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Computer science options to specialize in industry-aligned certificates

Bary Pollack, Ph.D., equates the type of thinking required for the field of computer science with the same skills that often attract people to the arts.

The parallels may not seem obvious at first, since computer science is often associated with math and science, but Dr. Pollack sees the similarities very clearly. The work involved often requires creative problem solving, a penchant for learning new skills and bringing an idea from concept to fruition, all of which engage a person’s more creative side.

“When you are writing a computer program, you are building software, you are creating something which has never existed before. In that sense, it’s a lot like art,” said Dr. Pollack, who serves as a University of Phoenix facilitator and software developer. “The field is exciting. It’s challenging and rewarding in every sense of the word.”

Dr. Pollack teaches in the University’s new, all-online Bachelor of Science in Computer Science degree program that launched October 1. He has decades of experience in programming and joins colleagues who are also industry professionals providing foundational knowledge to students in information technology theory and principles to address real-world business challenges. With elective options to earn certificates in Cybersecurity, Advanced Networking, Cloud Computing and more, the program is geared to meet the growing demands of the industry and the digital world.

The field of computer science exists in an ever-changing ecosystem of technology, with new hardware, software and applications launched at a rapid rate, requiring its practitioners to be agile and creative, said Kathryn Uhles, UOPX associate dean and provost of information technology programs.

“The switch is not going to flip back when it comes to technology,” she said. “Things are going to continue to progress. People are looking for accessibility, easy-to-navigate environments and immediate gratification. And these expectations and demands are going to continue to grow.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, software and system developer jobs are projected to grow 22% from 2019 to 2029 — a faster rate than average for all occupations (BLS projections are not specific to University of Phoenix graduates). For those looking to get into a growing field that is constantly evolving, Uhles said computer science may be a path to consider.

Potential career outcomes within the field include application developer, computer consultant, IT analyst, software developer and tech consultant.

For those who are already in the profession and are looking to stay on top of trends and maintain marketable skills, certificates are one way to make that happen, Uhles said.

The profession requires a dedication to lifelong learning and the motivation to continually professionally upskill. But, Uhles said, you don’t need to be a math and science prodigy to pursue a computer science degree, and nor are professions limited to the tech industry. The foundational knowledge from a computer science degree can open new opportunities in the field of your choice, from education to nonprofits, healthcare, business and beyond, she said.

“I think that there is a stereotype that IT professionals only work for tech companies, but really they work for businesses large and small,” Uhles said. “You can still follow whatever it is that you are passionate about with a background in computer science.”

Dr. Pollack agreed that a background in computer science, whether in the form of a four-year degree or in specific industry certificates, can benefit those who are working in a number of careers.

From artificial intelligence to robotics, autonomous vehicles, intelligent systems, exploration of space and the ocean, to 3D printing and networks that span the globe, the foundational background can play a part in many professional opportunities.

“There are a whole collection of exciting, challenging, interesting and really fascinating fields involving computer science fundamentals,” Dr. Pollack said. “Each one requires software and a deep understanding of how to solve problems.”