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What is Computer Science?

It’s difficult to identify a single description that wholly summarizes what a computer science professional is. This is largely due to the fact that companies and organizations of nearly every kind employ individuals with skills in this field, which means job requirements and expectations vary wildly. Responsibilities may also differ due to employer size, goals, and preferences.

Despite this, the majority of work performed by computer science professionals tends to revolve around designing innovative uses for new and existing technology. Many also study and solve complex problems in computing.

However, most computer science professionals choose to specialize in one of the following areas:

  • Computer Programming
  • Hardware Engineering
  • Software Developing
  • Systems Management
  • Web Development
  • Database Administration
  • Network Administration
  • Information Research
  • Video Game Development

The largest employers for this field are computer systems design service companies, educational institutions, and the federal government but jobs are available in almost every industry. Work settings can also vary, from small offices to large research centers. Prospective professionals should know that some positions require moving between multiple locations and/or coordinating with other specialists from around the world. Most computer and information research specialists work full-time, but employers may extend hours when problems arise.

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Computer Science Education in Alabama

Are you considering enrolling in a computer science degree program in Hawaii? If you are interested in pursuing a career in this field, it’s important to obtain the appropriate education. Computer science degrees generally cover several key topics including programming languages, mathematics, and database design. Knowledge in these areas is often valuable and can lead to a wide variety of jobs in software design, networking, and information technology security. Students also have opportunities to explore and develop a range of other important skills such as analytics, math, communication, logical thinking, and problem-solving. While a strong educational foundation in the field is a promising start, extensive training and practice with various concepts and systems is necessary. Experts in the field are, however, often seen as valuable assets in most workplaces.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in computer and information technology occupations is expected to increase by 11% from 2019 to 2029. This is faster than the average of all occupations, making it a solid choice for those who expect to join the workforce in the coming years. Most of the growth is likely to result from a continued and increasing emphasis on cloud computing and information security. Additionally, more experts will be needed to manage the collection and storage of big data.

While information collection and data storage are not among the top ten highest ranked industries in Hawaii, almost every company and organization depends on computer science professionals to some extent. With the right qualifications, knowledge, and skills, individuals in this field can find work in nearly any setting. Notably, the state’s top industries relate to tourism and real estate, entertainment, accommodation, business services, education, and healthcare. All of these rely on computer science and technology to be successful.

Hawaii is a small state but, based on information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and mathematical occupations accounted for 10,920 jobs in May 2020. Comparatively, this is significantly more than many other larger states in the country. The annual mean wage for local professionals in this field was $83,870. Again, this is quite competitive, considering some states’ annual mean wages for computer and mathematical occupations was as low as $67,000. Notably, Hawaii workers in this sector do seem to earn more than the national median wage of $41,950 as reported for all occupations.

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Computer science degrees are available throughout the nation. While it’s easier than ever to enroll in online programs, prospective students who plan to seek employment in Hawaii should strongly consider enrolling in a local institution if they offer the degree they are interested in. Many colleges and universities in the state offer degree programs in computer science and other related subjects. Choosing one of these schools can be beneficial, as they likely already have established relationships with nearby employers and are more familiar with the state’s standards for professionals in the field.

A degree in science can lead to a wide variety of careers. Some of the most prominent options include work in data science, cyber security, artificial intelligence, software engineering, and information technology (IT) management. In most cases, aspiring professionals in these areas will need some level of post-secondary education.

Because the computer science field is competitive, it’s imperative that you earn the right degree prior to applying for employment. The most successful professionals begin by enrolling in bachelor’s degree programs, but viable options exist at every academic level, from associate degrees to doctorates. The degree and qualifications you choose to pursue should be based on your ultimate career goals.

Associate Degree in Computer Science (AS)

Individuals seeking entry-level employment in technology positions may consider enrolling in computer science associate degree programs. While most employers give preference to, or require candidates with, bachelor’s degrees, there are some positions in computer support and web design available to graduates at this level.

Earning an associate degree in computer science can also lead to additional academic opportunities as they can prepare students for enrollment in further education. The major specific and general course credits earned at the associate’s level from accredited institutions can be transferred to four-year colleges and universities. Opting to take classes at a community college first can save you money as larger schools tend to have higher tuition rates.

Most associate degree programs in computer science consist of around 60 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately two years to complete. Every program is different, but most curriculums focus instruction on the development of object-oriented programing skills and seek to enhance student abilities in problem-solving and communication.

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science (BS)

Most prospective professionals in this field choose to pursue bachelor’s degrees in computer science because it is the standard minimum requirement for many jobs in the field. In addition to entry-level positions in computer support and web design, graduates are often qualified to apply for work as computer programmers, information security analysts, software developers, and computer system administrators.

The majority of bachelor’s degrees in computer science consist of around 120 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately four years to complete. Program design varies, but students can generally expect to learn about a number of key topics in the field such as computer science theory, computer systems, and applications. Many colleges and universities also allow enrollees to select concentrations or specialties. Concentrations provide students with a means of directing further study. Some common specialty areas include software engineering, network and security, and game development.

It’s important to note that bachelor’s degrees in computer science may not be sufficient for some mid and high-level employment opportunities. Management positions, in particular, tend to require additional education and training. Bachelor’s degree graduates will have the option of enrolling in master’s degree programs as long as they meet graduate school grade point average (GPA) and GRE requirements.

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

Those seeking entry-level employment are unlikely to need master’s degrees in computer science. This level of education is most often required for mid-to-upper-level computer and information technology positions, such as computer and information research scientists. There are many benefits to earning this degree, including being more competitive in the job market and making more money.

Degrees of this type are generally designed to provide specialized training that builds upon the fundamental knowledge gained during undergraduate study. Programs can be either practical or research-based in nature, with many practice-oriented options focusing on both advanced computer science and business administration concepts. Examples include 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. Those enrolled will cover undergraduate topics in more depth and may be given opportunities to select concentrations. Some of the most common offerings include software theory and engineering, artificial intelligence, security, systems, and data science, and analytics.

PhD Degree in Computer Science (PhD)

Most computer science professionals will not need a doctoral degree. This level of education is best suited for individuals seeking jobs in advanced education and/or research. Prospective professors in the field will need a doctorate in order to find employment with accredited, four-year, public institutions. The only other employers that may requirement doctoral degrees in computer science are private sector research facilities.

Doctoral degree programs can vary drastically, but most take approximately six or seven years to complete. This includes three years of coursework related to the field, as well as time to complete a dissertation in which students must conduct their own research and present their findings in written form.

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Become a CIS Professional in Alabama

If you want to become a computer science professional in Hawaii, the first step is determining your ultimate career goals. As previously mentioned, a computer science degree can lead to a wide variety of employment opportunities. This means that it’s important to identify the type of work you are most interested in from the start. Knowing your specific objectives will make it easier to select the most applicable degree type. By acknowledging your aspirations now, you can take steps to ensure you enroll in a program that will provide the knowledge, skills, and training necessary to be successful in the future.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with enrolling in a computer science degree prior to establishing a solid career plan. Most colleges and universities make it easy to change tracks if you change your mind. Additionally, many institutions do not ask students to select concentrations until most general education and basic technology course requirements have been met. It’s also relatively simple to switch paths if you decide another specialty area is of greater interest because many specializations tend to overlap somewhat.

Once you have earned the necessary degrees, you may benefit from obtaining one or more professional credentials. While it’s rarely necessary to pursue licensure specific to computer science, there are many different certifications that can prove helpful as you advance your career. Options include both vendor-specific and vendor-neutral credentials, making it easy to tailor your knowledge to suit current and potential employment opportunities. Additionally, earning certifications can lead to increased salary potential and employment security.

Many technology companies, professional associations, and certification boards offer certifications related to this field.

Some common options 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

Obtaining one or more of the above-mentioned credentials is also likely to make you more competitive in the job market. Keep in mind that, while a general certification or licensure is not required, some employers do expect job candidates to possess specific credentials. Ensure you are prepared by reviewing position postings thoroughly prior to submitting applications.

As part of many certifications, you will be required to pursue continuing education opportunities. This is particularly relevant for computer science professionals as the field is constantly changing. The best places to earn continuing education credits is by participating in free online courses offered by corporations, seminars provided at conventions, and academic courses provided by academic institutions.

Careers for Computer Science Graduates

After earning a computer science degree in Hawaii and completing any optional certification programs, you may be qualified to apply for a wide variety of employment opportunities.

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

  • Software Tester
  • Systems Analyst
  • Business Analyst
  • Technical Support Specialist / IT Support Specialist
  • Cyber Security Analyst
  • Technology Director
  • UI Developer
  • Application Developer
  • IT Project Manager
  • Senior Database Administrator
  • Security Analyst
  • Data Scientist
  • Big Data Analyst
  • Web Designer and Developer
  • Network Architect
  • Software Designer
  • Software Engineer
  • Full Stack Software Developer
  • Network Analyst (WAN/LAN/etc.)
  • Cyber Security Consultant
  • Computer Science Professor
  • Data Scientist
    Data scientists gather and analyze large sets of data for the companies and organizations they work for. These professionals must often utilize computer science, statistics, and mathematics to analyze, process, model, and interpret data in order to create viable action plans for their employers. They also recommend cost-effective changes to existing procedures and advise management about potential issues, as well as assist in solving problems. According to PayScale, data scientists make an average base salary of $96,550 per year.
  • Web Developer
    Web developers create websites for their employers. These professionals are typically responsible for writing code in order to produce web pages and easily accessible databases. They also test and modify new software before incorporating it into company or organization websites. According to PayScale, web developers make an average base salary of $60,100 per year.
  • Network Architect
    Network architects design and manage networks for the companies and organizations they work for. These professionals assess system integrity, monitor progress, and escalate issues to administrators or supervisors in an effort to ensure that network implementation is completed successfully. They may also initiate the use of new technologies and monitor their performance. According to PayScale, network architects make an average base salary of $121,200 per year.

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  • Software Designer
    Software designers design new computer software for the companies and organizations they work for. These professionals often work with other programmers and testers to ensure proper software development and usefulness. They also serve as informative resources to people utilizing the software by answering questions and developing reference guides detailing what it does and how it works. According to PayScale, software designers make an average base salary of $77,750 per year.
  • Network Analyst
    Network analysts ensure company and organization computer networks remain functional. These professionals frequently work with other technology experts, such as network engineers, in order to keep hardware, software, and peripherals working properly. They also coordinate various communication networks, evaluate new vendor products for potential purchase, and troubleshoot network-related issues. According to PayScale, network analysts make an average base salary of $60,200 per year.
  • Technical Support Specialist
    Technical support specialists respond to and identify technology issues, providing assistance and support. These professionals often work to improve the efficiency of programs currently in use and sometimes even write new programs to replace them. They also raise information, bugs, and feature requests to development teams and/or senior support specialists. According to PayScale, technical support specialists make an average base salary of $52,500 per year.
  • Cyber Security Analyst
    Cyber security analysts work to protect information technology infrastructures for the companies or organizations that employ them. These professionals may take direct steps to keep data secure or offer advisory services during consultations. They tend to spend a lot of time monitoring networks and systems in order to detect potential security threats, analyze alarms, and report intrusion attempts. According to PayScale, cyber security analysts make an average base salary of $76,650 per year.
  • Computer Science Professor
    Postsecondary and higher education professors who teach computer science courses develop and deliver relevant lectures to college-level students at academic institutions. These professionals possess a strong mastery over related content and often serve as experts in the field. They may also instruct students in research, data analysis, and reporting procedures. According to PayScale, postsecondary and higher education professors make an average base salary of $88,250 per year.

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