Over the past century, the study and implementation of computer sciences has exploded. Anyone born in or before the 1990s has grown up alongside of the rapid development of technology in daily life. Today, we are able to use technology for everything from playing our favorite video games, to securing the world’s most confidential information. This rapid growth would never have been possible without computer scientists.
Computer science is just what the name implies: a science. Computer scientists study various aspects of the “how” and “why” behind computer programs and the mathematical theories and formulas that allow computers to do their jobs. As we find new ways to improve the day-to-day life with technology, computer science become increasingly relevant, and the job market for those with online computer science degrees is expected to grow much faster than the market overall.
THE CAREER PATH
Gone are the days of just one type of online computer science degree. Many computer scientists are becoming increasingly specialized in certain niches to help set themselves apart. Earning a degree that's focused on a defined topic may help you find work and bank a hefty paycheck.
Whether you have a passion for video games, for building user-friendly websites for nonprofits, or you really want to speak the language behind the computer, there is an area within computer sciences that will suit your individual strengths.
Various professional positions will pay differently, but anyone in the field can expect to yield between $50,000 - $100,000 annually.
It is most common for professionals to acquire a bachelor’s of computer science, although some seek advanced degrees, and it is possible to begin some careers with only an associate’s degree.
Here are some of the careers that an online computer science degree can prepare you for:
- Software Development - This field is for the creative minds behind computer programs and applications like Microsoft Office and Candy Crush. The individuals in this career focus on applications or software that serves a specific purpose. Software Developers may work with a variety of clients from every field including medicine, military, entertainment, communications, aerospace, business, and science. The median annual wage of Software Developers is $105,570 annually, according to the O*NET Resource Center.
- Web Development - Not to be confused with graphic designers, these professionals are similar to software developers, with an alternative focus on websites specifically. These professionals analyze user needs to design, create, and modify web content to be user-friendly and integrative. They may write, design, and update web page content for around $64,970 each year.
- Computer Systems Engineering - These are the engineers of the operating systems that make our devices easily navigable (think microsoft windows or iOS). Systems engineers often develop solutions to complex concerns with applications, networks, and system administration. The median annual income for systems engineers is about $85,240.
- Computer Programming - These are the professionals who create, modify, and test the codes and scripts drafted by software developers to make them as efficient as possible. They may have roles that are very similar or integrative to Software Development. This job involves a lot of analyzing existing codes to make sure that the desired results are produced, and brings in a median of $79,530 each year.
- Game Design - The masterminds behind our favorite way to spend our free time. Game designers utilize the computer sciences to develop the core features of video games; working with a collaborative production staff, they bring storylines and character portfolios to life with the mechanics behind the scenes. Nearly 20% of all game designers enter the field with only an associate’s degree, and make out with around $85,240 each year.
- Geographic/Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) - This is the eco-friendly tech field that blends geography and technology with other professions such as surveying and agriculture. GIS Technicians may provide user support, application development, or assistance to related professions in dealing with GIS databases and programs. The GIS career pays very similarly to careers in Game Design, but with a higher number of professionals (30%, according to O*NET) having an advanced education (such as a master’s degree).
- Information Security - The professionals who work to create programs to protect information and networks. They plan, implement, and monitor security measures and respond to security breaches. Nearly 20% of professionals in this field have some type of post-baccalaureate certificate or education and jobs in this field can yield a median of $90,120 each year.
All of these professions require individuals who are capable of thinking analytically, communicating with individuals in external departments, and solving complex problems using critical thinking.
Those who are interested in the computer sciences should be prepared to spend most of their time working indoors, using their math and science skills to interact with various networks and databases, and solve problems accurately and concretely.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
Most programs for computer science will take students through the theoretical mathematical and scientific courses that will best prepare them for communicating with a wide variety of platforms.
An online bachelor’s degree in computer science will introduce you to the following subjects:
- Operating Systems
- Data Structures and Algorithms
- Programming Languages
- Computer Architecture
Most schools offer the opportunity to take electives or select a concentration that will allow you to focus on the topics that are related to your career goals. Electives and concentrations will offer narrower courses related specifically to specializations such as Game Design.
Some schools also offer degrees in subjects such as GIS or Database Administration, so it's important to do some research on the direction in which you would like to take your career before settling in on any one school or program.
GetEducated's exhaustive cost rankings reveal that an bachelor's level online computer science degree costs $49,546, on average. An online master's in computer science costs $25,670, on average. These estimates inclulde all online learning and technology fees. Keep in mind, however, that a higher cost does not always equate with higher quality. The most affordable online bachelor's in computer science costs just $18,479!