With technology infiltrating every aspect of life, savvy students know that a computing or engineering degree opens the door to abundant opportunities. Choosing to study mathematics or data in college is a logical first step, but furthering your education with a master's degree in computer science provides the technical skills necessary to secure a competitive edge.
An education in computer science lays the foundation for a career in technology—a job market which the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts will grow much faster than average, at an annual clip of 19 percent for the near future. Combining the theory and design of software programs driving our world, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that the education students get with a master's degree in computer science opens doors in practically every industry.
But beyond access to quickly multiplying job opportunities in data and computing, what you'll study (and learn) with this graduate degree is vast. Computer science students earn their degree by pacing through systems, software, deep learning, theory, and design—all the while exploring not just the how, but the why of technology.
Practically every service or product today operates on some kind of computing algorithm. Whether you know it or not, what you see (each program, design, technology around you) is the handiwork of computer science majors, and the skills these students acquire through their graduate courses are universally valuable.
How to obsess like a data scientist Computer science jobs often involve tinkering away on a very small part of a massive job and disentangling the knots to make the program do what you need to do. The real-world applications and hands-on experience students develop a computer science program teach them how to zero in on details to remove discrepancies in code that cause hiccups. Learning soft skills like attention to detail are important in any career—from software developers to cloud computing whizzes—but such knowledge is key to solving the scope and scale of large programming projects.
How to zoom out (to see the big data picture) Obsessing over details is great, but computer scientists can't fall victim to analysis paralysis. Students in a computer science master's program learn practical applications like solving problems by stepping back, thinking logically, and putting systems into context. An education that emphasizes analytical skills, computer science courses require students to study how different parts of a larger algorithm are connected to each other. Dependencies are critical in developing software programs; being able to evaluate the landscape with a certain degree of abstraction is a skill you will master well before you graduate.
Embracing—and computing—change Data science courses, opportunities, analysis and techniques that might have been popular yesterday may very well be obsolete tomorrow. Hardly any college teaches FORTRAN, COBOL, or BASIC—all of which once drove most of the algorithms any student with a bachelor's degree knew like the back of her hand. Change is not restricted to programming languages alone.
The technology behind autonomous vehicles, computer vision, human-computer interaction, and artificial intelligence are part of consumer tech language today—but were still largely abstractions in the computing world just a decade ago. My, how things (err, data) have changed! A computer science degree teaches students to embrace near-constant levels of change throughout the systems, software, applications, design, techniques, and engineering of everything they're learning in their degree. Of course, such rapid shifts in technology bring with them new opportunities in the form of education and career paths.
How to think laterally One of the primary skills future computer scientists and engineers pick up over the course of their master's degree program is how to think laterally. The knowledge that your skills can be applied across the board to a variety of different challenges is invaluable—and confidence-boosting! As one credit hour builds on the next, students further refine their knowledge of how to get to the root of a problem quickly. Learning how to apply seemingly unrelated systems to solving new problems will open the door to abundant opportunities in computing, engineering, design, and many other applications across technology. Working in computer science means being both a generalist in evaluating commonalities and a specialist in the various applications of that framework.
How to be a team player Most computing and engineering students eventually land jobs that require participation in team projects. Programmers, software engineers, and cloud computing experts alike partner with fellow data lovers on the daily. Today's software projects work by agile techniques such as scrum, where an all hands-on-deck approach is the order of the day. In a scrum sprint, developers tackle small bits of code at a time and meet weekly to check on progress and, equally important, interdependencies.
A master's degree in computer science teaches students to simultaneously play the scale of projects up and down. By learning interdependencies they become expert team players—a skill that, while basic in theory, requires hands-on experience to master.
How to learn on the job Technology changes rapidly, and the ability to learn on the job is a must-have skill. You can't afford to stay still, so continuing education will be a mainstay of your professional experience. A computer science master's equips you with the right mindset so you're adept at drinking the proverbial water from the technology firehose.
Computer science is a discipline where going to graduate school has a big payoff. On average, a master's degree raises salaries $30,000 above the bachelor's equivalent. According to Payscale.com, graduating with a master's degree can deliver a starting salary slightly north of $100,000. With the lucrative pay that these jobs can command, a master's degree in computer science is well worth considering.