Computer Science Degree Qualities and Requirements
Updated May 18, 2023 | Tessa Cooper
Computer science degrees prepare learners for jobs in diverse fields. Computer science professionals often help companies with troubleshooting and computer maintenance. They may also work on repairs or cybersecurity. Some professionals with a degree in computer science design new software through coding.
Computer science degrees may lead to positions that pay higher than average. Computer and information technology professionals earn a median $91,250 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This figure surpasses the median annual salary of $41,950 for all occupations.
Read on to learn about computer science degree requirements, including specialization and certification options.
Questions About Computer Science Degrees
What Jobs Can I Get with a Computer Science Degree?
Computer science degrees prepare learners for jobs as computer network architects, computer programmers, and information security analysts. Most computer science professionals specialize in hardware or software maintenance.
Are Computer Science Jobs in Demand?
The BLS projects jobs for computer and information technology professionals to grow 13% from 2020-2030, which is faster than the average for all occupations.
Is it Better to Have a BA or BS in Computer Science?
The answer depends on career goals and personal preference. A BA offers liberal arts education. This curriculum may better fit creative computer-related jobs, like user experience design. A BS focuses more on the technical aspects of computer science.
Do I Need an Advanced Degree in Computer Science?
Many entry-level jobs in this field only require a bachelor's degree. However, advanced roles and higher-paying jobs may require a master's degree or doctorate.
What Are the Education Requirements for Computer Science?
Graduates can enter the workforce with computer science degrees at all levels. Here, we outline the levels of computer science degrees and what each entails.
Associate programs usually require 40-60 credits and take two years to complete. These programs prepare students to work as computer support specialists and assistants to other computer science professionals. Many graduates go on to earn a bachelor's in computer science.
Many community colleges offer associate degrees in computer science. Earning an associate degree costs an average of $7,460, according to EducationData.org.
A bachelor's in computer science combines foundational and specialized computer science knowledge. Most entry-level computer science jobs only require a bachelor's degree. Graduates may work as coordinators or managers in the computer science field. While a bachelor's degree introduces learners to theory, it primarily emphasizes practical applications.
Full-time learners can earn a bachelor's in computer science in four years. These programs typically require 120 credits. Bachelor's degrees cost an average of $35,330. Many factors influence cost, including school type and learners' residency status.
A master's in computer science may open opportunities for leadership roles in the computer science field. For example, computer and information research scientists need a master's degree. These professionals earn a median $126,830 annually. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow 22% from 2020-2030.
Most master's programs take full-time learners two years to finish. Students completing a master's in computer science usually complete a capstone or thesis. A capstone is project-based, while a thesis is research-based.
Master's degrees cost an average of $66,340. Most master's programs range from $30,000-$120,000.
A doctorate is a terminal degree in the computer science field. Learners may need to complete 60-120 credits. Most colleges require around 72 credits. Many doctoral students continue to work full time.
A doctorate focuses primarily on theory and research. Doctoral students often apply for grants to complete research that fills industry knowledge gaps.
Graduates with a doctorate in computer science may work as senior computer research scientists or academic professors.
Choosing a Computer Science Specialization
Students can benefit from niching down in this broad field. Many positions require expertise in only a few computer science areas.
While researching computer science degrees, learners should note the available minors or concentrations. They can select a major in a broad computer science subject but a minor in a more specialized area. For example, students who want to work in cybersecurity for the government can major in cybersecurity but select a minor in legal studies.
See below for three common specializations in computer science programs.
This specialization teaches learners how to protect computer networks and systems. Learners discover how to encrypt data and use antivirus software to prevent attacks. This specialization also covers ethical hacking.
Cybersecurity professionals make recommendations to enhance a company's computer safety. They monitor the status of networks and identify security breaches. These professionals work closely with network administrators and information technology specialists. Cybersecurity professionals often work remotely but may need to make in-person office visits to explain topics.
This concentration covers best practices for conducting computer software and patenting new discoveries. Learners who enjoy strategic thinking and analyzing data may enjoy this minor. A data science specialization with a computer science major prepares learners to pursue jobs as computer research scientists. These professionals explore ways to improve current technology.
Data Science Artificial Intelligence
Security protocols in the future may feature an advanced reliance on artificial intelligence (AI). Students completing this concentration focus on how machines can display intelligence. Learners explore current types of AI and types in the beta stage. Coursework covers AI's growth potential. It also highlights the ethical implications that follow.
Certifications for Computer Science
Computer science certifications demonstrate advanced knowledge and specialization. Certifications may help job candidates earn competitive positions. Earning a certification also shows commitment to lifelong learning. Most certifications require continuing education requirements for renewal.
Computer science professionals can pursue a variety of certifications. For example, aspiring cybersecurity professionals can become certified information systems security professionals. Candidates must complete a 90-minute exam that costs about $380.
Computer software companies also provide certification opportunities. For example, people who want to work with Apple products can pursue certification for support professionals. Microsoft also offers certification opportunities.
Professional organizations also offer certifications. For example, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society provides certifications. Advanced computer scientists can pursue the professional software engineering master certification. This certification costs $1,200 for the exam and study bundle.