Computer science is the study of computers and how they are used to solve problems. A computer science major learns about designing computers and systems, developing software applications and programming languages. With an extremely positive job outlook—the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts faster than average job growth through 2020 for occupations for which this major prepares people—chances of finding a job after graduation is pretty good.
Studying computer science as an undergraduate student at a four-year college will result in earning a bachelor's of arts (BA) or bachelor's of science (BS) degree. The coursework required to earn a BS is heavily weighted in math and science. A student enrolled in a BA program has a larger variety of classes in liberal arts and humanities. The question "Which is better: a BS or a BA in Computer Science?" is heavily debated online. Some say that a BS is more marketable because of the concentration on math and science. Others argue that a BA is better because an individual with this degree has a more well-rounded background. There are those who believe that if you are not great at math and science, you should opt for the BA over the BS degree because you run the risk of classes in those subjects bringing down your GPA. Do your research and then decide which program is best for you.
Earning a master's of science (MS) will allow an individual to demonstrate a depth of knowledge that goes beyond an undergraduate degree. While these programs often accept applicants who haven't earned a BS or BA in computer science, many do have prerequisites in this subject and math. One can also earn a doctorate which will allow him or her to teach in a university or college.
Most community and junior colleges that have a computer science major bill them as “transfer programs.” They prepare students who earn AS or AA degrees to transfer to four-year institutions where they can continue their coursework and ultimately earn a BA or BS. Because the classes are parallel to those taken in the first two years of a bachelor-level program, once the student is enrolled in a four-year program it will only take him or her two more years to graduate.
Some schools offer an applied associate of science degree (AAS) program. These programs claim to prepare students for careers in computer science, but according to many sources, there are fewer jobs for those with an associate degree than there are for those who have a bachelor's degree. Salaries are also significantly lower.
A List of Major Courses You Can Expect to Take
- Computers: An Introduction
- Computer Programming
- Digital Systems
- Discrete Structures
- Internet and Multimedia
- Computer Organization and Assembly Language
- Software Engineering
- Computing, Ethics, and Society
- Algorithms and Data Structures
- Computer Operating Systems
Career Options With Your Degree
- Associate Degree: Computer Support Specialist, Computer Technician, Web Master
- Bachelor's Degree: Computer Support Specialist, Computer Programmer, Software Developer, Web Developer, Computer Systems Analyst
- Master's Degree: Advanced positions in any of the above occupations
- Doctoral Degree: Professor
Typical Work Settings
Individuals who work in the computer science field are employed directly by companies and organizations or by consulting firms. Computer science professionals who work directly for companies or organizations are members—sometimes the only member—of their computer departments. Consultants typically spend time in the offices of different entities tending to their computing needs. Some are self-employed.
How High School Students Can Prepare for This Major
High schools students who are planning to study computer science in college should fill their schedules with math classes and any computer science electives their schools have to offer.
What Else You Need to Know
- In the technology field, the experience is as important as a degree. Getting as much experience as you can while you are in school will make you more employable when you graduate. Internships are one way to accomplish this.
- Because technology is constantly changing, those who work in the computer field must continuously keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date.