Is Computer Science a Good Major?

Is computer science a good major? Yes, if students account for a changing employment landscape. This degree guide provides insights to help student decisions.
By
portrait of James M. Tobin
James M. Tobin
Read Full Bio

Contributing Writer

James M. Tobin is a writer, researcher, and editor specializing in student reference and academic research materials related to business, finance, law, technology, and the humanities. He began his professional career in editorial services in 2001 and...
Updated on May 6, 2024
Edited by
portrait of Mitch Jacobson
Mitch Jacobson
Read Full Bio

Editor

After launching her career in content strategy, writing, and editing, Mitch Jacobson honed her skills at an investment firm focused on community development, economic opportunity, and inclusion. She believes in continuing education and professional g...
Reviewed by
portrait of Monali Mirel Chuatico
Monali Mirel Chuatico
Read Full Bio

Contributing Reviewer

Monali Mirel Chuatico is a data engineer who currently works at Mission Lane. She also helps new grads and young professionals overcome underemployment by teaching them data analytics tools and mentoring them on their professional development journey...
Learn more about our editorial process

www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Turn Your Dreams Into Reality

Take our quiz and we'll do the homework for you! Compare your school matches and apply to your top choice today.

Computer science is still a good major, provided you know how to leverage your education. Nowadays, it's the extra bells and whistles that will land you a better job.

Generalists with only basic computer science skills face challenges from automation, artificial intelligence, and labor market saturation. Adopting a sharper focus on specialization can keep you relevant and in demand. By understanding the tech trends shaping both near- and long-term employer needs, you can chart a more successful course.

Studying Computer Science in the Age of AI

Experts broadly agree that artificial intelligence will transform work, but the precise nature of its future impact remains open to debate.

Some believe AI will render hundreds of millions of jobs obsolete and potentially create an unemployment crisis. Others think it will create more jobs than it will destroy. A third line of thinking holds that AI will augment human labor by automating tedious tasks and allowing human workers to optimize their creative productivity.

Generative AI can already perform coding and programming tasks. As it evolves, experts believe AI will fill more complex roles, such as developing software. AI advancements like these somewhat cloud the outlook for computer science majors.

Colleges have responded by increasingly offering computer science programs with AI concentrations. These specialized degrees equip learners with training in machine learning, building skill sets with strong relevance to the predicted labor landscape.

Computer science educators also continue to adapt their curricula by emphasizing creativity, dynamic decision-making, and other uniquely human skills.

Is computer science a good major in the AI age? The expert consensus seems to be yes, with some caveats. Students who focus solely on general skills that once led to entry-level work may face headwinds in a changing labor market. Meanwhile, those who develop AI-compatible technical proficiencies seem to have safer prospects.

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Pros of Earning a Computer Science Degree

High Earning Potential: Computer science occupations pay well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professionals in computer and mathematical occupations earned average annual salaries of $104,200 per year.

Versatility and Transferability: Computing is a field of continuous change, but core skills tend to stay relevant as technology evolves. Computer science programs create strong knowledge foundations upon which professionals can continue to build.

Employers Value Tech Skills: Technology subfields like AI and data analytics continue to reshape the business world. Computer science programs increasingly focus on skills relevant to these and other high-demand areas, leading to potential employment opportunities in a broad cross-section of industries.

Strong Job Outlook for Specialists: As computer science becomes increasingly specialized, professionals with concentrated proficiencies stand to benefit. From 2022-2032, the BLS projects job growth of 35% for data scientists and 32% growth for information security analysts.

Global Opportunities: Employers around the world continue to place high value on technical skills. Professionals who supplement their experience with continuing education can access a diverse set of global job opportunities.

Cons of Earning a Computer Science Degree

High Education Costs: According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), first-time undergraduates paid an average of $14,700-$28,400 in tuition alone to attend a four-year college in 2020-2021. Alternative paths such as coding bootcamps offer a faster, sometimes cheaper alternative.

Technology Changes Quickly: The tech industry is notorious for rapid change. Computer science majors face the risk that the skills they develop may be outdated by the time they graduate.

Multiple Years of Commitment: Earning a top computer science bachelor's degree typically takes about four years, even for online programs. In a field where hard skills tend to outweigh formal credentials, this extended time commitment merits close scrutiny.

Labor Market Saturation: Computer science programs continue to draw students in large numbers. Thus, entry-level skills are in ready supply. Without targeted, differentiated skills, recent graduates may find it challenging to land an appealing job.

Declining Demand for Generalists: Despite ongoing global computerization, labor market demand for generalist skills appears headed for a sharp decline in advanced economies. For instance, the BLS projects an 11% drop in computer programming jobs from 2022-32.

Is Getting a Computer Science Degree Hard?

Computer science is a challenging field and succeeding in a degree program is not easy. Beyond asking whether computer science is a good major, you should also consider whether you have the necessary aptitudes.

As an academic field, computer science is notoriously dense and sprawling. There's a lot to learn, and even the most accomplished computer scientists have gaps in their knowledge and skills. For many learners, and especially for those with limited experience, computer science can seem daunting.

These challenges are possible to overcome through hard work and a strong commitment. Be prepared to dedicate a significant amount of your personal time to self-directed learning beyond your coursework.

The typical profile of a successful computer science student includes proficiency in mathematics, logic, and problem-solving, and strong attention to detail. If you possess these abilities, or if you are willing to put in the effort to develop them, then you have a solid foundation for academic success.

What Can You Do With a Computer Science Degree?

A computer science degree is a strong step toward launching a tech career, but to stay competitive, your developmental journey should not end with graduation. Many tech professionals have charted a course to sustained success by following a blueprint like this:

  • Enter the Workforce: Internships, recruitment programs, and career services can all help you land your first tech job. When possible, look for entry-level opportunities that afford you the opportunity to build on your existing skills.
  • Build Skills Through Experience: Use your job as an opportunity. Network with colleagues. Seek a mentor. Develop deeper skills and/or master new ones.
  • Upgrade Your Credentials: Parlay your improving knowledge and skills into more competitive credentials to unlock further opportunities. Professional certifications are a popular option. You can also pursue advanced degrees, especially in targeted technical areas.
  • Advance Into Senior Positions: Combine deeper, broader skills with experience and additional credentials to gain leadership and management roles. You can also consider pairing your computer science proficiencies with professional degrees such as an MBA to accelerate your career potential to even higher levels.
  • Stay Relevant: No matter where you are in your computer science career, you should constantly upgrade and update your skills. Non-degree programs, post-graduate certificates, and self-directed learning all are viable options for established professionals.

By following this blueprint, you can develop the skills and knowledge required for these popular computer science careers:

Computer Science Careers and Salaries
Career Median salary, May 2023
Information Technology Manager $169,510
Information Research Scientist $145,080
Computer Network Architect $19,840
Software Developer $130,160
Database Administrator $117,450
Cybersecurity or Information Security Engineer $120,360
Data Scientist $108,020

Is a Computer Science Degree Worth It?

From financial and practical standpoints, computer science is a good major. Tech professionals tend to earn high salaries. According to Payscale data from May 2024, workers with a bachelor's degree in computer science earn average salaries of $93,000 per year.

Despite the potential for AI and automation to trigger major labor market shifts, computer science graduates still generally enjoy bright career prospects. At a deeper level, computer scientists shape the technologies behind innovations that improve lives. Computer science careers thus hold the potential to deliver emotional and psychological rewards in addition to financial ones.

Like all top tech-related college programs, computer science degrees come with tradeoffs and caveats — whether they are earned online or in person. Before committing, research student outcomes from the school you're considering. Questions to ask include:

Also, be honest about your prospects as a computer science student. People often enter the field because they want to turn their casual enjoyment of computing into a stable, well-paid career. In many such cases, they quickly find computer science programs far more complex and difficult than they initially envisioned.

Average Annual Cost of a Computer Science Degree

Online:

$7,654

In-Person:

$12,743

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Median Annual Wage for Computer Science Careers

Computer Network Architects:

$129,840

All Computer and Information Technology Jobs:

$104,420

Source: BLS, May 2023

More Questions About Majoring in Computer Science

Are computer science majors in high demand?

In short, yes. BLS notes that computer and information technology occupations are poised for overall growth that vastly outpaces average rates.

Despite this, there are other things to consider. Job openings and growth for some generalist roles, such as computer programming, are set to sharply decline. Automation and AI threaten some sectors of the tech labor landscape, especially at the entry level.

Specialists in concentrated, high-demand computer science fields generally enjoy the brightest prospects. Examples include data science, information security, and software development, among others.

A four-year computer science degree can lead to well-paid careers. BLS data from May 2023 cited $104,420 as the median annual wage for professionals in computer and mathematical occupations. May 2024 Payscale data lists $93,000 as the average annual salary of a professional with a computer science bachelor's degree.

Experts generally say no. While the number of trained computer scientists continues to increase, labor market demand for certain tech professionals remains very high. For instance, in 2023, ISC2 noted a global cybersecurity workforce shortage of nearly four million positions.

Other specializations, such as data science and software development, are poised for explosive near-term growth. Emerging and established professionals with the right skills appear likely to find themselves the beneficiaries of continued demand.

Despite roles such as basic coding and programming face threats from automation and AI, computer science jobs requiring more ingenuity, analytical prowess, and dynamic problem-solving appear safe in the near future.

The computer science labor landscape may well continue to shift as AI advances. Specializing in AI development is one way computer science majors can insulate themselves from the unpredictable nature of future change.

According to BLS data from May 2023, software and web developers are the most common computer science occupations. Others include computer and information analysts, computer support specialists, and computer systems analysts.

Note: The insights on this page — excluding school descriptions — were reviewed by an independent third party compensated for their time by BestColleges. Page last reviewed January 5, 2024.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare Your School Options

View the most relevant schools for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to finding your college home.