California is home to international tech companies such as Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. Thanks in large part to these companies, demand for computer scientists in the state is well above the national average — especially for researchers and innovators who create new technology. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 19% growth for computer and information research scientists by 2024.
Because of the technology companies driving California's economy, the state's universities offer prominent, rigorous computer science degree programs to prepare students to enter the growing field.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 19% growth for computer and information research scientists by 2024.
Higher Education in California
California is home to three public university systems: California Community Colleges, California State University, and the University of California. The state has 350 private institutions, such as nationally ranked Stanford University and California Institute of Technology. The University of California Berkeley, part of the University of California system, is known globally as a prestigious institution.
Students attending on-campus computer science schools in California choose from public and private institutions in across the state. Many campuses are located in or near major cities such as San Francisco, San Jose, and Los Angeles. These populous cities offer diversity, culture, and educational opportunities outside the classroom. San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area are known for their high-tech companies.
Students who live outside the state can still attend the best computer science schools in California by completing coursework online. Students earning an online computer science degree in California receive the same quality education as on-campus students, with increased scheduling flexibility.
Computer Science Careers in California
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the number of computer science positions to increase 6% to 19% by 2026. While the BLS projects national demand for computer programmers to decline, the field needs more computer and information research scientists who invent new technologies. However, in California, even computer programmers can expect a 2.3% job growth through 2024.
California’s greatest density of computer science positions are in the San Francisco Bay Area. Known as Silicon Valley, the region is home to prominent companies such as Apple, Facebook, and Google.
Median Salary for Computer Science Careers by Degree
Computer Science Employers in California
- Facebook: With more than 2 billion users, Facebook is the world’s most pervasive social network. The company is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, and is the state's top computer science employer. As Facebook’s platform evolves to include more users and more features, the company needs talented computer scientists to build and maintain its digital infrastructure.
- Google: From its headquarters in Mountain View, California, Google runs the world’s most popular search engine, allowing billions of people nearly instantaneous access to information. Google hires talented programmers and engineers to work with products such as smartphones and personal assistants.
- Worldwide Technology: Although it is based in Maryland Heights, Missouri, Worldwide Technology is California’s third-largest employer of computer scientists. The company provides technological solutions to complex logistics problems and needs talented professionals to maintain and build systems.
How Much do Computer Scientists Make in California?
A computer scientist's salary depends on factors such as experience, position, and geographic location. Generally, professionals with higher levels of education and experience earn better pay. Although the cost of living in California is higher than the national average, computer science professionals in the state earn higher than average salaries. Competition among California's tech companies drives wages for top professionals.
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Computer Science Programs in California
California university offer both on-campus and online programs. On-campus students attend regularly scheduled classes and interact with professors and peers. California offers nationally ranked on-campus computer science programs at institutions such as Stanford University and the California Institute of Technology.
Pursuing a computer science degree online helps busy students balance professional or personal commitments with coursework. Online courses eliminate the stress and expense of commuting to class or living near campus. Courses are usually taught by the same experienced faculty who teach on-campus programs, so online computer science degrees in California are as valuable as on-campus degrees. In addition, distance learners interact with faculty and peers through live video, chats, and emails. Most programs provide online resources such as dedicated advising and library access.
The best computer science schools in California are accredited. Accreditation ensures schools and programs meet certain educational standards. The two most common types of accreditation are regional and national. Regional accreditation is the most highly regarded and the most common. National accreditation is typically reserved for vocational programs. Students pursuing computer science degrees in California should also look for field-specific accreditation from the Computing Accreditation Commission.
Types of Computer Science Degrees
There are many types of degrees students can choose when pursuing education in computer science: associate degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and doctorate degree. In general, further formal education within a field results in a higher salary. In addition, some positions require a certain level of degree. For instance, many research positions or teaching positions at the university level require at least a master’s or doctorate degree. The table below features descriptions and basic data about each degree type.
An associate in computer science provides students with foundational knowledge in computer languages and programming. In addition to learning about computer systems, students will emerge with general education courses usually required by four year colleges. Graduates with an associate degree qualify for entry-level computer science positions in the job market.
Average Program Length – 2 Years
Median Salary – $32,897
A bachelor’s in computer science provides students with knowledge of operating systems, a variety of programming languages, database management, and computer systems and architecture. These programs typically require 120 credit hours of coursework and a capstone project. Many employers in the industry are increasingly hiring individuals with a bachelor’s degree.
Average Program Length – 4 Years
Median Salary – $60,835
A master’s in computer science provides students with a deeper understanding of computer systems, design, and programming languages. Some master’s programs may provide specializations for those who wish to concentrate further in a specific area. Individuals with a master’s degree typically earn a higher salary upon graduation than those with a bachelor’s.
Average Program Length – 1-2 Years
Median Salary – $104,269
A doctorate degree in computer science is designed for individuals who wish to pursue research in the field. These intensive programs often require students to narrow their field of study and design and carry out a specific research project that culminates in a dissertation. Graduates with a Ph.D in computer science often go into academia as computer science professors.
Average Program Length – 4+ Years
Median Salary – $126,744
What Schools Offer a Computer Science Degree in California?
California is home to a large number of tech companies, so its universities provide rigorous computer science degree programs to prepare students to enter the growing field. The list below includes accredited computer science programs in California and provides information about curricula, admissions requirements, and tuition to help you choose the best program to fit your goals and lifestyle.
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Professional Computer Science Organizations in California
Professional associations provide opportunities to continue your education and to network within the computer science industry. Professional associations keep members apprised to advancing technology and the latest innovations and trends in the field. Many national associations have local chapters in California, which offer online and in-person social events that allow professionals to network and share information.
- Association for Computing Machinery: ACM is the world’s largest professional society for computer science professionals, with chapters around the world. ACM unites researchers and programmers to promote problem solving.
- Association for Information Technology Professionals: AITP is a national organization with a local chapter in San Jose, California. The organization facilitates networking and provides industry insight by tracking business and technology trends.
- Professional & Technical Consultants Association: PATCA is Silicon Valley’s oldest professional organization for independent consultants and their clients. Members must pass the organization’s qualification process and adhere to its ethical code.
Additional Computer Science Resources in California
- Association for Computing Machinery: ACM is the world’s largest computer science association and has chapters around the world, including in California. ACM comprises 100,000 professionals, researchers, and programmers who develop solutions to computing’s pressing problems. The association provides continuing education, professional development, and networking opportunities.
- IEEE Computer Society: IEEE has 480 chapters in 168 countries. The society's more than 60,000 members receive networking opportunities, career support, and continuing education. IEEE hosts more than 200 conferences per year and publishes 17 peer-reviewed scholarly publications.
- Association for Women in Computing: AWC is one of the oldest professional associations for women in computer science. The association provides opportunities for networking and professional growth. Members may join as part of local chapters or independently.
- Computing Research Association: Founded in 1972, CRA includes more than 200 computing research organizations. The association works with researchers and political leaders to facilitate federal investment in research. CRA also provides mentorships for researchers.