Applied computer science is the study of both theoretical and applied computing. Like computer science, applied computer science focuses on technical computing concepts—but it goes beyond that, too. Graduates of applied computing programs are well-rounded. Having studied most computer science subject areas in their courses, they have the hands-on technical skills needed to do a variety of IT jobs. They also have a broad understanding of an IT department and how it interacts with the rest of the organization. Because of this, they can easily fill a leadership role on a team.
Applied computer science skills and knowledge include:
- Current programming languages and technology
- Software engineering
- Mobile technology
- Operating systems management
- Graphic applications
- Data integration
- Distributed systems
- Critical thinking, analysis, and problem solving
- Project management
Perhaps the most defining characteristic of those who have studied applied computer science is the ability to think critically about how to best use their technical skills to problem solve and make a positive impact on the organization as a whole.
Applied Computer Science Careers Outlook
The future is very bright for applied computer science graduates. Why?
1. Technology is everywhere.
Look around you. We live in a world where everyone and everything is connected by information technology. Virtually every organization in the public and private sector relies on the internet and the “Internet of Things” for daily operations. And with greater emphasis on cloud computing, big data, and mobile computing in business, technology will continue to expand into every field and industry. Those organizations need skilled, multifaceted IT professionals to keep things running smoothly.
2. Good IT applicants are hard to find.
IT evolves quickly. Computer science professionals who have the expertise to develop and maintain cutting edge technology are in high demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that computer and information technology is one of the fastest growing fields in the country. From 2014 to 2024, jobs such as web developers, security analysts, software engineers, and database administrators are projected to grow 12 percent.
But right now, employers say they have a hard time finding qualified IT job applicants.
Here’s why: According to 2015 data from the National Center for Education Statistics, computing occupations made up two-thirds of all projected jobs in STEM fields. Yet, that same year, only eight percent of STEM students were studying computer science. That’s a huge gap.
A 2017 Emsi study of IT positions in Wisconsin came to a similar conclusion. Researchers found that there was approximately one hire for every three IT job postings in the state.
This dramatic shortage of qualified professionals has an upside: The job outlook is excellent for applied computer science graduates.
What’s the Difference Between Computer Science and Applied Computer Science?
An applied computing degree tells me as an employer that you have the practical, hands-on skills to become an effective member of my team from day one. The nature of an applied degree signifies productive employees.
—Jeff Thomas, Chief Technology Officer, Forward Health Group
Computer science students usually graduate with very specific technical skills in an area of IT. By contrast, applied computer science programs teach students the wide range of technical skills they will need to work in almost any IT job. Additionally, applied computer science curricula provide more training in power skills, such as project management, professional communication, and business leadership.
The idea is that applied computing graduates will hit the ground running on their first day of work, being able to solve pressing business problems with the application of technology.
What does this look like in a real job setting? From day one, an applied computer science graduate would be able to take on a leadership role, explain their projects in non-technical language, think critically about how their work interacts with other departments, and ask business-focused questions. A computer science major may not feel comfortable doing these things straight out of school.
Applied Computer Science Jobs
Gone are the days of IT departments stashed in the basement.
Today, goal-oriented computer science majors become influential directors and founders of tech giants. Information technology professionals are seen as leaders and key assets in the workplace, and that’s reflected in the IT job titles of bachelor’s degree holders.
Typical jobs held by applied computer science graduates include:
- Database administrator
- System and network administrator
- Application developer
- Web designer
- Web developer
- Computer programmer
- Software engineer
- Computer information system manager
- Video game designer
- Chief technology officer
- Systems engineer
- Systems architect
Average Salary for Applied Computer Science Professionals
The median salary for computer and information technology occupations was $82,860 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Computer science majors are consistently listed as one of the highest-paying bachelor’s degrees. For example, Business Insider listed computer science as 15 out of the 25 highest-paying college majors.
Median early career pay: $65,300
Median mid-career pay: $107,000
Why Get an Applied Computer Science Degree?
Because of the technical expertise and professional skills required of today’s IT staff, more and more employers are looking for IT professionals with bachelor’s degrees.
Candidates with an applied computing degree are especially valuable because they’re skilled IT generalists. They’ve got a solid foundation in all disciplines of IT.
—Mike Fox, Director of Project Services, SafeNet Consulting
An applied computing bachelor’s degree provides a solid foundation for someone who wants to specialize in an area of IT. It could also:
- Help you move from an entry or mid-level IT position to a higher-level role, such as a database or computer developer, or a management role.
- Prove to employers that you’re skilled in both the theory behind computer science and its direct application.
- Provide a solid foundation in business, leadership, and communication skills.
- Teach you how to develop new technologies and participate in future tech innovation.
As far as the overall benefit of a bachelor’s degree in computing, PayScale may have summarized it best: Computer science consistently rates as one of the best bachelor’s degrees to earn because of high earning potential, low unemployment rates, and a range of career options for graduates.
Wondering if an applied computing degree is a good fit? Here are six signs that it’s the right path for you.
University of Wisconsin offers an online Bachelor of Science in Applied Computing. Start your journey.
Curious about what you’d learn in UW Applied Computing courses? See the curriculum.
Have questions about University of Wisconsin Applied Computing? Contact an adviser at 1-877-895-3276 or email@example.com.