How to Major in Computer Science

If you’re excited by technology and motivated by challenges, the constantly growing and evolving field of computer science might be right for you.

How to Major in Computer Science

A computer science major is the key to a successful, lucrative, and interesting career working in the constantly-growing field of computer technology. In the 21st century, there isn’t a single aspect of life or human civilization that isn’t dependent on computers at some level. In turn, the world is dependent on computer science experts who understand how to use these machines, and make them ever-more powerful.

If you’re ready to earn your degree at one of the most prestigious schools in the world, get started with a look at the Most Influential Schools in Computer Science.

Or read on to find out what you can expect as a computer science major.

5 Reasons to Major in Computer Science

1.Computer science majors are in high demand.

In the next ten years, computer and information technology occupations are projected to grow by 11%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With that kind of growth, job security is high, and so are salary rates, even if you only have an associate degree. The world runs on computers, and computers run with the help of tech professionals.

2.Computer science majors learn valuable skills.

Computer science is a highly logical and analytical field that develops critical thinking skills applicable in all aspects of life. Moreover, computers are a constant presence in our daily lives, professionally and personally. Computer science majors have the knowledge and skills to understand how this technology functions, how to maintain and repair it, and how to make important decisions regarding the use of this technology.

3.Computer science majors can enact positive change.

Computer science majors can land influential roles in major companies. This puts computer science professionals in a position to advise on high-level decisions regarding technology implementation. This also means that computer science majors may have a chance to advocate for ethical uses of technology and data.

4.Computer science majors have exciting and interesting careers.

Computer science majors get to work hands-on with advanced technology, discovering how to apply and improve it. Whether working to meet consumer needs or delving into research, computer science majors are always engaging with new technological challenges.

5.Computer science majors are influential.

The technology and application methods developed by computer science majors wield tremendous influence throughout the world, affecting key business decisions, supporting information security, bringing technology and connection to the masses, and analyzing data. Today, top influencers in computer science are breaking new ground in artificial intelligence, data analysis, information security, and much more.

Find out who the Most Influential People are in Computer Science today!

What Kinds of Computer Science Degrees Are There?

Computer science degrees are available at all levels, and can lead to a wide range of lucrative, in-demand jobs. Whether you want to gain practical skills and quickly enter the tech workforce, or engage in a lifelong study of cutting edge technology, there’s something out there for you.

  • Associate in Computer Science (AA or AS): An associate in computer science typically takes two years to complete and requires 60 credits, though accelerated options are sometimes available. These programs develop foundational knowledge in computer science, and sometimes provide light specialization in areas like web or software development. Coursework includes security, networking, algorithms, programming, and database management. With an associate in computer science, you can gain employment in entry-level roles such as web developer, computer repair technician, or computer support specialist, and are ready to pursue further education in a bachelor’s degree program.
  • Bachelor of Computer Science (BA or BS): A bachelor of computer science degree typically takes four years to complete and requires 120 credits, though accelerated options are sometimes available. These programs typically include courses such as algorithms and data structure, computer programming, operating systems, and computer systems networking, as well as a professional experience component, lab component, and research component. Also, they often include specialization tracks, such as computer engineering, artificial intelligence, data science and analysis, or systems networking. With a bachelor’s in computer science, you can gain employment in well-paying entry-level roles such as computer network architect, computer programmer, computer systems analyst, information security analyst, or computer systems administrator. You would also be eligible to pursue further education in a master’s degree program.
  • Master of Computer Science (MA or MS): A master of computer science typically takes two years to complete and requires 30-45 credits. Courses in these programs often include machine learning, artificial intelligence, applied cryptography, data systems, analytics, and computational statistics. Additionally, these programs will require students to specialize in areas such as computer networking, computer research, computer engineering, artificial intelligence, or data science. You will also have to complete a research or thesis project, and likely a professional experience component. With a master’s in computer science, you’re prepared for high-paying and advanced roles in the field, including computer engineer, computer and information research scientist, software developer, and data scientist.
  • PhD in Computer Science: The highest degree you can earn in the field, a PhD in computer science typically takes three to five years to complete. This terminal degree will typically require a combination of advanced coursework, a research project and dissertation, comprehensive exams, and lab or instructional work. At this level, you will already be well into your specialization area. Therefore, you may need to determine where to earn your doctoral degree based on how each school ranks for your specialization. With a PhD, you can pursue the most advanced professions in the field, including computer and information research scientist, and post-secondary educator in computer science.

*Note: Many, but not all, degree programs offer the choice between Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. Likewise, many, but not all, advanced degree programs offer a choice between Master of Arts, and Master of Science degrees. In most cases, the primary difference is the diversity of course offerings. “Science” degree courses will focus almost entirely on the major discipline, with a deep dive into a specific concentration, including laboratory, clinical or practicum experience. An “Arts” degree will provide a more well-rounded curriculum which includes both core/concentration courses and a selection of humanities and electives. The type of degree you choose will depend both on your school’s offerings and your career/educational goals. Moreover, there are sometimes numerous variations in the way that colleges name and categorize majors. The degree types identified here above are some of the common naming variations, but may not be all-encompassing.

What Are Some Popular Computer Science Concentrations?

Your “concentration” refers to a specific area of focus within your major. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provides a complete listing of college degree programs and concentrations (Classification for Instructional Programs), as sourced from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). According to IPEDS, the following are among the most popular computer science concentrations:

  • Computer Programming
  • Data Science and Analytics
  • Computer Systems Networking
  • Computer Engineering
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Human-Computer Interaction

What Courses Will I Take as a Computer Science Major?

Your concentration will determine many of the courses you’ll take as a computer science major. Likewise, you will be required to take a number of requisite courses on foundational topics such as computer architecture and databases. However, you will also have the freedom to select an array of courses in an area of specialization that most interests you.

Common computer science courses include:

  • Data Structures and Algorithms
  • Discrete Mathematics
  • Computer Architecture
  • Operating Systems
  • Databases
  • Computer Security
  • Computer Network Architecture
  • Computer Hardware
  • Computer Software
  • Programming
  • Human-Computer Interaction and Design

What Can I Do With a Major in Computer Science?

Computers make the world go round. Computer science is a driving force in everything from medical technology to STEM fields; from commerce and communications to government and international security. Your computer science major can lead to a wide range of career opportunities, including these top jobs:

Curious how far you could go with a major in computer science? Start with a look at the top influencers in the field today!

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Now that you know how to major in computer science, check out The Most Influential Schools in Computer Science and get started on your path to a computer science degree.

And if you’re shopping for the right college, be sure that you’ve reviewed our Resources on critical issues like Accreditation, Scholarships, Financial Aid, and more!