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What is Computer Science?

A computer science professional is usually someone who has earned a degree in computer science. At any level, they should have the knowledge and skills to solve problems in computer systems, use their critical thinking skills, and work creatively to develop solutions to IT problems. In this field, professionals have to stay current with evolving technology. This requires computer science professionals to work as members of a team, designing new systems, and putting new programs and operating systems into operation.

This professional has the skills and knowledge they need to enable them to be successful in more than one career. They may work as software engineers, using one of many computer programming languages and skills they have learned as they develop new applications. If a computer science professional wants to ascend to leadership, they may decide to earn a degree in business administration and work as a project manager or in organizational leadership.

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Computer Science Education in Maine

Though the majority of Maine consists of forest land and trees, it would be a mistake to discount other industries that also help move the state forward. For instance, digital media has taken up much of the space that was previously occupied by paper-producing companies.

Computer science professionals might be best served by looking into the top 10 industries in this state; here they will find thousands of jobs spread across a variety of positions which they will qualify for with a bit of education and experience. Maine residents need healthcare, educational services, and social assistance and computer science graduates can develop software and run programs that help to power each of these industries. A good example is healthcare. Here, electronic health records now hold much of the patient information and cyber security professionals help to protect that data. In a similar way, financial and insurance information must be warehoused and protected.

The demand for computing professionals has been spiraling upward; in 2020, 400,000 computer science graduates worked in a field in which 1.4 million job vacancies existed. Clearly, these shortages exist in every state in the country, not to mention in most industries.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that a huge percentage of STEM jobs will be in computing professions and there will be more than 150,000 job openings every year in upcoming years. Accordingly, jobs in this field will grow by 13% between 2020 and 2026, which is faster than nearly any other job type.

The annual pay rate is also 75% higher than the national median annual salary. Looking at Maine, computer-related occupations have the quickest net growth; the state has had large numbers of IT employers actively searching for IT professionals.

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Also, in 2020, the University of Maine at Presque Isle opened a new computer science learning space for undergraduate students recently. And students have been signing up for computer science degree programs, keeping the new center busy. Another Maine university has opened an academic building dedicated to engineering, computing, and information science. This facility is dedicated to anticipating the needs of the state’s workforce and delivering solutions benefiting industries, employers, and communities.

Associate Degree in Computer Science (AS)

At the community college level, incoming students planning to earn their associate degrees in computer science are preparing themselves for a fast-changing field. Students at this level benefit from a solid foundation in several areas such as systems hardware and software; customer service, network design, and management; and information security.

Associate computer science graduates have learned how to work with hardware and software; they install, configure, and troubleshoot new installations; and they may also maintain and upgrade personal computer systems.

Computer science courses at this level prepare students to step into roles as help desk technicians, network administrators, desktop support, network installers, network technicians, technology trainers, and network security specialists.

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science (BS)

In these undergraduate degree programs, the core courses offer the student an understanding of foundational computer science beyond what they will gain from an associate degree - operating systems, the structure of programming languages, software engineering, computer architecture, operating systems, algorithms and data structures, and theoretical computer science.

Students can often choose electives to gain exposure to more topics such as high-performance computing, cyber security, networks, artificial intelligence, databases, and more. Students may also gain real-world experience with internships, independent study, field experiences, or undergraduate research conducted in one of the school’s laboratories.

Graduates should have the knowledge and skills they need to land high-paying and rewarding jobs in the computer profession.

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

Earning a Master of Science in Computer Science allows students to choose from a variety of areas of interest. These computer science degrees allow graduate students to add to the foundation of knowledge they earned with their undergraduate degrees and progress into supervisory positions.

Students who plan to go on and earn their PhD will have to complete a master of science degree first. A master’s program may end with a comprehensive exam or students may be able to choose a thesis option or a master’s project.

Students who opt for the thesis can use this to begin their preparation for research and development in a doctoral degree as they search for thesis references. On the other hand, a master’s project is highly targeted and may require more coursework. But students who choose this option gain the advantage of being ready for advanced jobs in this profession.

PhD Degree in Computer Science (PhD)

Students who worked on their thesis and graduated with an MS in computer science will have completed the first requirement for earning their PhD in Computer Science. A PhD program is rigorous, challenging even the most highly qualified students.

Another part of the degree requirements may include conducting research as students work their way through their PhD program. These programs do their best to prepare students to write their dissertation and defend it. Their computer science research must be original and every student candidate begins working on their research shortly after they begin their degree program.

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Become a CIS Professional in Maine

It’s important to note that there are no specific degree, certification, or licensure requirements to work as any kind of computer science professional in the state of Maine. Unlike other professions, such as counselor or teacher, all you need to do to get into this field is convince a business or organization to hire you and give you a chance to prove your skills. However, in order to do this, you will likely need an appropriate education and certifications that will show your prospective employer that you know what you’re doing and can be trusted with the responsibilities you will hold. Here are some certificate options that can help you gain a position in the computer science field.

  • IT Information Library Foundations Certification (ITIL)
    Aimed at IT service and support staff members, IT professionals obtain a foundational understanding of how both IT service and support may be organized so they align business needs with IT, improve the quality of services, and reduce long-term costs. Professionals get an understanding of the ITIL framework and how it interacts with service desk function and its basic processes in small, medium, or large organizations.
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional - Architecture (CISSP)
    This CISSP-ISSAP certification requires professionals to show two years of professional experience in architecture. This certification is a good choice for chief security architects and analysts, especially if they work as independent consultants or related roles. This professional can hold a key role in the IT department between upper management and the C-suites.
  • Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)
    This certification helps prepare IT professionals to confront potential security risks. They identify risks, assess them, and respond. They also help professionals build advanced knowledge or risk control monitoring and reporting processes.
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
    This certification is offered by the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC-Council). It is intended for auditors, security officers, site administrators, and others who are responsible for maintaining the security of data and networks. Professionals do not have to satisfy any credentials or take prerequisite courses but must complete the training program to take the exam.

Careers for Computer Science Graduates

  • Software Tester
    This professional may also be known as a quality assurance (QA) tester or software test engineer. Software testers design test scenarios for the usability of software; they run tests and write reports on the software’s effectiveness and any defects. This report goes to the production team.
  • Technical Support Specialist/IT Support Specialist
    Tech support specialists are hired to oversee and maintain the company’s computer hardware and software systems. These professionals help resolve any technical issues with customer accounts or even company software. They support computer software integration and diagnose and troubleshoot known problems by resolving technical issues, improving IT systems, and maintaining both hardware and software installations.
  • Cyber Security Analyst
    This professional helps to protect computer networks from unauthorized access and cyber-attacks. To accomplish this, they anticipate cyber-threats so they can defend against them, responding to breaches as they happen. This professional is responsible for protecting all areas of a company’s computer network: software and hardware.
  • Technology Director
    These professionals configure networks and local servers, mediate contracts for cloud-based services, write technology plans and work with other departments, evaluate outsourced work, establish processes for effective help desk services, provide access to network resources with mobile devices, develop and write guidelines to encourage safe and responsible use, and implement new technology applications along with best practices.

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  • UI Developer
    This professional is also a front-end web developer. They focus on the aesthetics or “look” of an app or website, working to make it more appealing to users and maintain functionality. UI developers also work with the back-end developers and web developers to optimize the website for all devices. They may consult with the client, looking for expectations and needs; plan the website layout; and use analytics to check that needs are met.
  • IT Project Manager
    This manager is responsible for planning, carrying out, coordinating, and managing large IT projects. They may choose certain staff members from other internal departments and external sources. The goal of an IT PM is to make sure projects comply with budget and other requirements. They are also responsible for ensuring that projects reach established targets, they document instructions for end-users, and they help with the testing of the final product. They stay in communication with stakeholders throughout the entire project.
  • Big Data Analyst
    Like the data scientist, the big data analyst works with large amounts of data, looking for patterns and correlations. Organizations know that they can capture every byte of data coming into their business and that, by using analytics, they may be able to get significant value from this data. Before “big data” was coined, companies used spreadsheets and combed through them manually, looking for the trends and insights they needed. Today, big data is much faster and more efficient. This enables companies to use the insights so they can make faster, better informed decisions.

Computer Science Degrees & Career Paths

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