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What is Computer Science?

Are you considering enrolling in a computer science degree program in New Jersey? This major is highly appropriate for those interested in the information and technology career field. While curriculums vary from institution to institution, students generally obtain knowledge related to several key topics such as programming languages, mathematics, and database design. Students also often develop skills in analytics, communication, logical thinking, and problem-solving. Familiarity with these areas can lead to various employment opportunities but is particularly important for individuals seeking jobs in software design, networking, and information technology security.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in computer and information technology occupations is expected to increase by 13% from 2020 to 2030. This is faster than the average of all occupations and will account for approximately 667,600 new jobs in the field. Demand for professionals in this field will predominantly be generated due to a greater emphasis on cloud computing, the collection and storage of big data, and information security.

While computer science and technology is not considered a top industry in New Jersey, information is the state’s eighth biggest sector. It accounts for $26.7 billion in revenue each year. Additionally, information collection and data storage are essential to almost every company and organization, leading to more job availability in other industries such as professional and business services, educational services, healthcare, finance, insurance, and manufacturing.

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Online Computer Science Education in New Jersey

As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and mathematical occupations accounted for 146,110 jobs in New Jersey in May 2021. This is on the high end when compared to other state in the nation. The annual mean wage for local professionals in this field was $108,800. Notably, this is well above the state’s annual mean wage of $67,120.

Prospective students may be tempted by the wide variety of distance learning programs in computer science and related fields. While many colleges and universities offer remote degree options that can be completed from anywhere with internet access, those who intend to seek employment in New Jersey should give preference to local institutions. This is because these schools have a better understanding of employer needs and expectations in the state. They also tend to have established relationships with nearby companies and organizations eager to provide internships or hire recent graduates.

Computer science skills are often highly coveted by most companies and organizations, which means professionals in the field can typically find employment in almost any industry. As a result, however, job descriptions can vary quite significantly. This can make identifying universal job expectations difficult, especially when keeping employer size, goals, and preferences in mind. While there are exceptions, many computer science employment opportunities relate to designing innovative uses for new and existing technology. It’s also common for professionals in this field to be tasked with solving complex problems in computing.

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In order to differentiate knowledge and skills, many computer science professionals specialize in sub-fields. This can also drastically impact daily responsibilities.

Some common areas of interest include:

  • Computer Programming
  • Database Administration
  • Hardware Engineering
  • Information Research
  • Network Administration
  • Software Developing
  • Systems Management
  • Video Game Development
  • Web Development

While jobs are available in almost every industry, the largest employers for this field are computer systems design service companies, educational institutions, and the federal government. Professionals can expect various work settings, from small offices to large research centers. This interested in this type of work should realize that some positions require moving between and servicing multiple locations. Additionally, coordination with other technology specialists around the world is often necessary.

While not always necessary, degrees in computer science and related subjects are the best way to qualify for professional employment in the information and technology field. It’s possible to obtain entry-level employment with self-taught knowledge and skills, but most employers require candidates have at least some post-secondary education.

There are many colleges and universities in New Jersey that offer applicable programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Some may also have graduate certificate programs available. Each degree type has benefits and drawbacks, making it imperative to consider the options carefully. Ultimately, the institution and degree you choose can have a significant impact on your professional prospects, especially when competing for top positions in data science, cyber security, artificial intelligence, software engineering, and information technology (IT) management.

Online Associate Degree in Computer Science (AS)

Most associate degree programs in computer science consist of 60 credit hours of coursework, which takes full-time students approximately two years to complete. Class requirements vary, but most programs are comprised of both general education and subject-specific requirements. In addition to a broad introduction to the field, students can expect to gain object-oriented programing skills, which may be applied in many different settings.

This type of online degree is ideal for those seeking entry-level employment in information and technology positions without committing a significant amount of time and money. While many employers often give preference to candidates with bachelor’s degrees, this is one of the fastest ways to enter the field. Graduates often qualify for jobs in computer support and web design.

It’s also common for students to utilize online associate degrees as preparation for further education. Graduates can transfer credits and have them applied towards bachelor’s degrees at four-year institutions. Most colleges and universities will accept up to 60 or 90 hours of coursework. This is often the difference between entering as a freshman or a junior. As community colleges tend to charge lower tuition and fees, transferring credits earned can be a great way to save money.

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Online Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science (BS)

Bachelor’s degrees in computer science generally consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately four years to complete. Specifics vary from institution to institution, but programs are often comprised of both general education and major-specific classes. Instruction covers various key topics related to computer science theory, computer systems, and computer applications. Students may also be given opportunities to select concentrations or specialties. This allows them to specialize their instruction by enrolling in courses within various sub-fields. Some of the most common concentrations at this level include software engineering, network and security, and game development.

This type of degree is optimal for those interested in most information and technology professions. In fact, most computer science professionals have bachelor’s degrees. This is largely due to the fact that employers require or give preference to those with more education. Graduates at this level can qualify for all entry-level positions as computer programmers, information security analysts, software developers, and computer system administrators.

Graduates can also choose to pursue further education by enrolling in master’s degree programs. Degree candidates should anticipate meeting minimum grade point average (GPA) and Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) test score requirements.

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

Master’s degree programs in computer science generally consist of 30-60 credit hours of coursework, which takes full-time students approximately two years to complete. Curriculums vary, but most are either practical or research-based and lack general education classes. Instruction is often practice-oriented and focuses on advanced computer science and business administration concepts. While some subjects may be repeated from the undergraduate level, students can expect to explore concepts in greater depth. As with bachelor’s degrees, many colleges and universities allow students to select concentrations. Common options include software theory and engineering, artificial intelligence, security, systems, and data science and analytics.

This type of degree is ideal for individuals seeking specialized training that builds upon the fundamental knowledge gained during previous study. Graduates typically qualify for mid-to upper-level computer and information technology jobs, such as computer and information research scientists. Notably, master’s degrees often make candidates more competitive and lead to employment opportunities with higher pay.

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Online PhD Degree in Computer Science (PhD)

Doctoral degree programs in computer science can vary significantly from institution to institution, but most take students between six and seven years to complete. In most cases, students will spend the first three years receiving classroom instruction before researching, writing, and defending their final dissertations.

This type of degree is rarely necessary, but can lead to some exciting career options. It’s most appropriate for professionals who intend to seek jobs in information and technology research. Alternatively, graduates can apply for employment in advanced education positions. All accredited, four-year, public institutions require professors to have doctorate degrees.

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Become a CIS Professional in New Jersey

The first step to becoming a computer science professional in New Jersey is identifying your ultimate career goals. As previously mentioned, majoring in computer science or a related subject can lead to a wide variety of employment opportunities spread across numerous industries. Narrowing your focus will make it easier to select a degree that will provide you with the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in your preferred profession.

Once you have earned the necessary degree(s), it may be beneficial to obtain one or more certifications and/or licenses. Professional certifications, in particular, can be helpful as they demonstrate proficiency in various facets of the information and technology field. They can also significantly improve your job prospects, increase promotion opportunities, and lead to higher salary potential.

Most certifications related to computer science are offered by technology companies, professional associations, or professional certification boards. You will be able to choose between either vendor-specific or vendor-neutral credentials.

Some common options include:

  • Certified Information Security Manager
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer
  • Project Management Professional
  • Certified Information System Security Professional

Notably, certifications and licensure are not generally required in the computer science field. Most choose to pursue these credentials in order to distinguish themselves or demonstrate knowledge in a particular sub-field. Some employers do, however, require job candidates to possess specific certifications before hiring them or, at the very least, give preference to those with them. In other cases, you may be expected to obtain specific credentials after being selected for the job. As a result, it is imperative that you carefully review position postings prior to submitting applications.

If you choose to obtain professional certifications, most require continuing education in order to remain valid. Every credential is different, but it’s common for the awarding company, organization, or association to establish standards meant to ensure you remain familiar with current information and trends. The computer science field is constantly changing, so this ensures professional’s knowledge is up to date and relevant. Continuing education requirements may be met by completing training programs, attending seminars at conventions, and/or enrolling in academic courses. While many options require payment, some opportunities are free.

Careers for Computer Science Graduates

After earning a computer science degree in New Jersey and obtaining any optional certifications, you may be qualified to apply for a wide variety of employment opportunities. Salaries and responsibilities vary throughout the state, but some of the more common career options include the following.

  • Computer Science Professor
    Postsecondary and higher education professors who teach computer science courses develop relevant curriculums for college-level students at academic institutions. They must possess a strong mastery over the content and be able to deliver relevant lectures. As experts in the field, these professionals provide instruction in 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 work to protect information technology infrastructures for their employers. They often take steps to keep data secure, as well as offer advice to stakeholders during consultations. These professionals monitor networks and systems to detect potential security threats and analyze alarms, reporting any possible intrusion attempts so they are addressed quickly. According to PayScale, cyber security analysts make an average base salary of $76,650 per year.
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  • Data Scientist
    Data scientists analyze, process, model, and interpret data in order to create viable action plans for their employers. They often utilize computer science, statistics and mathematics to gather and assess large sets of data. These professionals must be good problem solvers as employers frequently depend on them to recommend cost-effective changes to existing procedures. According to PayScale, data scientists make an average base salary of $96,550 per year.
  • Network Analyst
    Network analysts ensure that organizational computer networks remain functional. They often coordinate with other technology experts, such as network engineers, to keep hardware, software, and peripherals working properly. These professionals may also work with various communication networks, as well as evaluating new vendor products for potential purchase 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 the networks utilized by their employers. They ensure network implementation is completed successfully by assessing system integrity, monitoring progress, and escalating issues to administrators or supervisors. These professionals may also initiate 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 Designer
    Software designers often work with other programmers and testers to create new computer software. They then serve as sources of information to people utilizing the software by answering questions and troubleshooting issues. These professionals may also be tasked with developing corresponding reference guides detailing what certain software does and how it works. According to PayScale, software designers make an average base salary of $77,750 per year.
  • Technical Support Specialist
    Technical support specialists identify technology issues and provide assistance to colleagues. They work to improve the efficiency of programs currently in use and sometimes write new programs to replace them. These professionals also pass along information, bugs, and feature requests to 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 create web pages and websites for their employers. They write code and take steps to ensure materials are maintained in easily accessible databases. These professionals also test and modify new software before incorporating it into company or organization websites. According to PayScale, web developers make an average base salary of $60,100 per year.
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