Graduates of online computer science programs in Florida gain access to the state’s well-established, fast-growing technology industry. The Florida High Tech Corridor is an anchor for several powerful companies, strong grant and investment activity, and cutting-edge research and development interests. According to local media reports, tech industry hiring in South Florida reached its highest level in 16 years in 2018, with insiders expecting the trend to continue in coming years.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that computer and information research scientists enjoyed six-figure average salaries in 2017. According to the labor market data aggregator PayScale, even entry-level Florida tech professionals can expect to earn at least 50% more than the state’s typical worker, making this state one of the most attractive for computer science careers.
[The] tech industry hiring in South Florida reached its highest level in 16 years in 2018.
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Higher Education in Florida
Florida has many postsecondary institutions with relatively low tuition and high graduation rates. In terms of enrollment, Florida is home to three of the top 10 U.S. public colleges and universities: the University of Central Florida, Florida International University, and the University of Florida.
Florida schools have supported distance learning for decades. In 1997, the Florida Virtual School was founded as the first statewide internet-based high school in the U.S. Many colleges and universities in Florida also offer flexible online programs and certificates. For example, Gainesville’s University of Florida has more than 200 programs for distance learners, while Orlando’s UCF has a catalogue of 80 programs.
Computer Science Careers in Florida
Given the ubiquitous nature of computer science, graduates who develop skills in machine learning, computer languages, and business intelligence can pursue diverse career paths, including work as coders, QA testers, and data analysts. Because technology continues to evolve, computer scientists are guaranteed career longevity.
Students pursuing a computer science degree in Florida can choose from several colleges and universities that offer four-year undergraduate computer science programs, as well as master’s and doctoral degrees. Additionally, Forbes recently named Florida the second-best state in the nation for business growth prospects, and many of these businesses require skilled technology workers.
Mean Salary for Computer Science Careers by Degree
Computer Science Employers in Florida
- Boeing: Boeing is the largest aerospace company in the world, with aircraft, defense products, and technology used in over 150 countries by private entities and governments. Engineers and professionals with computer science backgrounds are in high demand for data testing, evaluation, and research.
- State of Florida: Executive departments of the Florida state government, including the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Department of Health, and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation require data analysts, database administrators, and other computer science professionals to write code, manipulate data, and provide IT guidance on systems and networks.
- Greenway Health: This health information technology vendor has more than 85,000 partners, covers over 40 healthcare specialties, and reaches more than 100 million customers. Professionals with computer science degrees at Greenway Health work with engineers on testing, debugging, and documenting software applications for computerized systems and the overall management of health data.
How Much do Computer Scientists Make in Florida?
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Computer Science Programs in Florida
Institutions in the Florida College System and the State University System of Florida offer many of the best computer science programs in the state. Along with general bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science, students also have the option to pick from a variety of specialty fields. These include computational biology and combined five-year BS/MS programs.
Online computer science programs in Florida typically offer students a more flexible, affordable learning format than traditional campus-based education. Through distance learning, students can earn their online computer degree in Florida while continuing to work and meet family obligations.
The Board of Governors stipulates that all institutions in Florida’s public university system hold accreditation from The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the regional accrediting body for the southeastern United States. Aspiring computer science majors should also make sure that their program is accredited by ABET. This is a specialized form of accreditation for applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology programs, a voluntary process that determines whether a program prepares students for careers in the STEM fields. ABET accredits both online and on-campus computer science programs.
Types of Computer Science Degrees
Florida schools offer online computer science programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate levels. Associate and bachelor’s degrees can be earned relatively quickly and lead to entry-level positions, while further study can lead to a graduate degree and more advanced career prospects.
Students who meet admissions requirements but have no previous computer science experience are well-suited to associate degree programs. Most full-time learners graduate from associate programs in two years, and this introductory degree leads to entry-level computer science careers in Florida.
Associate programs teach students the essentials of programming, system and network design, and system maintenance. Some common jobs for graduates with associate degrees include troubleshooting and support specialists, junior programmers, and junior systems analysts.
The ability to train or retrain quickly for a well-paid new career path represents the major advantage of an associate computer science degree. However, associate degrees have some limitations: They can hinder your potential for career and salary advancement, as employers typically look for candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree for higher-level positions. Fortunately, students with associate degrees can often transfer their credits toward a bachelor’s program in order to graduate more quickly.
Typically spread over the equivalent of eight full-time semesters, or about four years, bachelor’s computer science degrees go into more depth and detail than their associate counterparts. In a bachelor’s program, students move beyond basics and fundamentals into topic areas like information theory, compliance, software development, data structures, and algorithmic applications.
With a computer science bachelor’s degree, students position themselves for advancement in their field. With experience, bachelor’s graduates can move into more senior, higher-paying roles, especially if they pursue professional certifications.
Because students require the core skills earned in a bachelor’s program as a baseline entry requirement, master’s computer science programs typically focus on a narrower range of topics. Graduate students typically pursue master’s degrees because of their interest in cultivating advanced skills in a niche specialization, like information security, machine learning, or software development.
Unlike associate and bachelor’s degrees, which are almost always generalist in their focus, many master’s online computer science programs in Florida lead to degree titles that directly reflect this area of specialization. From an earnings standpoint, computer science salaries tend to peak at the master’s level, as it effectively represents the terminal degree for most professionals working outside academia.To earn a master’s degree, a student must dedicate an additional 2-3 years to full-time study. Students should conduct careful evaluations of the degree’s potential long-term payoff before committing to a master’s program.
With a Ph.D in computer science, job seekers gain access to faculty roles at colleges and universities, as well as top-level jobs that demand the most advanced knowledge in a specific branch of computing technology. Students intending to pursue doctorate degrees in computer science should be aware that master’s degrees can provide comparable levels of access to top positions, provided candidates have significant professional experience, certifications, and other endorsements. Thus, students usually pursue a Ph.D. to make themselves competitive candidates in academia.
Professional Computer Science Organizations in Florida
Professional organizations help students and recent graduates from computer science schools in Florida in a myriad of ways. Organizations can provide access to industry insights, mentorships, job postings, and annual conferences. When determining the best organizations to join, consider your degree focus and find groups that closely align with your career goals, ambitions, and interests in the field.
- Association for Computing Machinery: As the world’s largest professional and technical computer science society, ACM maintains the field’s most complete digital library and other elite resources, including excellent continuing education, networking, and special interest opportunities. Flexible membership options include affordably priced plans for students and recent graduates.
- ACM Council on Women in Computing: AMC-W provides excellent support for emerging and established female tech professionals. The organization offers particular value to students through its generous scholarship and awards programs. AMC-W also maintains separate chapters for students and professionals, with extensive development, employment, and networking resources in both.
- Computing Research Association: CRA has a unique focus on streamlining the research and policy efforts of government agencies, academic institutions, and private industry stakeholders. Membership is available exclusively through affiliated institutions, but members gain access to one of the most complete tech job boards of any professional organization.
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