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What is Computer Science?
There are many different types of computer science professionals, with employment opportunities available to degree graduates over numerous industries. Companies and organizations of nearly every kind require the technical expertise of these individuals in order to grow and succeed. As a result, it can be difficult to define exactly what computer science professionals do on a daily basis. Responsibilities vary greatly based on a number of factors including employer industry, size, and expectations.
Prospective professionals should always consult job listings carefully prior to applying but can generally expect contracts to include requirements somehow related to designing and/or using technology. They may also be responsible for solving complex computing problems. Work settings also vary from small office spaces to large research centers. Some jobs even require their information technology employees to move between multiple locations throughout the day or week.
Notably, it’s common for computer science professionals to specialize in a sub-field. This often further differentiates their duties and allows them to explore their own technological interests more freely.
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Online Computer Science Education in Mississippi
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
Some industries rely on computer science professionals more than others. While almost every industry benefits from their expertise, some of the largest employers for this field are computer systems design service companies, educational institutions, and the federal government.
The information and technology field is quite competitive. This is particularly true for prominent positions in data science, cyber security, artificial intelligence, software engineering, and information technology (IT) management. While some people may be able to obtain computer science jobs based on knowledge and experience alone, most employers require candidates to have some level of post-secondary education. For the majority of professionals and hiring companies, this means earning a computer science degree. There are, however, programs available at the associate, master’s, and doctorate levels in Mississippi as well.
Are you interested in enrolling in a computer science college or degree program in Mississippi? Every institution’s curriculum is different, but most are designed to provide students with a broad introduction to the field as a whole. Some of the most common topics covered at all academic levels include programming languages, mathematics, and database design. Computer science majors also tend to work on developing skills in analytics, communication, logical thinking, and problem-solving. Depending on the degree obtained, graduates are often qualified to apply for a wide variety of jobs including top professions in software design, networking, and information technology security.
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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. Growth in this sector is likely due to changes in the way that big data is collected and stored. As companies and organizations continue to depend on cloud computer and place emphasis on information security, computer science professionals will be an essential component in almost every industry.
While computer science and information technology are not considered top industries in Mississippi, many of the state’s highest grossing sectors are dependent upon professionals in the field. Based on information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 13,190 people employed in computer and mathematical jobs in May 2020. The annual mean wage for local professionals in this field was $71,720, which is well above the median annual wage of $56,310 for all occupations.
While you may be tempted to enroll in an online computer science degree program, it is important to consider the location of the institution. While many colleges and universities offer remote learning options, Mississippi schools may be able to prepare you for employment in the state better than others. Local institutions are more familiar with employer preferences throughout the region, as well as various state guidelines and expectations in the field. Additionally, many colleges and universities develop relationships with top companies and organizations, which can make it easier to secure internships and employment in the state.
Online Associate Degree in Computer Science (AS)
Online associate degrees in computer science typically consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately two years to complete. Program details vary by institution, but most are comprised of both liberal arts general education and major-specific classes. Students receive instruction in areas intended to improve communication and problem-solving skills, as well as developing programing skills that can be applied in many different settings.
This type of degree is ideal for individuals who want to gain entry-level employment in technology positions as fast as possible. While many employers are likely to give preference to candidates with bachelor’s degrees, graduates are technically qualified for many jobs related to computer support and web design.
An alternative to applying for employment immediately after graduation, however, is enrolling in further education. Many traditional institutions will accept up to 90 transfer credit hours toward their 120-hour bachelor’s degree programs. This means associate degree graduates typically only need two more years of education before obtaining a higher-level degree. It’s important to verify school accreditation, however, as this can impact how difficult it is to transfer credits between colleges and universities.
Online Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science (BS)
Online bachelor’s degrees in computer science typically consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately four years to complete. Every college and university is different, but most programs incorporate a general education core curriculum and major-specific classes. Students should expect instruction to cover a large number of key topics in the field such as computer science theory, computer systems, and computer applications.
It's also common for students majoring in computer science to designate concentrations, or specialties, to further direct coursework. This is a great option for students interested in pursuing a single facet of the field. Some of the most commonly available concentrations at this level include software engineering, network and security, and game development.
This type of degree is optimal for most people who hope to become computer science professionals. Graduates often qualify for entry-level positions as computer programmers, information security analysts, software developers, and computer system administrators. It’s worth noting that most employers expect candidates to have, at minimum, a bachelor’s to be considered for most jobs in the field.
Those interested in management positions, however, will need to pursue further education by enrolling in master’s degree programs. Prospective graduate students will need bachelor’s degrees in computer science or a related topics, a minimum grade point average (GPA), and satisfactory scores on the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) general test.
Online Master's Degree in Computer Science (MS)
Online master’s degrees in computer science generally consist of 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately two years to complete. Program specifics vary, but courses are often more practical and research-based than those taken at lower levels. Students will receive practice-oriented instruction focused on both advanced computer science and business administration concepts, as well as specialized training designed to build upon the fundamental knowledge gained during undergraduate study.
As with the bachelor’s degrees, students often have the ability to select a concentration or specialty. Some of the most common options are software theory and engineering, artificial intelligence, security, systems, and data science and analytics.
This type of degree is typically most suitable for individuals seeking mid- to upper-level jobs related to computer and information technology. Graduates often have more employment opportunities, promote faster, and make more money. One of the most common professions available is computer and information research scientist.
Online PhD Degree in Computer Science (PhD)
Online PhD and doctoral degrees in computer science typically take full-time students six to seven years to complete. While every college and university is different, most programs expect those enrolled to work through the required coursework during the first three years. The remaining time is then dedicated to independent research and dissertation development. All students are expected to defend their final dissertations before a board of educators.
This type of degree is most appropriate for individuals seeking jobs in advanced education and/or research. Most academic institutions with regional accreditation only employ professors with doctorate-level degrees. There are, however, some private schools with that may employ instructors with only master’s degrees.
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Become a CIS Professional in Mississippi
With so many computer science career options available, the first step is generally identifying which professions and/or industries interest you most. This will help you create a clear and actionable academic plan. It’s important to realize that your professional goals will often directly inform the type of education and credentials needed to be successful – whether it is an associate degree or doctorate.
After completing the necessary academic requirements for your preferred profession in computer science, you can choose to pursue related credentials. Most jobs in the field do not require specific certifications or licenses, but many employers do. Others may allow you to gain the preferred and necessary credentials after you have been hired. As a result, you should always review application requirements carefully.
Some of the most common options relevant to computer science include:
- Certified Information Security Manager
- Cisco Certified Network Associate
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer
- Project Management Professional
- Certified Information System Security Professional
There are also many potential benefits associated with obtaining additional credentials. Not only will certifications and licenses make you more competitive in the job candidate pool, but they can also lead to promotions and higher pay. In general, professionals with credentials advance faster and earn more money.
There is no single, standard credential necessary for all computer science professionals and most certifications are offered by private companies, professional associations, or state boards. You can choose between vendor-specific and vendor-neutral opportunities. This allows you to tailor your training to fit your interests and/or job requirements. Credentials also allow you to explore other facets of the technology and information field.
If you do choose to earn professional certifications or licenses related to computer science, you should anticipate participating in continuing education. Many credentialing bodies have established educational standards to ensure professionals remain information and familiar with current trends. This is relatively common requirement throughout the field, especially because technology is constantly changing. Every certification and licensure is different, but most accept education credits earned from online classes offered by corporations, seminars provided at conventions, and academic courses provided by academic institutions. Some continuing education opportunities are free, but others may only be available for a fee.
Potential Careers for Computer Science Graduates
Once you have earned a computer science degree, you will be qualified to apply for a number of employment opportunities in Mississippi. Prospects vary based on the level of higher education achieved. Additionally, salaries and daily responsibilities will differ depending on profession.
Some of these career options include the following.
- Computer Science Professor
Computer science professors teach computer science courses at higher education institutions. This entails developing and delivering relevant lectures and answering student questions. Computer science professors may also assist with research, data analysis, and reporting procedures. According to PayScale, postsecondary and higher education professors make an average base salary of $88,250 per year.
- Cyber Security Analyst
Cyber security analysts protect information technology infrastructures by keeping data secure and/or offering advisory services during consultations with companies and organizations. They are also responsible for monitoring 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.
- Data Analyst
Data scientists analyze, process, model, and interpret data using computer science, statistics, and mathematics. They are generally responsible for gathering and assessing large sets of data. These professionals may also be asked to recommend cost-effective changes to existing procedures. According to PayScale, data scientists make an average base salary of $96,550 per year.
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- Network Analyst
Network analysts are responsible for ensuring the functionality of computer networks by keeping hardware, software, and peripherals working properly. They often coordinate with network engineers and other technology experts. Other common tasks include orchestrating various communication networks, evaluating new vendor products, and troubleshooting network-related issues. According to PayScale, network analysts make an average base salary of $60,200 per year.
- Network Architect
Network architects design and maintain networks by assessing system integrity, monitoring progress, and escalating issues to administrators or supervisors. They are ultimately responsible for ensuring that network implementations are completed successfully. They may also recommend the use of new technologies and monitor their performance. According to PayScale, network architects make an average base salary of $121,200 per year.
- Software Developer
Software designers work with other programmers to create new computer software and coordinate with testers to ensure proper software development and usefulness. Once complete, they develop reference guides that explain what software does and how it works and are responsible for answering questions about the software moving forward. According to PayScale, software designers make an average base salary of $77,750 per year.
- Technical Support Specialist
Technical support specialists identify and assist with various technology issues. The support provided typically consists of improving the efficiency of programs currently in use, as well as writing new programs to replace them. They are also responsible for bringing information, bugs, and feature requests to the attention of development teams and/or senior support specialists. According to PayScale, technical support specialists make an average base salary of $52,500 per year.
- Web Developer
Web developers write code to create web pages and sites. They ensure all materials are maintained in databases that can be easily accessed by other employees and may test and modify new software before it’s incorporated into corresponding websites. According to PayScale, web developers make an average base salary of $60,100 per year.
Computer Science Degrees & Career Paths