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Computer Science Careers, Education, and More

March 27, 2024 01:38 PM
Two computer science professionals collaborating in front of desktop computers

The tech world is vast and varied, with hundreds of different disciplines, industry applications, and career paths. Within tech, computer science has emerged as one of the leading disciplines for future-focused companies. Computer science touches everything from green energy to life-saving medical devices, so the demand for computer science professionals has grown exponentially in the past decade.

If you’re interested in a computer science career, then consider the impact that a master’s in computer science can have on your professional development and job prospects. In competitive tech fields, a master’s degree can make the difference between securing an interview and letting your resume fall between the cracks.

What is Computer Science?

First, let’s establish a firm understanding of computer science. Computer science is a broad specialty with diverse applications, and is considered a part of a family of five interrelated disciplines: computer engineering, computer science, information systems, information technology, and software engineering. At its core, computer science is the study of computers, including computational theory, hardware, software, algorithms, and the ways that humans interact with technology.1 Simply put, it is the study of the various parts that make up a computer and the numerous activities for which you can use them.

Computer science emerged as an independent discipline in the early 1960s from a combination of mathematics, electrical engineering, physics, and management information systems. After the development of assembly language in the early 1950s and high-level languages a few years later, computer users began to grow, and computer experts saw a need for faster, more powerful systems and hardware. The first operating systems were created in the early 1960s, followed by computer graphics, graphical user interfaces (GUIs), wide-area computer networks (WANs), and, of course, the Internet.1

Developments in computing in the early part of the 21st century (mobile computing, client-server computing, and computer hacking) contributed to the emergence of three new fields in computer science: platform-based development, parallel and distributed computing, and security and information assurance. Since then, computer science has evolved into 15 distinct fields:1

  • Algorithms and complexity
  • Architecture and organization
  • Computational science
  • Graphics and visual computing
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Information management
  • Intelligent systems
  • Networking and communication
  • Operating systems
  • Parallel and distributed computing
  • Platform-based development
  • Programming languages
  • Security and information assurance
  • Software engineering
  • Social and professional issues

In a field as vast and diverse as computer science, you’ll be able to explore many different focus areas and can become more versatile the more skills you garner. The wide range of concentrations can make computer science more difficult to define, so let’s look closer at the requirements and career paths for a professional computer science position.

Education & Background

People who work in computer science usually are more automation and object-orientation-focused—many of them may fall under the “left brain” stereotypes vs. the right brain—and have a background in computer or software engineering.2 That’s not to say that creatives couldn’t excel in these roles, but much of computer science involves logic, analysis, math, and statistics.

Some of the tools and languages a computer scientist can expect to use are:

  • IDEs
  • Testing software
  • Python and other programming languages
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Atom
  • GitHub

In terms of educational background and requirements, the best way to land a job in computer science is to earn a computer science bachelor’s and/or master’s degree. A master’s degree gives you an advanced set of skills, a deeper knowledge of the subject matter, and an overall higher distinction than those who only complete a bachelor’s degree. Although it’s not always essential that you earn a master’s degree in computer science to work in the field, a lot of higher-level positions will require it.

Once you determine that a master’s degree in computer science is right for you, then you can begin the process of selecting a university and specific degree program. Pay attention to the degree name and curriculum, as it likely means there’s a specialization or specific career path in mind (e.g. a master’s in mobile computing).

Benefits of a Master’s Degree in Computer Science

An MS in computer science may take longer to earn and may cost more, but your return on investment is usually higher because a graduate degree provides a depth and breadth of learning that a certificate or bootcamp cannot. Through a master’s curriculum, you’ll gain intimate knowledge of every aspect of computer science so that when you graduate, you can jump right into your position versus needing to be extensively trained.

Because of its graduate-level distinction, a master’s in computer science also will provide you with valuable networking opportunities (both with your teachers and your cohort), career resources, and more one-on-one support than other, short-term options. You can use these to your advantage while seeking new positions or advocating for a promotion within your current company.

Data also shows that a master’s in computer science paves the way to jobs that pay, on average, $30,000 more than those who only have an undergraduate degree in computing, and almost $60,000 more for those who come from outside the field of computing.3

Overall, what are the benefits of pursuing an online computer science degree?

  • Accelerated learning in CS that can be completed in 2.5 years
  • Career resources and personalized advice
  • Eligibility for higher salaries, increased responsibility, and increased job diversity
  • Advantage over job market competition with master’s level distinction
  • Access to expansive, accomplished Chico State CS alumni network
  • Dedicated student success coordinator

The Online MS in Computer Science at California State University, Chico

In the Online Master of Science (MS) in Computer Science program at Chico State, you can build on your previous knowledge in computer science, software engineering, and mathematics to advance your skills and boost your career. This part-time Computer Science MS offers hands-on learning opportunities in various labs and projects, giving you resume-ready experience and personalized mentorship from expert faculty.

To prepare for exciting and lucrative tech roles, online computer science degree students have access to all Microsoft operating systems, servers, and software development products that Chico State offers and can visit campus anytime to explore our computing facilities and labs in person. A variety of other software tools are available, including a full complement of UNIX utilities, X Windows tools, Microsoft operating systems, GNU software, Oracle relational database, Java development environment, AI programming libraries and shells, and software packages or programming tools that support computer-aided software engineering, graphics, and animation.

The Online MS in CS curriculum focuses on advanced topics based on today’s job market: applied machine learning, software design, programming, AI, database management, and more. The virtual computer science classroom is flexible and convenient, with asynchronous content (i.e., can be completed whenever) and interactive activities to strengthen your learning. You can learn more by visiting the Online MS in Computer Science California State University, Chico website.

Computer Science Careers

As mentioned above, the breadth of applications for computer science means there’s an equally high number of career options. Read job descriptions carefully to make sure they align with your experience, skills, and interests before moving forward; you may often find that a computer scientist role is actually for a data scientist, or a hybrid of the two.

With an advanced computer science online degree, you can pursue these job titles:

  • Computer and information research scientist
  • Software developer or software engineer
  • Information security analyst
  • Cybersecurity expert
  • Web developer or designer
  • IT director
  • Network specialist
  • AI scientist

As for the employment outlook in computer science, the future is bright. Overall employment for computer and information research scientists is projected to grow 23% from 2022 to 2032, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.4

How to Get Started at Chico State Online

If you want to stand out and pursue leadership positions in computer science, there’s no better time than now to start your master’s degree journey. Be sure to review the application checklist and gather all of the necessary materials by the assigned deadlines. If you’re looking for what are the admission requirements for the Online MS in Computer Science, visit our Admissions page.

Schedule some time with an admissions outreach advisor to get more personalized advice and receive help with your application.