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What is Computer Science?

A computer science professional is a technology worker who can wear many hats. Computer scientists can work as software engineers, cryptographers, cyber security professionals, researchers, and more. Though the field is broad, the jobs are all typically highly technical. In fact, more and more opportunities are available for computer science professionals all the time.

In the daily life of a computer science professional, they are found working on computers, both with software and hardware. Very often, their chief concern is with writing original computer code, if not tweaking and debugging code. Those who work on software projects may also spend a good deal of time in meetings where they plan their work along with the whole software design team. Some work as consultants or independent contractors who create high tech solutions for their clients.

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Computer Science Education in Kansas

Kansas is a state that most associate with endless rows of corn or sunflowers. That heritage as an agricultural powerhouse is still part of the state's economy since the state is the nation's leading producer of wheat. However, interestingly, wheat is only 12% of the states total agricultural output. It's also not the only natural resource fueling the state's economy. Kansas is also a leader in mining, petroleum, and natural gas production.

While these industries don't necessarily sound high tech, each does rely on databases and networks to track supply chains and inventories, among other data points. After all, each farmer or miner must be able to keep track of their billing, expenses, payroll, and more. For these, computer science professionals, database management experts, and others must be available to create and protect the systems.

In response to the growing demand for high technology experts, Kansas' colleges and universities have created computer science and information technology programs that graduate the workers businesses rely on. From the community college level through to doctoral programs, students in Kansas can pursue their dreams of work as a computer programmer, software developer, or data scientist. They may even work on the next hot programming language or methods of encryption that ensure privacy for everyone.

Since Kansas is a rural state with few large cities, students may find that it's difficult to find a community college, much less a university, that is both nearby and offering the computer science education they desire. Luckily, community colleges and universities are developing online computer science degree programs so that students don't have to travel for school. Thus, a hardworking student can remain at home and perhaps even still help on the family farm while also attending a remote college or university where they are able to complete a bachelor’s computer science degree.

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Whether students are able to attend traditional classes or not, Kansas is able to support computer science students at every level. They can begin with a certificate in computer programming, an associate computer science degree, or even a doctorate that pushes them to the top of the computer science universe. Kansas' educational support is there for every student and thus every business who needs cutting edge technology solutions to help them thrive in the 21st century.

Associate Degree in Computer Science (AS)

A terrific way to kick off a career in technology is by earning an associate computer science degree from a local community college. CS degrees take approximately two years to complete, assuming a full-time schedule. They not only provide a terrific foundation in programming but require that students complete the core college curriculum which is both helpful in entry-level jobs and will help when applying to a four-year college at some later time.

While the computer science coursework required for an associate computer science degree isn't very deep, it's a great starting point. In fact, many students will build on their community college courses and will learn more languages via non-academic resources. After graduation, computer science students can complete non-credit certificates that will attest to successful completion and competency in specific languages or technologies. Those who decide to return for a bachelor’s computer science degree will also find that their total expenditures are far below those who skipped community colleges.

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science (BS)

Most employers these days list a bachelor’s computer science degree as a requirement for new employees. This is because, over the span of four years, students are exposed to the full range of topics covered under the computer science umbrella. They may have learned how to design databases, code in a variety of languages, and may even have a foundation in cyber security. On top of that, employers know that computer science majors have ample opportunities to expand with coursework in related fields such as philosophy, mathematics, and physics.

In fact, students who have a proclivity for computer science but wish to apply that knowledge and skill to a specific field can lay the groundwork in a bachelor’s computer science degree. For instance, they might branch out into finance so that they can work with Wall Street firms or design the next hot cryptocurrency. Some even apply their computing skill to fields such as public health, economics, and supply chain management.

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

Students who pursue a master’s computer science degree find that they enter a whole new realm of specialty and expertise. Some enter a general computer science graduate degree program where they continue from their undergraduate work but on a deeper and more focused level. These are typically master of science degree programs, but there are other options.

For instance, some take their computer science knowledge and apply it towards a field such as business. There are MBA programs that include a computer systems concentration. There are also dual-MBA programs where students can complete an MS in computer science alongside an MBA in as few as three years. Other students seek specialized supply chain management master’s degree programs that focus on the high-tech issues in that field. There are also alternate degree options in mathematics, geography, and data science. Finally, there are many master’s computer science degrees that are available as 100% online master’s degree programs.

PhD Degree in Computer Science (PhD)

While computer science professionals can do very well without a PhD, those who take this extra step are richly rewarded. After all, computer science is still a field that is evolving all the time. There is a very high demand for professionals who can undertake the sorts of research projects firms need to get ahead. For instance, high-velocity trading firms need experts who can devise the most clever, efficient algorithms to execute trades faster than the competition. Cyber security firms also need experts who can advance the field of cryptography and thus devise impenetrable security systems.

When selecting a PhD program, students should seek out faculty who are focused on areas that interest them. It can also be helpful to investigate programs who have graduated mentors and heroes. It's vital that one's doctorate program support the focus of its students with helpful coursework and dissertation support. After all, one's dissertation is bound to determine the focus of their professional life, so it's a must to find a program that is aligned with their students' focus areas.

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Become a CIS Professional in Kansas

There are many routes to become a computer science professional in Kansas. Since most educational institutions now have some sort of computer science offering, that is where most students will first turn for training. However, there are other options that may be as viable, though each option has its drawbacks.

Some of the more accessible routes to a career as a computer science professional are found on the internet. Curious young minds these days can find innumerable free or affordable educational resources that will provide an introduction to the world of programming and even game design. In fact, there is no age restriction placed on one of Harvard's introductory computer science courses. That course introduces the logic and fun of computer programming by having students create simple games.

Since these resources are readily available, as soon as a child is able to grasp the concepts, they can start programming and otherwise working with computer languages. In fact, some children as young as age twelve have launched into careers as software developers. Since the work can be done from home with little, if any, verbal correspondence, employers may not even be aware that their top programmer can't yet drive.

For those who stick to the traditional academic route, many high school students will find introductory computer courses in their course offerings. There are even charter high schools that are focused on STEM subjects, including computer science. For those in remote parts of Kansas, where such educational resources are not available in the local area, there are always online schools. Top universities offer free courses and there are also online certificate programs that are well respected in the industry. For instance, a student could earn a certificate in Python and study statistics through some other online outlet and then work in data science.

However, to ensure the most success, students will want to pursue traditional academic avenues. Even those who have no desire to study computer science in one of Kansas' top universities may need a degree in business to help them bring their hot new idea to market.

Careers for Computer Science Graduates

  • Software Tester
    Every software package needs someone to put it to use and determine if it's ready for the market. These professionals are often referred to as beta testers and may even include members of the general public. Software testers will not only make sure that the software works as intended but also that it is user friendly. A computer science professional who conducts these tests can report back to the development team in a language they will understand.

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  • Technical Support Specialist / IT Support Specialist
    Support professionals may be best known for telling users to clear their cache and reboot their computers, but there is a lot more to this profession. At the upper levels, support specialists must have a deep understanding of their product, such as server software. Technical support specialists often must be able to debug computer code and perhaps write new scripts in order to provide a satisfactory solution to their clients.
  • Cyber Security Analyst
    These information security professionals can work as outside consultants or in-house analysts who keep tabs on a cyber security system. Their duties include regular testing of the system to ensure that hackers are incapable of compromising the databases as well as conducting research into the latest tools of cyber-crime. Analysts may hire outside penetration testers to validate their cyber security system and they might help design new systems and protocols when needed.
  • Computer Science Professor
    Computer science professionals can teach at the college level with a minimum of a master’s degree. However, most will need a full PhD to attain the status of professor. With a doctorate, they can teach undergraduate and graduate students and even work with doctoral candidates. Some computer science professors augment their salary with outside consultant work.
  • UI Developer
    Every software development team needs someone to develop the user interface, or UI. This computer science professional will need to have strong coding skills on top of a keen eye for design. Not only does a UI need to look good, but it should be laid out in an intuitive way so that its reasonably easy for users to access.
  • IT Project Manager
    These technology professionals generally have a strong background in computer science. With that experience and knowledge, they are able to lead teams of IT professionals through a variety of projects. This work might include developing new software solutions for a client or adapting an existing software solution to meet specific hardware and end-user requirements. Project managers who work for consulting firms will need strong communication skills and will act as liaisons between their IT professionals and the client.
  • Senior Database Administrator
    Every company of any considerable size relies on its databases to get work done every day. Thus, companies need database administrators who can make sure the data is easy to access and that the right people have proper permissions to access that information. A background in cyber security will be helpful in this position, as will a MS in computer science.


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