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What is Computer Science?

Most employment opportunities related to computer science require candidates require some level of post-secondary education. While the majority of entry-level employers expect applicants to have bachelor’s degrees, prospective students can choose from degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. As the field is quite competitive, it’s imperative that you earn the right kind of education. This is particularly true for prominent positions in data science, cyber security, artificial intelligence, software engineering, and information technology (IT) management.

Many computer science professionals choose to specialize in a sub-field. Doing this further differentiates their duties from other professions in the field.

Some of the most common concentration areas offered by colleges and universities include:

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

While computer science positions can be found in almost every industry, the largest employers for this field are computer systems design service companies, educational institutions, and the federal government. Work settings also vary, with some professionals working from small offices to and others in large research centers. Some jobs even require their information technology employees to move between multiple locations throughout the day or week.

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Computer Science Education in Louisiana

Are you considering enrollment in a computer science degree program in Louisiana? While many colleges and universities offer online learning options, those who hope to have computer science careers in Louisiana should strongly consider earning their degrees in-state. Not only will local institutions be more familiar with state guidelines and expectations, but they also tend to understand nearby employer expectations better. This means computer science graduates will be as prepared as possible when applying for jobs in Louisiana. Additionally, many institutions develop relationships with top employers in their regions to ensure that students and graduates have more internship and employment opportunities.

Every college and university designs their computer science programs differently but most are meant to provide students with a broad introduction to the field. Curriculums vary, but some common topics most frequently covered include programming languages, mathematics, and database design. Instructors also help computer science majors explore and develop skills in analytics, communication, logical thinking, and problem-solving. While graduates are often qualified for a wide variety of jobs, this type of degree is typically most appealing to software design, networking, and information technology security professions.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in computer and information technology occupations is expected to increase by 13% from 2020 to 2020. This is faster than the average of all occupations and will account for approximately 667,600 new jobs in the field. Employment for computer and information technology professionals is closely tied the collection and storage of big data, information security, and cloud computing, which are all in high demand.

Computer science and information technology are not considered top industries in Louisiana, but employment opportunities for professionals in this field still exist. Based on information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and mathematical occupations accounted for 20,000 jobs in the state in May 2020. This is because information collection and data storage are essential components of almost every company and organization. Most industries depend on computer science professionals to some extent, making it relatively easy for those with the right qualifications, knowledge, and skills to find work in various settings. 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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Computer science degree graduates often have a wide variety of employment opportunities available to them. This is largely because companies and organizations of nearly every kind employ individuals who are skilled with and knowledgeable about information technology. However, this does make it tricky to identify exactly what these professionals do on a daily basis. Responsibilities generally differ depending on industry, as well as employer size, mission, and expectations. In general, however, computer science professionals perform work related to designing innovative uses for new and existing technology. They may also help solve complex problems in computing.

Associate Degree in Computer Science (AS)

Associate degree programs in computer science typically consist of 60 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately two years to complete. Curriculums vary, but most are designed to help develop object-oriented programing skills that can be applied in many different settings. Students can also expect to receive instruction intended to improve communication and problem-solving skills.

This type of degree is usually intended for those seeking entry-level employment in technology positions. While employers are likely to give preference to candidates with bachelor’s degrees, graduates will qualify for many computer support and web design positions.

Graduates with associate degrees in computer science can also opt to pursue additional higher education to further prepare them for professional employment in the future. Regionally accredited colleges and universities make it easy to transfer credits when enrolling at a new institution. Choosing to earn an associate degree at a community college before enrolling at a four-year school can save students a lot of money in tuition and fees.

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science (BS)

Bachelor’s degrees in computer science typically consist of 120 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately four years to complete. Curriculums vary but are generally designed to cover a large number of key topics in the field. Students can expect to receive instruction in both general studies, as well as topics specific to the field such as computer science theory, computer systems, and computer applications. Many colleges and universities also give students opportunities to select concentrations, or specialties, which direct future study to better correlate with career aspirations. Some of the most commonly available concentrations at this level include software engineering, network and security, and game development.

Most computer science professionals have bachelor’s degrees, as most employers in the field set this as the minimum requirement. Graduates often qualify for entry-level positions and can qualify for work as computer programmers, information security analysts, software developers, and computer system administrators.

Those interested in applying for positions in management will need to continue their educations. Most of these jobs are reserved for graduates with master’s degrees. Most of the programs at this level require applicants to have bachelor’s degrees, a minimum grade point average (GPA), and satisfactory scores on the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) general test.

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

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 vary but are generally either practical or research based. The majority of practice-oriented options focus on both advanced computer science and business administration concepts, with coursework covering certain undergraduate topics in greater depth. Institutions tend to design these programs to provide specialized training that builds upon the fundamental knowledge gained during undergraduate study.

Master’s degrees in computer science are typically required for mid- to upper-level computer and information technology jobs, such as computer and information research scientist positions. Graduates often enjoy many other benefits including more job options, faster promotions, and higher salary potential.

As with the bachelor’s degrees, many colleges and universities offer students opportunities to choose concentrations. Some of the most common specialties available at this level include software theory and engineering, artificial intelligence, security, systems, and data science and analytics.

PhD Degree in Computer Science (PhD)

Doctoral degrees in computer science are typically only necessary for individuals seeking jobs in advanced education and/or research positions. Most professors, for example, must have doctorates, as all accredited, four-year, public institutions have this as a requirement. Some private schools with national or no accreditation, however, set their own regulations.

Every institution is different, but most offer doctoral programs take six to seven years for full-time students to complete. The first three years are typically spent attending classes, while the remaining time is dedicated to research. Prior to graduation, students will likely need to write and defend final dissertations.

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Become a CIS Professional in Louisiana

The first step to becoming a computer science professional in Louisiana is identifying exactly what type of position you want. There are many industries hiring graduates in this field, making it important to have a specific career path in mind. The kind of work you plan to apply for will directly dictate the amount of education necessary to be successful, whether it be an associate degree or doctorate.

Once you have completed the necessary academic requirements for your intended job, it may also be worth obtaining additional professional credentials. Very few computer science positions require applicants to have a license to work, but there are many related certifications that can be beneficial.

Some of the most commonly sought-after options include:

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

Most credentials in this field are offered by companies, professional associations, or certification boards. Options include both vendor-specific and vendor-neutral credentials, making it easy to tailor your knowledge to suit current and potential employment opportunities, as well as explore other facets of the technology and information field. Additionally, having one or more certifications can improve your job prospects and help further advance your career. Notably, computer science professionals with additional credentials do tend to enjoy increased salary potential and employment security.

It's important to realize that 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 set educational standards for professionals to ensure they remain familiar with current trends. This is particularly relevant to this field, as technology capabilities are 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 others are only available for a fee.

Careers for Computer Science Graduates

  • Data Scientist
    Data scientists analyze, process, model, and interpret data plans for their employers. This often entails using computer science, statistics, and mathematics to gather and assess large sets of data. These professionals tend to be very good problem solvers and, as a result, also frequently 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 create web pages and websites. This generally entails writing code and taking the necessary steps to ensure all materials are maintained in easily accessible databases. These professionals 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 maintain networks. This typically entails assessing system integrity, monitoring progress, and escalating issues to administrators or supervisors to ensure network implementations are completed successfully. 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.

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  • Software Designer
    Software designers create new computer software for their employers or for sale. This usually entails working with other programmers and testers to achieve proper software development and usefulness. These professionals are also responsible for developing reference guides that explain what software does and how it works. Additionally, they must be available to answer questions about the software being used. According to PayScale, software designers make an average base salary of $77,750 per year.
  • Network Analyst
    Network analysts ensure that computer networks remain functional. This often entails coordinating with other technology experts, such as network engineers, to keep hardware, software, and peripherals working properly. These professionals may 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 support when needed. This typically entails taking steps to improve the efficiency of programs currently in use but may also require writing new programs to replace them. 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 protect information technology infrastructures. This generally entails keeping data secure and/or offering advisory services during consultations. These professionals also monitor 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. This entails having strong mastery over related content in order to answer questions and keep students engaged in learning. 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.

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