How to Become a Computer Scientist in Illinois?

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What is Computer Science?


The obvious career direction for a computer science professional is to work with computers. Many computer science professionals are programmers or analysts, which means they write the programs that the computers use to perform tasks that a business needs. However, there are many other things a computer science professional can do that does not include programming or coding.

Basically, a computer science professional is anyone that works on or with a computer to solve a task, create a solution, or basically helps a business function. most computer science professionals work in additional office setting, but there are times when these professionals will have to go on site to other businesses to help them with their needs. This is especially true if the computer science professional also works in information technology or networking.


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Computer Science Education in Illinois


If you live in Illinois, computers are of an interest to you, and you're looking for new career opportunities, then a computer science degree could be the answer you're seeking. Although the city of Chicago is losing population, the rest of the state is maintaining its population of roughly 13 million. Out of those millions of people, roughly 150,000 people work in the computer science industry, of which 7,000 are computer programmers.

The average salary for those working in the computer science industry in the state of Illinois is $100,000. This salary is achieved after several years of work experience and a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. In the case of those who work in information technology, they have achieved several certifications. However, that does not mean that someone with only a two-year degree cannot make a decent salary in the industry, it depends on the company and what the company needs. When it comes to computer science in Illinois, there is good news and bad news. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for computer programmers has decreased due to global competition. Many companies find it more cost-effective to hire companies from other parts of the world to provide certain computer science needs. However, the overall need for people in the computer science field is expected to increase over the next 10 years, mainly because not everything can be outsourced. So, if you're thinking that you would like to work with computers in some aspect, then this is a good time to jump into the field.

Below, you will find information regarding how to get into the computer science field including education, directions, and types of careers in the computer science industry. This is far from the exhaustive list, but it should give you an idea as to whether or not you want to pursue this path and if you choose to what to expect while you're on your journey.

As with many industries, there are several levels of education a person can achieve. Although it’s possible to achieve some success without any formal education, attaining a degree can only help you succeed. The more education you have, the further you can expect your career to go. Below are examples of degree levels a person can achieve, the courses they might expect to take, and how long each program takes to complete.

Associate Degree in Computer Science (AS)

With an associate degree in computer science, you should be able to attain entry-level positions in computer science. Depending on your area of expertise, you could even find management opportunities. Students who study computer science at the two-year degree level will take basic computer programming classes and other classes generally focused on business.

Some of these classes include:

  • Computer Programming I & II
  • Computer Systems
  • Data Structures
  • General education and electives

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science (BS)

With a four-year degree in computer science, you can move into mid-management positions at many companies. This is also the degree level where you'll begin to qualify for certifications from organizations such as Cisco and Microsoft. And in some cases, depending on the state, you can also teach at the community college level.

This degree will often cover all of the general education courses that were included in an associate degree program, but additional computer science courses will be added in the areas of software, hardware, networking, an emerging technology. The program takes four years to complete, and some schools require an internship.

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

with a graduate degree in computer science, you will be able to move into upper-level management positions at most companies, corporations, and the government. You can also teach at the university level and qualify for the highest certifications available in your specialization. A graduate degree in computer programming is specialized, therefore the courses that you take in the program will be chosen by you and your advisor to match your specific needs. A graduate degree takes roughly two to three years to complete and either a comprehensive exam or a capstone project may be required to complete the program.

PhD Degree in Computer Science (PhD)

Those who choose to pursue a doctorate degree in computer science are either striving to enter academia and teach, or they are part of research and development teams at corporations. A graduate degree can take up to seven years to complete and requires a dissertation, which is a lengthy document on a particular topic that needs a solution. This document also must be defended. Once a student has successfully defended their dissertation, they will be awarded the doctorate degree.

Become a CIS Professional in Illinois


Although a degree is not necessarily a requirement for all computer science professions, some sort of training in your area of expertise is required. For example, for someone who wants to become a database administrator, they will at some point have to learn about databases and how they are formed and maintained. You want to ensure that the knowledge you receive is accurate and current, therefore choosing a school that is regionally accredited is an important step. Depending on your area, certain certifications may be required and, in most cases, you cannot receive the certifications without a formal education period so, again, although you can start your career in computer science without a degree, attaining a formal education is the best route if you plan to further your career past an entry level position.

The good news is that you don't necessarily have to get a graduate degree in computer science in order to start your career on the right path. An associate degree to start is enough to get you in the door but, as you progress, especially if you'd like to be in management, a higher degree will be required. And, if your goal is to teach others how to program, then a terminal degree such as a PhD will be a requirement. As your career progresses and you learn new skills, you'll be able to move up through the ranks of your career path. And as your responsibilities grow so will your salary.

One last note, although computer science careers can exist in any part of the state of Illinois, be prepared to work either in or just outside of Chicago if you want to pursue a career in the corporate room. If you're satisfied with working with smaller businesses or for yourself, anywhere in the state is an option.

Careers for Computer Science Graduates


There are many different career options for a person with a computer science degree. Below are just a few of the options a person with this kind of degree can pursue.

  • Software Tester
    After a piece of software has been created, the software tester loads up the program as if they were a new user. They are looking for not only flaws in the program, but how easy it is to use the software, and for places where the software can be improved. If the tester does find flaws in the software, the tester reports these to the programmers so that they can be corrected. Software testers work on a variety of programs, from computer games to business applications, so wherever your particular interests lie, you may be able to find a job as a software tester.
  • Technical Support Specialist / IT Support Specialist
    A network support specialist is in charge of ensuring that a business’s technology is functioning properly and providing the support needed to managers and employees alike. This specialist could work specifically in a certain area such as networking, software, or hardware, but in most businesses, they dabble in all three areas. The specialist is the one that is called when there are issues, so it helps to be an expert in all areas of computer and information technology. Specialists are also sometimes expert coders so they can fix issues on the fly in regard to software. They are familiar with computer hardware and can identify when a piece of hardware is failing and have the ability to replace that piece of software when necessary. As for networking, when there are network area errors the specialist has the know how to pinpoint the error and fix it.
  • Web Designer & Developer
    A web designer develops websites, blogs, and other digital media for a business. They are experienced in various web site creation codes, design layout, and some are also experienced web writers. They take a business’ overall concept and transfer it into a digital medium that reflects a business’ mission and desires. Web designers should be familiar with not only how to create web pages but also photo placement, how to create online stores, and set up blogs where a business can share information and interact with their customers. Some web developers are also computer programmers, but a computer programming degree is not required to work as a web designer. There are many types of software that can assist a person with completing this task, but the person needs to have a familiarity with the code used in the program in order to be successful.
  • Technology Director
    A technology director is placed in charge of the department that handles the technology for a business. They analyze the needs of the business and compare those needs to the trends and technology and attempt to match the two. They are required to make sure the business has the updated software it needs, any patches or fixes that are required, and generally takes care of all technology needs for the business. For example, the departments that maintain networking, software, and computer hardware all fall under the umbrella of the technology director. This person has to be up to date on the current technology and not be afraid to speak up when a business needs to do an update that might be costly but will overall improve the business in the end.

Other careers that a person with a computer science degree can pursue include:

  • Application Developer
  • Big Data Analyst
  • Business Analyst
  • Computer Science Professor
  • Cyber Security Analyst
  • Data Scientist
  • Full Stack Software Developer
  • IT Project Manager
  • Network Analyst (WAN/LAN/etc.)
  • Network Architect
  • Software Designer
  • Security Analyst
  • Security Consultant (cyber security)
  • Senior Database Administrator
  • Software Engineer
  • Systems Analyst
  • UI Developer

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