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Computer science as a degree: Who's it for?

The computer science field encompasses research, academia, and software development. Check it out as a degree if you want to contribute to this growing industry.
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Written by Matthew Sweeney, Contributing Writer on

Are you someone who wants to know how computers and software allow us to create great things? Consider pursuing computer science as a degree. Computer science majors are highly skilled STEM specialists that develop software and hardware to benefit all of society. Not only that, but they pioneer knowledge of concepts like machine learning and artificial intelligence.

One misconception about this field is that it is inaccessible. In reality, most people can master computer science with determination. However, certain skills and interests will likely fit better with this major. Want to learn more about the characteristics and skills that might make a computer science degree a good fit for you? Read on for that, and to explore other considerations for computer science degrees.

Computer science as a degree: What is it?

A computer science degree is an intensive STEM degree covering computer systems, software programming, and computational and information theory. Associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in computer science are offered at schools around the country. Many popular computer scientist careers, such as software developer and computer programmer, require at least a bachelor's degree.

Students of computer science typically study topics such as computer science theory, programming languages, and operating systems, along with calculus and data science.

Does computer science fit my skills?

Becoming a computer scientist or software developer requires a unique skill set emphasizing logic, mathematics, and pattern recognition. While the right skills to succeed at a computer science job can be learned by anyone, some people may find these skills easier to master than others.

Computer scientists draw upon a variety of STEM-oriented skills, including:

  • Logic
  • Computer literacy
  • Coding
  • Calculus

However, computer science specialists also draw upon soft skills. In order to do their jobs efficiently, they also need skills in:

  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Analytical thinking
  • Patience

Computer science jobs require the ability to solve problems creatively while remaining patient.

Does computer science fit my personality?

A computer science degree usually calls upon people with cerebral personality traits and characteristics. Typically, people in the computer science field possess a deep love of new technologies, especially in nascent fields like machine learning. Computer science learners also usually possess analytical, detail-oriented perspectives, and are content to work independently for hours. Successful computer science learners need an ability to focus intensely on highly specific topics and notice small details others might neglect.

Does a computer science degree fit my career goals?

A computer science degree can lead to a diverse array of STEM careers but may not be an ideal choice for every career path. Before committing to a computer science degree, look into potential computer science careers. If you have a knack for abstract reasoning, consider leveraging your degree to become a data scientist. If coding is more your thing, you could pursue work as a software developer.

The following list represents some popular careers in computer science:

  • Data scientist
  • Computer and information research scientist
  • Software developer
  • Network and computer systems administrator
  • Computer science professor
  • IT project manager

Can I afford a computer science degree?

You can expect yearly computer science degree tuition to vary as such:

  • Associate: $2,500-$5,000
  • Bachelor's: $10,000-$30,000
  • Master's: $15,000-$60,000
  • Doctorate: $30,000-$60,000

To pay these considerable costs, you can pursue financial aid options such as grants, subsidized loans, and computer science scholarships.

The price of the degree pays off, though. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported in 2020 that the average salary for computer science majors was $68,670.

Computer science degree alternatives

If a computer science degree turns out to not be a good fit, there are other options that might fit with your career plans. Check out the following computer science degree alternatives:

  • IT degree: A degree in information technology might be a better fit if you want to work as a network systems administrator or IT manager.
  • Cybersecurity degree or certificate: Cybersecurity specialists are in demand and many schools offer degrees and certificates for this field.
  • Coding bootcamp: A coding bootcamp is an accelerated learning experience that can lead to entry-level work in mobile and web development.

Conclusion

A computer science degree can propel you towards an exciting and purposeful STEM career. Computer science majors undergo a rigorous curriculum combining computational theory with practical knowledge for programming computer hardware and software systems. They leave this experience prepared for careers in both research and product development. While this degree is fairly intensive, it just might be right for you if you are excited by technology's capabilities!

For more information on what you will learn from different computer science degrees, what to expect from online computer science degrees, and other topics, check out some of our computer science degree-related pages.

Is computer science a useful degree?

Yes. A computer science degree, especially a bachelor's or above, can prepare you for a variety of entry-level roles in research, IT, and software development. 

Do you need to be good at math for computer science?

Yes, an aptitude for math helps. The typical computer science degree features advanced math topics, such as calculus, or courses that involve mathematics, such as data science and visualization. 

Why would someone major in computer science?

Someone might major in computer science because they wish to work directly with computer systems in an entry-level role or above. They might also study this major to prepare to work as a researcher into computational and information theory.

Do people regret majoring in computer science?

While computer science is a multifaceted degree, it may not suit people interested in working outside of computer science theory, software engineering, and computer programming. Researching ahead of time is key.

This article was reviewed by Monali Mirel Chuatico

Monali Mirel Chuatico, a woman with long dark hair, smiles in a headshot.

In 2019, Monali Mirel Chuatico graduated with her bachelor's in computer science, which gave her the foundation that she needed to excel in roles such as a data engineer, front-end developer, UX designer, and computer science instructor.

Monali is currently a data engineer at Mission Lane. As a data analytics captain at a nonprofit called COOP Careers, Monali helps new grads and young professionals overcome underemployment by teaching them data analytics tools and mentoring them on their professional development journey.

Monali is passionate about implementing creative solutions, building community, advocating for mental health, empowering women, and educating youth. Monali's goal is to gain more experience in her field, expand her skill set, and do meaningful work that will positively impact the world.

Monali Mirel Chuatico is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network. 

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