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What is Computer Science?

Computers have completely changed our everyday lives. Believe it or not, there was a time when experts dismissed the idea of a home computer, but now, not only are they used in every room, but we also carry them around in our pockets and purses. Most people complete at least one task each day using a computer, and that trend is only going to increase. Our dependence on computers increases on a daily basis, which is sometimes not a good thing.

Computer science professionals work in the field of computers hardware and software. They include programmers, those who test and troubleshoot hardware and software, platform designers, and many other technology positions. Computer science professionals exist in all industries; computers are everywhere, and someone has to run, program and fix the computers, and keep the system and network functioning. They are also responsible for creating the software and applications for cell phones, tablets, smart televisions, and other electronic devices that are finding their way onto the Internet of Things at an increasing pace. Computer science professionals work for tech companies, game manufacturers, hospitals, schools, factories, and even department stores and banks. Where there are computers, there are computer science professionals.

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Online Computer Science Education in North Dakota

With the increase in use of computers, comes a need for people who create the computers as well as those who write the programs that run them. This industry is referred to as computer science, and those who work in it may be called computer scientists. They build the programs we use and design the computers we use them on. So, as you’re reading this on your laptop, tablet, or cell phone, know that someone designed the device and another created the program you are using to read this.

A typical day in the life of a computer science professional may consist of reviewing the programming needs for their organization, reviewing current programs and systems in place to ensure they are working properly, being available to analyze issues and fix problems, as well as researching new trends in technology and computer processes. These activities will change depending on the specific role someone holds, but the gist is that, if they aren’t creating new programming, they are fixing existing programming and monitoring it to make sure it continues to work properly.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for computer science professionals is expected to increase between 2020 and 2030 at a reasonably rapid pace. With computers and applications being used in all aspects of our working and personal lives, it’s important that there are enough professionals to meet the demands for the hardware and software, as well as troubleshooters and computer techs. We also need people who can ensure that these tools are as safe to use as possible. A decade or two ago, a person who wanted to work with computers might find themselves in a computer room at a bank or hospital with little education in the field and would make their way up into senior management positions. That’s no longer the case. Although a person can have a career in computer science without a degree, in order to progress into senior management positions, a formal education is nearly always required. Also, there isn’t an industry in existence that does not use computers, so the field is wide open. If a career in computer science sounds like something you might be interested in, continue reading below.

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Computer science degrees vary from an associate (two-year) degree up through and including doctorate degrees. The more education a person receives, the further they can progress in their careers. Below are fours of the types of degrees a person can receive in computer science, and just some of the classes they can anticipate taking.

Online Associate Degree in Computer Science (AS)

An associate degree in computer science is the first degree a person can get. Associate degrees take two years to complete (which is why they are also referred to as “two-year degrees”), and graduates are prepared to take on some entry-level computer science positions, depending on the industry and focus of study. This degree level usually requires students to take at least some general education courses, such as those in composition and basic mathematics.

Students can also expect to take core classes such as:

  • Trigonometry and/or Calculus
  • Introduction to Computer/Programming Logic
  • Computer Programming Languages (Java, Python, etc.)
  • Oral Communication
  • Data Structures and Algorithms
  • Software Development Lifecycle
  • Systems Analysis and Design
  • Operating Platforms
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Online Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science (BS)

With a bachelor’s degree in computer science, graduates may be able to pursue mid-management positions, especially if they have work experience. This is the degree level where workers will begin to qualify for certifications required to advance in their chosen field, such as Cisco and Microsoft. And, depending on the state, some graduates can teach at the community and technical college level.

The degree curriculum will cover similar classes to those taken at the associate degree level, but may also include courses in the following areas:

  • Computer Software
  • Computer Hardware
  • Advanced Networking
  • Cyber Security
  • Internet and Website Design
  • Advanced Programming Concepts
  • Application Development

Bachelor degrees take four to six years to complete, depending on a student’s performance as well as whether they attend part- or full-time. An internship might be required, as well as a final project.

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Online Master's Degree in Computer Science (MS)

A graduate degree in computer science will allow workers to move into upper management positions within the computer science department at many businesses, as well as in government agencies. Teaching opportunities are also often available. Furthermore, a person is also most likely qualified to attain the highest certifications in their particular computer field. Graduate degrees in computer science tend to be specialized, so there is no set curriculum, but students can expect in depth study of their chosen area of expertise, and either a written comprehensive exam or a capstone project is required to complete the program. The degree can take from two to five years to complete.

There is also the option to earn an MBA with a concentration in some form of computer science field. Concentrations might include those in the field of computer software or hardware, programming, cyber security, application development, web development, and more. An MBA will provide you with a great deal of business knowledge, while giving you the means to apply this, and your concentration, to your current career. These are the best option for those already working in business and looking for advancement into management positions. There are many options available, especially as these programs are often accessible online, so you can attend a school anywhere in the US without ever leaving your job.

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Online PhD Degree in Computer Science (PhD)

Those who decide to complete a doctorate degree in computer science usually either seek to become leading scientists in the area of research or they wish to teach at the university level. A doctorate degree can take up to seven years to complete and requires a dissertation to be completed and defended. Those with doctorates will be considered subject matter experts and are often highly sought after by major corporations as well as the upper branches of state and federal agencies.

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Become a CIS Professional in North Dakota

Becoming a computer science professional is a straightforward process, in North Dakota and most other states and places in the world. To succeed, a person needs an education and work experience. There are no licensure requirements put in place by states, though state departments and federal government agencies will, of course, have specific requirements for those that they hire. Although any job in computer science automatically makes a person a computer science professional, once a person has attained several successful years working in the industry or you’ve moved into supervisory or management roles within the industry, then they will really be cemented in the industry.

  • Getting the proper education

    Any formal education is helpful, but students should seek an education from a regionally accredited school with an accredited computer science program. Attending a school that does not have recognized programs can lead to problems when pursuing certifications and licenses needed to progress in the industry. More education is better, but many start their careers with just an associate degree. Once a person has attained the education needed, they can begin searching for a position working in computer science. Keep in mind that most computer scientists work as computer scientists in other industries such as finance, law, etc. Additionally, some jobs, such as those with the NSA, will require that you obtain your degree from an institution that has specific accreditation. In fact, the NSA helped to create CAE accreditation for cyber security professionals so that they could ensure that the workers they hired for cyber security positions really knew what they are doing.

    Once some education has been attained and a person is working in the industry, it’s a process in time and continuing education. As a person gains work experience, they can start to attain certifications that will allow them to progress in their careers. With new certifications come new employment opportunities, and this leads to eligibility for additional certifications. The accumulation of work experience and additional certifications will allow a person to progress in their career and lead to management and supervisory opportunities.

Careers for Computer Science Graduates

Since computer science is a pretty wide field, there a many avenues a person can explore when they start looking for a career. Below are some of the careers a person with a computer science education can consider.

  • Software Tester
    Software testers look for flaws and safety hazards in developed computer software. They run the software as an end user, as well as someone who might want to break into the software and use it for nefarious reasons. In other words, testers are trying to break into a program to see where its weaknesses are, all so that programmers and developers can create more stable and impervious programs. Testers are often programmers themselves, but some testers are just avid users of the types of programs being tested and have an intimate knowledge of how the software is supposed to work, which helps with finding ways to break it.
  • Technical Support Specialist / IT Support Specialist
    Tech support specialists help hardware and software end users troubleshoot issues they are having with their equipment and software. Support can occur via telephone, email, through a messenger service, or even in person if a company keeps their department staffed with support professionals. Some specialists offer tech support directly, while others record the issue and turn the information over to other specialists.
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  • Application Developer
    Application developers create the software that we use on our devices. Sometimes, this is meant literally, as in, they create applications, or apps, for mobile devices. From the app we use to check our bank account balances, to the ones used to pay back our friends for lunch, all of these were created by developers. Most application developers either design for Apple or Android, but you can also design them for Windows, browsers, etc. Many of these professionals work for companies, but there are quite a few freelance app developers out there as well.
  • Data Scientist
    Data scientists use data from various sources and identify trends and patterns that can be used to find solutions to a variety of problems. They can watch weather patterns and trends, which can then be used to create more precise weather forecasting. Or they can study voting trends and make predicting winners of elections more accurate.
  • Security Consultant (cyber security)
    With the increase of using computers to do everything from reminding us to pick up the dry cleaning to depositing checks, it’s important that the applications and programs we use allow us to do these things safely. However, when there is a breach, it’s good to know that there are a group of people who are trained to stop the breach and track down those responsible. This is what cyber security professionals do. Not only do they stop attacks and find the offenders, but they also help developers create programs that are safer, so attacks of the same kind are less likely to happen again.
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