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What Are the Best Computer Science Fields?

What Are the Best Computer Science Fields copy

The field of computer science began in the 1840s with a woman named Ada Lovelace, who wrote the algorithm for a computer machine called the Analytical Engine that up to that point had only existed on paper. Ada would undoubtedly be astonished at the number of computer science fields that people are working in today and how in the next decade almost 700,000 new jobs will be created. 

There’s no question that fields in computer science offer plenty of job opportunities, employment security, and good wages, but are there certain areas that are better than others? Is there such a thing as the best field in computer science? Let’s take a look.

The Difference Between Theoretical and Practical Computer Science

Like many disciplines, computer science offers opportunities for both theoretical and practical work. Theoretical computer scientists focus on mathematics. Their ideas lean towards the abstract as they work to improve or create algorithms. These scientists ask themselves if the properties of specific coding benefit the application it’s tied to.

Where theoretical computer science is mathematics, practical computer science is engineering. In these fields of computer science, work is done to create better computers and hardware and software that run them. Practical computer scientists are continually designing.

Fields in Computer Science to Consider 

The sheer number of computer science fields can be staggering and attempting to narrow down the best field in computer science can be an adventure! It would be impossible to cover them all but let’s consider a few of the more well-known and popular ones. 

1. Artificial Intelligence

The term artificial intelligence (AI) may conjure up images of those corny movies where robots take over the world but the truth is that computer scientists are creating sophisticated computers that are capable of remarkable tasks. More and more our lives are shared with AI that performs tasks like choosing music for us, processing our spoken and written languages, and completing simple and complex tasks.

Computer scientists who work in AI possess strong mathematical and analytical skills and enjoy designing algorithms. The average annual salary for an AI computer scientist is $125,000.

2. Data Structures and Algorithms

This is one of the fields in computer science that seeks to create better programs by studying how data structures and algorithms interact. The location where data is organized and stored is called a data structure and an algorithm is a specific set of tasks you ask the computer to undertake. 

The algorithm retrieves data and performs computations and it’s this interaction that computer scientists in this field study. The average annual salary is $118,000.

3. Computer Architecture

Just as the title suggests, computer architects design, implement and then operate a computer system. This is one of the fields of computer science in which the architect examines how hardware works. They study how programs store data and how to best facilitate the transfer of data among connected devices. A computer architect can expect to make, on average, $115,000 per year.

4. Game Design

We’ve come a long way from video games like Pong, Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong. What once seemed exciting and cutting edge now pales in comparison to today’s games that utilize advanced AI, seem astonishingly real, and can be played in real-time against people around the globe. 

Game designers utilize AI and machine learning that predicts how players advance, or not, through the game. This is one of those fields of computer science where the game designer acts as the cohesive agent between those original concept designers and the people who pick up the ball and develop the idea. The average salary is $111,000.

5. Robotics

Robotics combines three fields of computer science – engineering, computer science, and technology – to create machines called robots. These machines are tasked with replicating or substituting human actions and robots can be found in places like the home, in industry, and in medicine to name a few.

Robotics is beneficial because machines can increase productivity, reduce costs, and increase safety. A computer scientist in this field can expect to earn an average salary of $105,000.

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6. Security

As you can imagine, information security is one of the paramount concerns in computer science fields. Unfortunately, some people work to steal information – personal, industrial, medical, design, etc. The theft of this information is devastating and can have harmful and far-reaching consequences. 

Computer scientists who work in information security possess an impressive depth of knowledge about hackers and the tools they use to exploit security vulnerabilities. They are responsible for the security of things like software applications, personal and company data, and storage hardware. The average annual salary is $124,000.

7. Software Engineering

Software engineers will find themselves working on both the theoretical and practical aspects of building software systems. Teamwork is vital to software engineering and involves a great deal of time and money. 

The work is varied and involves processes like debugging, testing security, assessing the flexibility of a program, and maintaining the applications. On average, a software engineer will make $119,000 per year.

8. Computational Theory 

In a nutshell, computational theories assess the capabilities and limitations of computers. They analyze how computer systems behave, what problems can or can’t be solved by a computer, and how much time and memory a certain algorithm will require.

If you thrive on theories then this could be the best field in computer science for you. Computational theorists are challenged to stay at least a step or two ahead of problems. The average salary in this field is $102,000.

Choosing the Specialization that is Right For You 

To choose the best specialization for yourself, here are some things to consider: 

  • Your career goal

    Before deciding on one of the computer science fields, it’s important to determine your career goals. Identify your strengths and weaknesses and consider the trajectory you’d like your path to take. 

  • Salary expectations

    You want to work at a job that you love but it’s fair to expect a good wage and for your income to reflect your skills. What standard of living do you want to enjoy and where do you want to live? Consider the future too – define the resources you will need to live well once you are retired and no longer working. If you’re young, retirement may seem impossibly far away but it isn’t. Plan for the future.

  • Interests

    Take an inventory of what interests you. If you have a good eye for design and details, game design could be a great career. An analytical mind can serve you well in AI, data analysis, or computational theory. Professional experience in technical training could be the bridge to a career in network administration or system administration.

  • Time commitment

    After you’ve taken the time to reflect on your goals, interests, and expectations, it’s time to ask yourself what your next steps should be. Are you already working in one of the fields of computer science and want a career change or advancement? Check in with your HR department about training opportunities. Many companies offer some sort of tuition assistance and are willing to invest in the education of their employees. You can pursue your degree without having to give up your job. Or you may want to take the plunge and go to school full-time. It’s up to you to decide how much time you can devote to obtaining your degree and each path is as unique as you are.

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Earning Your Degree Online

The University of the People (UoPeople) offers accredited associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in computer science and a master’s of science in information technology (MSIT). It is 100% online and course materials are delivered asynchronously which means you get to choose when and where you study within a certain timeframe. 

UoPeople has helped to revolutionize college education by offering their programs tuition-free and accepting students with proof of a high-school diploma or equivalent, and a demonstration of English-language proficiency. UoPeople classes are small and our vibrant online community connects students from across the globe.

Final thoughts

The range of computer science fields is vast and exciting! It’s likely that you already possess some of the skills that can see you on your way to a solid and rewarding career. The challenge is likely determining which field best suits those skills and your interests. 

By researching the different fields in computer science, assessing your strengths and weaknesses, and talking to different computer scientists, you’ll be able to find your niche and start pursuing your degree!