From creating state of the art video games to conducting cutting edge research, a growing number of jobs require a computer science education. However, with so many programs available, it can be challenging to decide on the best colleges for computer science. Therefore, it is important to know what your goals are and what each program has to offer. While this research may take a little bit of extra time, the payoff is big in terms of satisfaction with your chosen programs.
Degrees in Computer Science
Computer science degrees are available at the associate’s, bachelor’s, and graduate level. Many people begin their careers with a two-year or four-year degree and then earn a graduate degree as they find their niche in their chosen field. Becoming a computer scientist requires a PhD, so those interested in this line of work may complete their doctoral studies before beginning their full-time career. Graduate degrees in computer science typically take between two and five years to complete and usually culminate with an original research project. After earning your formal degree, continual educational development within the IT field is almost always required in order to keep abreast of advances in technology.
Degrees in computer science are designed for students to acquire a core set of skills. This includes gaining an understanding of contemporary computer topics and applying computing fundamentals and mathematical principles to solve computer science problems. You will also likely be required to learn more than one computing platform and programming language.
Throughout the program, you may be asked to design and test increasingly complex software systems within a team environment. Most programs expect computer science students to have an understanding of computing within a global context including professional, ethical, and social responsibilities.
Choosing a School
According to US News and World Report, the best colleges for computer science are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), University of California, Berkeley (UCB), and Harvard University. However, these schools tend to be extremely competitive. Depending on your career aspirations, it is not always necessary to enroll in a top tier university. There are many excellent schools available, and a different school might better suit your needs and provide you with more opportunities to engage in the specific niche you are seeking.
From the type of curriculum offered to the experience of the faculty, when selecting a computer science program, there are a number of factors to keep in mind. A strong program at a smaller school might allow you to have more individualized attention from instructors and build more meaningful relationships with your classmates. Some students are concerned with the school’s facilities or whether they are on the forefront of research, while others focus on tuition rate, location or the option for convenient course scheduling. Pursuing a program with an online component can provide flexibility for those who are already working full-time and looking to improve their credentials or change careers. Before deciding on a school, it is important to determine, which criteria is most important to you and to select the program that will best help you achieve your goals.
Computer Science Careers
After completing your degree in computer science, you might find that your skills are in high demand. Many jobs within the computer and IT field tend to pay quite well. For example, the median annual wage for applications software developers was $89,280 in 2011, while systems software developers earned $96,600, and computer and information research scientists earned a whopping $101,080.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, positions for software developers are predicted to grow much faster than average at a rate of 30% through 2020. The BLS also claims that employment for computer scientists is expected to grow 19% in the coming decade, which is a rate that is about as fast as average. However, employers report difficulty in filling computer scientist positions, as there are a limited number of computer science PhD graduates each year, making the job prospects excellent for this role.
Starting Your College Search
If you are excited by the career opportunities in the computer science field, consider taking a look at the best colleges for computer science and finding a degree program that meets your needs. It might be at a top ranked university or it might be at a lesser known school that has the program and reputation you require for your particular interests. Only you can determine which school will be the right fit for you.