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What is Computer Science?

Computer science is a field that impacts every aspect of modern life. From banking to recreation, computers play an increasingly important role. A computer science professional can thus wear a number of hats, depending on their specialty area. Some enter the world of high finance where they may be employed as data scientists who crunch massive number sets in order to find trends in the market. Others in finance may write complex algorithms that execute stock and crypto trades at lightning speed.

Other computer scientists may be involved in deep research into subjects like cryptography, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing. These professionals typically have at least a master’s degree but are more likely to pursue a PhD in the field. They all spend their time working at computer terminals, whether in darkened office rooms or from home. There are even computer scientists who travel the globe and send their work to clients or employers via secure network connections.

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Online Computer Science Education in Michigan

Michigan is a state known for industrial labor. After all, Michigan gave birth to the automotive industry, which it continues to nurture. In fact, the state's economy can thrive or falter depending on current car sales numbers. The state's economy is more diverse than a bunch of automobile plants, however. Michigan's economy is also led by industries such as real estate, business services, healthcare, social assistance, wholesale trade, retail trade, and finance, to name a few.

One thing each of those industrial sectors have in common is that they all rely on computers. From the floor of a car plant to the upper reaches of executive life, computers are required to make everything run efficiently. Thus, computer science professionals are needed to manage all of the servers, servos, networks, and databases.

To answer the call for more and better computer scientists, Michigan's colleges and universities have created innovative degree programs that produce some of the very best computer experts around. Since the state has some special needs when it comes to computing, these academic programs have been specially tailored to respond to what the state needs. For example, since Michigan's manufacturing industry is so vital for the state's success, computer science instructors and professors might help students understand how to work with the programming needs of assembly line robotics. They may even design artificial intelligence projects that help students work with these robots in new and exciting ways.

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Even students at the associate computer science degree level are trained to start work upon graduation. These professionals can jump right to work because they understand what their state and economy need. At higher levels, computer science students learn to work with large databases and can crunch large troves of data. This helps automobile and other companies understand the needs of their customers.

Ultimately, Michigan will continue to be an economic powerhouse based on the strength of its computer scientists. The hardworking men and women in the automobile plants will also find their jobs easier and safer as a result. They all have Michigan's colleges and universities to thank.

Online Associate Degree in Computer Science (AS)

An associate computer science degree from an affordable community college can kick off a career in computing that may never require another academic credential. After all, computer science is more concerned with abilities than educational status. Programmers and data scientists can complete an associate computer science degree and then proceed to complete non-academic certifications that prove their knowledge and skill to employers everywhere. These certifications can train them on specific coding languages or applications of that knowledge, such as cryptography or cyber security.

Since associate computer science degrees include the core college curriculum, many students find that they have the sort of soft skills necessary to succeed. The core curriculum may help them become better writers and communicators while informing their knowledge of art and science, too. An associate degree may only hold back a computer science professional if they desire to rise into their firm's management. Advanced degrees can also provide them the knowledge and skill they need to master certain topics, such as artificial intelligence, while also networking with top minds in the field and gaining higher-level computer science certifications.

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Online Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science (BS)

A four-year bachelor’s computer science degree provides perhaps the strongest foundation for a career in high technology. In the course of a bachelor’s degree, students can dive deeper into their subject and even start to carve out a specialization, such as artificial intelligence or cryptography. A four-year degree also opens up the possibility to double major or earn enough credits for a minor concentration. Students may take this opportunity to bolster their education with a focus on mathematics, economics, finance, or public health, for example.

Bachelor’s computer science degree candidates also have the opportunity to explore internship opportunities that can inform their career choices and give them the chance to build a resume while still in school. Naturally, a bachelor’s computer science degree will also help students who wish to progress into graduate school. A computer science degree is a good launchpad for further studies in focus areas such as cyber security, software development, artificial intelligence, and more. Some students even shift into business and return to graduate school for an MBA.

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Online Master's Degree in Computer Science (MS)

A master’s computer science degree will provide the holder with a new world of career opportunities. Computer science students should choose their program carefully, though. Each master’s computer science degree program will have its own specialties and concentrations that will determine the rest of the student’s career. Students should look for master’s computer science programs that offer them the courses they need to advance their careers.

Computer science students can also use graduate school as an opportunity to shift gears a bit. One option is an MBA with a concentration in computer science or information technology. This degree will be of use to those who are more interested in climbing the ladder in management, perhaps with the end-goal of becoming CIO. Another option is a dual MBA where students earn a master’s degree in computer science alongside an MBA. This is a three-year intensive option that likely won't allow any time for outside work. Nevertheless, those with a dual MBA find that their career opportunities multiply exponentially upon graduation.

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Online PhD Degree in Computer Science (PhD)

A PhD in computer science is a lofty goal that will return great rewards. Computer scientists at the doctorate level often mastermind next-level software solutions or create the next cutting-edge programming language. There are also firms that hire PhD computer scientists for research positions. Hot fields, such as cryptography or cyber security, need doctorate level workers to solve big problems that face the nation.

PhD computer scientists may also work for universities as professors or in research labs. While it is possible to teach college courses with a master's computer science degree, a PhD makes one more likely to earn tenure. There are also opportunities to work as an independent contractor.

Since computer scientists can work at home and conduct research anywhere they have a laptop and/or access to a server, great innovations can occur without large institutional backing. This opens up the possibility for doctorate-level computer scientists to consult with firms or government agencies. Many PhDs also form their own startups and try to become the next Microsoft.

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Become a CIS Professional in Michigan

Computers are everywhere in our society. Thus, it's no surprise when a Michigan resident is interested in becoming a computer science professional. Since the field does not require any specific licensure or certification, there is no one perfect way to become a computer scientist. In fact, there are many high-level computer scientists who have risen to very high positions with no degree whatsoever. All that is needed is the talent and ability to get the job done.

There are even high school students who are able to write code in their off time that helps them pay for college or their first apartment. They have done what many did before computer science became a regular part of college curriculum: they picked up a book and learned independent of formal education. The internet has expanded the ability to pursue the field apart from traditional educational institutions. There are free and very affordable courses online where anyone can sign up and learn coding, networking, database technology, and more.

For those who wish to pursue this non-traditional approach, it is advised that they earn certifications along the way. While it is possible to build a winning portfolio, certifications will catch the eye of any hiring manager. On the other hand, traditional education always offers a sound pathway to career success.

This path can begin as early as high school. These days, students find there are STEM focused high schools that can help them learn coding languages and collaborate with like-minded students. High school students who don't have such opportunities in their area can pursue their passion for computers through various online educational outlets including EdX, Udemy, and Khan Academy.

After high school, computer science students should seek out the best CS department in their area. If there is no affordable, accredited bachelor’s program nearby, there are always computer science degree programs available online. Another option is to start with an associate computer science degree from an affordable community college either in the local area or online.

Whether they graduate with an associate or bachelor’s computer science degree, students should immediately look toward either certifications in specific technologies, programming languages, or a master's computer science degree. It's likely that they can find the master's computer science degree of their dreams online, but many brick-and-mortar schools also offer these degrees. However, it's important to note that every program will offer its own spin on the field. Some may be geared towards software development while others may focus more on artificial intelligence or programming languages.

Careers for Computer Science Graduates

  • Software Tester:
    Every piece of software needs someone to test it out. This job may be best suited to those who understand the coding behind an application so that they can give directed feedback to the development team. This field includes video game testers who may be asked to test and give feedback that has more to do with gameplay, story, etc.
  • Systems Analyst:
    This is a great position for a computer science degree holder. Systems analysts review a company's computer systems from top to bottom and look for areas that need improvement. Analysts need to have a working knowledge of database technologies, networking, cyber security, and more.
  • Business Analyst:
    There used to be a wide divide between the business and technology side of an organization. However, there are now degrees that train students to evaluate the technology needs of a firm with an eye to business realities. Degrees such as management information systems train students to bridge the gap between the IT department and management.

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  • Technical Support Specialist / IT Support Specialist:
    Tech support is a lot more than instructing end-users to turn it off and on again, though that’s bound to be part of it. Tech support specialists can also work on high-end server software and help companies and government agencies save millions when things go awry. To succeed in this field, it may be important to earn a technology-specific certification such as Microsoft's MCSE or a credential from Cisco Systems.
  • Cyber Security Analyst:
    This career field is increasingly important to business and government. Cyber security analysts evaluate the security architecture of a firm with an eye to helping them gain greater efficiency. They may also delegate work to penetration testers or security architects. Students who are interested in the field of information security should look for programs designated as a Center of Academic Excellence by the Department of Homeland Security and the NSA.
  • UI Developer:
    These computer science experts focus on the user interface for a piece of software. They are the ones who determine where buttons and fields are placed on a screen. They must work in conjunction with the back-end coders to ensure that the piece of software is user friendly and that the front-end works in perfect synch with the underlying code. UI Developers may work with test groups and evaluate how ordinary people interact with the software for the first time.
  • Data Scientist:
    This is a term that is gaining familiarity as the field grows. A data scientist often has a computer science or mathematics background. They must be able to make sense of raw data so that it makes sense for their client or employer. To excel in this field, computer scientists often need to know how to code in Python and R. It's also helpful to have a strong background in statistics.
  • Web Designer & Developer:
    These are often two separate job descriptions. Designers spend their time making websites look good and be user-friendly. Developers are usually concerned with the underlying code that runs a site. They might write code for cookies but might also set up the site with search engines that seek answers from a connected database.

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