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Is a Computer Science (CS) Degree Worth It?

By Jamie Cattanach · August 16, 2021 · 7 minute read

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Is a Computer Science (CS) Degree Worth It?

If you’re a gamer, mathlete, or geek in general, you might want to consider turning your casual nerdery into cold, hard cash by pursuing a computer science degree. As our world becomes more and more dependent on the internet and computers in general, computer science majors are standing out from the crowd to become competitive job applicants and higher-than-average earners.

Of course, computer science majors do have to take on some challenging coursework in order to achieve this valuable qualification. Here’s what you need to know about becoming a CS major.

What is a Computer Science Major?

A computer science major is a course of study that enables graduates to pursue jobs in computers—particularly positions like information research scientist, computer network architect, or computer system analyst. In these roles, computer scientists might build websites or program artificial intelligence, or solve other problems around computing.

Since our world is increasingly dependent on computer technology, computer scientists are in demand in a wide range of industries, from more traditional paths like corporate web development or information security to positions in fintech startups, healthcare, communications, and more.

Basically, if it has to do with programming or maintaining computer software or networks, computer science can help prepare you for it. Of course, you may need to pursue studies at the graduate level in order to unlock access to certain positions—but it all starts with a computer science major in college.

Computer Science vs. Computer Engineering

It’s worth noting that computer science isn’t the only degree path for those pursuing jobs in technology. Computer engineering is another course of study—but there are some important differences between the two.

Very basically speaking, computer engineers get more education about the hardware side of computing: how to build a computer from scratch and a complete understanding of the architecture of a PC.

Computer scientists, on the other hand, are more commonly found behind the keyboard than futzing with a motherboard or Arduino®.

However, both will graduate with a basic understanding of common coding languages and a general aptitude around computer software that will set them up for a job in technology.

Recommended: Computer Science vs. Computer Engineering: What’s the Difference?

What are Common Computer Science Degree Requirements?

A computer science degree can grant you access to a wide range of opportunities—but you do have to do the work to earn one first. Given its focus on programming and problem-solving, computer science is a math-heavy degree that requires students to grapple with some heady, abstract concepts. It’s definitely a challenging course of study for most.

For instance, computer science majors can expect to be required to take calculus courses, as well as other complicated types of math like linear algebra and statistics. Students will also likely need to master—or at least demonstrate proficiency in—several different programming languages (for example, Java, SQL, and Python®), as well as facing classes that cover complex and often theoretical topics like algorithm design, data visualization, neural networks, and basic cryptography.

Of course, the specifics of your degree requirement will depend on which institution you’re attending and also which specific computer science degree you’re after.

For instance, both bachelors of science (B.S.) degrees and bachelor of arts (B.A.) degrees in computer science are available at the undergraduate level. Generally speaking, a B.A. might allow for more electives and studies outside of the computer science department, whereas a B.S. might have more stringent requirements.

There are also masters- and doctorate-level computer science studies for those who’ve already completed their undergraduate degree—though you’ll very likely need to have chosen a major related to computer studies rather than, say, a course of study in the humanities.

Recommended: 20 of the Most Popular College Majors

How Much Can You Earn with a CS Degree?

While there are many exciting reasons to pursue a computer science major for the pure joy of learning, given how much money it costs to go to college, most students want to know how much they can stand to earn once they have the degree. (This is also sometimes referred to as figuring out your ROEd, or return on education—most degrees in America cost a lot, but not all of them offer great earning prospects in return!)

And good news for you geeks out there: a computer science major can put you in line for some of the most lucrative and in-demand job positions out there.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer and information research scientists earned a median of $126,830 per year in 2020—which is more than double the overall national median, which sits at about $51,000.

Along with great pay, computer scientists can also look forward to great job availability; the BLS expects job prospects to be “excellent” over the next decade, with a projected outlook of 15% job growth between 2019-2029 (which is considered “much faster than average ”).

The BLS does mention that entry-level positions generally require a master’s-level education, but these days it’s possible to find graduate programs that are online or self-directed, which means they can be completed in a shorter amount of time and also while students take care of other commitments, like work.

And even with only a bachelor’s degree, computer science majors might expect to earn more than $68,000 per recent data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers —the highest starting salary among students set to graduate from computer-science-related disciplines in 2020.

Put simply? These are the kinds of numbers it might be worth considering changing your major over, if you have any kind of interest in and aptitude for programming at all.

Recommended: Return on Education for Bachelor’s Degrees

The Takeaway

Computer science is a great course of study for people who are interested in learning about computer programming, software development and maintenance, and really all things tech. As a computer scientist, you might code the next smash-hit video game or develop a new kind of AI… all while earning a nice salary and enjoying plenty of job opportunities.

But, of course, a computer science degree comes at a cost—and we’re not just talking about the headaches you might develop while studying all that math.

According to US News , the average cost of tuition and fees were $9,687 per year at public institutions for in-state students and more than $35,087 per year at private institutions. That’s not counting any post-graduate education you might pursue, of course.

Almost all college students end up taking out student loans in order to help them cover the upfront costs of their education. And although any kind of loan involves paying interest, in the case of a computer science degree, the return on your investment can help you dial down even a large loan more quickly over time.

The first step in any prospective student’s loan journey is to fill out the FAFSA®, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Depending on their family’s financial landscape, students may be eligible for subsidized student loans, which don’t accrue interest during the time students are still actively studying at least half-time (or when the loans are on deferment).

However, students may also decide to take out private student loans after exhausting all other financing options in order to increase their available funds during their college years.

SoFi offers a range of private student loan products that offer competitive interest rates and straightforward terms. Which is to say, when we say “no fees,” that’s what we mean: our student loans don’t carry origination fees, late fees, or insufficient fund fees, and borrowers can get a 0.25% discount when they set up autopay. Keep in mind that private student loans don’t offer the same protections (like income-driven repayment plans or Public Service Loan Forgiveness Programs) as federal student loans.

SoFi offers student loans for undergraduates as well as graduate students, law students, and those pursuing MBAs. We also offer parent loans for those hoping to help their kids secure a brighter future.

Ready to learn if SoFi’s line of student loans might be right for you or your child? Check out our full line of student loan products today.

Photo credit: iStock/DragonImages

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