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Career Info for a Degree in General Computer & Information Sciences

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a computer scientist, computer software engineer, computer hardware engineer, or computer programmer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling and required job duties to find out if this is the career for you.

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Are you a computer whiz? Already earning a degree in computer and information sciences? In this article, learn about a few careers in which you can make use of your computer skills.

Essential Information

The field of computer and information science encompasses computer design, use and function. A degree in this area can lead to a career as a computer scientist, computer software engineer, computer hardware engineer or computer programmer. While a degree is not required, it is highly recommended that prospective applicants have at minimum a bachelor's degree in computer science or information sciences, although it is common for many applicants to have a master's degree. Read on to learn more about these careers and available degree programs in computer and information science.

Career Computer Scientist Computer Software Engineer Computer Hardware Engineer Computer Programmer
Recommended Education Doctoral degree* Bachelor's degree* Bachelor's degree* Bachelor's degree*
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 11%* 17%* 3%* -8%*
Median Salary (2015) $110,620* $100,690* $111,730* $79,530*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information for a Computer Scientist

Computer scientists design and build new computer technology or identify ways to improve existing technology. They may develop computer hardware or software or create independently functioning robotic systems. Computer scientists may also identify solutions to technological problems or investigate theoretical issues. The majority of computer scientists have earned a doctoral degree in computer science or a related area. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated that as of May 2015, there were 25,510 computer and information research scientists located in the United States; the median annual salary for these professionals was $110,620. Between 2014 and 2024, the BLS anticipates an increase of 11% for this job category.

Computer Software Engineer Career Information

Developing software programs and computer applications are the primary job duties of computer software engineers. They may use algorithms, programming languages, information security methods and system interface devices to complete their designs. Sometimes, they create entire computer systems. The majority of software engineering positions require at least a bachelor's degree. According to the BLS, in May 2015 systems software developers employed earned a median annual salary of $105,570. In the same reporting period, the BLS indicated that applications software developers earned a median salary of $98,260. In 2014, the BLS reported that there were 1.1 million software developers employed in the nation, and anticipates an increase of 17% through 2024.

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Career Information Computer Hardware Engineer

Computer hardware engineers design and test computer equipment. They ensure that computer hardware functions properly and will last during prolonged use. They may also oversee the manufacturing and installation of hardware. In May 2015, according to the BLS, there were 75,870 computer hardware engineers in the nation; it was reported that the median annual salary of these engineers was $111,730. Furthermore, between 2014-2024, the BLS anticipates job growth to be 3% for this job classification.

Computer Programmer Career Information

After software designers have conceptualized and created program ideas, computer programmers convert these ideas into instructions that computers can follow. They do so using programming languages. They may also repair, update or modify existing software programs. Many programming jobs require a bachelor's degree, but an associate's degree or certificate may suffice. The BLS indicated that in May 2015, there were 289,420 computer programmers working in the state; in that same year, the median annual salary earned by this group was $79,530. Between 2014-2024, the BLS anticipates a decrease in jobs by 8%.

Degree Options in Computer and Information Sciences

These degree programs are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. An associate's degree program may include coursework in object-oriented programming, database management systems, mathematics and Web authoring. A bachelor's degree program may require students to take classes in software and Web engineering, programming languages, operating systems and networks.

In a master's degree program, students complete two years of study in subjects such as algorithms, distributed systems and programming languages. These programs culminate in a written thesis or final project. A doctoral program requires completion of about 90 credit hours of study. Depending on the educational institutions involved, credits may be transferred from an eligible master's degree program. Students enrolled in these programs have the opportunity to learn how to perform high-level research in the computer sciences. Before graduation, students are also required to write and defend a dissertation.

A bachelor's degree can prepare jobseekers for careers as software engineers, hardware engineers, and computer programmers. Further degrees may improve employment prospects as well as open up other career options, such as computer scientist.

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