Computer science degrees equip individuals with essential skills they need to find well-paid careers in information technology and computer science. North Carolina is a great state to find jobs in this industry: In 2017, the state hosted nearly 130,000 jobs in the computer and mathematical occupations industry, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures. Furthermore, computer science professionals can earn high wages; for example, computer and information systems managers in North Carolina earning a mean wage of over $140,000 in 2017.
This guide will provide an overview of online computer science programs and employment within this field in North Carolina, including information on expected salaries, employers, available degrees in the field, professional organizations, and schools in North Carolina that offer computer science degrees online.
In 2017, North Carolina hosted nearly 130,000 jobs in the computer and mathematical occupations industry.
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Higher Education in North Carolina
The computer science industry thrives in North Carolina, and the many postsecondary institutions offering computer science programs reflect the growing need for trained professionals in the field. In addition to a broad variety of campus-based computer science degrees, many computer science schools in North Carolina also offer online learning options.
Institutions that most frequently come up in searches for the best computer science schools in North Carolina include the University of North Carolina system, which encompasses six campuses throughout the state. Other institutions include North Carolina State University, Duke University, Wake Forest University, and Davidson College.
Computer Science Careers in North Carolina
The market for computer science careers in North Carolina is promising, with positions for computer systems analysts listed as the 27th fastest-growing job in the state. Other rapidly expanding positions include roles for computer and information systems managers, computer network architects, and network and computer systems administrators. Most developments in computer science are taking place in a region known as the Research Triangle, an area that includes Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. Other cities to investigate include Charlotte, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem.
Mean Salary for Computer Science Careers in North Carolina
Computer Science Employers in North Carolina
- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: With 30,000 employees, UNC-Chapel Hill is the state’s largest employer by far. Aside from professors of computer science, the institution also employs individuals who can develop proprietary software, maintain network security, and continually strengthen existing hardware and software.
- Wake Forest Baptist Health: Wake Forest employees more than 15,000 North Carolinians. The medical center hires computer science graduates who can monitor the many types of software and hardware used to care for patients. These professionals also ensure all sensitive patient data is properly encrypted and and safely stored on the network according to HIPPA regulations.
- Carolinas Medical Center: As the third-largest employer in the state, CMC currently provides work for more than 12,000 people. Like Wake Forest, this organization employs trained computer scientists who ensure electronic files are properly secured and oversee maintenance of software and hardware.
How Much do Computer Scientists Make in North Carolina?
|Annual Mean Wage|
Computer Science Programs in North Carolina
Computer science programs in North Carolina are readily available both on campus and online, making it easy for students to find an option suitable to their needs. North Carolina State in Raleigh consistently ranks as a top choice, and UNC Chapel Hill offers four different computer science degree paths. Students seeking a smaller campus may be interested in Elon University, which has two campus-based options.
For students who prefer distance learning, there are many online computer science programs in North Carolina. North Carolina State University offers a 31-credit master’s in computer science designed for working professionals that requires no thesis or campus-based residency. The institution also provides online master’s programs in computer engineering and computer networking. Degree seekers looking to complete a bachelor’s degree can take advantage of Gardner-Webb University’s bachelor’s in computer information systems.
Online degrees are beneficial to many types of students, particularly those who want to continue working while pursuing their education. Because the vast majority of programs are delivered asynchronously, learners are able to complete assignments on their own schedule. Before enrolling in any online program, however, distance learners need to ensure their chosen school is regionally accredited and, if possible, the department has programmatic accreditation. Students should look for programs accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission, a subset of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
Types of Computer Science Degrees
Students seeking an online computer science program in North Carolina will find options at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. levels. The path chosen will depend on a student’s career goals. For example, an associate degree in computer science can help students find technical jobs, like computer user support specialists, while higher-level degrees, like a master’s, can lead to more specialized job opportunities with greater responsibilities and increased salaries.
Computer science associate degree courses focus on technical computer science skills and information. Students learn programming skills, principles of computer networks, and other foundational knowledge. Associate degrees train students for a specific job, such as web developer or computer science support specialist, and generally last two years, allowing students to more quickly enter the workforce than they would with a bachelor’s degree.
Students usually choose associate degrees if they have decided on a career path and want to start their careers as soon as possible. Students who want to avoid a hefty college price tag also often pursue associate degrees, as this path does not cost as much as higher-level degrees. Graduates typically land entry-level technical jobs and can advance in their careers by returning to college later or through years of experience.
Many students who enroll in online computer science programs in North Carolina pursue bachelor’s degrees. These degrees traditionally take four years to complete, but online programs frequently offer accelerated or part-time options, enabling students to adapt school schedules to fit with work and other commitments. Bachelor’s degrees require students to take general education, theory, and computer science courses. Bachelor’s degree curriculum often offers options for specialization that can help students determine a career path. Emphasis areas might include software engineering, human-centered computing, and cybersecurity.
Graduates with online computer science degrees in North Carolina can pursue many entry- and mid-level positions after earning their degrees. The skills taught in bachelor’s degrees applies to several different types of jobs, including database administrators, software systems developers, and computer systems analysts.
Individuals might opt to pursue master’s degrees in computer science if they want a career change, to study a specialized area, or desire greater employment opportunities and earning potential. In addition, sometimes students go for a master’s degree because they ultimately want to earn a Ph.D.
Online master’s degrees may last 1-2 years or longer if students choose to enroll part-time. The curriculum typically includes advanced and specialized courses unavailable at the associate or bachelor’s levels. Professionals with master’s degrees in computer science can find mid- to high-level positions, oftentimes in leadership positions. Some examples include computer and information research scientists, mobile application developers, or software development engineers.
At the highest academic level, students can pursue a Ph.D. in computer science. Ph.D. programs can last 4-6 years, sometimes longer. Computer science Ph.D. students write dissertations or theses and spend years researching one niche area. Although Ph.D. students may enroll in some classes, they spend the majority of their time on research. Additionally, individuals who choose a Ph.D. usually follow an academic career path where many of their work duties involve research and teaching.
Professional Computer Science Organizations in North Carolina
Whether you are at the beginning of your career or have been in the field for decades, professional organizations can be a great resource. In addition to providing networking opportunities, these groups frequently offer continuing education programs, career services, and job boards. Below are three organizations for computer science students and professionals.
- North Carolina Technology Association: NC Tech runs an initiative for tech startups in the state, providing visibility and credibility to up-and-coming organizations and entrepreneurs. The association also sponsors advocacy for the technology industry at the state legislature and publishes news and research resources. In addition, the group hosts events all over the state, including job fairs, Women in Tech meetings, and a yearly leadership summit.
- Computer Science Teachers Association: A group specifically for professionals who teach computer science, CSTA hosts two regional chapters in North Carolina in the Piedmont and Triangle East regions. These chapters hosts local events and hand out awards. Members can also access a private forum and resources.
- IEEE Computer Society: The IEEE Computer Society allows computer scientists to connect within local groups all over the country, such as the IEEE Eastern North Carolina Section. Several specific chapters exist within this group, like the signal processing and computational intelligence societies. The state’s association also hosts student branches for NC State, Duke, and East Carolina Universities.
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