Is Computer Science a Good Major?
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- Computer science is not an easy field, but the work has rewards.
- Computer science careers tend to pay well, but the most successful professionals continue their education after college graduation.
- Artificial intelligence means computer science is no longer an automatic ticket to job security.
- Generalist skills remain somewhat in demand, but employers increasingly seek specialized proficiencies.
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. However, the precise nature of its future impacts 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.
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Pros of Earning a Computer Science Degree
Cons of Earning a Computer Science Degree
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.
However, you can meet the challenges you will face 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. However, 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:
|Median salary, May 2022
|Information Technology Manager
|Information Research Scientist
|Computer Network Architect
|Cybersecurity or Information Security Engineer
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 December 2023, 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:
- How have graduates fared in the job market?
- Do the salaries they tend to earn indicate a positive return on investment (ROI)?
- Could you further improve your returns by specifically pursuing an affordable computer science degree?
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
Median Annual Wage for Computer Science Careers
Computer Network Architects:
All Computer and Information Technology Jobs:
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More Questions About Majoring in Computer Science
Are computer science majors in high demand?
In short, yes. The BLS notes that computer and information technology occupations are poised for overall growth that vastly outpaces average rates.
However, there's more 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.
Is computer science a good paying major?
A four-year computer science degree can lead to well-paid careers. BLS data from May 2022 cited $108,130 as the annual average salary for professionals in computer and mathematical occupations. December 2023 Payscale data lists $93,000 as the average annual salary of a professional with a computer science bachelor's degree.
Is the field of computer science oversaturated?
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.
Will computer scientists be replaced by AI?
Some roles, such as basic coding and programming, face threats from automation and AI. However, computer science jobs requiring more ingenuity, analytical prowess, and dynamic problem-solving appear safe in the near term.
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.
What is the most common job for a computer science major?
According to BLS data from May 2022, 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.