If you hope to one day procure a career in computer science or engineering technology, you might be relieved to know that you have a lot of educational options. Although many computer-related professions involve understanding complex problems, you don’t need a master’s in engineering or programming for every job. You could earn a degree in two years or less, gain practical work experience, and find yourself with a satisfying position in no time.
Some schools offer short certificate programs to students interested in pursuing a career in computer science or IT. In some cases, limited prior experience is necessary to get into the program and does not need to be supplemented with a more substantial degree. You might earn a certificate in a general area, such as computer programming, or in a very specific area, such as Java developing. The goal of these programs is generally to get you to a point that you can demonstrate proficiency and substantial knowledge in one area of computer science. For instance, if you earned a computer programming certificate, you would become knowledgeable in one computer language, rather than the several you would learn if you pursued a higher degree. In other cases, certificate diplomas are only valid as an addition to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. You might seek a certificate at the same time that you pursue a longer degree, almost like earning a minor, or you might go back to school after earning a two to four year degree to brush up on or enhance your skills. Certificate programs are only about 18 to 20 credits long, or five to six classes.
Associate’s degrees in information technology or computer science prepare students for entry-level jobs in a variety of fields, such as web development, network administration, programming, customer support, software development, and mobile communications. The programs typically last about two years, depending on how many classes you take at once and whether or not you go to school during the summer. Students start their education with “general education” classes that provide a foundation for later learning, such as English, communication, science, math, history, and social science classes. How many of these courses you would have to take depends on the institution you attend. You will also take classes that will prepare you for a future in the IT industry, such as fundamental computing courses, studies in computer network systems applications, classes on system or software design, programming languages, and principles of visual design. Not all employers will hire you with an associate’s degree, especially jobs in government that have strict standards for hire, but there are occupations that will hire people with associate’s degrees for entry level jobs. Not only that, but a lot of employers like to see related work experience or just computer proficiency in general, regardless of whether or not it was obtained through formal education.
Bachelor’s degrees are very similar to associate’s degree programs, except they are four years long instead of two (although if you took a heavy course load and went to school over the summer, you could finish in three). Four-year programs include more of both “general education” and core curriculum classes than two-year programs do. You might take extra science or math classes, but also more courses in computing, systems analysis, application development, and the like. You might also see that the majors offered differ slightly between associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs. For example, while a two-year degree might only grant you a major in software applications, a four-year degree would earn you a major in software engineering, thanks to the extra time to study applied math and engineering principles.