In 2018, colleges and universities conferred 79,598 bachelor’s degrees and 46,500 graduate degrees in computer and information science. Yet despite these significant figures, the field still suffers a talent shortage, and organizations struggle to hire qualified professionals. According to iCIMS, a cloud recruiting company, “Employers were only able to hire six for every ten open tech positions from January 1, 2016 to May 31, 2019.”
Cashing your computer science golden ticket is not without its obstacles. Bachelor’s in computer science programs are challenging; as many as half of all STEM students don’t complete their major, for reasons that may include lack of effort and poor preparation for college-level coursework. And those 46,500 graduate degrees? They made up only six percent of all conferred advanced degrees that year.
Understanding degree coursework at a granular level can help inform your decision and prepare you for the challenges and rewards that accompany a computer science degree. This article on computer science curriculum: what you’ll learn [and why] offers perspective on computer science programs at the bachelor’s and master’s level, including course descriptions, necessary skills, and career applications. Read on to learn about:
For many, a bachelor’s serves as an intro to the discipline. These four-year degrees typically cover computer programming and theory; individual programs differ in focus and depth Students also complete other curricular requirements, such as English or foreign language.
Most programs allow students to specialize—through electives or defined tracks—in a specific area of computer science. For example, students at the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign can take courses in big data or applied cryptography. Georgia Institute of Technology – Main Campus undergraduates choose among eight “threads” that include modeling, info internetworks, and intelligence. Finally, accelerated degrees, like the one at Tulane University of Louisiana allow undergraduate students to transition into a year-long master’s. These are known as 4+1 programs.
Self-taught computer scientists can qualify for entry-level positions, but a bachelor’s degree is usually preferred. Keep in mind that these jobs, even those with prefixes like “entry-level” or “junior,” typically seek candidates with experience, which can mean an internship or a robust portfolio of personal projects.
The average worker with a bachelor’s degree in computer science earns over $85,000 per year. Computer science salaries differ by job title, company, and even location, of course. New graduates earn less, though computer science is one of the highest-paying fields for early career professionals.
Degree-holders who bolster their resumes with new skills, often by completing certification programs, can earn six-figure salaries.
No two computer science master’s degrees are the same. Many are a continuation of bachelor’s programs; others help non-computer scientists transition careers, and still more are designed for students looking to specialize.
A master’s in computer science should improve your career options and income, qualifying you for at least some managerial and senior leadership roles. It can also lead to increased responsibility in your current position.
Jobs for master’s degree-holders include:
The average salary for those with a Master of Science in Computer Science is $102,637. Again, earnings depend on multiple factors.
“Typically the additional income from a master’s degree over a lifetime is worth the sticker price you pay for it.” (
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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Bachelor’s in computer science programs cover topics like:
Applicants may need to complete pre-requisite courses such as linear algebra.
Master’s programs continue and build on undergraduate training, focusing on real-world applications through student-led projects, including a capstone experience. Master’s programs also allow students to specialize in such areas as:
Specializations may also be offered as unique degrees. The University of Tulsa offers Master of Science in Cyber Security, for example
Our list of typical computer science curricula is based on a review of several programs, including the master’s program at Stevens Institute of Technology online Master’s in Computer Science. While these subjects are common to computer science curricula, they aren’t found in every curriculum.
For example, both New York University and University of Colorado Boulder allow undergraduate students to take computer organization. However, NYU includes it as a required course. In contrast, Boulder offers it as an upper-level computer science elective. This important distinction demonstrates how two students can graduate with the same degree without sharing identical knowledge bases. Computer science courses that are integral to one program may not appear in another.
Advanced programming means learning and applying programming languages.
It proves you can work in multiple languages. High-level languages include Python, C++, and Java. Advanced programming goes beyond machine code.
If a bachelor’s program covers advanced programming, it may examine:
In a master’s program, you’ll study:
Algorithms are most frequently used to sort and parse data.
Algorithms are essential for assembling information in a digestible way.
Algorithms have a wide array of applications, particularly to maximize the information a data set can provide.
AI is essentially programming computers to make decisions.
Artificial intelligence is becoming one of the most sought-after computer science skills, especially to sift through vast data quantities.
Even though who don’t design robots can utilize AI to program systems.
According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), “Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”
Cloud computing allows for interaction with remote servers.
Cloud computing isn’t always offered in bachelor’s programs. Courses cover:
Cloud computing is frequently offered as a specialization or elective. These programs share similarities to computer architecture courses.
Cloud computing is useful in:
Database management is useful for creating and managing data storage systems and accessing information.
Wrangling large sets of data is a useful skill.
Those who rely on database management can oversee retrieving, organizing, and protecting information.
Systems relate to each other through data structures.
Systems are built with data structures.
Information systems also emphasize data structures.
Data structures are instrumental in information retrieval and organization.
According to Georgia Tech, “Human-computer interaction (HCI) is the study of how people use computers throughout their lives.” It mixes computer and social sciences.
Computers do not exist in a vacuum. Understanding how humans and machines interact is essential.
Most bachelor’s programs don’t focus on human-computer interaction, unless it’s a specialized program.
Like bachelor’s programs, HCI in a master’s program is usually reserved for specialized degrees and electives. Students can study:
Applications are far-reaching, rather than specific, but significant interactions include interactive gaming and software.
Java is one of the most popular programming languages.
Several major companies use Java, including:
Understanding the language opens up job possibilities.
Java programming likely isn’t offered as a class, but Java is one component of a computer programming (often advanced programming) course.
Programs that cover Java may continue Java education, often through comparisons to other programming languages, or offer an introduction to those who are transitioning to a new career.
Java is the base of several essential aspects of computer science, including data cleaning.
Many software development jobs use Java. There are even roles specifically for Java programmers, such as full-stack Java programmers.
This field involves developing apps and systems for mobile devices.
Projections estimate there will be 7.3 billion smartphone users by 2023, far outpacing those who use computers.
A traditional computer science program can provide the education you need to work with mobile systems, including:
Graduate programs don’t always offer mobile systems courses—students often have the requisite skills. Graduate certificates are common. In one, you may learn:
Operating systems allow humans to interact with computers.
Every program and feature must interact smoothly with the operating system.
A good operating systems course applies:
An introductory operating systems master’s course likely covers:
Computer scientists can be in charge of operating system:
Web development is the design and configuration of a website.
Without web development, users would essentially be unable to access the web.
Web development may be offered as a certificate. Courses include:
If a program has web development, courses typically cover:
Not every master’s program covers web development. A certificate program may be the best choice for web development training.
Web development is helpful when attempting to create interactive websites that reach users and consumers.
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