Is a computer science degree worth it for tech-minded career seekers when so many resources are available for developing skills on your own? Let’s explore!
The fact that there could be more than 1 million unfilled job openings in the tech sector by the time you graduate from a program makes a computer science degree pretty attractive.
You’re probably noticing that you can’t watch the news, read an article, or listen to a podcast without hearing about how studying STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is the ticket to success.
However, you might wonder if snagging tomorrow’s best tech jobs still rests on having an actual STEM degree. Let’s dive in to see if an on-campus or online degree in computer science is still worth it if you’re charged up about getting a tech job.
Courses for a Computer Science Degree
Computer science is a good major because it consists of a variety of courses that prepare students to be employable in both established and emerging specialties. Here’s a look at some of the courses to expect as a computer science major:
Basic Programming offers an introduction to the programming languages and standards used to build and maintain digital architecture and infrastructure.
Calculus provides a mathematical foundation for working out advanced computing and design concepts.
Computational Thinking provides the fundamentals for understanding how computer scientists analyze and develop new concepts and processes.
Data Management offers training regarding the storage, usage, interpretation, and optimization of data.
Electronic Design covers the engineering aspect of computation.
Statistics forms a background understanding of the algorithms and statistical properties behind things like speech recognition and image analysis.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of courses. In fact, colleges and universities are adding new computer science classes each semester to keep up with the demands of this evolving industry.
The good news for you is that those specialized courses can make you very attractive to employers!
A STEM degree like computer science places you at the tip of the spear in terms of being equipped for the current and future economy.
Most college and university curriculums cover topics related to artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, informational systems, information management, and design.
Pros and Cons of a Computer Science Degree
The most obvious pro to obtaining a computer science degree is employability.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the employment of computer and information research scientists will grow by 16% within the next decade. This is a much faster growth pace compared to the average pace for all occupations.
Computer science majors have a median pay of $118,370 per year. That’s more than double the median pay among all industries. Having that computer science degree in your back pocket can make you the highest paid among the highest paid.
However, having a BA vs. BS in computer science may influence these numbers differently and may have an impact on what career opportunities are even available.
The fact that so many companies report difficulties finding skilled and trained tech workers means that computer science graduates essentially have it made in the shade.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that as many as 1.5 million job openings for tech positions will be coming in the decade ahead.
The biggest pro of all for deciding to become a computer science major is that you will probably end up with a job that’s really fun to talk about at parties!
Tech workers get to work on cutting-edge, high-impact projects at some of the biggest companies and firms in the world. This is one of the only industries where your skills can be used to build social-media platforms, track infectious diseases, or make it easy for someone to order a pizza from the sofa.
You may be wondering if a computer science degree is necessary when so many learn-it-yourself options are available. That’s a valid question.
The answer is that getting into recognizable tech companies and larger firms that pay well is still very much dependent on having a degree. There’s simply no replacing the complex coursework, instruction from doctorate-level tech professors, and structure of an esteemed program.
Do you need a little help getting it all in front of you? Let’s break down the pros and cons of a computer science degree.
Higher-than-average median salary
Robust job opportunities
Lots of room for career advancement
The ability to tailor a career to fit a specialty
Many options to work from home or remotely without any kind of salary sacrifice
A rigorous curriculum
Requires a somewhat rare mix of strong math, analytical, and logic skills
The need to take challenging STEM courses like statistics and calculus
A danger of being “overqualified” when dabbling in other fields
A need to keep up with emerging technologies after graduation
One more thing to consider is that many firms actually recruit tech majors directly from colleges and universities. This is something that people learning on their own simply won’t get to utilize.Programmers and software engineers who do get into the top-tier companies are essentially treated like royalty!What Computer Science Jobs Are Available?Computer science majors get to choose if they want to skew toward research or development. Do you prefer to build the digital products of the future or analyze data to help cure diseases? It’s all on the table.Computer scientists are employed at organizations ranging from marketing firms that track shopping habits to government agencies that are tasked with handling pandemics.This is one of the only majors where graduates don’t necessarily get locked into one “industry” because STEM skills are in such high demand among organizations that do all types of work.
What will your career look like? Let’s take a look at some of the job titles and mid-career salaries computer science graduates can expect:
- Software Development Director: $157,000
- Principal Software Engineer: $142,000
- Development Operations (DevOps) Engineer: $103,000
- Computer Scientist: $93,000
- Software Developer: $91,000
- Mobile Applications Developer: $89,000
- Programmer Analyst: $82,000
- Network Engineer: $80,000
- Security Analyst: $78,500
- Support Engineer: $70,300
Is freedom a big deal for you? There’s a lot of opportunities to work for one company or operate on a consultant basis when you have the skills and degree.Professional Organizations for Those with a Computer Science DegreeThe hard skills that are acquired through a computer science degree obviously place graduates in pretty high demand. However, networking is still important for landing important roles at important companies.One of the best ways to stay connected with peers in the tech industry is through joining a professional organization. Here’s a look at the three big professional associations for computer science graduates:
Joining an association gives you access to publications and industry “inside news.” You may also be able to attend events or access private job boards. You never know when you might befriend the next up-and-coming Silicon Valley superstar at an event.Accreditation for an Online Computer Science DegreeIn addition to national accreditation, regional accreditation should be looked at when considering degree programs. Prestige is the big benefit of going with a regionally accredited school. Additionally, credits tend to be more transferable when they’re earned at regionally accredited schools.Accreditation that’s focused on a specialty can also be useful for computer science majors. A specialization is proof that a school has met or exceeded the standards required by accrediting agencies.Do tech employers care about regional accreditation for computer science majors? Many do. For instance, looking for a school that offers a special accreditation in cybersecurity could be a big plus if this is the field you want to be employed in upon graduation.Financial Aid for a Computer Science Degree OnlineThe salary prospects for computer science graduates make this major a smart investment. Of course, you need to consider how to fund your education when studying tech.Many options for financial aid exist for computer science majors. Additionally, scholarships could potentially cover a large chunk of your college costs. Here’s a look at the scholarships all future and current computer science majors should know about:
- The ESA Foundation Scholarship Program provides scholarships of up to $3,000 for women or minorities pursuing full-time undergraduate study related to computer and video game arts at accredited four-year colleges and universities.
- The Ford Motor Company Tribal Scholars Program awards $3,000 annually to qualifying applications through the American Indian College Fund.
- The Gates Millennium Scholars Program provides financial support for 20,000 outstanding students of color.
- The Microsoft Tuition Scholarship awards merit-based scholarships to students studying computer science and related STEM disciplines.
- The Regeneron Science Talent Search is considered to be the nation’s oldest and most prestigious STEM competition.
- The SMART Scholarship from the United States Department of Defense (DoD) offers scholarships for bachelors, masters, and Ph.D students pursuing STEM degrees.
- The Wayne V. Black Memorial Scholarship Award is an annual scholarship offered by the Board of Directors of the Energy Telecommunications & Electrical Association (ENTELEC).
Most scholarship programs for computer science and STEM students require a minimum of 3.0 GPA. In addition, applicants are expected to demonstrate distinguishing academic, personal, and professional qualities.Questions Related to Earning a Degree in Computer Science OnlineA commitment to pursuing a computer science degree is not something to take lightly! Let’s answer the important questions.Is Computer Science Hard?Computer science is one of the more challenging majors offered at colleges and universities today. Students must demonstrate competencies regarding math-heavy, tech-driven topics. You simply cannot complete a degree program successfully without focus and commitment.Does a Computer Science Degree Guarantee a Job?No degree can guarantee that you’ll be employed. However, the prospects for computer science majors are much brighter when compared to the general economy. A passionate, enthusiastic graduate coming from a recognized program really will have the world as their oyster.Why Computer Science Is the Best MajorComputer science is the best major if you’re looking for a way to apply your passions for creating and exploring in meaningful ways. Completing a computer science degree places in-demand skills regarding computation, technology, logic, and data in your hands.Salary and job opportunities make computer science one of the “safest” degree choices for students today. Of course, this isn’t an industry that is for everyone. It takes a very specific drive to pursue such a rigorous degree path.Is a Computer Science Degree Worth It?Yes, a Computer Science degree is worth it. After graduation, you’ll benefit from a growing job market and could earn between $70,000 and $160,000 per year.Majoring in computer science can set you up for a fulfilling, high-paying career that has room for growth and specialization. A STEM degree is really the gold standard in today’s economy.You should seize the opportunity to major in computer science if you have an inclination toward math, science, or technology. What gets you geared up? There are so many programs out there that offer specialized concentrations and degree paths.The personal fulfillment that comes from having a “rockstar” job also doesn’t hurt. Getting a degree that leads to job offers means that your creative signature could be on programs and infrastructure that are being used by millions of people in just a few short years.Do you want to be able to build, program, and develop for a living? Make a plan to apply to schools that offer computer science degree programs to make sure you’re eligible for the jobs that only STEM graduates can fill.