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What is Computer Science?

Computer science professionals may be found in just about any one of Montana’s industries. Due to the wide number of professional roles they can fill, they can make an impact on any chosen industry through software and hardware, network analysis, and more. They may fill a role in computer and network security, protecting computer networks, the cloud, and other information structures from malicious outside attacks. This is vital, given the increasing threat of cyber-attack and the losses that could accrue across the state if cyber security is not maintained.

After all, Montana industries bring in a huge amount of revenue to the state. Real estate, rental, and leasing brought in $7.1 billion in a recent year and educational services, healthcare, and social assistance brought in 5.4 billion. And these are just two of the top ten industries in the state. The others include professional and business services ($3.9 billion), manufacturing ($3.3 billion), retail trade ($3.2 billion), wholesale trade ($2.7 billion), finance and insurance ($2.6 billion), and arts, entertainment, recreation and food services ($2.6 billion). All of these industries make use of cyber security protection or computing services of one kind or another, even if it’s just to maintain their customer databases.

Other professionals that might work in computer science include surveying and mapping technicians, research analysts, and statisticians. It can be helpful to hold a higher degree in computer science for many of these roles.

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Computer Science Education in Montana

Montana’s colleges and universities have plenty of online degree options to educate students in computer science. At the highest level, computer science majors gain the skills that allow them to become well paid and respected professionals who can make the most of their theoretical expertise, work on real-world issues, and help develop better and more efficient technologies.

Computer science professional is an umbrella term that can cover a huge variety of actual professional roles. Once they find a career, they may be called systems analysts, computer programmers, software engineers, and other titles.

Depending on their job titles and responsibilities, a computer science professional may write the code that runs computers, design or build computer systems, and even create computer programs - these programs allow specific tasks to be completed that are necessary for accounting, maintaining databases, communication, and anything else that can be done with a computer.

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The field of computer science is enormous. A web developer may work in the same organization as a cyber security analyst. Computer and information research scientists may work alongside computer programmers, software developers, systems analysts, and more. The industry you choose to enter will affect your career nearly as much as the degree you earn.

Online Associate Degree in Computer Science (AS)

College students in Montana who choose to earn an associate degree will gain basic knowledge of computer science, as well as the practical applications which will help them more easily access and succeed in professional careers. This degree level usually includes classes that teach students about computer technology, programming, and applications that are commonly used. Once these students graduate, they could find a job in nearly any industry - non-profit organizations, private business, or government. However, they will likely not be able to earn supervisory positions until they gain more education or more experience.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science (BS)

While an associate degree can get your foot in the door, those who earn bachelor’s degrees are likely to find that they are more hirable once they graduate from their programs.

A good computer science curriculum at this level often has a lot of flexibility built in to deal with the huge variety of computer science jobs that exist. Students in these programs often have many electives to choose from such as computational biology, machine learning, artificial intelligence, databases, computer networks, robotics, software engineering, web design, operating systems, and other special topics classes. Electives can increase student’s marketable skills and help them to pass certification exams in the future.

Graduates can qualify for positions as computer scientists, software engineers, computer network architects, information security analysts, computer programmers, database architects, cyber security engineers, game developers, computer systems analysts, or database architects. Or they may choose to continue on to graduate school and earn a master’s degree.

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

Graduate students can seek master’s degrees in computer science or more specific and focused degrees in things like computer engineering. One Montana university focuses on teaching new technologies such as blockchain, machine learning, and augmented reality. These programs can also offer project-based and foundational courses which are important for those who are or wish to be data scientists, software developers, or systems engineers.

Graduates with master’s degrees may find roles working with autonomous systems, software automation, software engineering, intelligent systems, intrusion detection systems, advanced computer architecture, high-performance computing, design of software, database management systems, and much more.

There is also the option to earn an MBA with a focus on computer science or a similar concentration. These degrees are meant for those in business roles and provide a lot of foundational business knowledge along with courses focused on your concentration of choice. This can help those working in IT or database management to move up within their current company or find new roles elsewhere. They can even help them move into the C-suites in a chief information security officer role or other similar options.

Online PhD Degree in Computer Science (PhD)

Computer science doctoral candidates will find plenty of options when it comes to earning a PhD. This is a field that is constantly advancing and those who want to teach or perform important research can improve their chances of success by earning this terminal degree. However, you should make sure that you check all requirements before entering any program. You’ll need to already hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a similar field and you’ll likely need to maintain a certain GPA during the program.

Doctoral degrees can take as long as 7 years to complete and usually require some form of research and dissertation before you can earn your degree. You may also need to defend your dissertation to a review board. While there are plenty of options for earning a PhD throughout the country, there are fewer within the state of Montana, so you might have to look elsewhere to find the degree you want.

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Become a CIS Professional in Montana

The only thing that is actually required to become a computer science professional is to gain some knowledge and then some experience. Some people get into the field by learning on their own and then using the skills they learn to land an entry-level job.

The truth is that it is easier to get into a job if you have some form of degree. Even an associate degree still holds a lot of weight in this field, though a bachelor’s will allow for more upward movement in your career.

Some professions are required to have licensure or certification in order to do their work, but computer science is not one of those. However, that doesn’t mean that certifications should be ignored. These credentials can prove to potential employers that you know what you’re doing and have the skills to succeed. Certifications for computer science professionals are available in a huge number of specialties. Depending on what you do on the job, you might be well served with certifications for Google, developers, or cloud architects. These certifications can focus on a specific type of software or skill. Here are just some of the certifications available.

  • Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)
    This certification helps IT professionals whose work involves security risks. It helps them develop a more advanced knowledge of monitoring and reporting for risk control. To enroll, you should have a minimum of three years of work experience in at least two of the four domains which have been identified by ISACA. These domains are information security incident management, governance, information risk management, and security program development and management.
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
    This certification emphasizes business management expertise, along with skill-building in information security management, design, and oversight. To qualify, security management professionals are required to have five years of experience in this area, though there is no prerequisite coursework. Continuing education credit hours are required every three years.
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
    The EC-Council certifies ethical hackers, who penetrate their organization’s computer systems so they can identify system vulnerabilities. The purpose of this credential is to develop and maintain minimal standards or credentialing professional security specialists, reinforce ethical hacking as a self-regulating and unique profession, and inform employers that professionals with certifications either meet or exceed minimal standards.

Potential Careers for Computer Science Graduates

Check out some top computer science careers below.

  • Software Tester:

    A software tester designs test scenarios to check the usability of software under development; they run the tests, then write reports on how effective the software is, as well as any noted defects. This report goes to the production team who can make changes and debug as needed.

    A software tester may also interact with clients of the organization, discussing the client’s needs as the software is being designed. A successful software tester should have a good knowledge of both software, programming, and test design.

  • Cyber Security Analyst:

    A cyber security analyst protects their organization’s network and systems, hardening them against cyber-attacks. They research new IT trends, develop contingency plans, review any suspicious activity, report security breaches, and educate the rest of the organization on security practices.

    They may also put into place threat protection measures and security controls or carry out ethical hacking to find areas with potential vulnerabilities in the organization. This specialist should stay current on how hackers adopt new strategies and tools.

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  • UI Developer:

    This professional holds a technical role, creating the coding and development for a new product so that it is attractive and convenient for users to adopt. Every UI developer uses programming code as they create interactive programs which improve the customer’s experience with a brand. They may do this with an organization’s website, platform, or mobile app.

  • Senior Database Administrator:

    A senior database administrator maintains the integrity and quality of an organization’s database system. They may also ensure the server’s security is current, carry out routine back-ups, design and carry out tests of the system, and keep an eye out for other issues.

  • Web Designer & Developer:

    Web designers and developers design, lay out, and code websites so that they perform the way their client needs them to. They handle the technical and graphical aspects of the site, looking at how it works and looks and updating any interactive pieces when they stop working correctly. They may also maintain or update existing sites.

    This professional can write the programming code from scratch or adapt existing website software and graphics packages to meet the needs of an organization. They can also test the site and identify technical issues, upload the site onto a server, and register it with search engines.

  • Software Designer:

    A software designer’s job depends on the needs of the team or organization they work with. Some develop applications allowing people to carry out specific tasks on computers or mobile devices; others build and maintain systems that allow devices and organizations to run. Some organizations may need to hire a developer who can handle both back-end and front-end software development; this is a full-stack developer.

  • Cyber Security Consultant:

    These professionals analyze and assess security systems and measures for client organizations. They also study and outline in reports the potential breaches they find and suggest solutions to safeguard against future attacks. Consultants work for client companies rather than for one organization. This may mean that they spend a lot of time traveling in order to gain access to each company’s systems.

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