What Is Computer Science?

Read this guide to find out what computer science is, how to get started in computer science, and what jobs you can get as a computer science graduate.

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by Bethanny Parker

Published on March 15, 2022 · Updated on July 29, 2022

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What Is Computer Science?


What is computer science? Computer science is the study of computers and computing. It focuses mainly on software but includes hardware as well. The field of computer science includes data structures, algorithms, network design, information processes, and artificial intelligence.

Computer scientists use computers to solve complex problems such as how to safely navigate a vehicle without a driver or control a robot. They create new programming languages and software systems to help people effectively interact with computers.

What Is the Job Demand and Salary for Computer Science?

There are many different computer science jobs, from computer scientist to computer programmer to web developer. The job outlook for computer science careers varies quite a bit depending on which position you're looking at.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for computer programmers are projected to fall 10% from 2020-30. The projected decline is mainly due to U.S. companies hiring remote programmers from overseas. On the other end of the spectrum, the BLS projects that demand for information security analysts will increase by 33% from 2020-30.

In 2020, median salaries for computer science jobs ranged from $77,200 for web developers to $151,150 for computer and information systems managers.

What Careers Are There in Computer Science?

5 Popular Computer Science Jobs

Computer and Information Systems Managers

Computer and information systems managers plan and manage computer-based activities within an organization. They examine the company's technology needs and recommend upgrades as needed. Computer and information systems managers usually need to have a bachelor's in computer science or a related degree and five or more years of experience.

Median Salary
$151,150

Projected Job Growth
11% increase from 2020-2030

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Computer and information research scientists usually need a master's degree. They study computing problems and develop theories and models to help solve those problems. They decide what computer systems are needed, create new software systems and computer languages, and conduct experiments in computer science.

Median Salary
$126,830

Projected Job Growth
22% increase from 2020-2030

Computer Network Architects

Computer network architects generally need a bachelor's degree and at least five years of experience in a related job. They create network plans and present them to management for approval. They upgrade routers, network drivers, and other network hardware and software as needed. They also research new network technologies and decide when to upgrade.

Median Salary
$116,780

Projected Job Growth
5% increase from 2020-2030

Software Developers

Software developers create computer applications that perform specific tasks and the operating systems that run those applications. They plan out software and draw diagrams that computer programmers follow when writing the code. Most software development jobs require a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related discipline.

Median Salary
$110,140

Projected Job Growth
22% increase from 2020-2030

Information Security Analysts

Information security analysts plan and implement security measures to keep the organization's computers safe from hackers and other threats. They watch for security breaches and, when one occurs, try to find the source of the breach. They install data encryption programs, firewalls, and other security measures to protect the system. Information security analysts typically need a bachelor's degree and 1-4 years of experience.

Median Salary
$103,590

Projected Job Growth
33% increase from 2020-2030

How Do I Get into Computer Science?

Many computer science careers require a bachelor's degree in computer science, computer programming, information technology, or another related field. However, sometimes you can get an entry-level computer science job by gaining the necessary skills in another way, such as by attending a coding bootcamp or taking online courses.

Computer science careers require computer and technology skills such as data analysis, software development, technical writing, and mathematics. They also require soft skills such as communication, creativity, troubleshooting, and teamwork. Computer science programs teach technical skills, but soft skills are harder to teach.

IT certifications such as CompTIA A+, Cisco certified network associate (CCNA), Microsoft certifications, and Amazon Web Services cloud practitioner can give you an edge when applying for certain jobs. CompTIA certification may be required when applying for a job in network security, for example. Many bootcamps and degree programs prepare students for the tests required to earn these certifications.

Bootcamp programs typically take only a few months to complete and cost much less than a four-year college degree. You can take bootcamps in web development, software development, data science, UX/UI design, or even artificial intelligence. These programs give you the skills you need to qualify for an entry-level job in computer science. Keep in mind, however, that you may need a computer science degree to move further up the career ladder.

How Long Does It Take to Get Into Computer Science?

Getting started in a computer science career can take anywhere from a few months to six years, depending on your education level when applying to computer science jobs. You may be able to land an entry-level job after taking a bootcamp, which usually takes three to six months.

If you decide to pursue a computer science degree, it will take about four years to earn a bachelor's degree or six years for a bachelor's and master's. Many colleges and universities have alumni associations that host networking events, which can help you improve your job prospects by making contacts in the industry.

The Future of Computer Science

Artificial Intelligence

One of the biggest trends in computer science today is artificial intelligence (AI). AI revolves around making computers copy human thought processes. As AI increases in popularity, more jobs will be available for AI professionals. These professionals develop the technology to help computers identify infectious disease outbreaks, detect credit card fraud, or drive cars.

Edge Computing

Edge computing is a type of computer science that focuses on keeping data processing as close to the user as possible. Unlike cloud computing, which stores data far from the user, edge computing keeps it close to minimize the time needed for the system to access the data. Edge computing specialists work in many industries, especially telecommunications, oil and gas, and security.

Quantum Computing

Unlike regular computing, which uses bits as the basic unit for measuring data, quantum computing uses quantum bits, also called qubits. Using such small units allows quantum computers to run calculations much more quickly. Jobs like quantum computer architect and quantum software developer will likely become more common in the future as the quantum computing industry evolves.

Robotics

Robotics professionals develop robots that make life easier for humans. This field combines mechanical and electrical engineering with computer science and artificial intelligence. People use robots to improve efficiency in manufacturing, perform complex surgeries, and defuse bombs. Jobs in robotics include robotics engineer, data scientist, algorithm engineer, and robotics research scientist.

Is Computer Science Right For Me?

If you are a creative person with good communication skills who does not easily get frustrated when things don't work right on the first try, you might have the right personality for a computer science career.

One way to determine whether computer science is right for you is to take a few coding classes and see if you enjoy it. Pick a programming language that aligns with your goals: For example, if you're interested in web development, learn Python. Choosing something you're interested in will help you stay motivated.

There are plenty of free coding classes online through course providers such as Coursera and EdX. You can take one of these self-paced courses to gauge your interest in continuing your computer science education.

If you decide to take a computer science program, you may need to complete an internship or co-op as part of the program. This will provide an immersive experience that will give you a very good idea of what working a computer science job can be like.

Frequently Asked Questions About Computer Science Careers

What are the highest paying jobs in computer science?

The highest-paying jobs in computer science include computer and information systems managers, who earned a median salary of $151,150 in 2020. The same year, computer and information research scientists earned a median salary of $126,830, and computer network architects earned $116,780.

Computer and information research scientists generally need a master's degree. In contrast, computer and information systems managers and computer network architects typically need a bachelor's degree and about five years of computer science experience.

What is the difference between computer science and computer engineering?

The main difference between computer science and computer engineering is that computer engineering focuses on the hardware used to build a computer, while computer science focuses on software, algorithms, and data.

Computer engineering majors typically take courses in digital signal processing, calculus-based physics, and microelectronics. Computer science majors, on the other hand, take courses in database design, data structures, and problem-solving. Both computer science and computer engineering majors need to learn computer programming skills.

Is computer science a good career?

Computer science is a great career for people who enjoy a challenge and who are willing to continuously learn new things. Computer programming provides many opportunities for problem-solving and troubleshooting. It can be very fulfilling to find the solution to a problem after trying for many hours.

Computer science careers also pay well, with median salaries starting at $77,200 for web developers and going up to $151,150 per year for computer and information systems managers. Computer science is a good career for someone who wants plenty of opportunities to move up to a better-paying job.

What can I do with a computer science degree?

An individual with a computer science degree may qualify for roles such as web developer, network and computer systems administrator, computer programmer, computer systems analyst, and database administrator. With a bachelor's degree and a few years of work experience, they may qualify to work as an information security analyst, computer network architect, or computer and information systems manager.

Computer and information research scientists typically need a master's degree. They work with engineers and scientists to solve complex computing problems.

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