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What is Computer Science?

Many colleges and universities in Washington offer degrees in computer science. The major is relatively popular, especially among people who possess an interest in, and aptitude for, information and technology. Choosing to earn a degree in this subject can lead to a wide variety of engaging, innovative, and dynamic career opportunities. It’s an ideal field of study for those who plan to pursue careers in software design, networking, and information technology security.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in computer and information technology occupations is expected to increase by 15% from 2021 to 2031. This is much faster than the average of all occupations and will account for many jobs openings in the nation each year. Outlook for this field is strong as a continued reliance on and increasing demand for technology is likely. Most companies and organizations rely heavily on computer and information technology professionals. This dependence is only expected to increase as more and more turn to cloud computing, which requires extensive maintenance and security services.

Generally, computer science professions create and/or utilize a wide range of technologies to achieve various goals as needed by their employers. They are often responsible for testing software, as well as finding innovative ways to address complex computing problems.

It’s somewhat difficult to identify standard responsibilities and daily tasks for this field, however. This is largely due to the fact that companies and organizations in almost every industry depend on workers with computer science expertise. In fact, those with knowledge and skills in information and technology can generally choose from a wide variety of employment opportunities in Washington. Expectations vary significantly from sector to sector, even between positions with the same titles. As a result, prospective computer science professionals should always research employment descriptions carefully before applying.

Computer science professionals may work in various settings. They may work in small offices or large research facilities, with some moving between multiple locations in order to provide services to multiple companies and organizations.

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Online Computer Science Education in Washington

Information is the second largest industry in Washington, accounting for $71.6 billion in revenue each year. Additionally, many of the state’s other top sectors depend heavily on information collection and data storage. As these services are essential to many companies and organizations, employment prospects are promising. Professionals may find work in various areas including finance, insurance, education, healthcare, manufacturing, real estate, wholesale trade, retail, business services, entertainment, and food services.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also reported that computer and mathematical occupations accounted for 190,160 jobs in Washington as of May 2021. Few other states employ more workers in these professions. Pay is also highly competitive, with an annual mean wage of $124,000. This is significantly above the annual mean wage of $68,740 for all occupations in Washington. It’s also more than the median annual wage for computer and information technology occupations nationwide, which was $97,430 in May 2021.

While online learning provides flexibility and allows students to study from nearly anywhere in the world with internet access, those who plan to seek employment in Washington should give preference to colleges and universities in the state. These academic institutions are much more aware of employer expectations throughout the region and adjust their instruction to meet local demand. They also often coordinate with local companies and organizations, which can make obtaining internships and professional employment easier.

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There are many different kinds of computer science professionals. With so many options available, it’s fairly common for these individuals to specialize their expertise in certain areas or sub-fields.

Some common concentrations include:

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

The majority of computer science professionals in Washington have some level of higher education. While it is sometimes possible to enter the field with self-taught knowledge and skills, this is becoming more and more rare and requires an extensive talent. The most effective way to pursue information technology careers is to obtain a degree in computer science or a related subject.

The state of Washington is home to many colleges and universities, several of which offer computer science as a degree option. Prospective students can choose from programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Additionally, many academic institutions also have undergraduate and/or graduate certificate programs available, which may require less time to complete and are ideal for obtaining specialization in sub-fields.

Graduates are not only more competitive when applying for jobs, but they also tend to make more money than those who lack academic degrees. Advanced degrees, however, offer the best professional prospects. This is particularly true for those planning to pursue top positions in data science, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, software engineering, and information technology (IT) management.

Online Associate Degree in Computer Science (AS)

Associate degree programs in computer science generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately two years to complete. As an undergraduate program, the curriculum typically includes both general liberal arts education and major-specific classes. This means students will learn about topics such as written communication, mathematics, and sociology, as well as information technology and computer programming. Instruction serves as a broad introduction to higher education and the computer science field, with those enrolled gaining the basic knowledge and skills needed to thrive academically or professionally in the future.

This type of online degree is ideal for those who seek to gain entry-level employment related to computer science as quickly as possible. Because programs are relatively short and offered by community colleges, students often spend less money on their education and can join the workforce sooner. Graduates typically qualify for basic information and technology jobs in computer support and web design. They may struggle, however, to gain access to some of the best employment opportunities in the field, including supervisory roles.

Alternatively, graduates can enroll in bachelor’s degree programs. After earning associate degrees, students are often better prepared for further learning. Many colleges and universities also accept undergraduate transfer credits from properly accredited institutions. This means some, if not all, of the courses taken previously may be applied toward bachelor’s degrees. As a result, those enrolled might need as little as two additional years of education before they graduate with more advanced degrees.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science (BS)

Online bachelor’s degrees in computer science generally consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately four years to complete. As another undergraduate program, the curriculum typically includes both general liberal arts education and major-specific classes. Students will continue learning about foundational academic topics while expanding their knowledge and understanding of various subjects related to information and technology. Curriculums vary, but those enrolled can expect to study computer science theory, computer systems, and computer applications. Many colleges and universities encourage students to designate minors and/or select academic concentrations, which differentiate coursework to fit personal interests. Some common examples include software engineering, network security, and game development.

This type of degree is considered the minimum education standard for the computer science field. Most employers expect candidates to have bachelor’s degrees as graduates tend to possess the knowledge and skills needed to succeed. Many of the employment opportunities available are still entry-level, but often pay higher salaries. Some examples of jobs available to those with bachelor’s degrees in computer science include computer programmer, information security analyst, software developer, and computer system administrator.

Graduates may also choose to continue their education further. While undergraduate credits cannot be transferred to and applied toward graduate school degrees, most colleges and universities do require applicants to submit official academic transcripts as proof of bachelor’s degree conferment. Prospective students will also need to meet minimum grade point average (GPA) and Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) score requirements.

Online Master's Degree in Computer Science (MS)

Online master’s degree programs in computer science generally consist of 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately two years to complete. Curriculums at this level no longer include general liberal arts classes, focusing instead on practical or research-based information and technology topics. Instruction tends to cover advanced computer science and business administration concepts. Students also still have opportunities to select concentrations in sub-fields such as software theory and engineering, artificial intelligence, security, systems, and data science and analytics.

This type of degree is ideal for those seeking advanced mid-to-upper supervisory roles in computer and information technology. Many graduates become computer and information research scientists. Because those with master’s degrees in computer science tend to possess specialized knowledge and skills that are highly coveted by employers, they often have more job security and promotion opportunities, as well as higher pay potential.

Online PhD Degree in Computer Science (PhD)

Online doctoral degree programs in computer science can take between six and seven years to complete. Curriculums can vary extensively, but students can generally expect to explore advanced topics in computer science. Those enrolled often spend several years completing traditional coursework before conducting their own independent study and research while writing dissertations. They must then defend their research before a board of experts in order to graduate.

This type of degree is most appropriate for those seeing occupations involving information and technology research and/or higher education. These jobs tend to be some of the best-paying opportunities in the field. However, most computer science professions do not require this level of education.

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Become a CIS Professional in Washington

If you want to become a computer science professional in Washington, one of your first steps should be identifying your preferred profession(s). As previously mentioned, there are many different employment opportunities available in the field and job parameters can vary wildly. To ensure you find an occupation that truly fits your interests, spend time researching the options available early.

Once you establish your ultimate career goals, it becomes much easier to determine what requirements you will need to meet. Every profession has education and training standards. Identifying them ensures you enroll in an appropriate degree program and seek out the necessary experience before applying.

You may also benefit from obtaining professional certifications related to computer science. These credentials are a great way to demonstrate your knowledge and skill in the field. Not only can they improve your job prospects, but certifications can also lead to promotions and increased salary potential. While not necessarily required for most employment opportunities, many employers do give preference to those who possess them. As a result, certifications can make it easier to obtain certain professions in highly technical sub-fields. Additionally, some companies and organizations do necessitate that employees earn specific credentials before or shortly after being hired, such as government departments.

There are many certifications available in the computer science field, some vendor-specific and other vendor-neutral. Most of these credentials are offered by technology companies, professional associations, or professional certification boards.

Some common options include:

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

Acquiring and maintaining professional certifications is also a good way to remain informed. Most certifying bodies require recipients to participate in continuing education (CE). These requirements can generally be met by completing training programs, attending seminars, and passing academic courses. As the information and technology field is constantly changing, this is a great way to ensure your knowledge and skills remain relevant.

Careers for Computer Science Graduates

Those who possess computer science degrees will be qualified to apply for a wide variety of careers in Washington. While employment opportunities, specific job titles, expectations, and salaries will likely depend on the amount of education obtained, some of the most common career options include the following.

  • Application Developer
    Application developers assist companies and organizations in keeping up with the latest technologies and developments on the web. They tend to have an excellent knowledge of programming, HTML, and various sorts of developer software, as well as Linux and relational databases. These professionals are often required to collaborate with other or manage a team. According to PayScale, application developers make an average base salary of $72,500 per year.
  • Computer Science Professor
    Postsecondary and higher education professors who teach computer science courses create relevant curriculums for students attending colleges and universities. Using their strong mastery over the field, they deliver engaging and informative lectures designed to prepare future generations for successful careers. These professionals also spend time grading assignments and meeting with students one-on-one. In some cases, computer science professionals may conduct related research projects. According to PayScale, postsecondary and higher education professors make an average base salary of $88,250 per year.
  • Cyber Security Analyst
    Cyber security analysts ensure that information technology infrastructures remain safe and that important data is secured. They often perform various security assessments to test effectiveness and identify possible, suggesting updates and protective measures when necessary. These professionals also regularly monitor networks and systems to detect potential breaches and analyze alarms. When issues are detected, cyber security analysts are typically responsible for reporting the situation to leadership. According to PayScale, cyber security analysts make an average base salary of $76,650 per year.
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  • Data Scientist
    Data scientists lay a solid data foundation in order to perform robust analytics for their employers. They often analyze data and provide actionable insights to organizations and businesses, identifying data-analytics problems that offer the greatest opportunities for success. These professionals are generally responsible for making sense of unstructured data from various sources that do not fit into standard databases. According to PayScale, data scientists make an average base salary of $97,650 per year.
  • Information Technology (IT) Project Manager
    IT project managers plan company and organization projects, ensuring that they are executed correctly and on schedule. They regularly evaluate employee progress and provide necessary motivation in order to achieve employer goals. These professionals also coordinate production releases, assess test teams, assist technical teams, and utilize software life-cycle methodology. According to PayScale, IT project managers make an average base salary of $89,200 per year.
  • Network Analyst
    Network analysts ensure computer networks, hardware, software, and peripherals work properly. They often coordinate with other technology experts, such as network engineers, to troubleshoot network-related issues. These professionals may also evaluate new vendor products before purchase and installation. According to PayScale, network analysts make an average base salary of $60,214 per year.
  • Software Designer
    Software designers develop new computer software with programmers and testers. Often serving as resources, they are then responsible for helping individuals who utilize the software by answering questions and troubleshooting issues that arise. In some cases, these professionals may also create reference guides that explain what 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 improve the efficiency of current programs by identifying and troubleshooting various technology issues. They often communicate information, bugs, and feature requests to development teams and/or senior support specialists. These professionals may also write new programs to replace those that become obsolete over time. According to PayScale, technical support specialists make an average base salary of $52,500 per year.
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