The Evergreen State serves as headquarters for many large technology companies, including Microsoft, Oracle, and Amazon. The technology industry in Washington -- and Seattle in particular -- continues to report strong job growth in computer and technology professions, especially software development. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 13% growth between 2016 and 2026 for computer and information technology occupations across the nation. The Technology Alliance reports a particularly high concentration of applications software developers in King County.
Graduates searching for computer science careers in Washington enjoy a variety of options, with employment prospects looking particularly bright for computer network architects, data warehousing specialists, systems software developers, and operations research analysts. Known for its innovation economy, Washington state continues to attract attention as a hotspot for big data technologies and advanced analytics.
The Technology Alliance reports a particularly high concentration of applications software developers in King County.
Higher Education in Washington
Due to its strong public university system and wide selection of private universities, thousands of students choose to study in Washington state each year. Washington’s public universities, including the University of Washington, Washington State University, Western Washington University, Eastern Washington University, and Central Washington University, serve more than 100,000 students combined. Additionally, with dozens of private, two-year, and technical colleges to choose from, Washington offers programs that fit the needs of just about any student.
In addition, many of Washington’s larger schools offer extensive online programming, meaning students can earn an education while balancing other career and family-related obligations. For example, the University of Washington features more than 20 online bachelor’s, master’s, and certificate programs to choose from.
Best-known for its tech industry, Washington is also home to many other large corporations that employ skilled professionals. For example, Starbucks, Costco, and T-Mobile all boast headquarters in Washington state. A thriving private sector, plus various higher education offerings, make attending one of Washington’s computer science schools especially appealing. Read on to learn more about the different computer science programs in Washington.
Computer Science Careers in Washington
As businesses large and small become increasingly dependent on the internet for day-to-day operations, the job prospects for technologically adept professionals continue to grow across the nation. Today, nearly every large office relies on a team of systems managers to oversee its IT infrastructure; even businesses outside of the tech sphere often employ software engineers, computer programmers, and web developers. Earning a computer science degree can provide access to just about any industry. In the coming years, the BLS projects the U.S. to add around 185,000 software developer positions, 118,000 computer systems analyst positions, and 40,000 web developer positions.
Thanks to its healthy tech industry, Washington state remains a good place to begin a career in computer science.
Mean Salary for Computer Science Careers in Washington
Computer Science Employers in Washington
- Microsoft: Founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in the mid 1970s, Microsoft rose to prominence as one of the first providers of computer software. The company still remains at the forefront of video gaming, social networking, cloud computing, and consumer electronics. Microsoft continues to expand its extensive operations, recently acquiring Skype and LinkedIn.
- Amazon: What started as an online marketplace for books in 1994 now serves as the largest internet retailer in the world. With subsidiaries like Audible.com, Whole Foods, and the live streaming service Twitch, Amazon offers computer science graduates jobs in a variety of fields.
- Zillow: An online database of real estate listings founded by two former Microsoft executives, Zillow allows users to browse listings from dozens of newspapers. The company generated close to $1 billion in revenue in 2016. Founded in 2006, Zillow serves as a relatively young tech powerhouse.
How Much do Computer Scientists Make in Washington?
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Computer Science Programs in Washington
Students can choose from a variety of computer science programs at the graduate and undergraduate levels in Washington. BS programs in computer science typically begin with courses related to programming fundamentals. Later, students learn about algorithms, database management, and software engineering. Students enrolled in computer science programs also take advanced math courses. Washington State University, Central Washington University, and the University of Washington all offer computer science programs.
Students who want to continue working full time while earning a degree should consider pursuing an online computer science degree in Washington. Online programs afford students more flexibility, making it easier to balance schoolwork with other obligations. Online programs often allow students to take courses and submit assignments at their own pace. The City University of Seattle, for example, offers an MS in computer science entirely online. Colleges and universities with online degrees typically offer remote students the same resources available to on-campus learners, including career and academic advising.
All of the best computer science schools in Washington hold accreditation -- make sure to check a school’s credentials before applying. Schools in Washington receive regional accreditation -- the gold standard for institutional accreditation -- from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Additionally, the best computer science programs also hold programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
Types of Computer Science Degrees
Online computer science programs in Washington offer many degree options from the associate to doctoral levels. Associate programs provide a relatively affordable way to train for technician roles or complete general education requirements prior to transferring into bachelor's programs. Bachelor's programs serve as the standard route to professional employment in software development. A master's degree enables students to pursue specialization in areas such as systems analysis, and a Ph.D. can lead to careers in advanced research or postsecondary teaching.
Many students earn an associate degree to pursue positions that do not require a bachelor's degree, such as computer support specialist, junior programmer, and computer technician. Associate programs may also enable students to pursue entry-level work in cybersecurity or the electronics technology industry. Additionally, most community colleges design pre-professional associate programs according to standards set by the Association for Computing Machinery, providing a less expensive way to complete general education core requirements before transferring to a four-year program.
Coursework for a typical two-year, 60-credit associate program includes an introduction to programming and several mathematics courses, such as calculus, linear algebra, and discrete mathematics. Available electives may include cybersecurity, physics, web development, and statistics. Learners who wish to pursue occupational training in computer science, while also having the option to eventually continue on and earn a bachelor's degree, may find that associate programs meet their needs.
Earning a bachelor's degree provides a strong foundation for computer science careers in Washington. A bachelor's degree in computer science requires four years of full-time study and 120-130 credits. The degree enables graduates to pursue professional careers in areas such as software applications and systems development. While an aptitude for lifelong learning tends to be important in this field, most graduates can successfully obtain work without a graduate-level degree. However, some students do attend graduate school to pursue a specialization.
Core coursework for typical online computer science programs in Washington includes algorithms and data structures, operating systems, database management, and advanced mathematics. Common electives include classes in data mining, parallel processing, and introduction to compilers. Employer demand remains high for computer science graduates, with some schools boasting perfect job placement rates.
Many colleges tailor their master's programs to suit the needs of working professionals seeking to combine full-time work with part-time study. Some schools offer online computer science programs in Washington designed for professionals with 3-5 years of work experience who intend to make a career change into computer science. A master's program can also provide a pathway to advancement into senior systems analysis or data science roles.
Master's-level coursework varies by specialty but typically comprises 18-24 credits, including classes in systems engineering, human-computer interaction, parallel computation, computer architecture, and applied algorithms. Some master's programs offer customized options that let students earn a dual degree in computer science and another discipline, like mathematics, architecture, or business administration. A dual degree in a business discipline can provide excellent preparation for a career in applied data science or other analytics jobs. Qualified students who can attend full time should also investigate one-year, accelerated master's programs.
Universities structure their Ph.D. programs around advanced research. Students pursue a doctoral degree to establish proficiency in highly specialized and sought-after areas, including computational biology, machine learning, data science, high-performance computing, and operations research. With the continued growth of big data, a Ph.D. can also offer an opportunity to specialize in interdisciplinary areas of computer science requiring advanced research in data analytics.
Doctoral students typically graduate in 4-5 years, with most advisers encouraging students to plan for five years. Programs generally require 70-80 credits, although students who already hold a master's degree may only need to complete 30 credits beyond the master's level. Core classes emphasize theory and high-level concepts in areas such as data science, algorithm analysis, structure of programming languages, and computational theory. Ph.D. programs provide opportunities to dive deep into a specialization, with less emphasis on coursework and more time spent on dissertation research and internships.
Professional Computer Science Organizations in Washington
Professional organizations often prove essential to computer science graduates, providing a way for individuals to discuss the state of the industry, network, and find employment. Professional organizations can also provide immense value to students. The list below contains a few organizations open to computer science professionals in Washington.
- Washington Technology Industry Association: As a cooperative technology organization, WTIA partners with leaders in government and education. Members can access a community incubator; a human resources benefits suite; and assistance programs that help veterans, women, and minorities gain job training in technology fields. Additional benefits include discounts on products and services and exclusive event access.
- Association for Computer Professionals in Education - Northwest: This nonprofit dedicates itself to advancing professional development and collaboration in the field of K-12 educational technology. ACPE provides support for administrative, instructional, and information technologies, promoting development of leadership capacities. Exclusive member benefits include scholarship opportunities, regional study groups, an email listserv, and sponsorships for businesses serving educational agencies.
- Data Management Association - Puget Sound: As a vendor-neutral nonprofit, DAMA serves business and technical professionals through development and promotion of data resource management. DAMA offers professional knowledge exchange programs in several areas, including data security management, requirements gathering, and data science. Member benefits include conference discounts, community forums, job boards, and volunteer opportunities.
What Schools Offer a Computer Science Degree in Washington?
Differentiating between the many computer science programs in Washington can feel daunting. However, consulting the following list, which includes all of the best online computer science programs in Washington, may help make your search easier. All of the programs mentioned below hold accreditation.
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