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Industry Experience vs. Advanced Credentials: Why Both Matter in Computer Science Careers

January 25, 2024

Demand for skilled computer science professionals is on the rise. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data project a 23% increase in computer scientist jobs by 2032, a growth rate many factors greater than the rate of the labor market at large.

Growth means opportunities, and computer science offers many across a broad range of industries and functions. A wealth of unique specializations within computer science enables professionals to pursue a variety of career paths suited to their skills and interests, such as computer programmer, computer systems analyst and database administrator

While many entry-level jobs in the field require only a bachelor’s degree, higher-paying senior positions often require years of experience and a master’s in computer science. This article explores the value of both in building a lucrative and rewarding computer science career

Why Industry Experience is Important in Computer Science

A resume with industry-relevant work experience shows potential employers that you can succeed in a real-world work environment. Professional work experience helps you develop essential soft skills like teamwork and time management. It also exposes you to business challenges and constraints you will not likely encounter in more theory-based academic studies. Any industry-specific skills and knowledge you acquire are typically transferrable; they can be invaluable when seeking employment in a similar or adjacent industry. For all these reasons, employers prioritize experience when ranking potential hires.

Aside from gaining valuable professional skills, your years in the field can lead to promotions and pay raises over time. According to a McKinsey study, work experience accounts for 40% of the average U.S. adult’s lifetime earnings. In the long run, the best way to upgrade your skills, increase your earning potential and build your resume is to gain hands-on work experience. 

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The Value of a Master’s Degree in Computer Science

To thrive in the computer science profession, you need strong technical skills and a broad understanding of different computing functions. Enrolling in an MS in Computer Science program (MSCS), such as the online option offered by Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), can help you build the foundation for a successful computer science career. 

Designed for professionals with a STEM background, CWRU’s online MS in Computer Science program features a comprehensive curriculum focused on current issues, trends and best practices in the field. Students gain essential skills in AI, databases and data mining, security and privacy, and software engineering. In addition to developing their technical expertise, students also build skills in data-driven leadership, communication and problem-solving. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that a computer science master’s degree or higher is often required for computer and information research science jobs. If you already work in the field, an advanced degree can help you increase your earning potential, upgrade your skill set and adapt to changing employer demands. 

The opportunity to build your network represents another benefit of pursuing a master’s degree. As an online computer science master’s student, you will meet other professionals from around the world with different perspectives and experiences. Ultimately, the connections you build in a master’s program can help you advance your career

Master’s Degree vs. Certifications

If you are trying to decide between earning your master’s degree and pursuing industry certifications, know that both are beneficial. Certifications help you hone specific skills and master new technologies; master’s degree programs help you build systemic thinking and lifelong learning skills. 

According to the Computing Technology Industry Association, 91% of employers report that IT certifications play a vital role in hiring. Whether you’re new to the profession or have worked for a few years, certifications can help you bolster your expertise and stay competitive in the job market. Computer science certification programs typically focus on specialized topics like cybersecurity, cloud computing and programming languages. Master’s degree programs cover those topics but also help professionals develop a dynamic understanding of computer science concepts, such as computer networks and algorithms. 

Many professionals pursue both types of credentials. Your master’s in computer science will help you develop a versatile skill set and an innovative, solutions-oriented mindset that will help you succeed in future jobs and professional development opportunities. Certifications enable you to add valued specialized skills a la carte.

Earn an Online MSCS at Case Western Reserve University

To succeed in computer science, it is best to have both industry experience and an advanced degree. A master’s degree will equip you with the technical skills to advance your career. Industry experience shows that you can successfully apply theoretical concepts to real-world projects.

Case Western Reserve’s online MSCS program offers two tracks—pathways and advanced—so you can tailor your program to your level of experience and career goals. From machine learning to blockchain, you will gain both an interdisciplinary foundation in computer science concepts and a deep knowledge of the specialized topics that interest you. 

The program combines live virtual class sessions and self-paced coursework so you can regularly connect with peers and faculty and complete assignments. You will also have access to tech support, career services, and your very own student support coach who can offer advice and answer questions. 

As the program is offered part time and online, it’s ideal for working professionals who want to earn a degree while continuing to build career experience. The curriculum keeps pace with the rapid advancements in the field, so you will graduate with the in-demand technical skills you need to succeed in any industry.

If you’re ready to kickstart or advance your computer science career, contact a CWRU enrollment advisor to learn more about the online MSCS program or start your application today

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