What is Computer Science?
Texas may be known for oil and football teams, but it is also home to one of the nation's largest economies. In fact, when Texas is isolated from the rest of the nation, it has the world's 10th largest economy. Nationally, Texas is behind our #1 economy, California, but the Lone Star State will always be a major powerhouse. In fact, it leads the nation in the mining, quarrying, and oil/gas exploration.
Other major industries in Texas include manufacturing (#2 nationally), professional & business services (#3), real estate (#3), and wholesale trade (#5). Each of these industries require great support from the computer scientists they employ. Manufacturing needs computer scientists to design the software to help automate assembly, business services need a full array of technological solutions, and even real estate needs computer modeling to understand changes in the market.
A computer science professional is a high-technology worker whose primary domain is the deeply technical aspects of computing. Many computer scientists are involved in coding and thus become programmers, software developers, software engineers, and even data scientists. Given that nearly every profession and industry relies, to some extent, on computers, computer scientists are in high demand. Computer scientists may develop mobile apps for their employers or clients. These apps might help workers with attendance records or inventories, other apps may help customers execute purchases or even play branded games.
The job market for a tech worker who holds a degree in computer science is rather broad. Thus, the field is peppered with a myriad of certifications that qualify computer scientists in specific programming languages, cyber security technologies, and even hardware designs. Those who have a knack for programming algorithms may work for financial firms to help them execute lightning-fast stock purchases and sales or they might write algorithms for ecommerce or social media solutions.
Online Computer Science Education in Texas
To support and grow the Texan economy, firms need the best computer science professionals they can find. The state's colleges and universities thus rise to the challenge with world-class computer science degree programs. These programs are able to address the specific needs of the Texan economy by infusing it with top-notch graduates who are prepared to meet the technological challenges faced in business today.
Computer science degree programs thus constantly seek out the very best faculty. CS departments look for candidates who have produced the very best research in the field while also looking for credentialed faculty who also have practical experience. Well-seasoned faculty can be especially helpful since they can present real-world scenarios and problems for students to solve.
Texas' computer science departments also look for experienced tech professionals from within the state economy. Those professionals may have specific experience in, say, oil and gas exploration that may prove invaluable to their students. Students may also need insights into that industry's supply chain issues which are increasingly addressed by computer scientists.
Online Associate Degree in Computer Science (AS)
This degree level is recommended as a terrific way to launch into computer science. A two-year, online associate computer science degree covers the basics of programming and other aspects of computer science. This foundational knowledge may be all a person needs to jump into a career. After all, with an associate computer science degree and certifications in a few programming languages, a tech worker is able to land a terrific entry-level position.
Even the most advanced, self-taught computer whiz should consider this degree level. This is because it provides more than the degree-specific courses. An associate computer science degree requires that students complete the core college curriculum, which provides a basis in professional level communications, a broad knowledge base, and the general seasoning a professional needs to find a place in nearly any corporate culture. Furthermore, a two-year associate degree from a community college is far cheaper than the equivalent coursework in a four-year Texas college or university. Thus, those who desire a bachelor's computer science degree can save a lot of money on their first two years.
Online Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science (BS)
A four-year online bachelor's computer science degree is a terrific launchpad for later career success as a computer scientist. While the first two years of a bachelor's degree are largely comprised of core curriculum courses, the last two years focus squarely on computer science. This added time may also allow students room to complete a second major or a minor concentration that can inform their computer science work. Many computer science students choose to minor in a field such as mathematics, finance, or even one of the social sciences.
Undergraduates in computer science may also choose to pursue internships while they study. These hands-on experiences can help inform their later career decisions while simultaneously bolstering their resumes. Some undergraduate CS students also work part-time in the community, offering their technological expertise to local businesses on a part-time or contract basis.
Online Master's Degree in Computer Science (MS)
An online master's computer science degree is the degree that can launch a career into the C-suites. An MBA may also help a computer scientist achieve their desired career goals, as well. In fact, many computer science experts choose an MBA while developing their tech skills by way of certifications. However, a dual-MBA that combines the business degree with an MS in computer science may be the optimal route. A dual master's degree allows students to complete both degrees in only three years, and often at a reduced cost.
A master's degree also offers professionals the opportunity to focus their career on a specific area. Some computer scientists may be more interested in data science and its application in marketing, and so will do a dual-MBA that appeals to that specific combination. Others may be more interested in a move into business administration so might earn an MBA with a concentration in management or leadership.
Online PhD Degree in Computer Science (PhD)
A PhD is the peak of academic achievement in computer science. Since the field is continually growing and developing, a PhD in the right specialty area might well boost a career to the stratosphere. For example, a PhD that focuses on artificial intelligence, cryptography, or quantum computing may be particularly valuable. There are other options for a PhD, as well. Some prefer to focus instead on mathematics, which forms the fundamental basis for computing. Some of these doctors of math have moved on to develop groundbreaking new technologies, including blockchain encryption and imaging technologies.
As for the job market, a PhD in computer science is a terminal degree. There are many firms that will hire a PhD to continue their own research. This seems particularly popular in the field of cryptography and cyber security, where new developments are vital to so many firms. Other PhDs decide to take their brilliant ideas and build new ventures with them.
Become a CIS Professional in Texas
The field of computing is especially hot right now. As computers have become ubiquitous in our daily lives, so has demand for experts who can develop software, design cyber security systems, and create new technologies for tomorrow. Texans have joined the bandwagon and are now interested to know how to become a computer science professional.
There are many ways to approach a career in computer science, software engineering, and software development. Since the industry developed before Texas' colleges and universities were able to design courses and computer science major degree programs, the field still accepts self-taught individuals. Especially motivated students in Texas can find many learning education resources online. There are many courses that are free or very affordable and can teach you the basics of programming and everything else you need to know to get started in the field. Depending on individual demand, there are also courses that go as deep as you'd like. Many of these courses allow students to earn certificates for a fee.
Thus, even a high school student can earn certificates in various programming languages. There are even software developers who start work before they are able to drive. Others approach programming as a hobby and build fun games or apps for their friends. However, most computer scientists will choose the traditional educational route.
The easiest and most affordable first step in traditional academia is to earn an associate computer science degree. Those motivated students who have earned certificates online can build on those credentials by completing a two-year degree. Community colleges generally require that students all complete the core college curriculum as a part of their computer science degrees. Students also receive a more formal view of computer science and programming which they can use to inform their informal education.
A bachelor's computer science degree is also a great goal for all computer science students. Students in larger universities may be able to take highly specialized courses that help them build towards their long-term goals. A bachelor's degree program will also help support students gain experience by way of internships.
After earning a bachelor's computer science degree, students should all aim for more learning. While a graduate degree may be the standard next step, workers can also pursue certificates in the exact technologies they need to master. For example, a computer scientist who starts down the road toward data science can earn certificates in languages such as Python or R. Colleges and universities also offer graduate certificates which allow students to gain academic credentials without committing to a full graduate computer science degree program.
Ultimately, the decision to pursue computer science entails a commitment to lifelong learning. Computer technology continues to advance and will likely take more giant leaps forward as quantum computers become more prevalent.
Careers for Computer Science Graduates
- Software Tester:
This field is a vital part of the software development process, but it may not even require a computer science degree. Software testers often need to be average computer users who can report to developers how well the application works for them. Testers should therefore be objective and able to clearly communicate their experience to the development team.
- Systems Analyst:
This field is a vital part of any firm's IT scheme. Analysts constantly review new technologies and determine what their firm might or might not need. They also help to train end-users when there is a major new roll-out of software or hardware solutions.
- Technical Support Specialist/IT Support Specialist:
Tech support specialists are found across a wide range of software and hardware systems. They might help consumer level end-users with websites, or they might be high-end computer science professionals who assist other professionals with high-tech solutions. For example, some technical support specialists focus their work on servers and thus must have in-depth knowledge of that technology.
- Cyber Security Analyst:
This field is experiencing rapid growth to help thwart the threat from nefarious hackers. Cyber security analysts review security systems for their client or employer. They constantly seek out new solutions and ways to secure databases and network communications. This may even include training employees to recognize phishing schemes or other tricks hackers use to exploit systems.
- Technology Director:
This title can go to a top IT professional who oversees the IT operations of their firm. Directors may oversee a team of managers who, in turn, supervise teams of technology workers, whether IT workers or programmers.
- Computer Science Professor:
To earn the full title of professor, computer science experts need to earn a PhD and then work for years in tenure-track positions. Often universities require that aspiring professors conduct research on top of their teaching duties. Teaching may first start with introductory level courses, but PhDs will soon teach master's level courses.
- Data Scientist:
As the internet continues to generate more and more data, firms are clamoring for data scientists who can parse that information. Data scientists often have a strong mathematics background on top of the skill to write programs in Python or R, which can sort the data in meaningful ways. Data scientists work in marketing, finance, and public health, among many possible career outcomes.
- IT Project Manager:
This position is primarily administrative, but those with a background in computer science may be particularly good candidates for jobs in project management. They are adept at assembling a team of IT professionals who can address specific needs of their client or the firm. They coordinate with those clients to ensure that the IT team is on track and exceeding expectations.