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Colorado is home to over 100,000 tech workers and ranks fourth in the nation for concentration of tech jobs. Some estimates posit that a new tech company is started in Colorado every three days. Growth is further spurred by major tech firms like Google expanding their operations to the state; Google doubled their numbers in Colorado in 2017.
There are a variety of available computer science careers in Colorado, from entry-level to administrator positions. Example careers include computer programmer, web developer, network and computer systems administrator, and user support specialist. Colorado is uniquely interested in furthering computer science education; in 2017, it passed a law funding public computer science education in high schools, where it's become a standard course alongside social studies and language arts. This dedication to computer science education reflects how Colorado values the technology industry.
Higher Education in Colorado
Encompassing a large swathe of the Southern Rocky Mountains, Colorado is known for its beautiful outdoor landscapes. Home to more than 30 public colleges, 100 private universities, 255,000 students, and 140 libraries, the state awards more than 37,000 undergraduate degrees and 10,000 graduate degrees each year.
Some of the best institutions of higher education in Colorado include the University of Denver, Regis University, Colorado School of Mines, Colorado College, Redstone College, Colorado State University, and the University of Colorado, Boulder. Graduates from these schools have a higher earning potential than the national average.
The University of Colorado, Boulder is home to more than 26,000 undergraduate students and boasts numerous undergraduate and graduate programs. Additionally, many students decide to pursue an online degree in Colorado; distance programs provide students with increased flexibility. For example, Colorado Technical University offers both on-campus and online computer science degrees at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels.
Colorado is one of 16 member territories in the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). The WICHE is a nonprofit, regional organization that facilitates sharing research to improve student success and make higher education more accessible.
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Computer Science Careers in Colorado
Graduates from computer science schools in Colorado go on to a variety of technical and IT-related jobs. Some computer professionals prefer to work with hardware, while others show an aptitude for writing software. Job options include engineering, web development, programming, security and systems analysis, network administration, IT architecture, and information research.
The advent of computers and information technology has created a continual need for new, more advanced computer software systems, triggering stable job growth in the computer science field. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of computer hardware engineers is projected to grow 5% by 2026. Robotics development also has a strong presence in Colorado.
Because of its relatively low cost of living compared to other technological hubs, Denver is known for being one of the best cities for computer science jobs, especially with Google's recently expanded campus there. Furthermore, Colorado Springs is one of the top 25 highest-paying metropolitan areas for computer programmers.
Computer Science Programs in Colorado
With more than 13 Colorado computer science schools and high concentrations of tech startups and global IT companies, Colorado is an excellent place to attend school for computer science. The state boasts programs at both the undergraduate and graduate degree levels. Some of the best computer science schools in Colorado include Colorado College, Colorado Mesa University, Colorado School of Mines, and the University of Colorado.
Computer science degrees emphasize an understanding of the theoretical aspects of advanced technology. Students who earn an online computer science degree in Colorado take classes related to theory, software, and hardware. A master's degree or graduate certificate teaches key concepts about computer science and provides the opportunity to specialize in a specific field, such as software engineering or cyber security science. A doctorate degree focuses on research and is a good fit for students interested in pursuing a career in academia. Graduates from computer science programs in Colorado also gain a strong foundation in mathematics.
Some students prefer to take distance classes and earn an online computer science degree in Colorado. There are several schools offering online classes, such as the University of Denver, Regis University, and the University of Northern Colorado. Studying online allows students to complete coursework at their convenience. This is especially helpful for individuals who want to continue working while earning their degrees.
Types of Computer Science Degrees
There are a variety of online computer science programs in Colorado at all levels, including associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctorate. The main differences between these programs are cost and time commitment. Each degree provides varying career outlooks and income potential. For example, an associate degree qualifies you for entry-level tech jobs whereas other degrees will qualify you for managerial positions, which garner higher incomes.
Associate in Computer Science
An associate degree in computer science takes two years to complete and consists of 60-66 credit hours. Coursework includes introduction to computer programming, introduction to operating systems, and computer networking fundamentals. In addition to classroom work, an associate degree typically requires an internship or lab work to ensure you have mastered the basic principles of computer science. Entry-level jobs attainable with an associate degree include computer support specialist, computer programmer, and computer systems analyst.
The associate degree is a good option for students interested in completing their education and getting into the workforce more quickly. However, it is common for associate students to eventually pursue a bachelor's degree later to increase job opportunities and salaries. Having at least an associate is required for enrolling in higher-level degrees.
Bachelor’s in Computer Science
A bachelor's in computer science is a 120-180 credit hour program that takes 3-5 years to complete. Core coursework includes computer architecture, software engineering, operating systems, and data structures. Additional courses depend on specialty. Specialty options vary by school, but a few common ones are data mining, robotics and control systems, security architecture, and graphics, games and animation.
The demand for software engineers and developers is projected to increase 24% by 2026. A bachelor's degree in computer science prepares students for entry-level jobs in these high demand areas. Other common career paths are computer hardware engineer, software developer, database administrator, or computer systems analyst. A key benefit of a bachelor's in computer science is that you receive more in-depth education, which makes you eligible for positions with more responsibility and higher earning potential.
Master’s in Computer Science
Earning a master's of computer science takes 1-2 years and typically requires 30-45 credit hours on top of a bachelor's degree. Programs are geared toward teaching students how to create, change and improve emerging software technology and applications. Common career paths for a master's graduate include software developer, computer and information research scientist, or database administrator.
Most master's programs require courses on computer language theory and software development, but allow students some leeway in course selection based on their areas of concentration. A few common concentrations are computer networking, applied algorithms, advanced database systems management, and data structures.
A master's degree qualifies you for leadership positions and increases your earning potential. Forbes reports that a master's in computer science is among the most desired degrees by employers. However, a master's alone will not qualify you for high-level tech positions. Work experience is important, as is location.
Computer Science Ph.D
A doctorate in computer science requires 72-90 credit hours and takes 4-5 years to complete. This degree allows you to pursue a career in research, teach at the college level, or start your own company. Required coursework varies by school and area of concentration, but some common courses are revolutionary molecules, nuclear magnetic resonance, and environmental chemistry. A few career paths for a doctorate graduate are forensic science, nanotechnology, and biochemistry.
Before pursuing a computer science doctorate, consider that, while online programs exist, most still require practical work experience in addition to coursework. Also, applications to doctorate programs require a bachelor's degree, a GRE test score, and letters of recommendation. The ideal doctorate student already works in the tech industry and wants to advance their career, teach, or run their own technology research company.
Professional Computer Science Organizations in Colorado
Joining a professional organization is good for working professionals, recent college graduates, and current students. Members of organizations receive numerous benefits, including job and career services; networking opportunities, such as access to events, conferences, workshops, and other programs; and access to specialized publications and journals. Some organizations focus on a specific demographic: For example, the Association for Women in Computing promotes the advancement of women professionals.
- Association for Computing Machinery: With more than 100,000 members, the ACM is the world's largest computing society. Dedicated to sharing resources, addressing key challenges, and inciting important conversations, ACM members benefit from professional development and networking opportunities, career resources, and access to publications.
- Computing Research Association: Dedicated to strengthening the field of computer science in Colorado, the CRA is made up of academic departments, laboratories, and other professional societies. Members benefit from job posting services, news subscriptions, and access to workshops, seminars, and conferences.
- Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence: A nonprofit scientific society devoted to the responsible use of artificial intelligence, the AAAI strives to improve the understanding, teaching, and training of current and future AI developers. Members can attend conferences, symposia, and workshops. The organization also awards grants and scholarships.
Median Salary for Computer Science Careers by Degree
Computer Science Employers in Colorado
- Lockheed Martin: Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company with its autonomous systems department housed in Littleton, Colorado. Focused on the research and application of robotic vehicles and systems, Lockheed Martin employs software and hardware engineers, systems integration analysts, systems engineers, systems administrators, research scientists, and data analysts.
Boulder is home to a Google engineering hub. Software engineers, applications administrators, network operators, and systems engineers work together on various projects, including Google Drive and Google Maps. Software engineers at Google in Boulder make an average annual salary of $104,670-$118,590.
- Oracle: Boasting a variety of cloud applications, engineered systems, and platform services, Oracle employs many computer science professionals, from platform managers and application support engineers to cloud architects, database engineers, and system administrators. The company has close to 2,000 employees in field offices in Denver, Colorado Springs, and Broomfield.
How Much do Computer Scientists Make in Colorado?
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Additional Computer Science Resources in Colorado
- Connecting Colorado: Connecting Colorado is a useful resource for college students, recent graduates from online computer science programs in Colorado, and experienced computer science professionals looking for work. Part of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, Connecting Colorado helps match job seekers with businesses. Computer science professionals can conduct job searches, post their resumes, and apply for jobs through a searchable database.
- GovernmentJobs.com: GovernmentJobs.com is an online recruiting space where computer science professionals can find jobs in Colorado. Job seekers create an account, search through a database, and apply for specific jobs. The site also provides answers to frequently asked questions, job descriptions, and a help and support center.
- Boulder Area STEM Education Coalition: BASEC is a great resource for computer science professionals in Colorado. Dedicated to supporting Boulder County as a leader in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, BASEC promotes collaboration between businesses, the community, and the government. The coalition strives to improve accessibility to STEM education and create more STEM-related jobs within the community.
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