Computer science is at the dynamic intersection of art, science, technology and mathematics. It involves mastery of the concepts and languages that underly computer architecture, data processing, systems control, programming, and the design and development of software and other applications. Computer science is not the only discipline that deals with computers. It coexists, and to an extent, overlaps with computer engineering, information technology, information systems and computational science, among other fields.
Some parts of the discipline are highly theoretical and structural, like the study of algorithms. Other parts focus on the front end, where technology's UX interfaces with human users. While arenas like web development and graphic design are more artistic and visually-inclined, some computing scientists work only with reams of code and data structures, applying computational theories to solve complex engineering problems in the lab.
As the Digital Age scales up, the computer technology sector is projected to have more jobs than qualified employees for the next fifteen years, so there is tremendous opportunity in this field. Computers and technology are always changing; major shifts can happen overnight. Students considering this field should be passionate and responsive learners, willing to adapt quickly as the terms of the job change over time.
The accreditation of computer science schools and programs is administered by ABET - the U.S. and global accreditation agency for engineering, technology, computing and the applied sciences. Because its standards are so high, ABET accreditation is a source of quality assurance and provides peace of mind for prospective computer science students who want to evaluate different degree programs' caliber.
That said, while ABET is the gold standard for CS, it may not matter much whether a degree is ABET-accredited. Some of the top computer science schools in the country, such as Stanford University and Carnegie Mellon, lack the designation with no apparent penalties for their graduates.
Computer scientists or information managers may specialize in one or more of a growing list of possible areas of emphasis. Note, however, that not all CS specialties are experiencing job growth in the United States. For example, computer programmer and tech support jobs are still frequently outsourced to remote sites in other countries.
Students may pursue Internet web training, graphic design instruction, or a coding and programming curriculum. They may explore different operating systems, enterprise solutions, "ethical hacking," as well as mobile and desktop applications. Each of these areas has its own subspecialties, too. Graphic designers, for instance, might concentrate on animation, Photoshop, vector artwork, PowerPoint or CAD software. The possibilities are seemingly endless.
Areas of computer science specialization include but are not limited to:
- Computer Information Systems (CIS)
- Management Information Systems (MIS)
- Information science
- Network security and information assurance
- Data processing and database systems
- Computer programming
- Computer networks
- Computer repair
- Computer engineering
- Software engineering
- Knowledge engineering and expert systems
- Telecommunications engineering
- Game development
- Neural networks
- Cognitive science
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Systems analysis
- Website and graphic design
Generally speaking, post-secondary degrees are welcomed by employers and can often translate into a competitive advantage when applying for jobs. A large number of employers like to see at least a bachelor's degree. On the other hand, the computer and technology industries are extraordinarily flexible, open even to those with no formal education at all. It is a comparatively meritocratic sector in which solid, demonstrable skills and quality work experience are highly valued.
There is no universal pathway to becoming a successful worker in computer technology. The correct pathway is one that has been tailored to each student's preferred area of expertise. For example, lots of basic network and data analysts, including web developers and webmasters, are gainfully employed with no more than an associate's degree or handful of targeted certificates. At the highest end of the education spectrum, computer scientists working on advanced research projects often have Ph.Ds.
Meanwhile, those who work with databases as administrators usually have a bachelor's degree in computer science, information science or management information systems (MIS). The MIS degree focuses on the business aspect of computing and software, and is frequently offered through business schools. Increasingly, some computer specialists are combining their unique skills with the power of an MBA, or Master of Business Administration, in order to get ahead in the commercial sector.
With a few exceptions, most workers in the computer sciences are not required to seek national certification or any kind of state licensing. However, there are a wide range of computer science certifications that IT professionals may find useful. In the realm of information security, for example, students earn certificates in such areas as "INFOSEC" or Information Security, network administration and security, "cybersecurity" and homeland security, among others.
Computer programmers, for their part, often earn an entire alphabet of certifications to prove their grasp of important languages and platforms. Highly marketable certifications in the present market include systems integration, information assurance and business intelligence, the cloud, mobile languages, Java, SQL, .Net and C.
Some certifications are only relevant to specific employers. Others command respect across CS disciplines. Keep in mind that any certifications should make sense in terms of students' long-term academic and career goals. According to TechRepublic, experts say the top five IT certifications in demand for 2013 are:
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA)
- Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) - Private Cloud
- Project Management Professional (PMP)
- VMware Certified Professional (VCP)
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
We found 443 schools offering computer science degree programs in the U.S.
|Abilene Christian University||Abilene||TX||4739|
|Alabama State University||Montgomery||AL||5269|
|Alderson Broaddus College||Philippi||WV||751|
|Allen County Community College||Iola||KS||1968|
|American Commercial College||Abilene||TX||117|
|American Commercial College||Lubbock||TX||117|
|American Commercial College||San Angelo||TX||117|
|American Commercial College||Wichita Falls||TX||117|
|American Commercial College of Texas||Odessa||TX||94|
|Anthem Institute - Parsippany||Parsippany||NJ||1757|
|Antioch College||Yellow Springs||OH||652|
|Appalachian State University||Boone||NC||13227|
|Arizona State University at the Tempe Campus||Tempe||AZ||44126|
|Atlantic Union College||South Lancaster||MA||755|
|Augustana College||Rock Island||IL||2230|
|Augustana College||Sioux Falls||SD||1783|
|Baker University College of Arts and Sciences||Baldwin City||KS||828|
|Baldwin - Wallace College||Berea||OH||4831|
|Belmont Technical College||Saint Clairsville||OH||1524|
|Bemidji State University||Bemidji||MN||4118|
|Berks Technical Institute||Wyomissing||PA||693|
|Berry College||Mount Berry||GA||2033|
|Bethune Cookman College||Daytona Beach||FL||2745|
|Birmingham Southern College||Birmingham||AL||1477|
|Boston College||Chestnut Hill||MA||15240|
|Briar Cliff University||Sioux City||IA||917|
|Bridgewater State College||Bridgewater||MA||8839|
|Brigham Young University - Hawaii||Laie||HI||2353|
|Brigham Young University - Idaho||Rexburg||ID||8949|
|Brown Mackie College - Akron||Akron||OH||373|
|Brown Mackie College - Cincinnati||Cincinnati||OH||766|
|Brown Mackie College - Northern Kentucky||Fort Mitchell||KY||338|
|Bryn Mawr College||Bryn Mawr||PA||1784|
|Buena Vista University||Storm Lake||IA||2732|
|Bunker Hill Community College||Boston||MA||6385|
|Business Etcetera Institute of Technology||Miami||FL||No Data|
|Butler County Community College||El Dorado||KS||7911|
|California Lutheran University||Thousand Oaks||CA||2766|
|Calvin College||Grand Rapids||MI||4309|
|Campbell University Inc||Buies Creek||NC||5880|
|Carson - Newman College||Jefferson City||TN||2230|
|Case Western Reserve University||Cleveland||OH||9304|
|Central Methodist University - College of Liberal Arts & Sciences||Fayette||MO||1231|
|Central Penn College||Summerdale||PA||1370|
|Certified Careers Institute||Salt Lake City||UT||165|
|Certified Careers Institute||Clearfield||UT||172|
|Chapman University - University College||Orange||CA||6145|
|Charleston Southern University||Charleston||SC||2603|
|Chestnut Hill College||Philadelphia||PA||1561|
|Christopher Newport University||Newport News||VA||5314|
|Claremont Mckenna College||Claremont||CA||1003|
|Coastal Bend College||Beeville||TX||3259|
|Coe College||Cedar Rapids||IA||1301|
|College of Mount St. Joseph||Cincinnati||OH||2221|
|College of Saint Benedict||Saint Joseph||MN||2024|
|College of Santa Fe||Santa Fe||NM||1629|
|College of Southern Idaho||Twin Falls||ID||5452|
|College of the Ozarks||Point Lookout||MO||1414|
|Colorado Technical University||Greenwood Village||CO||383|
|Colorado Technical University||Colorado Springs||CO||1851|
|Colorado Technical University of Sioux Falls||Sioux Falls||SD||840|
|Concordia College at Moorhead||Moorhead||MN||2826|
|Concordia University||River Forest||IL||1900|
|Concordia University - Wisconsin||Mequon||WI||4603|
|Copper Mountain College||Joshua Tree||CA||2172|