Pros & Cons of a PhD in Computer Science

Within this article, you will find information on some of the positives and negatives to earning a PhD in computer science. Additional information on the median salary and job growth of potential careers will also be provided, along with general graduation requirements.

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Individuals who seek to secure a PhD in computer science will develop a better understanding of complex networks, computer architecture and computational algorithms and code. They will be introduced to cutting-edge technologies as well as A.I. systems. Within this article you will find information related to the positives and negatives of such a degree, as well as some potential job choices this degree provides, along with general graduation requirements.

Positive Aspects of a PhD in Computer Science

Given the level of extra research and coursework required to earn such a degree, it's understandable why many are apprehensive about obtaining a PhD. To aid in your decision of pursuing such a degree, there is a list containing some of the positives associated with a PhD below.

The Job Market Is in Good Shape

One of the big worries of PhD students is the amount of time they will spend out of the workforce. Their job outlook can change from one year to the next, and many students forgo gaining a PhD for this reason. There is good news, however, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that many computer science jobs where a PhD could help are quite lucrative and have higher than average growth over a ten-year period. Database administrators, for example, earned an average of $87,020 in 2017 with the projected job growth for 2016-2026 being 11%. Additionally, software developers earned $103,560 in 2017 on average with their projected job growth being 24% over that same period of time.

Fast Track to Research and Academia

If one is looking to become a research professional or professor, then a PhD is the way to go. Many research labs as well as universities require a PhD. While a master's might be sufficient at some community colleges, students will need to secure a PhD if they want to be a tenured professor at traditional four-year colleges. Not only will the degree help you secure a high end position in academics, but it will also provide a way for you to do research within academics as well. Furthermore, having a PhD will allow you to teach a multitude of higher level courses, making you more desirable than those who do not have such a degree.

Tuition Costs Are Low

While it will take a lot of extra effort for students to earn such a degree, they won't break the bank doing it. The reason for this is that a lot of computer science PhD programs are fully funded. In order to gain access to tuition funding, students will have to take part in research and teaching assistantships; the length and time requirements of both vary depending upon the program entered.

Knowledge of Cutting-Edge Technology

Those who choose to pursue a PhD in computer science will have a good understanding of cutting-edge technology. They will learn about how to create and manage A.I. systems, making them highly desirable to many within the industry. Thanks to their hands-on experience during their PhD program, recent graduates will be more prepared to deal with such technologies in the workforce.

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Negative Aspects of a PhD in Computer Science

Though there are certainly a lot of positives to earning such a degree, there are a fair amount of negatives too. You'll find information related to a few negatives below.

It Takes a Long Time

One of the major drawbacks to any doctorate degree program is the fact that they take a long time to complete. Some programs take much longer than others, and in the case of a PhD in computer science, students can expect to spend between four and seven years on average. This means that they will lose out on a considerable amount of income during this particular point in time. To make matters worse, if they don't successfully complete their given program they won't even have a degree to show for it.

Most Jobs Outside of Research and Academia Don't Require It

While it is true that you will be earning a degree in one of the most in-demand fields, most jobs available to you after graduation outside of research and academics don't require you to have such a degree. It will certainly help you land a job once you graduate, but if you don't have a career in academics or research you probably won't fully utilize it. Furthermore, you will be behind those who have already gained work experience without such a degree.

PhD in Computer Science Graduation Requirements

Students who wish to pursue a PhD in computer science usually need to have a bachelor's degree or master's degree in computer science or a related field. Those with a master's will most likely need to complete sixty credit hours worth of coursework, while those starting from a bachelor's will need to complete around ninety on average. Students will also need to complete their dissertation research and present their findings before graduating from their given program. The time to complete such a degree depends largely on what degree you start with and your university's degree program, but on average it will take between four and seven years to complete.

PhD in Computer Science Careers/Salary

With the increase in technology and use of automation, computer science is becoming one of the fastest growing fields in the world today. A large percentage of businesses are now bringing their goods and services into the digital space and they need to have individuals who can manage complex networks and solve problems on the fly. While a PhD isn't required for many jobs in the field of computer science, those who earn a PhD will be well-versed in cutting-edge technology and be able to complete more complex tasks. Within the table below are a few careers where a PhD can prove useful, along with their respective median salary and job growth information.

Job Title Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Computer Science Professor $78,630 8%
Computer and Information Research Scientist $114,520 19%
Software Developers $103,560 24%
Database Administrator $87,020 11%
Network and Computer Systems Administrator $81,100 6%
Computer Hardware Engineers $115,120 5%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

A PhD in computer science gives those who wish to work within the field of academia and research the education they need. For those who want to work in the industry, they will learn about complex systems and cutting-edge technology, giving them a greater chance of employment in higher-end jobs after graduation.

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