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What is Computer Science?
Because companies and organizations of nearly every kind employ individuals with computer science skills, job descriptions can vary significantly. This is especially true for different industries. As a result, it can be somewhat difficult to identify exactly what a computer science professional is and exactly what your tasks will be once you get into the field. Job expectations and requirements can also depend on employer size, goals, and preferences.
While descriptions may differ, the majority of work performed by computer science professionals relates to designing innovative uses for new and existing technology. It’s also common for them to solve complex problems in computing. Additionally, many choose to specialize in a sub-field, which will further differentiate their daily responsibilities from others.
Common specialty areas include:
- Computer Programming
- Hardware Engineering
- Software Developing
- Systems Management
- Web Development
- Database Administration
- Network Administration
- Information Research
- Video Game Development
Computer science jobs are available in almost every industry, but the largest employers for this field are computer systems design service companies, educational institutions, and the federal government. Work settings can also vary from small offices to large research centers. Additionally, it’s important to realize that some positions require moving between multiple locations. Professionals may also need to coordinate with other technology specialists around the world.
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Computer Science Education in Indiana
Are you interested in pursuing a computer science career in Indiana? If so, the first step to success is obtaining the appropriate education, which likely means enrolling in a computer science degree program. Program specifics can vary, but most are designed to cover key topics in the field such as programming languages, mathematics, and database design. This type of knowledge can lead to a wide variety of employment opportunities, but it’s most valuable to software design, networking, and information technology security professions. Computer science majors also often explore and develop skills related to analytics, math, communication, logical thinking, and problem-solving.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in computer and information technology occupations is expected to increase by 13% from 2020 to 2030. This is faster than the average of all occupations and will account for approximately 667,600 new jobs in the field. Many of these projected job openings will be due to an increasing emphasis on cloud computing, the collection and storage of big data, and information security.
Computer science is not considered a top industry in Indiana, but information collection and data storage is an essential component of almost every company and organization in the state. Industries of every kind depend on computer science professionals to some extent, which means, with the right qualifications, knowledge, and skills, individuals in this field can find work in nearly any setting.
Based on information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and mathematical occupations accounted for 49,380 jobs in May 2020. This is about average for most states in the country. The annual mean wage for local professionals in this field was $78,650, which is well above the median annual wage of $41,950 for all occupations.
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While many colleges and universities offer online learning options, prospective computer science professionals who want to work in Indiana should strongly consider earning their degrees in state. Local institutions are more familiar with state guidelines and expectations. They also often have a better understanding of what nearby employers expect from computer science graduates in the state. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for schools to establish good relationships with top employers in the area, which can lead to better job prospects for alumni after graduation.
A degree in computer science can lead to a wide variety of careers. Most positions will require candidates to have some level of post-secondary education – associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate. Earning the right degree is imperative, as the field can be quite competitive. This is particularly true for prominent positions in data science, cyber security, artificial intelligence, software engineering, and information technology (IT) management. The program you select can have a huge impact on your future.
Associate Degree in Computer Science (AS)
Associate degree programs in computer science are a good option for those seeking entry-level employment in technology positions. While it’s important to realize that many employers give preference to or require candidates have bachelor’s degrees, there are still numerous computer support and web design positions available to graduates at this level.
Alternatively, associate degree graduates can choose to pursue additional academic opportunities, which can further prepare them for professional employment in the future. In these cases, students often transfer major specific and general course credits earned at a community college to a four-year institution. Doing this can save a lot of money, as community colleges tend to charge less per credit hour than traditional institutions.
Most associate degree programs in computer science consist of 60 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately two years to complete. Curriculums vary, but most schools strive to help students develop object-oriented programing skills that can be applied in many different settings. Instruction is also likely to enhance student abilities in communication and problem-solving.What are the Admission Requirements for a CS Associates
Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science (BS)
The majority of computer science professionals have bachelor’s degrees. For many employers, this is the standard minimum requirement expected of candidates in the field. Graduates often qualify for all entry-level positions, as well as employment as computer programmers, information security analysts, software developers, and computer system administrators.
The majority of bachelor’s degrees in computer science consist of 120 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately four years to complete. Every program is a little different, but prospective students can generally expect the curriculum to cover a large number of key topics in the field. Instruction is likely to be made up of some combination of computer science theory, computer systems, and computer applications courses. It’s also worth noting that many colleges and universities give students the option to select concentrations. Picking a specialty allows those enrolled to direct their future study and ensure that it correlates well with their ultimate career goals. Some of the most commonly available concentrations at this level include software engineering, network and security, and game development.
While bachelor’s degree graduates who majored in computer science will be qualified to apply for all entry-level and some mid-level employment opportunities, management positions are generally reserved for those with more education. Most master’s programs in computer science require candidates have bachelor’s degrees, maintained a minimum grade point average (GPA), and take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) general test.What are the Admission Requirements for a CS Bachelors
Master's Degree in Computer Science (MS or MC)
Master’s degrees in computer science are generally designed to provide specialized training that builds upon the fundamental knowledge gained during undergraduate study. They are often required for mid-to-upper level computer and information technology jobs, such as computer and information research scientist positions. In addition to qualifying for this type of employment, graduates often enjoy many other benefits, including being more competitive in the job market and earning higher salaries.
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. Curriculums can be either practical or research-based in nature, with many practice-oriented options focusing on both advanced computer science and business administration concepts. Coursework frequently covers undergraduate topics in greater depth. Additionally, as with the bachelor’s degrees, students may be given opportunities to select concentrations. Common specialties at this level include software theory and engineering, artificial intelligence, security, systems, and data science and analytics.What are the Admission Requirements for a CS Masters
PhD Degree in Computer Science (PhD)
Computer science professionals rarely need doctoral degree. Individuals seeking jobs in advanced education and/or research positions, however, are likely to need them. All accredited, four-year, public institutions require professors to have doctorate degrees. Private sector research facilities often have this requirement as well.
Doctoral degree programs can vary significantly from institution to institution, but most take students between six and seven years to complete. In most cases, students will spend the first three years working through classes before researching, writing, and defending a final dissertation.
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Become a Computer Science Professional in Indiana
If you want to become a computer science professional in Indiana, the first step is identifying your ultimate career goals. Because this type of degree can lead to a wide variety of employment opportunities in numerous industries, it’s important to identify the type of work that interests you most. Once you know your ultimate objective, it becomes much easier to select an applicable degree type. This ensures that you gain the knowledge, skills, and training necessary to be successful in your ideal position.
After earning the necessary degree(s), you may also want to consider obtaining additional professional credentials. While licensure is rarely required to find entry-level work in this field, acquiring one or more computer science certifications can be extremely beneficial. Not only do they offer you opportunities to explore other facets of technology and information, but they can significantly improve your job prospects and help further advance your career. 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. Options include both vendor-specific and vendor-neutral credentials, making it easy to tailor your knowledge to suit current and potential employment opportunities.
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
- Project Management Professional
It’s important to realize that, while certification and licensure is not generally required to be successful in the field, some employers do expect job candidates to possess specific credentials before hiring them. Others may allow you to gain the preferred and necessary credentials after you have been hired. Because expectations vary, you should always review position postings thoroughly prior to submitting applications.
Another factor to keep in mind is continuing education. Many certifications require further educational pursuits in order to remain familiar with current trends and maintain certifications. This is particularly relevant for computer science professionals, as the field is constantly changing. Continuing education credits can be acquired by participating in online courses offered by corporations, seminars provided at conventions, and academic courses provided by academic institutions. Some opportunities are free, while other options have associated fees.Computer Science Career Paths for Graduates
Careers for Computer Science Graduates
After earning a computer science degree in Indiana and obtaining any optional certifications, 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 the following.
- Data Scientist
Data scientists are responsible for analyzing, processing, modeling, and interpreting data in order to create viable action plans for the companies and organizations they work for. In order to gather and assess large sets of data, these professionals often utilize computer science, statistics, and mathematics. As good problem solvers, employers frequently depend on them to recommend cost-effective changes to existing procedures. According to PayScale, data scientists make an average base salary of $96,550 per year.
- Web Developer
Web developers are responsible for creating web pages and websites for the companies and organizations that employ them. These professionals know how to write code and take steps to ensure materials are maintained in easily accessible databases. According to PayScale, web developers make an average base salary of $60,100 per year.
- Network Architect
Network architects design and maintain networks used by their companies. They ensure that network implementations are successful by assessing system integrity, monitoring progress, and escalating issues to administrators or supervisors. These professionals 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.
- Software Designer
Software designers are responsible for creating new computer software. To achieve proper software development, they often work with other programmers and testers. These professionals also serve as informative resources to people utilizing the software by answering questions and providing training. They often develop reference guides detailing what software does and how it works. According to PayScale, software designers make an average base salary of $77,750 per year.
- Technical Support Specialist
Technical support specialists are responsible for responding to and identifying technology issues and providing assistance. This is often an entry-level position. These professionals 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 are responsible for protecting information technology infrastructures. They do this by taking steps to keep data secure and/or offering advisory services during consultations. These professionals 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 are responsible for developing and delivering relevant lectures to college-level students at academic institutions. They often possess a strong mastery over related content and serve as experts in the field. These professionals 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.