Computer science, broadly defined, is the subject of computing in all of its forms and applications. It is both theoretical and practical, and encompasses the study of many areas such as the feasibility, structure, analysis and mechanization of computation in order to process, store, communicate and allow access to information. In short, computer science deals with computers and how to get them to do what we want them to.
As a profession, computer science deals with the theory and design of computers, as well as the computational process and its systems. It requires a strong understanding of reasoning and logic, as well as a solid educational foundation in science, math, engineering and technology. The work of computer scientists can be found in virtually every area of modern life, including education, health and medicine, communications, defense, and even agriculture, sports and entertainment.
The popularity of computer science post secondary programs today can hardly be overstated. Most students interested in any of the STEM-related subjects are looking seriously at careers in computer science due to the large number of well-paying entry-level jobs and the tremendous expected growth in professional advancement. As a result, computer science degree programs have become a staple of college and university curricula throughout the United States, as well as with reputable online degree providers. The following is a brief overview of the distance learning degree options currently available to those interested in a computer science career:
Every online computer science degree program is unique, from cost and quality to scheduling and delivery mode. When looking at schools and their programs, especially those offered online, keep the following two factors firmly in mind:
Like most other professions, there are numerous certifications available for computer scientists. Unlike other professions, however, there are very few highly-recognized general certifications in the field. Instead, vender-specific, vender-neutral and third-party certifications are much more common. Additionally, the most in-demand certifications come and go with the latest industry technology and trends. Current top computer science certifications include:
Additional computer science certifications of note include:
As mentioned, the outlook for computer science graduates is positive, with continued growth in the job market expected. However, there is also a steady stream of job seekers entering that market daily, which means that there will always be strong competition for the top jobs at the best companies. As a result, those graduates with the most attractive resumes are going to have the upper hand when it comes to landing a plumb entry-level position.One of the most effective ways to make a resume stand apart is to include a great summer internship.
Completion of an internship with a top company or firm indicates to employers that a potential employee has gained important on-the-job experience and the real-world skills that come with it.Landing a good summer internship in computer science, however, can be tricky. Fortunately, most major college degree programs today incorporate internships into their curricula. It is very important, therefore, that students take into account the availability of an included quality internship when considering an online computer science degree program.
Students interested in learning more about computer science or specific topics within the field also have the option to enroll in an open online computer science course. These classes are offered through an education platform and are usually free, with some offering a certificate of completion or certificate of achievement for a specified fee. Below are some examples of available open online courses in computer science:
Algorithms, Part II is a 7-week course that covers essential information needed by programmers about algorithms and data structure, with emphasis on applications and scientific performance analysis of Java applications. A basic familiarity with Java, algorithms and data structure is recommended for taking this course.
This 9-week course is designed as a fun introduction to the basics of programming in Python for students with little or no computing background. Students will work through a number of “mini-projects” in Python to build simple games such as Pong, Blackjack and Asteroids.
This 11-week course will discuss the major ideas used today in the implementation of program language compilers. Students will learn how a program written in a high-level language is systematically translated into a program in low-level assembly.
In this 6-week course taught by Stanford Computer Science Professor Dan Boneh, students will learn about the inner workings of cryptographic primitives and how to apply that knowledge to real-world applications. The course is self-contained, but a basic understanding of discrete probability theory is helpful.
This course provides participants with opportunities to integrate and apply information security knowledge. Students will be presented with current, real-world security cases and will design and execute information assurance strategies to solve them. This 10-week course is taught by Mike Simon, Chief Technical Officer, Creation Logic, University of Washington.
This 8-week course teaches the fundamentals for engineering long-lasting software using Agile techniques to develop Software as a Service (SaaS) with Ruby on Rails. Students auditing the course for free will have access to all course materials, tests, and the online discussion forum.
In this course, students will learn about General Game Playing (GGP) develop GGP programs that are capable of competing against humans and other programs in GGP competitions. Knowledge in Symbolic Logic and the ability to read program fragments written in a modern program language is recommended.
This 11-week course will show students how the Internet was created, who created it and how it works. The course is designed for anyone, regardless of prior subject knowledge, and provides a great lead-in to courses in web design and development, programming and network administration.
Designed for majors and non-majors alike, this self-paced class offers an introduction to the intellectual enterprises of computer science and the art of programming. Offered free of charge to those students not seeking a class certificate.
Internships are a great way for students to earn valuable real world skills and experience in the field of computer science. Below is a sample of some available internships:
Paying for a computer science degree, or any educational degree, can sometimes be challenging. Fortunately, there is a wealth of scholarships available to students who want to pursue computer science. Below are just some of the scholarship opportunities within the field:
The Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering International (AACEI) awards academic scholarships to full-time students pursuing a degree related to cost engineering in any number of fields, including computer science. Awards are available on both the undergraduate and graduate levels in amounts ranging from $2,000 to $8,000.
In collaboration with the University of Phoenix, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) currently offers two full-tuition scholarships that allow recipients to complete an undergraduate or master’s degree program at the university. Recipients may choose to attend online or in-person at a University of Phoenix campus.
Offered by the Foundation for IT Education, the Betty Stevens Frecknall Scholarship is open to full-time university students pursuing an academic degree in an information technology field. Awards are made based on scholastic ability, leadership potential and financial need.
The CERT College Scholarships program was created to meet the unforeseen need of today’s Indian college students. Eligibility requirements include: former participation in one of three specific CERT programs; full-time undergraduate or graduate enrollment in an accredited tribal, public or private college or university; and study in one of a number of specified fields, including computer technology.
NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate sponsors this scholarship program focused on aeronautical research and related degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Approximately 20 undergraduate awards of up to $15,000 are available, with recipients additionally provided a summer internship at a NASA research center. Approximately five two-year graduate scholarships with a third-year option will also be available.
The Electronic Document Scholarship Foundation (EDSF) is a non-profit industry organization dedicated to enhancing the value and relevance of document and graphic communications. The EDSF offers over 40 scholarships annually in a variety of study areas. Amounts range from $1000 to $5,000. Requirements vary by scholarship program, with many available only to students in specific groups or attending specific institutions.
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) Foundation was established to assist women and minority students who are pursuing degrees leading to careers in computer and video game arts. Up to thirty $3,000 scholarships are awarded each year for full-time undergraduate study at accredited four-year colleges and universities in the United States. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and maintain a 2.75 GPA.
The Google Lime Scholarship Program awards scholarships to disabled students pursuing degrees in computer science, computer engineering, or a closely related technical field. Scholarships are awarded on the strength of a candidate’s academic background and demonstrated passion for computer science.
Microsoft sponsors scholarships to undergraduate students studying computer science and related technical disciplines. Four types of scholarships are currently being awarded: general scholarships; women’s scholarships; minority scholarships; and scholarships for students with disabilities. Full and partial tuition awards are available.
The National Federation for the Blind (NFB) offers $3,000-$12,000 scholarships in a wide range of subjects, including this one in conjunction with the Oracle Corporation. To be eligible, an applicant must be legally blind in both eyes, pursuing or planning to pursue a full-time postsecondary course of study in a United States degree program, and participate in the entire NFB convention and all of its scheduled scholarship program activities.
Administered through AfterCollege, the NSA Mathematics and Computer Science Student Scholarship awards one $500 scholarship annually. To be eligible, an applicant must be a U.S. citizen currently enrolled in an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral program in the field of computer science, computer engineering, or mathematics.
The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) offers numerous scholarship and award opportunities in a variety of science and engineering subject areas, including computer science. Scholarship packages range in amounts from $500 to $10,500. Specific requirements vary by scholarship, but all applicants must be active, paid NSBE members.
The Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship for Service Program offers scholarship opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a degree in a STEM discipline. Awards include full tuition and fees, a substantial stipend, mentoring and a paid summer internship at a Department of Defense laboratory.
The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) Scholarship Program supports Hispanic students pursuing degrees in STEM-subject degree courses of study. The SHPE awards both merit-based and need-based scholarships in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. Eligibility requirements differ by specific scholarship.
The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Scholarship Program provides financial assistance to women admitted to ABET-accredited bachelor’s and graduate degree programs in preparation for careers in engineering, engineering technology and computer science. There are literally dozens of SWE-affiliated scholarships available, each in varying amounts (ranging from $1,000 to $10,000) and with specific eligibility requirements.
Sponsored by the Energy Telecommunications and Electrical Association, the Wayne V. Black Scholarship is awarded annually in the amount of $5,000. To be eligible, a candidate must be a currently enrolled, full-time undergraduate student in good academic standing (3.0 GPA) at an accredited college or university in the United States or Canada.
The following is a list of helpful computer science resources, including student and professional organizations as well as informative field-related publications:Computer Science Student Organizations and Programs
Conduit is the newsletter of the Computer Science department at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. It is published twice yearly in hard copy form and distributed to department faculty, staff, students, alumni and industrial partners. Each edition includes feature articles on a range of computer science-related subjects, department news, faculty notes, alumni updates, and more. Current and past editions of Conduit can be viewed online at no cost.
CS News, the newsletter of the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science Department of Computer Science, is published twice a year in both web and email versions. Issues typically include features on computer-related subjects, as well as articles spotlighting the work of UV alumni students. CS News is available to anyone free-of-charge.
Published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, IEEE Potentials Magazine is dedicated to undergraduate and graduate students and young professionals studying in the fields of electrical engineering and the computer sciences. The magazine is published bi-monthly and includes articles on current research and technical developments, as well as career strategies. Magazine articles are accessible online at no cost.
News and Notes is the newsletter publication of the University of North Carolina’s Department of Computer Science. News and Notes is published twice a year, in the fall and spring, and includes information and articles on department events and activities, student and faculty achievements, as well as general articles on computer science and related fields. News and Notes can be accessed online and free-of-charge.