Computer Science

Am I Cut Out for Computer Science?

Am I Cut Out for Computer Science?
If you're considering a career in computer science, you've probably spent some time and energy becoming a decent coder, read the tech classics, practiced your programming skills, and consider yourself pretty darn good at math. Image from Pexels
Lucy Davies profile
Lucy Davies April 14, 2022

If you’re skilled in math, you may want to consider earning a CS degree and joining the computer science field as a programmer, software developer, software engineer, or web developer.

Computer Science Programs You Should Consider

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What, exactly, is computer science? Because it’s a discipline that encompasses such a broad scope of categories, careers, and specializations, that’s not an easy question to answer. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes that a “debate is still in place today concerning whether computer science has to be mostly considered as a mathematical discipline, a branch of engineering, or as a scientific discipline.”

With all this STEM territory covered under the same umbrella, it may be helpful to break down all the relevant skills, interests, and strengths to look at all the ways you might see yourself fitting into this field. In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • Am I cut out for computer science?
  • The typical computer science background
  • Typical computer science skills
  • Computer science careers (and what they pay)
  • What is a computer science master’s degree?
  • What are the top schools that offer a computer science master’s degree?

Am I cut out for computer science?

Did you spend all your spare time in high school at the computer lab? Do you feel most in your comfort zone when studying math and other STEM subjects? Is your bedroom wall adorned with posters of Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace? If so, to borrow a phrase from Jeff Foxworthy, you may be a prospective computer scientist. Let’s look at some solid indicators that you’ll find your spot in the big, rapidly expanding world of computer science.

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“I'm Interested in Computer Science!”

“Typically the additional income from a master’s degree over a lifetime is worth the sticker price you pay for it.” (source)

A master’s in computer science can open countless doors from coast to coast. It will expand your knowledge and can help you advance your career, opening doors to management and leadership roles and increasing your earning potential. Jobs are plentiful around the country in a wide variety of industries, from healthcare to finance, entertainment to manufacturing.

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Typical computer science background

If you are searching for information about a career in computer science, you may already have some real-world experience and understand that there is high demand for skilled tech workers. You’ve probably spent some time and energy becoming a decent coder, read the tech classics, practiced your programming skills, and consider yourself pretty darn good at math. The math component of computer science is crucial, and you’ll be glad if you have what Southern Methodist University requires for their MSCS program—”a reasonable level of mathematical maturity.”

Some of the skills you need you’ll acquire through schooling. Others may be self-taught, especially in pre-college years. If you’re the sort of person who developed a love of gaming or robotics and wanted to know more about programming and the code that makes things run, some of your skills likely fall into this category.

If you went on to graduate as a CS major, you may have acquired some time under your belt at a tech startup, or even in an entry-level position at a big firm like Amazon or Microsoft. These companies are looking for smart people who not only understand the world of technology but also appreciate the intersection of tech and, well, just about everything else.

Typical computer science skills

There are some fundamental skills that you should have honed as an undergrad computer science major—or in your early jobs and internships—that will undoubtedly help you as you forge your career path in the industry. While some of these skills are a result of training and experience, other qualities of a good programmer or tech-head are just… innate.

Computer science grad students tend to be curious, self-taught in HTML, C++, and CSS, and comfortable watching tutorials and figuring out the mechanics of hardware and software. They are okay with working irregular hours and switching jobs and don’t have a hard time embracing change and new challenges.

It’s also helpful to be the kind of person who is comfortable with working remotely, as well as participating in collaborative in-person group work, as jobs in the world of computer science rely on both in equal measure. Collaboration in this industry means being open to new ideas from other people, continuing to research and test ideas, and accepting critiques and feedback on independent and group work.

CS students typically enjoy planning and research, work methodically and carefully, have strong analytical skills, and are good at problem-solving and computational thinking. They are happy testing theories, running programs, and experimenting through trial and error.

Computer science careers (and what they pay)

If all of the above describes you then—once you have a CS degree in hand—you should ready to step into any number of well-paid positions in the tech industry (and beyond), including:

  • Computer scientist: This is the catch-all job description with responsibilities that include machine learning, writing code, software development, and knowledge of database systems (average salary: $109,969).
  • Computer programmer: Programming jobs involve writing code, updating existing programs, preventing/responding to cybersecurity threats, and troubleshooting new and existing system (salaries range from $70,000 to $117,000).
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) engineer:__ Jobs in AI can include research and development in a fast-paced field for anything from vacuums to video games to spyware (average salary: $126,713).
  • Web developer: Web developers create, maintain, and oversee content for websites, and are also responsible for tracking performance and traffic (salaries range from $55,000 to $108,000).
  • Cybersecurity specialist: Jobs in cybersecurity involve creating, overseeing, and implementing security audits for software and hardware systems, and tracking performance (average salary is $111,052).
  • Software developer/software engineer: Developers and engineers create software to run everything from our shopping apps to computer system design in finance, healthcare, and manufacturing (median salary: $110,140).
  • Information technology (IT) manager: IT managers guide organizations with business plans and keeps up-to-date on technology (salaries range from $117,000-$191,000).

Stevens Institute lists several other jobs that a master’s in computer science can prepare you for including information security analyst, computer systems analyst, computer network architect and information security analyst. All pay in the six-figure range.

What is a computer science master’s degree?

Like lots of people who find their way to a graduate-level CS program, you may have begun your career with a bachelor-level computer science degree and are looking to move up the ladder in pay and opportunity. Computer science is a broad category of studies in technology. The discipline offers a range of master’s degree options that can help you sharpen your know-how, interests, skills, and sharpen your focus. The list is longer than just designing and developing hardware and software, and you may be able to find exactly what interested you in computer science in the first place.

You can earn your Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) degree in areas like artificial intelligence, business analytics, cloud computing, cybersecurity, software development, information technology, and data analytics/data science.

How long does it take to earn a computer science master’s degree?

Unlike master’s degree programs in many other concentrations, an MSCS degree can be completed in under two years. Depending on the program you choose and the flexibility it offers (you’ll find many schools offer fully online and hybrid options), you can continue to work in the industry while furthering your education and pursuing your master’s degree. If you plan ahead, you can take advantage of the many programs that offer an accelerated bachelor’s/master’s plan that can be completed in five years.

Admissions requirements/prerequisites

Most programs seek applicants with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, with a transcript that demonstrates a GPA of 3.0 or above. Many schools will waive the GRE requirement if applicants fulfill those requirements and the degree is from an accredited US or Canadian institution. All applicants must have a solid background in discrete mathematics, numerical analysis, physics, calculus, statistics, and principles of engineering.

Curriculum

Because of the many specializations and fields in computer science, the curriculum will be program-specific, but you can expect all MSCS programs to include the study of computer programming languages like Python and JavaScript, classes on machine learning, cloud computing, file organization and data structures, frameworks and algorithms, database management, computer architecture, and data mining.

Specialization

Choosing a specialization is the fun part. This is where you can take all your interests and skills and find your niche in computer science. You’ll find programs that specialize in areas like artificial intelligence, data science, cloud software development, health informatics, robotics, cybersecurity, and information security.

What are the top schools that offer a computer science master’s degree?

Top computer science master’s degree programs can be found at:

(Last Updated on February 26, 2024)

Questions or feedback? Email editor@noodle.com

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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Computer Science Programs You Should Consider

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