What Can You Do With a Computer Science Degree?
From university professors to IT managers, five industry experts tell us what today's students can do with the right skills and a computer science degree.
What is a Computer Science Degree?
A degree in computer science (CS) typically refers to a Bachelor of Computer Science (BCS). Most students are awarded the degree after completing three to four years of recognized academic studies.
The exact courses required to earn a computer science degree differs between institutions, but most computer science programs are composed of broad disciplines and topics including computing fundamentals, software engineering, artificial intelligence, data structures and mathematics.
Image Description: Computer science degrees will differ between institutions. For example, the University of Advancing Technology’s computer science degree is earned as an Advancing Computer Science Bachelor of Science.
What Can You Do With a Computer Science Degree?
"A computer science degree equips you with a range of skills that many companies are looking for. With a university background there are careers possible in game development, systems analyst roles, IT consultancy, software programming, user experience (UX) analyst and web development and design," wrote Craig Dalziel, senior manager for Pearson Frank. "Other jobs where a degree would be useful, though not essential; include SEO and PPC specialist, network engineer, UX designer, teaching and product management."
Dalziel, along with other industry experts with education or recruiting and employment backgrounds have contributed their very best career advice for students coming out of university with a degree in computer science.
No, You Don't Have to Be a Programmer.
Our thoughts often turn to programming when we talk about earning a CS degree, but Mark Wilcox, vice president of business development for ICSynergy International, says besides programming jobs, there are many other jobs available to graduates. This can include:
Product Manager: these are the people who define the requirements for products. They are the advocates for the customer to the development team and the voice of development to customers.
Sales Engineer: the technical experts who support license sales reps and work with customers to understand their business problems and explain how the sales engineer's products can solve that problem.
Solution Architect: the technical people, often consultants, who create custom solutions for customer’s business problems.
Chief Information Officers: these are people who define the technical direction for a company.
Wilcox recommends students maximize their career opportunities and become comfortable with public speaking and learn how to communicate effectively via the written word and understand the basics of business.
"Most likely you didn't get these skills in your university degree, but there's plenty of ways to learn these skills after you graduate," Wilcox wrote. "For example, Toastmasters will have a local chapter to you and they can help you learn how to speak professionally. Also, if you binge watch all of the episodes of The Profit over a weekend; you will know more about business than most people you encounter."
Recommended Reading: Webopedia's huge list of Computer Certifications for Students and IT Professionals.
A Business Can Start With a CS Degree
Other professionals, like Tim Platt, vice president of IT business services for Virtual Operations, LLC., will tell you that having a computer science degree is the first step to eventually starting an IT business.
"I was able to obtain an internship with IBM while I was still in school, working on computer programming. Eventually, I moved into a full-time, regular employee role, and was tasked with mentoring junior programmers, and new interns," wrote Platt. "After several years, it became apparent to me that while I loved programming and the creative output of coding, I also like to work with people, and to lead teams, and that I had a talent for decision making and leadership."
After managing teams that ranged from 5 to 20 technical personnel – programmers, web designers, database administrators, and others, Platt knew his true talent was leading teams to success and he found satisfaction in that role.
"My advice is that even if someone has management aspirations, a solid foundation in the technology and techniques of those you wish to manage is essential. You've got to understand that work that needs to be done," he explained. "I still use my computer science degree knowledge on a regular basis – not just in technical troubleshooting and mentoring, but also for pre-sales engineering and writing proposals."
Add a Minor in Business and Marketing
Another great educational pairing for students to consider is a degree in computer science with a minor in business and marketing.
"A computer science degree is an open door to pretty much any branch within the tech world. It offers you the right base to focus on any particular area, within the industry," wrote BitMar Networks' President and CEO, Jonathan Rodriguez. "For example, you can become a graphic designer, media editor, back-end developer, front-end developer or front-end designer among many other possibilities."
Rodriguez said he always recommends computer science with a minor in business and marketing, that way tech skills can be complemented with an understanding of the human element.
"This will allow you to create user-friendly UIs and systems. Once you create such a portfolio, you will never be out of work," he explained.
The Right Skills Can Mean Exciting Job Opportunities
Jobs in Computer Science are in high demand right now, according to Advancing Computer Science Professors from the University of Advancing Technology (UAT) in Tempe, Arizona. Program Champion, Jill Coddington says there's plenty of job opportunity for students graduating with a computer science degree.
"Students just graduating often find work as a tools developer - this position feeds into software developer once they gain experience. IT and IT support are also good starting positions that can feed into more traditional software development positions with experience and showing the employees' skills and value," wrote Coddington.
With the right skills, today's students have exciting job opportunities. Having recently reached out to CEOs of companies in the Tempe area, Coddington says one startup and a second company that helps startups succeed, both hire computer science graduates who are innovative, creative, and can implement rapid prototype, rapid proof of concept and rapid get to market strategies.
“This is a highly adaptive environment, quite different from enterprise software but an exciting and lucrative one," Coddington concluded.
Recommended Reading: Webopedia's Free IT Courses and Security Certifications slideshow.
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