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What is Computer Science?

With a computer science degree at just about any level, graduates will be able to quickly start a career in a variety of tech-related areas. Due to the overarching need for professionals knowledgeable in computer science, nearly every field needs these workers. This means that a computer science professional may be working in one of a huge number of fields and it can be difficult to narrow down exactly what their day-to-day duties will be.

A computer science professional may be computer and information analysts, information security analysts (cyber security), software developers, computer programmers, or web developers. Every computer science graduate should be able to use their class experiences to analyze problems and determine computing solutions to solve these issues, use design and development principles in building software programs, and understand ethical issues in computing.

While you can often get started in computer science with an associate degree, many in this field will choose to go to school to earn a higher degree, such as a master’s or PhD.

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Online Computer Science Education in Minnesota

In Minnesota, many industries such as manufacturing, professional and business services, educational services, healthcare and social assistance, computer science, and others rely on technology professionals to help build, maintain, and protect their computer networks.

Manufacturing is the state’s top industry, bringing in $52.2 billion, while professional and business services and educational services, healthcare and social assistance bring in $48.5 and $32.9 billion, respectively. These are the top industries responsible for keeping Minnesota’s economy aloft. And, within these industries, computers, software, hardware, and mobile devices all are necessary to support their continuing success. This means that, without computer scientists, IT managers, cyber security experts, database administrators, and more, the state and its industries would find it much more difficult to be as successful as they are.

In Minnesota, as with many other states in the country, the need for computer science workers has become critical. This is no wonder, considering that 19 Fortune 500 companies are based in the state. And this number is only expected to grow. Tech is so popular and necessary in Minnesota that it is part of what is known as the “Silicon Prairie”, which covers this and several nearby states.

The number of students graduating with STEM degrees has grown due to the level of interest and available jobs in this area. For computer science and related degree programs, this is good news. Minnesota houses 12 public, four-year universities and almost 130 other educational institutions. These are for-profit school, two-year, private, and vocational schools. Graduate students may choose to earn an MBA from a business school to expand and focus their STEM abilities.

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Twenty-three of the best schools in the state awarded more than 1,200 computer science degrees for the 2019-2020 school year. And computer science and engineering are so popular that one university (The University of Minnesota) has developed business and industry partnerships with a variety organizations to benefit students through scholarships, hands-on experience, and faculty research.

Online Associate Degree in Computer Science (AS)

Students in an online technical college or associate computer science program complete introductory courses in computing, which gives them the skills they need to gain entry-level positions, use logic and creativity to solve problems within the realm of computer science, and the ability to earn at least some certifications.

Computers are used in nearly every profession and industry today including transportation, business, engineering, education, healthcare, banking, law enforcement and defense, just to name a few. Graduates at the associate degree level may not be able to find entry-level options in all of these, but they will still have many career options.

Community colleges often offer, not only associate degrees, but also transfer pathways to four-year universities in the state. Before they even choose a program, computer science students should keep their post-graduation plans in mind. Everything they learn in an associate degree will prepare them for employment in an entry-level position, but they may still wish to complete a bachelor’s degree at some point in the future. The potential growth in this field, combined with a high median salary, makes this profession very attractive to potential students considering a STEM career, but a higher degree level is an excellent way to improve your career, and having the ability to transfer all your associate degree credit hours will make it that much easier to succeed.

After earning their associate degree, graduates may find employment as data entry workers, computer and information systems support, general IT staff, and more.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science (BS)

Undergraduates in computer science that earn a bachelor’s degree are in high demand. These programs teach students the theory and methods used in most IT department positions and other careers in computer science. They also teach students how to apply methods and theory to real-world situations. Whether they earn an online Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science, students will receive a solid foundation in the economic, scientific, social, and cultural trends that influence this field.

These are hands-on educational programs which can offer both in-person and online courses, as well as work opportunities and internships which allow students to get their hands dirty with the actual practice of computer science and provide excellent sources of experience for resumes. All of this ensures that students will be ready to begin their new careers immediately after graduation.

Many organizations in the state offer internships as software engineers, technology support specialists, system administrators, and more. Some state schools have developed partnerships with local companies to enable their students to have first dibs on these vital learning experiences.

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

An Online Master of Science in Computer Science program furthers graduate students’ education with algorithms used in computing, advanced operating systems and theories, and advanced computing architecture. They may also begin research in software engineering, artificial intelligence, and more if they plan to move on into a doctoral program.

Students in graduate school programs can choose to attend part-time or full-time, though those who attend full-time might have trouble continuing with a regular work schedule. Graduate assistantships are also available for students, in which they will help professors with their duties and may spend time teaching or working with other students.

Those students who wish to focus on business while gaining more in-depth knowledge in computer science can complete an MBA with a specialty in computer science, computer engineering, information assurance, and other options.

Online PhD Degree in Computer Science (PhD)

Students looking for an online doctoral program from the best computer science schools in Minnesota, may be interested in a research-oriented PhD program in computer science.

Online coursework at this level often requires students to meet prerequisites and background or experience requirements. Some courses are focused on helping students to develop and refine their research and writing skills before they must write a dissertation. These include analyzing and synthesizing information and developing both written and verbal presentation skills. After this, they can begin working on defining their thesis topic and beginning their research.

Students may also have to take a thesis proposal exam, which is a presentation based on research related to their thesis proposal. After this, they enter full thesis research. By the time the student earns their doctoral degree, they will be ready for an academic or research career.

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Become a CIS Professional in Minnesota

While computer science certifications are not a state requirement for professionals in this field, they prove the professional has specific skills an employer may be looking for and are required by many companies for a huge variety of positions. Certifications can also show proof of a computer science professional’s experience with practices, products, and methods, as well as technical knowledge. Here are just some certification options, though there are dozens of available certifications tied to various products, techniques, and knowledge within computer science.

  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect

    This certification and exam are specifically for professionals who hold a solutions architect position. These professionals should have at least two years of hands-on experience managing and operating these systems on AWS.

    The practice exam and courses can prepare professionals for the actual exam. The abilities and skills validated include designing and deploying scalable, available, fault-tolerant, and consistent applications on AWS; migrating complex, multi-tier applications; selecting appropriate services to design and deploy an application; and more.

  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD)

    This certification showcases a professional software developer’s skills in either mobile or web application development and quality assurance. Candidates for this certification are required to first earn the MCSA certification and then pass any required development and programming exams.

  • Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)

    This certification and exam are not quite as strenuous as the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) exam. Even so, professionals may find the exam to be challenging. To qualify for this certification, professionals should have a minimum of five years of on-the-job experience in IT - three of these years have to be in information security in at least one of the six domains of the CCSP Common Body of Knowledge – and they must pass the exam.

Potential Careers for Computer Science Graduates

  • Software Tester

    Software testers design test scenarios to determine the usability of software. They run these tests and write reports on the effectiveness of the software and any defects for the production team.

    A successful software tester has a working knowledge of both software and test design, and they must have the ability to analyze the results accurately. This professional should be results driven and have excellent communication skills and up-to-date knowledge of software programming and test design.

  • Systems Analyst

    This professional optimizes user experience in regard to computer programs. They offer advice to employers and clients on the software or hardware they may need, install and get the software running, and consult with users to make sure the new programs function correctly.

    Systems analysts may be employed by small or large companies or they may consult with several clients. They observe and diagnose database program problems, resolve user issues, and make suggestions to management about systems innovations to improve overall productivity.

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  • Business Analyst

    A business analyst is responsible for understanding the dynamic needs of an organization and making assessments. For example, they may be asked to analyze how a change impacted an organization. They are also expected to document and support ongoing communication between relevant groups and stakeholders. They may also determine what is needed to begin making changes.

  • Cyber Security Analyst

    Cyber security analysts work to keep an organization’s proprietary, personal, or sensitive information safe from cyber-thieves and cyber-threats.

    They work on a team and are tasked with finding and identifying flaws in the organization’s cyber security systems and developing solutions before threats develop. A cyber security analyst also examine data, reports, and analytics looking for suspicious activity and threats. They use the information they collect to create protections and update the organization of their choice of security software.

  • Technology Director

    Depending on the organization, the technology director’s role may vary. They may be responsible for managing the technical infrastructure of the organization or they may lead a team of staff members and determine what the business requirements for IT systems is and will be in the future. They manage the design, installation, and implementation of infrastructure as well as striving to eliminate security risks.

  • Application Developer

    An application developer is responsible for the development and modification of source code for software applications. These applications may be for clients to help them complete tasks or they may create an application for general sale.

    An application developer may work with customers who want new software applications or to update and modify existing applications. In this process, the app developer goes through the user’s needs so that they can customize software. They design prototype apps, test the apps, and troubleshoot any issues they find.

  • IT Manager

    An IT project manager is responsible for planning, implementing, coordinating, and managing large IT projects. They may use staff members pulled from internal departments or bring in consultants or external resources.

    This professional directs and coordinates the use of resources across divisions of the project so they are able to reach target goals, ensure compliance with project requirements and budgeting, document instructions for end users, and help with the testing of the final product.

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