From smartphones to our appliances, computers are everywhere. Their technology drives the online games we enjoy and the systems that keep us secure — or leave us vulnerable if hacked.
And, as we live in a digital age when so many communications are conducted in the virtual realm, the computer science that propels such advances is an ideal field for advanced study.
“Computer science is one of our most sought-after disciplines by employers,” said Candace House Teixeira, associate dean of corporate engagement and programs at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, which is home to the top-ranked online Master of Science in Computer Science program.
Graduates of the program — which is offered both in-person and online through DEN@Viterbi, the school’s online delivery method — find themselves highly in demand by employers. Artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity and data science rank among the most in-demand specialties, Teixeira noted.
She added, however, that “generalists are needed for most industries as well.” So, even though Apple, Google and Microsoft might leap to mind as primary job sources, “computer scientists are needed everywhere.” You can find USC Viterbi computing alumni at companies “from Boeing to Goldman Sachs to Warner Bros,” according to Teixeira.
These opportunities can span the public sector as well as private enterprise.
“Everyone from local governments to the Department of Defense is seeking computer scientists,” Teixeira told USC Online. “If you go to any career fair or look at our job boards, you’ll see requests for computer science MS students from sectors including energy, entertainment, health care, aerospace, manufacturing and the military.”
Degree of Skills
While generalists and specialists are equally sought after, a master’s degree is usually required for certain jobs and to reach the field’s highest levels. So, the potential rewards make earning a master’s degree more than worth the commitment.
“It’s about more than programming,” Teixeira said. “Computer scientists need to be creative problem solvers who can communicate effectively … They’re leading teams and meeting with everyone from CFOs to project managers. They need to work well with all areas — not just in the technical aspects, but also on the business side because the objective is to make an organization more functional.”
While some companies look to computer science graduate programs for experts “who can come in and build from scratch,” according to Teixeira, others need someone able to modify the outmoded.
“Sometimes you’re going into a system that’s been around for a while — whether it’s at a hospital or for national defense,” she said. The mainframe might need to stay the same, “but it also has to be ready for 2022 instead of 1980.” So, employers and clients want “somebody who is innovative and understands design thinking to not only conceive solutions but also implement them.”
With the constant evolution of technology comes a nonstop demand for personnel adept at devising and maintaining hardware and software. As a result, computer science is one of the fastest-growing fields internationally. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a further 15 percent growth in computer science employment between now and 2029.
The field also suffers from an immense talent shortage, according to CNBC. Domestically, nearly a million computer programming positions went unfilled in 2020, while Europe faces a continuing gap in AI skills. As a result, “our students are considering multiple offers,” Teixeira said.
The outlook is also bright for inventive entrepreneurs able to create the next breakthrough app or labor-saving technology. Whether you want to stop cyberattacks, leverage the potential of AI in improving people’s lives or develop immersive virtual reality games, studying computer science can help you realize your dreams.
What to Look For
Online study is ideal for busy professionals and people who had to pause their careers for family obligations or other personal reasons. But whether you recently finished your undergraduate degree, want a promotion where you currently work or are looking for an entirely new experience, it is important to choose a graduate program that meets your goals.
Do some research on the colleges that interest you, including their faculty members, program requirements and financial aid opportunities, Teixeira suggested. Your current employer may even be willing to cover the costs.
“Ninety percent of our online computer science students are working professionals who are being supported by their companies,” she noted. “They work for Microsoft, Apple, Google, Oracle and others — and these employers value what students bring back to the company from our program.”
Advancing the Field
The MS in Computer Science program offered by USC Viterbi grounds students in fundamental concepts as well as advanced techniques and issues facing the field. Renowned as a leader in information technology, the school has an interdisciplinary focus in addition to offering a number of specializations, according to Teixeira.
“These specializations are born out of our research areas … you can focus on artificial intelligence, cybersecurity or data science, learning and working with faculty members who are leading research in these areas,” she said.
Whichever specialization you select, computer science careers are professionally rewarding and can be personally fulfilling. Not every profession involves making lives easier or more enjoyable, but, depending on which aspect you pursue, a master’s in computer science offers that ability.
“And it’s global,” Teixeira said of the profession and its reach.
Learn more about USC Viterbi’s top-ranked computer science graduate programs today.