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What is Computer Science?

Computer science as a major involves the study of programming languages, mathematics, and database design. It’s a popular degree choice throughout the world and offers graduates opportunities to pursue careers in a wide variety of areas including software design, networking, and information technology security. Students also get to explore and develop a range of important skills such as analytics, math, communication, logical thinking, and problem-solving. These are crucial and valuable attributes in any workplace, making computer science graduates a valuable asset in most settings.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in computer and information technology occupations is expected to increase by 11% from 2019 to 2029, with makes job outlook quite competitive in relation to many other professions. This growth is projected to be due mostly to society placing a greater emphasis on cloud computing and information security, as well as the collection and storage of big data.

Computer and mathematical occupations are considered a major employment group in Arizona. This one sector accounted for 100,770 jobs in the state in 2020. The annual mean wage for local professionals in this field was $87,030, which is significantly higher than the national median. Additionally, the mean wage for computer and information research scientists in Arizona was $116,670 in 2020. Sierra Vista – Douglas is one of the metropolitan areas with the highest concentration of jobs for this field.

With numerous industries in need of computer science specialists throughout the state, students will have little trouble finding notable academic programs. Online degrees make it possible to attend colleges and universities across the nation, but enrolling in a local program is particularly beneficial for individuals planning to pursue employment in Arizona after graduation. This is because local colleges and universities tend to offer the most relevant education based on their locations. These institutions are also most familiar with what prospective employers expect from graduates in the area.

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Computer Science Education in Arizona

Earning a degree in computer science can prepare you for a wide range of employment opportunities and the skills acquired are typically in high demand. Because companies and organizations of all kinds depend on and utilize the expertise of technology professionals, graduates can work in nearly any private industry.

Some of the most prominent industries include:

  • Computer Programmer
  • Hardware Engineer
  • Software Developer
  • Systems Manager
  • Web Developer
  • Software Engineer
  • Database Administrator
  • IT Architect
  • Network Administrator
  • Systems Analyst
  • Information Researcher
  • Video Game Developer
  • Health Information Technician
  • Data Scientist
  • Web Designer

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Job title and employer preference will greatly impact the required daily tasks and responsibilities of a computer science professional. Industry type and size are the two factors that are likely to influence positions the most. Most work revolves around designing innovative uses for new and existing technology, as well as studying and solving complex problems in computing.

The largest employers of computer and information research scientists include computer systems design and services companies, research and development companies, software publishers, and academic institutions. The number one employer for this field in recent years, however, was the federal government.

Professionals in this field can work in a number of different settings. They often coordinate projects with other specialists around the world, which requires collaborating via online methods. Most computer and information research specialists work full-time.

Computer science covers a wide range of career pathways, chief among them being data science, cyber security, artificial intelligence, software engineering, and information technology (IT) management. Ideally, aspiring professionals will know what kind of job they hope to attain prior to enrolling in an academic program. Identifying a preferred career pathway makes selecting the most appropriate degree option easier.

The computer science field is competitive, which makes earning the right degree extremely important. While most positions require candidates to have bachelor’s or master’s degrees, prospective students can choose from programs at every level, from associate degrees to doctorates. Basing your program selection on academic and career goals ensures you graduate with the necessary qualifications to pursue your ideal career.

Associate Degree in Computer Science (AS)

An associate degree in computer science is generally enough to qualify candidates for a limited number of basic, entry-level roles in the field. This includes jobs such as computer support specialist and web developer. It’s important to note, however, that most employers expect candidates to have, at minimum, bachelor’s degrees.

The majority of associate degree programs in computer science focus on helping students develop object-oriented programing skills to enhance problem-solving and communication. They usually consist of 60 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately two years to complete.

While it’s possible to find entry-level employment after graduating with an associate degree in computer science, many students use this type of program to explore the field before committing to a bachelor’s degree. As long as you attend an accredited college or university, credits earned can be transferred to another program or school. Individuals with an associate degree can use their previously earned credit hours to drastically shorten the time it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree, often cutting the time commitment in half.

What are the Admission Requirements for a CS Associates

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science (BS)

Most computer science employers expect to hire job applicants who have bachelor’s degrees. Graduates can expect to find employment as computer programmers, information security analysts, software developers, and computer system administrators. It’s worth noting, however, that candidates are likely to compete for jobs against individuals with master’s degrees. While sufficient to gain employment, further education may be necessary to qualify for certain high-level positions, such as supervisory roles.

Every college and university is different, but most bachelor’s degree programs in computer science are designed to teach students about key topics in the field. These often include computer science theory, computer systems, and applications. Many programs also provide the opportunity to select a concentration, or specialty, such as software engineering, network and security, or game development.

Most bachelor degree programs in computer science consist of 120 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately four years to complete.

The most accessible employment opportunities available after graduation include:

  • Computer and Information Systems Manager
  • Computer Hardware Engineer
  • Computer Programmer
  • Computer Network Architect
  • Computer and Information Research Scientist

Graduates may choose to enroll in master’s and/or doctoral degrees to improve their job prospects. Those with higher-level degrees tend to make more money and are often preferred by employers.

What are the Admission Requirements for a CS Bachelors

Master's Degree in Computer Science (MS or MC)

There are many computer and information technology occupations that require candidates to have a master’s degree, such as computer and information research scientists. Graduates with this level of education generally are more competitive in the job market, earn higher salaries, and are assigned greater responsibilities at work.

Graduate programs are generally designed to provide specialized training to individuals who have already attained a strong fundamental knowledge in the field. Students may be given an option to choose between practical or research-based curriculums. Programs that are practice-oriented tend to focus on advanced computer science and business administration concepts, such as quality management and budgeting.

Most master’s degree programs in computer science consist of 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately two years to complete. As with the bachelor’s degree, students may be given opportunities to choose a concentration. Common options include software theory and engineering, artificial intelligence, security, systems, and data science and analytics.

Depending on the specialty selected, there are many employment opportunities available to graduate, such as:

  • Computer Network Architect
  • Database Administrator
  • Software Developer
  • Systems Analyst
  • Computer Hardware Engineer
What are the Admission Requirements for a CS Masters

PhD Degree in Computer Science (PhD)

A doctorate in computer science is not required for most entry and mid-level employment opportunities in this field. This type of degree is best suited for individuals seeking jobs in advanced education or research. Most colleges and universities in Arizona require professors to have a doctorate. It’s also not uncommon for private sector employers in research to require candidates have a doctoral degree. Positions at this level tend to be quite lucrative.

While every doctoral degree program is different, many take approximately six or seven years to complete. This includes about three years of coursework, as well as a dissertation in which students must perform research and present their findings.

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Top College Programs in Arizona for Computer Science

  • Arizona State University
  • University of Arizona
  • Northern Arizona University
  • University of Advancing Technology
  • Grand Canyon University

Become a Computer Science Professional in Arizona

If you want to become a computer science professional in Arizona, the first step is determining your career goals. Computer science is a broad field with many different employment opportunities available. Identifying specific objectives will help you determine what type of degree is necessary and will direct your search for an appropriate academic program. Taking time now to establish your ultimate career aspirations ensures you will gain the necessary knowledge, skills, and training to be successful in the future.

If you are unsure what area of computer science you would like to pursue, you can still begin working towards a degree. Because this field has many facets that overlap, it’s relatively easy to switch career paths along the way. In this case, it’s often recommended to take standard core courses first.

As previously mentioned, many colleges and universities offer students the opportunity to select a concentration as part of their degree programs. Doing this will tailor a number of classes to a specific subsection of the field. Make sure your selection aligns with your ultimate academic and career goals.

While licensure is rarely required for computer science professionals, once you have obtained the necessary degree(s), you can also choose to pursue various certifications, which can e very helpful for your career. There are two primary types of certifications available: vendor-specific and vendor-neutral. Several are offered by technology companies, while others are managed by associations and certification boards within the field. There are numerous options to choose from, so you will need to select the ones most relevant to your chosen discipline.

Some common certifications for computer science professionals include:

  • Certified Information Security Manager
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer
  • Project Management Professional
  • Certified Information System Security Professional
  • Project Management Professional

There is no single standard certification for computer science professionals in Arizona, but it’s not uncommon for employers to require candidates possess a specific credential. Always review job postings carefully prior to applying. Earning one or more certifications can be extremely beneficial, often improving your job and salary potential, as well as making you more competitive within hiring pools.

The world of technology is constantly changing, making continuing education an important part of a computer science professional’s career. While some certifications require a certain type or amount of continuing education, many opportunities are voluntary. From free online courses offered by corporations to degree programs offered by academic institutions, there are many resources available to help professionals remain updated on the most current technologies and trends.

Computer Science Career Paths for Graduates

Careers for Computer Science Graduates

After earning a computer science degree and completing any optional certification programs, there are a wide variety of positions you may be qualified to apply for. From entry-level employment to advanced management positions, jobs are available in Arizona.

While salaries and responsibilities vary, some of the most common career options include:

  • Data Scientist / Big Data Analyst
  • Web Developer
  • Network Architect
  • Software Designer / Engineer
  • Network Analyst
  • Security Consultant
  • Computer Science Professor
  • Data Scientist
    Data scientists are responsible for gathering and analyzing large sets of data for the company or organization they work for. These professionals use computer science, statistics, and mathematics to analyze, process, model, and interpret data in order to create viable action plans. They often help solve business problems and communicate prediction to stakeholders, as well as recommend cost-effective changes to existing procedures. According to PayScale, data scientists make an average base salary of $96,559 per year.

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  • Web Developer
    Web developers are responsible for building websites for their employers. These professionals regularly write, modify, and debut software, as well as write code to create web pages and access databases. They may also test new software before incorporating it into company or organization websites. According to PayScale, web developers make an average base salary of $60,117 per year.
  • Network Architect
    Network architects are responsible for designing and managing network requirements and capabilities for companies and organizations. These professionals ensure optimal network implementation by assessing system integrity, monitoring progress, and escalating issues to administrators or supervisors. They may also implement new technologies and monitor their performance. According to PayScale, network architects make an average base salary of $121,224 per year.
  • Software Designer
    Software designers are responsible for designing new software for companies and organizations. To ensure proper development and usefulness, these professionals often work with other programmers and testers. They also serve as an informative resource, answering questions about the software as they arise. It’s also their responsibility to create documentation specifying what the software does and how it works. According to PayScale, software designers make an average base salary of $77,761 per year.
  • Network Analyst
    Network analysts are responsible for maintaining computer network systems for the companies or organizations they work for. These professionals work closely with network engineers and other computer experts to keep hardware, software, and peripherals functioning properly. They also coordinate various communication networks, troubleshoot network-related issues, and evaluate new vendor products for potential purchase. According to PayScale, network analysts make an average base salary of $60,214 per year.
  • Computer Science Professor
    Postsecondary and higher education professors of computer science are responsible for lecturing and teaching students in classrooms. These professionals also instruct students in research, data analysis, and reporting. They typically possess strong mastery over their content area and serve as an expert in the field. According to PayScale, postsecondary and higher education professors make an average base salary of $88,259 per year.

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