Computer Science

From algorithms to infrastructure design, computer science is all about creative problem-solving in the Information Age.

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What is Computer Science?

Computer science is no more about computers than biology is about microscopes, astronomy is about telescopes, or art is about paintbrushes. Computers are the tools of the trade, but the discipline is essentially concerned with information: how it’s represented, stored, manipulated and presented.

Computer scientists tackle problems by designing solutions and verifying that they’re effective. They might create the algorithms that underlie sophisticated computations. Or, they might build the hardware and infrastructure systems upon which most commercial and government enterprises rely. Still other computer scientists take the path of software design, database administration or game development.

Like other scientific fields, computer science demands a rigorous and methodical approach, including invention of new algorithms and paradigms, design that solves computational problems, and analysis and experimentation of new theories, software and products.

Who should get a computer science degree?

Do you have a passion for problem-solving? Like to crack codes and unscramble puzzles? This degree has your name all over it. Whether you’re just starting on the educational journey or upgrading your skills, the world needs more analytical, creative minds as we fast-forward into the Information Age.

Traits & Aptitudes

Check out the top traits that make for a successful student of computer science:

  • analytical

    Analytical

    Use mathematical reasoning and logical rigor to approach problems and seek solutions.

  • creative

    Creative

    Generate new ideas and model complex problems through the use of abstractions.

  • abstract-thinking

    Abstract Thinking

    Juggle hypotheses in your head to generate new answers to tough questions.

  • puzzle-solving

    Puzzle Solving

    Recognize patterns and piece out clues to uncover elegant solutions to difficult problems.

  • communication

    Communication

    Describe problems and solutions to colleagues who didn’t study computing.

Find Your Program

Degrees in Computer Science

A growing number of colleges and universities offer computer science degrees in both traditional campus settings and online. Ideal for working adults, the virtual approach yields degrees at every level—including associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and certificate programs. Forget commuting hassles and relocation costs. You’ll study at the time that’s most convenient for you while you keep your work and family commitments.

Are online computer science degrees legit? In a word, yes—if you study in an accredited program. An accredited college is one that has received an outside stamp of approval from an agency that verifies it meets standards for quality.

Check for these types of accreditation: regional (the gold standard for all U.S. colleges and universities), or a nod from the Distance Education TC or Accreditation Board for Engineering Technology. Beware: Some shady operators will create their own, fake accreditation agencies to dupe unsuspecting students. If a school claims accreditation by an agency other than the ones above, make sure it’s recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Only students at accredited schools are eligible for financial aid.

An online degree in computer science is exactly the same as its brick-and-mortar counterpart. The course content is the same, and the same faculty often teach both in-person and online classes. The online work is just as rigorous as the traditional degree path—and can be even more difficult, considering that you won’t have the built-in accountability of face-time with your professor each week.

When you pursue a distance degree or certificate, you’ll log in to listen to lectures (either independently or at scheduled times), watch videos, download materials and interact with the instructor and other students. Many instructors hold set office hours in which you can check in on your progress and share questions or concerns about the materials.

Your degree or certificate in computer science won’t list the fact that it was earned online. Potential employers are primarily concerned about your mastery of the material—not the delivery method.

Educational Paths

Certificates

Highly-focused classes give you the game development education you need to excel in a short amount of time.

Program Length

Designed for working adults who want to begin a cybersecurity career or want to add to their existing skills, certificates offer a quick way to learn about the field.

What You'll Study

Due to the complicated topics and advanced skill set needed for cybersecurity careers, the most common type of certificate is at a graduate level. For those looking to enhance their existing credentials, a certificate program gives you the specialized courses you need. If you’re considering earning a master’s degree in the future, a certificate in cybersecurity offers you an introduction into the field. Many schools allow you to use credits from a certificate program toward a graduate-level degree.

Tacking on a cybersecurity graduate certificate to your existing degree can help you move into information security analyst roles. It also equips you with the skills to lead a cybersecurity team. While financial institutions and government agencies employ information security analysts, many actually work for computer systems design companies.

Some cybersecurity professionals also specialize in certain areas, such as homeland security or policy, making their career path more defined.

These short programs usually includes courses such as ethical hacking, cryptology and network security, enterprise and cloud cybersecurity policy and white collar crime.

Associate's

Build a foundation for a cybersecurity career with studies in network security or information assurance.

Program Length

Associate’s degrees are designed to take approximately two years, however, online programs may allow you to finish sooner.

What You'll Study

Few schools offer an associate’s degree in cybersecurity, but you can find programs in related fields that can be used as a stepping stone. Network security courses will teach you how to install firewalls and build secure networks for all types of organizations.

Most cybersecurity jobs require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, however, with an associate’s degree you’ll be qualified to work in a related field. Look for entry-level positions in network security or as a computer support specialist to build your experience. Because your education focused on cybersecurity, you’ll bring a unique perspective to the job. It’s a great opportunity to hardwire your skills and pursue further education in the future.

Some of the courses you may find in an associate’s degree program include cyber defense, system assurance security and organizational security.

The material in your associate’s degree courses will also prepare you to take industry certification exams.

Bachelor's

With practical coursework at the forefront of the curriculum, a bachelor’s degree gives you a well-rounded education to fight online criminals.

Program Length

Bachelor’s degrees take about four years to complete, however, some schools offer an accelerated pace.

What You'll Study

Programs tend to use a multidisciplinary approach as you’ll need to be well-versed in topics related to law, technology, business and government. With an emphasis on critical thinking, and problem solving, students learn about the basics, such as installing software, as well as more advanced areas of the field like security principles.

With a comprehensive education under your belt, a bachelor’s degree prepares you for roles as a cyber security software engineer, information systems security administrator or information security analyst.

Courses for an undergraduate degree may include such topics as fundamentals of Information Technology, cybersecurity in business and government organizations, and human factors in cybersecurity.

A bachelor’s degree can help prepare you for industry certification exams, such as CISCO and CompTIA, which may be required for your job.

Master's

Secure your future with graduate-level study. Designed for professionals who are at a crossroads in their technology career.

Program Length

Master’s degrees take about two years to complete if you attend full-time.

What You'll Study

Prevention and detection are always the goal, but a cybersecurity professional with advanced skills can efficiently address problems if and when they do arise.

With a master’s degree, you’ll be able to oversee a team of information security analysts or head up risk management initiatives. Interested in teaching others what you know? Cybersecurity professionals often work as instructors at colleges and universities, especially as this field continues to grow.

A solid understanding of computer hardware and software is necessary before enrolling in a master’s program.

You’ll study many topics, including secure software engineering, cryptography and coding, intrusion detection and prevention and cyber crime investigation.

Program outcomes vary according to each institution's specific curriculum and employment opportunities are not guaranteed.
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