Choosing the Right Specialization
When choosing a specialization, it's important to consider what kind of computer science career you're interested in. For instance, if you aspire to work in a sector where data security and confidentiality are important, such as government, a cybersecurity specialization might suit you well. By contrast, if you want to explore your options when you graduate, an information technology concentration will likely prepare you for careers in a wide range of industries.
Alongside future career paths, think about what interests you in this vast field. Some computer science specializations involve working heavily with data, which equips students with software training and statistical knowledge. Others can train them to build entirely new software or help create new forms of artificial information. Any specialization will entail a unique focus, and you should ensure that this focus is something you want to learn more about.
Bachelor's in Computer Science Specializations
At the bachelor's level, you can choose a specific degree track within a computer science major or a program that focuses exclusively on a particular subfield within the discipline. Degrees at this level are designed to introduce students to the various aspects of computer science rather than explore a particular subject area in detail. Nevertheless, choosing a bachelor's specialization can open the door to unique career paths. Below is a list of popular computer science specializations at this level.
Potential Careers: Information Security Analysts
The cybersecurity specialization gives students an overview of modern computing challenges, teaching them to counter threats like viruses, malware, and potential data breaches. Common courses include network security, network architecture, and ethical hacking. Students may also explore the legal and ethical provisions that regulate access to data.
Potential Careers: Video Game Designers
For those interested in designing video games, this concentration offers a comprehensive introduction to how digital interactive experiences are developed. Students typically take classes in machine learning and computer graphics and may also have the chance to learn more about the video game industry.
Potential Careers: Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers
Software engineers are trained to develop, test, update, and maintain computer programs that meet specific needs. These may include antivirus software, communications technology, and other specialized apps. Students enrolled in the software engineering track tend to take classes in math, programming, and computer architecture.
Potential Careers: Web Developers and Digital Designers
Computer programs and applications typically need to be visually appealing for users. Students pursuing a specialization in computer graphics learn how to develop, update, and troubleshoot images, pictures, and layouts so that they are accessible. Common courses in this track include 3-D design, computer animation, media publishing, and backend development.
Master's in Computer Science Specializations
Specializations are more common at the master's rather than bachelor's level. This is because, with advanced coursework, graduate school is designed to help students delve deeper into the subfields of a particular discipline. With computer science, you can choose from the following areas of concentration.
Potential Careers: Robotics Engineers
Artificial intelligence is perhaps one of the most promising areas of computer science work. It focuses on a program or computer's capacity to solve problems and make decisions and is widely being used in fields such as healthcare, finance, and transportation. Students choosing this specialization study cognition, modeling, robotics, and natural learning, to name a few subjects.
Potential Careers: Computer Network Architects
Students enrolled in a computing systems master's program are trained to look at the bigger picture and design the next generation of computing hardware and software. They take a range of courses, from real-world computing and data management to software theory and artificial intelligence.
Potential Careers: Database Administrators and Architects, Data Scientists
In a world where information is being produced and consumed at an exponential rate, data science helps us understand how to order, analyze, and use it to meet specific needs. This concentration includes courses that focus heavily on developing data literacy, such as statistics, data management, and cybersecurity. Students also learn about data ethics and the laws that govern informational exchange.
Potential Careers: Health Informatics Specialists, Medical and Health Services Managers
The healthcare industry is increasingly relying on technology to deliver care. In turn, those opting for the health informatics concentration gain an understanding of how computer science can be used to make diagnoses, curate patient information, and streamline the billing process. They take classes in bioinformatics, algorithm development, and databases.
Potential Careers: Web and Digital Interface Designers
Also known as user experience, this concentration is based on how to improve our ability to interact with computing systems. This may include designing better hardware or developing features such as voice and face recognition. Common courses in this concentration include classes in subjects like design thinking, information visualization, and social computing.
Potential Careers: Robotics Technicians
A subset of artificial intelligence, the machine learning concentration is concerned with computer systems' ability to develop independently of human inputs. Individuals working in this field receive much of the same training as those in artificial intelligence but go deeper in their efforts to understand how programs make predictions. Therefore, students take classes in modeling, cognition, computer perception, and robotics.
Potential Careers: Computer Programmers
Programming languages form the backbone of many computer science tasks, especially coding. In this concentration, students gain familiarity with widely used languages, including Java, Python, and R. Coursework is largely focused on studying these languages, their various pros and cons, and the different applications they can be used for.
Theoretical Computer Science
Potential Careers: Computer and Information Research Scientists
Computer science theorists explore the mathematical theories that allow computer systems to function. This research-heavy specialization focuses on how to improve these principles to drive advancements in computer science as a whole. Students learn about algorithms, cryptography, and other advanced concepts related to computational mathematics.
What's the Best Computer Science Specialization for Me?
The best computer science specialization will vary depending largely on your career goals. In other words, there is no single area of concentration that is intrinsically better than the others. A good rule of thumb is to consider your personal interests and abilities when choosing a specialization. For instance, if you enjoy math and have a natural talent for the subject, computer science theory or data science can both be considered good options. On the other hand, artificial intelligence and software engineering may benefit creative students who want to build products and innovate.
Overall, most computer science specializations require a critical perspective, problem-solving abilities, and analytical skills and are likely to suit students with these competencies.