What is Computer Science? A question that may arise when you are told what your degree is. Computer science is the study of algorithms, digital machines and computation itself. As a subject, computer science covers a wide range of disciplines from purely theoretical studies of computation, digital machines and algorithms to the more practical considerations of implementing such computational devices in software and hardware.
Careers in Computer Science vary widely depending on one’s area of concentration. Theoretical computer scientists often work at the academic level, studying mathematics and programming languages. Examples of areas of specialization include algorithms and combinatorics, as well as discrete math, general intelligence and artificial intelligence. Practitioner computer scientists often work for start-up companies or private computer science departments, working on projects and contributing to product development.
Computer scientists also analyze software systems, sometimes using a variety of techniques and mathematical approaches. Software engineering is one such area, with a focus on solving complex problems using software development. Software developers write the code that runs the programs we use in our daily lives, from operating our cellular phones to controlling our home entertainment systems. This specialized knowledge can be applied to a number of technical skills, ranging from software design for consumer electronics to complex scientific research. Software developers also analyze different components of a system, determining their interactions and how they can be improved upon.
Programmer-artists are computer scientists who program the computer programs we use. Some study computer science degrees in order to enter the world of academe, while others choose to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, developing game software, electronic media and other technologies. Those who pursue a computer science degree in this field develop the programming language used by programmers. Those pursuing such degrees may work in the academic world, developing computer programs for a wide range of uses, while those who choose the entertainment industry to create movies, television shows and video games.
Data scientist. One of the more popular specialized degrees, a data scientist focuses on applying statistical methods to large amounts of unstructured data. A job in this field often requires obtaining funding from an interested funding agency, then spending two or more years learning how to appropriately analyze the information. A data scientist will then be responsible for designing, writing and maintaining software applications to conduct scientific research. Data scientists earn an average annual salary of around $40k, with an average job duration of two to three years. Data scientists may also choose to specialize in specific areas of biology, physics or chemistry.
Computer hardware technician. Just as technicians are essentially computer scientists who have been granted formal training, so too are computer technicians trained in the use and maintenance of particular types of hardware. A computer technician will often have a background in one of the specialized fields mentioned above, such as electronics, hardware or software, and will likely spend part of his or her career training to become a professional service technician.
Programmer. A programmer is someone who is primarily concerned with creating computer systems that can process large amounts of input, usually in the form of databases and scripts. Most programmers must be familiar with one or more programming languages, although there are many others available today who focus strictly on one type of programming, such as imperative or structural languages. Those who go on to earn a computer systems engineer or a programming doctorate often find their most enjoyable jobs involve writing extensive code that is essential for a broad array of computer systems.
Though what is computer science may seem very technical, there are many people who are drawn to it because it seems interesting. The field is exciting, especially now that there are many more possibilities in the marketplace. In addition to software, there are virtual reality technologies that bring a lot of what is computer science to life. Additionally, a lot of scientific researchers are drawn to this subject because of the opportunities to apply various scientific theories in different practical ways. As more problems and opportunities arise, more people are going back to school to further their education in this area. Anyone who is interested should consider earning a Master’s in Computer Science to take advantage of all the advances that are possible.