What is Computer Science?
There are very few industries that have avoided moving into the information age. Whether you work in real estate, banking, another white-collar job or a blue-collar gig, practically every industry uses and needs computers these days. But, if computers are needed everywhere, then so to are the people who build them, program them, and fix them when they break. People who work in this industry and provide this service are computer science professionals. If your phone freezes, it’s a person with a computer science background in either hardware, software that can help you fix it. When your washer start flashing codes at you, it’s likely a programmer that can tell you what it means and get you to the right technician.
A computer science professional is a person who works in the field of computer science. This includes programming, troubleshooting hardware and software, platform design, and other technology positions. Computer science professionals can be found in practically all industries because computers are everywhere and someone has to run, program, and fix them, and keep the systems and networks functioning. These professionals are also responsible for creating the software and applications for cell phones, tablets, smart televisions, and other electronic devices. Computer science professionals work for tech companies, game manufacturers, hospitals, schools, factories, and even department stores and banks. Where are computers, there are computer science professionals.
A typical day in the life of a computer science professional consists of reviewing programming needs for their organization, reviewing current programs and systems in place to ensure they are working properly, being on call to analyze issues and fix problems, and researching new trends in technology and computer processes. These activities will change depending on the exact type of computer science work a person is in, but the gist of it is that, if they aren’t creating new programming, they are fixing existing programming and monitoring it to make sure it continues to work properly.
Online Computer Science Education in Massachusetts
There are many different directions computer science professionals choose to go. Some prefer to program and help create emerging technologies, while others like to assist with fixing the systems and programs that already exist. Others still prefer to teach the next batch of upcoming computer scientists. Since computers are so common in every aspect of our lives, finding a good career fit as a computer scientist is a matter of working in different fields and doing different jobs in those fields to find the best fit. The good news is that most positions in the computer science field are well-paying jobs, so while people are finding their best fit, they are still earning a decent income.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for computer science professionals is expected to increase between 2020 and 2030 at a reasonably rapid pace. With computer and applications being used in all aspects of our working and personal lives, it will be important that there are enough professionals to meet the demands for the hardware and software, as well as to troubleshoot and fix computer issues. We also need people who can ensure that these tools are as safe to use as possible. A decade or two ago, a person could go to work in a computer room at a bank or other company and work their way up into senior management positions. That’s no longer the case. Although a person can have a career in computer science without a degree, in order to progress into senior management positions, a formal education is usually required.
Computer science degrees vary from a two-year associate degree up through and including the exhaustive process that is required to earn a PhD. The more education a person receives, the further they can progress in their careers, both from a management and financial standpoint. Below are the four types of degrees a person can receive in computer science, and the classes they can anticipate taking.
Online Associate Degree in Computer Science (AS)
An associate degree in computer science is the first degree a person can get. Associate degrees take two years to complete (which is why they are also referred to as two-year degrees), and graduates are prepared to take on some entry-level computer science positions, depending on the industry and focus of study.
Students can expect to take classes such as:
- Computer Programming I & II
- Other general elective courses needed to complete the program
Online Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science (BS)
With a bachelor’s degree in computer science, graduates can pursue anything up to mid-management positions, especially if they have work experience. This is the degree level where workers will begin to qualify for certifications required to advance in their chosen field, such as those from Cisco and Microsoft. And depending on the state, some graduates can teach at the community and technical college level.
The degree curriculum will cover all the classes taken at the associate degree level, but may also include courses in the following subjects:
- Advanced Networking
- Computer Hardware
- Computer Software
- Cyber Security
- Internet Connectivity
Bachelor’s degrees take four to six years to complete, depending on a student’s performance as well as personal and professional responsibilities. An internship might be required.
Online Master's Degree in Computer Science (MS or MC)
A graduate degree in computer science online will allow workers to move into upper management positions within the computer science department at many businesses as well as in government. Teaching opportunities are also often available. Furthermore, graduates will most likely be qualified to attain the highest certifications in their particular computer science field. Graduate degrees in computer science tend to be specialized so there is no set curriculum, but students can expect in depth study of their chosen area of expertise, and either a written comprehensive exam or a capstone project is usually required to complete the program. These degrees can take from two to five years to complete.
Online PhD Degree in Computer Science (PhD)
Those who decide to complete a doctorate degree in computer science either seek to become leading scientists in the area of research or they wish to teach at the university level. A doctorate degree can take up to seven years to complete and requires a dissertation to be completed and defended. Those with doctorates will be considered subject matter experts and are often highly sought after by major corporations as well as the upper branches of state and federal agencies.
Become a CIS Professional in Massachusetts
Becoming a computer science professional in Massachusetts is a straightforward process. You need an education and work experience. Although any job in computer science automatically makes you a computer science professional, you can really claim the title once you have either attained several successful years working in the industry or you’ve moved into supervisory or management roles within the industry. Luckily, there are no state licensure requirements, only the requirements of each individual company looking to hire professionals in various roles.
First up, you’ll need to get the proper education. Any additional education is helpful, but to make the most of the opportunities, you should seek an education from a regionally accredited school with an accredited computer science program. Accreditation is important because attending a school that does not have recognized programs can lead to problems when it’s time to look at certain certifications and licenses that you might need to progress in your career. More education is better, but many get started in their careers with just an associate degree.
Once you have attained the education needed, you can begin searching for a position working in computer science. Keep in mind that most computer scientists work in secondary industries, such as a programmer for a bank or a network specialist for a law firm or a school district. Once you have a job, it’s just a matter of time. Keep working at your position and don’t be afraid to move from one position to another to further your career. You will also want to continue your education so that you keep current with the technology and meet the qualifications for promotions. After a few years of working and training, management and supervisory positions will start to become available.
Another route to becoming a computer science professional is to start your own business. You’ll still need a certain level of education for credibility but, as a business owner, you are automatically considered a professional.
Careers for Computer Science Graduates
There are a lot of jobs in the computer science industry. Below are a few examples of careers people can seek out when they are ready to enter the field.
- Software Tester
The title is pretty straightforward; software testers are tasked with using software and either making notes of bugs or even trying to make it fail. They may also look for flaws in the code that could lead to hacking risks. However, their basic goal is to use the software and check for usability and determine what level of user is best for the software or if any changes need to be made to keep the software accessible to a larger user base. All designers use testers, from tax software to games and technical software for organizations.
- Computer Systems Analyst
Analysts study the software application area, complete the written requirements for software, and determines the software specifications. The documentation is used as part of the user manual for the software as well as a tool for developers to decide is changes need to be made. Analysts approach their work knowing that are the bridge between the developers and eventual end users.
- Technical Support Specialist / IT Support Specialist
Tech support specialists help end users of both hardware and software troubleshoot issues they are having with their equipment and software. Support can occur via telephone, email, or through a messenger service. Some specialists offer tech support directly, while others record the issue and turn the information over to other specialists.
- Data Scientist
Data scientists use data from various sources to identify trends and patterns that can be used to find solutions to a variety of problems. Scientists can watch weather patterns and trends which can then be used to create more precise weather forecasting. Another example is that a scientist can study voting trends and make predicting winners of elections more accurate.
- Web Designer & Developer
Some might not consider web design a part of computer science but there is a definite level of skill and expertise required to design websites and they use the same technology, just in different ways. Designers must learn programming languages as well as understanding how computer operating and networking systems work in order to properly design websites that display information. They are also experienced at working with graphics and numerous types of codes.
- Big Data Analyst
A big data analyst is someone who reviews, reports, and analyzes big data that is stored and maintained by companies and organizations. They have the same skill set and processes as data analyses but they specialize in analyzing and manipulating big data or big data analytics.
- Computer Science Professor
A computer science professor is someone who teaches computer science courses. Many times, computer science professors pull double duty, not only do they teach classes, but they also are part of the team that runs and maintains the computer systems at the schools where they teach.
Other career options include:
- Business Analyst
- Cyber Security Analyst
- Technology Director
- UI Developer
- Application Developer
- IT Project Manager
- Database Administrator
- Security Analyst
- Network Administrator
- Software Designer
- Software Engineer
- Full Stack Software Developer
- Network Analyst (WAN/LAN/etc.)
- Security Consultant (cybersecurity)