What is Computer Science?
Computers have completely changed our everyday lives. There was a time when experts did not think that computers would ever be in the home but, now, not only are they in use in every room, we carry them around in our pockets and purses. Most people complete at least one task each day using a computer, and that trend is not going to change anytime soon. More than likely, our dependence on computers is only going to increase.
A computer science professional works with computers and computer networks. Depending on which area a person chooses, their daily work routine might vary. A computer programmer might spend their day writing computer programming, editing, and debugging code and testing written programs to see if they work properly or need changes. If you work in database management, then you will spend your days building and maintaining databases and troubleshooting issues. Software engineers will spend their time creating and implementing software solutions, etc. There are many different avenues that a person in the computer sciences can follow, and there are instances in which you can follow more than one path at once.
Computer science professionals can find work in pretty much any industry. Education, healthcare, and financing are popular areas for computer science professionals but fossil fuel, real estate, and other areas of business are also popular options.
Online Computer Science Education in Rhode Island
With this increase in use, there is a need for people who create 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 are often called computer scientists. They build the computers we use and design the programs we use on them. So, as you’re reading this on your laptop, tablet, or cell phone, know that someone designed the device and another person created the program you are using to read this.
The need for programmers in the United States is expected to taper off between now and 2029, mainly because overseas programmers and builders are more cost-effective. However, there are other areas of computer science where the demand is expected to increase. There are over 7,100 people employed in the field of computer science in Rhode Island, and on average they earn over $80,000 annually. So, if you live in Rhode Island and you have an interest in working with, on, or around computers, this is a good time to get started. After all, every industry in existence uses computers, so there will always be a need for experts in that field. Keep reading for more information regarding education requirements, how to break into the industry and the types of jobs that could be available to you.
Computer science degrees vary from an associate degree up through and including PhDs. 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 the classes they can anticipate taking.
Online Associate Degree in Computer Science (AS)
An online AS 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.
Students can expect to take classes such as:
- Software Engineering
- Operating Systems
- And More
Online Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science (BS)
With an online Bachelor of Science degree in computer science graduates can pursue entry-level to mid-management positions. 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 all the classes taken at the associate degree level, but will also include courses in the following areas:
- Programming Languages
- Software Development
- Advanced Networking
- Cyber Security or Information Assurance
- Computer Application and Theory
Bachelor degrees take four to six years to complete, depending on a student’s performance and their schedule, in other words, whether they are able to attend full-or only part-time. An internship might be required.
Online Master's Degree in Computer Science (MS)
An online 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 the government. 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 to be required to complete either a written comprehensive exam or a capstone project to complete the program. This degree can take from two to five years to complete, with accelerated programs taking the least time and part-time attenders sometimes needing significantly more time to complete their programs.
Online PhD Degree in Computer Science (PhD)
Those who decide to complete a doctorate degree in computer science either seek to become leading scientists in the area of research or they may desire to teach at the university level. A doctoral degree can take up to seven years to complete and usually 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.
Become a CIS Professional in Rhode Island
To become a computer science professional in Rhode Island you have to attain some specialized skills. Although a four-year degree isn’t a requirement for all professions, formal training in your area of interest is a must. For example, if you want to maintain databases, majoring in database administration would be a logical step. When choosing a school in which to get formal training, you’ll want to select a school with a good reputation, accreditation, and, preferably, with a placement program for graduates. Depending on your chosen career, there will most likely be professional certifications you’ll want to attain in order to progress in your career. For example, certifications offered from the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC)2 are required for many in the information technology or network development fields.
Because you might need to get special certifications, this makes attending and graduating from an accredited college or university very important. To qualify to take certification tests, you have to have an education from an accredited school. If the your chosen school is not accredited, you will seriously impact your career options, since you won’t be allowed to take the exams that would enable you to further your career. It’s also important to note that employers prefer to hire employees who were educated at accredited schools or who have earned further certifications in their field.
You can start your career with an associate degree, so going to a local community college to save funds is a good option. But, as your career progresses, additional education and training will likely be required. And, as previously mentioned, certifications often require a minimum level of education, mostly at the bachelor degree level. If you have plans to move into director or management positions, then a four-year degree or more will normally be required. For those who want to teach, obtaining a master’s degree or a doctorate will allow you to pursue that route. No matter what degree level you decide to pursue, you want to attend one of the best accredited colleges in Rhode Island.
Careers for Computer Science Graduates
Because computer science is such a wide-open industry, the career options are just as plentiful. Below are a few options for someone who wants to pursue a career in computer science. It’s far from an exhaustive list, just a random sample of some of the more popular career options.
- Software Tester
Software testers get software that has been developed and look for flaws and bugs. They run the software as an end user or a hacker. Testers are trying to break the program to see where its weaknesses are 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.
- Systems Analyst
A system analyst evaluates computer and networking systems to ensure they run correctly. They also ensure that important factors, such as proper integration with existing systems and software and proper security features, are in place and working properly and that ease of use is examined and feedback is presented to developers.
- IT Support Specialist
Tech support specialists work with end users to troubleshoot issues with software. This can be in person, online, or via telephone. These specialists may also work with developers to debug software programs and beta-test to check for problems before it is rolled out to end users.
- Cyber Security Analyst
A cyber security analyst watches for and corrects flows in systems where cyber-attacks could be a problem. When new systems are installed, the analyst inspects the system and identifies where breaches could occur so that developers can correct the situation. In the event of a breach, they and their team will identify the breach, terminate it, and then use the data to locate the attacker.
- Technology Director
As the title indicates, a technology director runs a technology department for a company. They handle day-to-day operations that deal with the business’ technological needs and ensures that a company’s systems and equipment are running properly. Most tech directors work their way up through the ranks of an IT department.
- Application Developer
Application developers create applications that we use on our devices. Most application developers either design for Apple or Android but, if you are a developer who can design for Apple, Android, and Windows, you could be in high demand. Many developers work for companies, but there are quite a few freelance app developers out there as well.
- Web Designer & Developer
Designers must learn programming languages as well as understand how computer operating and networking systems work to properly design the sites that display the information. They are also experienced at working with graphics as well as numerous types of codes. Many developers are self-taught but, in order to progress in their careers and add to their credibility, they often attain at least an associate degree.
What are some Computer Science Career Paths?