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What Is Computer Science? A Beginner’s Guide to This Fast-Growing Field

Computer science is currently the fastest-growing field in the world. It is the bloodline of technological innovation, and it offers a wide range of opportunities across sectors. But what is computer science and why does it play such a crucial role in our daily lives? 

In this article, you will get a vivid understanding of computer science, coding, algorithms, and all the most important terms you will come across while studying computer science. You will also learn about the best computer science jobs available, what they pay, and how you can become a computer scientist. 

What Is Computer Science in Simple Terms?

Computer science is the study of computational systems and computers. The field of computing primarily deals with software and software systems. Computer scientists use knowledge of computer and electrical engineering to design, develop, and apply software-based systems. This includes but is not limited to phones, tablets, cars, smartwatches, and other machines. 

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The primary branches of computer science are computing, network security, artificial intelligence, software engineering, programming languages, and databases systems. A well-rounded computer science education also covers bioinformatics, numerical analysis, human-computer interaction, and graphic design. 

Computer Science Jobs 

There are several career opportunities for people in the computer science field. Your specialization will determine the mix of technical skills, analytical skills, communication skills, and other transferable skills you need. 

Below is a list of some of the best computer science jobs in the United States. There is positive job growth for all these occupations. The salaries vary depending on your level of education, your experience, and where you live.

Information about average salaries was obtained from ZipRecruiter. 

Artificial Intelligence Engineer – $164,769

Artificial intelligence, or AI, is the simulation of human intelligence by computational systems and machines. As an artificial intelligence engineer, your job will be a mixture of programming, software development, natural language processing, data engineering, and data science. 

These experts prepare software for robotics engineers by training networks on a standard algorithm. In computer science terms, an algorithm is a building block of programming. It includes a set of steps that allows a computer-based system to function. 

Software Architect – $132,506

Software architects are software engineers who determine which high-tech designs and innovative solutions should be developed. They dictate the coding and technical standards for other members of the development team. Software architects are also responsible for deciding which tools, platforms, and resources will be used to complete projects successfully. 

Software architects also evaluate existing systems, identify errors, and offer solutions to maximize efficiency. Because of the roles they play, they need excellent collaboration skills. They work with production managers, marketing managers, programmers, and other software engineers. 

Security Engineer – $112,635

A security engineer analyzes computer networks to ensure maximum security in an organization. They install security software and commands into the systems for automated monitoring. The job description of a security engineer includes risk assessment, network vulnerability checks, firewall configuration, and system configuration. 

The highest-paid security engineers can be found in the northern California cities of San Jose and Oakland, where they average $139,120 and $137,518 per year. 

Computer Scientist  – $101,999

These experts create technological solutions to real-world problems. They are at the forefront of innovation and their job goes beyond creating software for applications. Computer scientists also handle abstractions for the IT blueprint of an organization. 

What is abstraction in computer science? Abstraction, also known as modeling, is one of the key concepts of software development and computing. It is the process of filtering data to reach the information that is most relevant to the development or modeling process. 

UNIX System Administrator – $100,285

These experts specialize in installing and manipulating the multiuser operating system called Unix. They install, monitor, and maintain Unix-related software and hardware for a company. They solve operating system-related problems before they can cause any damage to the company’s IT infrastructure. 

Most companies rely on Unix and Linux systems for their IT infrastructure. Finding a job isn’t going to be difficult, especially in a tech hub. Right now, the Californian cities of San Mateo, Berkeley, and Daly City are among the best cities for Unix administrators. Salaries average $121,813, $117,554, and $117,224 respectively. 

How to Become a Computer Scientist

You can become a computer scientist by getting a computer science degree, attending a bootcamp, or taking online classes. If you’re still in high school, you can get a head start by taking AP Computer Science and passing the AP Computer Science A Exam. We review the most common education paths below. 

Computer Science Degree Programs

There are graduate and undergraduate computer science degree programs available. The most popular undergraduate degree in computer science is the four-year bachelor’s degree. If you don’t have the time or resources for this, you can opt for an associate degree, which takes two years and is considered entry-level education. 

On a graduate level, those with a bachelor’s degree can pursue a master’s degree to specialize further. A PhD program is available for those who want to stick to computer science research or work in academia. A master’s degree program typically runs for about 18 months, but the PhD may take up to three or four years to complete. 

Computer Science Bootcamps

You can attend a bootcamp if you already know which particular branch of computer science you wish to pursue. There are bootcamps for artificial intelligence, coding, web development, data science, tech product management, data engineering, and many other key areas of computer science. These bootcamps can last anywhere from three to six months.

Bootcamps are at a similar level of education as universities, but they do not offer general education subjects. They only teach you what you need to know to get a job in the field of your choice. Some of the best coding bootcamps for computational science are General Assembly, Galvanize, Thinkful, Fullstack Academy, and Coding Temple. 

Computer Science Courses

If you don’t want to attend a university or bootcamp, you can learn computer science on your own by enrolling in online computer science courses. These online courses don’t offer as much structure as universities or bootcamps. They are primarily designed for working professionals who want to learn more about specific aspects of computer science. 

Platforms like Udemy, Coursera, Udacity, and edX are among the online platforms that offer affordable and even free online courses in computer science. Some of these platforms feature course packages designed to help beginners get a clear understanding of foundational concepts step-by-step.

Is Computer Science Hard?

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Computer science can be easy or difficult depending on what you’re good at.

Yes, computer science is hard to learn. However, this may also depend on the student. If you are technologically inclined with a strong high school STEM background, then you might find it easy to understand algorithms, software development, and other key aspects of computer science. 

Someone who doesn’t naturally excel at STEM disciplines might have more difficulty understanding computer science beyond the fundamentals. 

Irrespective of your previous educational background, you can learn computer science with dedication and hard work. Universities, bootcamps, and online courses are all at your disposal to help you learn computer science and start a successful career in tech. 

Computer Science FAQ

What is a buffer in computer science? 

In computer science, a buffer, or data buffer, is a region of memory storage used to store data temporarily while it is being moved from one place to another. In communication technology, for example, when you speak into a microphone, the data from your speech is stored in a buffer before it reaches the speaker. 

What is code in computer science? 

Code in computer science is a piece of a programming language used to give instructions to a computer. The process of writing code is called programming or coding. Coding is a vital aspect of programming and computer science because many career opportunities for CS experts relate to coding. A typical example is software engineering.

What do you learn in computer science?

You will learn the theory of computation, information theory, programming languages, database systems, intelligent systems, and operating systems. You will also learn about algorithms, web application development, software development, cloud computing, and data structures. 

Can I do computer science if I’m bad at math? 

You may have a hard time excelling in computer science if you can not understand complex mathematical calculations. The fundamental theories of computer science can be understood if you know linear algebra, advanced calculus, and other advanced math. It will be difficult to find a subject in computer science that doesn’t require knowledge of math.

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