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Is a PhD in Computer Science Worth It?

Jul 06, 2018

Securing a doctorate in computer science is no easy task and can take a lot of time and money to accomplish, but it can put students at the forefront of technological advancement and better prepare them for a wide range of jobs.

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Gaining a PhD in Computer Science gives students a good understanding of algorithms and computer architecture in addition to Artificial Intelligence. They gain the skills necessary to both piece together and manage all sorts of computer systems, and create programs which solve real-world problems. To help you decide if additional education is worth it here are five career paths that you can go into with such a degree.

PhD in Computer Science Jobs/Salary

Through extensive study in areas like numerical analysis, networking, systems administration and artificial intelligence, prospective job applicants will have a deeper knowledge of cutting edge technology and be better prepared for an ever-changing world. They will have proven their desire to learn and shown employers that they are willing to put in the time and effort necessary to remain competitive. Listed below is a table filled with five careers that those with such degrees generally fall into and their respective median pay as well as job growth statistics.

Job Title Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Computer and Information Research Scientist $114,520 19%
Computer Hardware Engineers $115,120 5%
Database Administrator $87,020 11%
Software Developers $103,560 24%
Network and Computer Systems Administrator $81,100 6%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Doctorate in Computer Science Careers

Computer and Information Research Scientist

Computer and information research scientists assist engineers and scientists by inventing new programming languages and tools that make their jobs easier. Having studied extensively in this area on the way to a PhD, students will have a good understanding of both how to manipulate computer languages, and how to analyze the data that they produce. In addition, their coursework in computer hardware will allow them to invent new components to aid in the solving of problems within the field of computing. This same knowledge will allow them to complete tasks related to computer theory and to produce virtual models which reflect data they have collected.

Computer Hardware Engineers

Individuals who choose to become computer hardware engineers will aid companies in both designing new computer hardware and testing it. Through this extensive testing, they will then work with engineers and manufacturers to make modifications to components to ensure that they meet company quality control standards and achieve the goals set forth. Those who have obtained a doctorate will understand the ins and outs of electronic components and typically be able to quickly identify issues and repair them at a moment's notice.

Database Administrators

Database administrators aid companies in organizing data as well as securing it against any forms of attack. They actively back-up and restore data when necessary and work with moderators and users to promptly identify issues within the database and make modifications as needed. These same individuals work with their employer to create user groups and grant permissions as well as partition parts of the database to only be accessed by specific users. Having actively practiced networking in classes related to their PhD, job seekers will be equipped with the knowledge necessary to actively make suggestions on hardware improvements and be able to maintain server performance standards.

Software Developers

Software developers create systems which allow them to access users' needs and develop software to address them. Additionally, they run an active test to determine vulnerabilities within the software and make recommendations as it relates to program upgrades and application changes. Through the process of creating any system or application, they document their process and make notes of each step they take to ensure that individuals in the future will know how to better perform maintenance. Through having an understanding of the hardware and software end of computing through their studies, PhD students will have the skills needed to quickly identify potential compatibility issues.

Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Network and computer systems administrators spend their time identifying the needs of their organization's systems and installing hardware and software upgrades as needed. They actively monitor all computer systems and ensure they maintain their performance and are secure during the full day of operation. Additionally, they aid in the training of end users as it relates to the proper use of software and hardware and troubleshoot issues that these same users may encounter through the use of a product or service. Through their coursework, recent PhD graduates will be able to create notification programs which aid them in their maintenance work.

Degree Program Requirements

Within most graduate programs, students will be required to have a Bachelor's in computer science or related field and have maintained a 3.5 GPA while earning their degree. In addition, they must complete on average ninety credit hours within courses like Artificial Intelligence, algorithms and theory of computation, scientific computing and applications, and programming languages and methodology. Those starting from a master's will have a much easier time as their total credits drop to an average of sixty. Students can expect to pay as much as $2,017 at top online universities per credit hour but could also pay as little as $450 per credit. The average cost per year to attend according to one private research university stands at $29,500. The degree itself will be completed within four to five years depending on the graduation program and culminate with a thesis defense.

Though many jobs within the field of computer science don't require a PhD, having one can help ensure prospective job applicants to possess the required education for continued advancement in their career choice. It will also give them extensive knowledge of computer systems and allow them to do more tasks within a specific organization, which can help guarantee their future job security.

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