just salary potential. Your strengths and interests should play a crucial role in your decision-making.
Additional Computer Science Resources
Learn more about the professional benefits of majoring in computer science.
Check out the top 10 online computer science degree programs for 2020.