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Computer Science Majors and Potential Jobs

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Technology is always advancing, but its foundation seems to stay the same—it’s all the product of innovation, imagination, and creativity! Interested in computers? From hardware to software, building blocks of code to user-facing design, computer science majors have something for everyone, and it might be the right fit for you!

Computer Programming

In a world where the use of the computer is ubiquitous, computer programming is for students who want to learn how to make computers do the many different tasks that make them essential in today’s world and to understand the intricacies of computer software and web design. It is a major that requires a considerable expertise in information technology, as well as imagination and creativity to problem solve. It is to be distinguished from computer science, which is a more theoretical, “big picture” endeavor. Computer programming is a field in transition as web-based technologies grow more and more widely used. This is a hands-on course of study, largely found at the Associate degree level. Job prospects are excellent; the most skilled computer programmers are highly sought. Students can choose to join industry after obtaining a bachelor’s degree or to specialize further at the graduate level.

Education

Specific course work in computer programming and programming languages, including recursion, linked structures, searching and sorting techniques, stacking, and queues will be accompanied by other courses in computer science and discrete mathematics. In addition, students will study electronic commerce to understand how to construct a multifunctional website using HTML forms. Research projects and/or co-op internship placements will be required.

Possible careers

•    computer graphics artists
•    computer programmer
•    computer systems engineer
•    IT manager or technician
•    web designer

Computer Science

This is the study of the theoretical foundation for the development of computers and their applications. Computer science considers the mathematical base for computers, as well as flow charting, diagramming, programming systems analysis, systems interface, software development, and related fields. An advanced background in mathematics is required, and an interest in working closely with data is helpful. In general, the B.S. program prepares students for advanced studies and research; the B.A. prepares for employment directly after graduation. Computer science is a field in the midst of rapid growth and innovation. Even as they learn foundational skills, students must look to the future to stay current in the area of study.

Education

The plan of study stresses advanced mathematics skills development and course work in statistics at the lower division. At the upper-division level, the major focuses on the topics mentioned in the description above, as well as on computer graphics, special topics, independent study, internships, and cooperative education opportunities.

Possible careers

•    actuary
•    college professor
•    consultant
•    corporate IT specialist
•    financial analyst
•    hardware engineer
•    lawyer
•    mathematician
•    network administrator
•    programmer
•    research scientist
•    software engineers
•    system analyst
•    technical writer

Information Sciences

This field of study focuses on developing basic skills in communication, mathematics, algorithmic reasoning and the underlying principles of computing. It is for the student who wants to be on the cutting edge of the computer industry. The aim of any information sciences program is to equip students with the ability to adapt to the changes of this fast paced and rapidly changing field. Job prospects in the field are good.

Education

Beyond general college requirements, information sciences will require course work in sciences and advanced mathematics, including symbolic computation and linear algebra. Students will then fulfill major requirements through basic information science courses before branching into various fields of interest such as human computer interaction, computer security, cryptography, programming language, real-time systems, or database management. Research positions and/or internships are often available.

Possible careers

•    computer programmer
•    computer science professor
•    data base administrator
•    IT manager or consultant
•    software or hardware engineer
•    systems analyst

Management Information Systems

Sometimes referred to as “information technology” or “information communications systems,” management information systems prepares the student to apply information technology to solve business problems. It is a major for practical problem solvers who understand the power of information technology in the business setting which prepares students for a career in using computer-related skills to enhance business success. These skills deal with a variety of computer-based business problems: understanding telecommunications, managing office automation, performing systems analysis, maintain inventory control. The program will usually be found as an applied major in the school of business. Job prospects are good just about anywhere in the country.

Education

Students begin with introductory courses in computer science, physics, applied math, business administration, and engineering. Course work in the major tends to focus on building specific skills or solving specific problems in the workplace. This major is ideally suited for co-op placements or internships, and many students elect to go in this direction.

Possible careers

•    corporate MIS manager or consultant
•    director of materials and inventory
•    operation analyst
•    quality control manager
•    systems analyst

Software Engineering

Software engineering plays a critical role in our lives, from banking systems to telephone systems to home entertainment. Medical diagnosis and treatment couldn’t be done without it. Software engineers specify, design, implement, test, and support software systems in a team environment. The major combines the essentials of electrical and mechanical engineering, together with fundamentals of computer science, to create software products for use in business, education, science, industry, and entertainment. This is a demanding field, but for a skilled software engineer, career opportunities are most promising.

Education

The first two years of the program are heavily laden with typical engineering basics such as calculus, biology, chemistry, physics, computer programming, and fundamentals of engineering. The upper division continues with selected engineering courses, focusing on software development skills, and concludes with the completion of an extensive group project. Internship and cooperative work experience are key in this major, so that one can see up-close the challenges of this rapidly evolving specialty. Several colleges currently offer a major titled “computer engineering.” Students must examine the curriculum closely to see whether it is compatible with software engineering. Strong Software Engineering programs will offer a wide array of internship possibilities, often with major corporations.

Possible careers

•    college professor
•    computer animator
•    computer hardware dev.
•    computer programmer
•    corporate IT manager
•    entrepreneur
•    software creator
•    software developer
•    software technician
•    systems analyst
•    technical writer

Systems Analysis

Systems analysis is the study of the organizational structure and behavior of multiple sets of elements. Most frequently, the term is used to denote the study of computer languages and their possible interactions and applications. The major is a specialty within the broad area of mathematics and usually requires above-average conceptual skills and a background in advanced mathematics.

Education

The plan of study includes courses in advanced mathematics with selected electives in computer programming, computer languages, and advanced statistical methods. Few colleges offer a pure major in systems analysis at the undergraduate level; more often it is an option within a computer science or computer engineering program. Some colleges use terms such as “systems planning,” “computer systems,” or “systems science/theory” to describe their offerings. Others offer dual major programs in systems analysis/engineering or systems analysis/business administration. The field of available choices should be searched carefully.

Possible careers

•    college professor
•    comptroller
•    computer engineer
•    computer programmer
•    demographer
•    entrepreneur
•    government analyst
•    statistician
•    systems analyst
•    systems engineer

Adapted from Major Decisions: A Guide to College Majors, by Terry Ward. Used with permission from Wintergreen Orchard House, 2012. For the full breakdown of these majors, check out the book, available in paperback and for the Kindle!

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