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Learn computer science with online courses and programs

Computers power everything from trading on the stock market to weather forecasting. Understanding the science of computers has broad application across nearly every industry. Explore how to learn computer science with online courses delivered through edX.

What is computer science?

Computer science focuses on applying computing, algorithms, and programming techniques to operating systems, artificial intelligence, and informatics. Advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity have led to growth in information technology. Computing technology plays a role in many fields of study and professions.Footnote 1Computer scientists create systems designed to understand big data structures, think like humans, and help predict the future.  

Careers in computer science could be viable for learners whose strengths lie in mathematics and technology. As algorithms become more complex, computer science encompasses more fields and concentrations, and provides more diverse jobs. From learning programming languages to theorizing principles of computer science, there are ample opportunities for learners to gain new skills through computer science courses online.

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Why learn computer science?

Understanding computer science can prepare learners to work in a broad range of computer science jobs. Computer science plays a role in data science, computer programming, engineering, business, education, government, and everyday life. A typical computer science jobmay require the ability to analyze problems and develop solutions related to computer hardware and software, as well as design computers and the software that run them.Footnote 2 Footnote 3 Certain roles may involve theoretical work in academics or practical work, such as software development. 

Learners do not necessarily need to have a programming background in order to learn computer science, but taking a computer science course online or earning a computer science certificate can be a great path to enter the field. If an individual is interested in how to learn about computer science, they can also aim to earn an online computer science degree to strengthen their knowledge and put computing applications into practice. 

Computer science course curriculum 

Not all computer science courses look the same, but they are grounded in similar computer science principles. A sample curriculum of computer science courses may include topics in the following subjects: computer engineering, computer science, information systems, information technology, or software engineering. More advanced computer science classes may cover subjects such as designing and analyzing algorithms, human-computer interactions, or building applications for the internet of things (IoT).Footnote 4

Some computer science tutorialsare free to take for professional development, but learners can also opt for courses with credit, complete micro-degrees, earn bachelor's degrees in computer science, or obtain a master's degree in a topic such as data science.

It’s important to have a basic understanding of mathematics, statistics, and some science knowledge to succeed in computer science jobs. And understanding some social sciences and humanities concepts can also help those pursuing data science jobs. 

Computer science jobs

There are many types of computer science jobs,Footnote 5 including: 

  • Computer scientists, who explore, construct, and implement complex computing systems, new computing languages, software systems, and other tools to improve user experience with computers.Footnote 6

  • Network administrators, who regulate the day-to-day operation of computer networks, including local area networks and other data communication.Footnote 7

  • Software developers, who design and develop software to allow users to conduct tasks and solve issues with the software.Footnote 8

Computer engineering, a closely related field, focuses on designing and developing systems such as cellular communications, medical devices, alarm systems, and military technologies. Individuals can learn computer science online to get a feel for which niche is right for them. 

How to become a computer scientist online

When deciding how to learn about computer science, there are a few pathways a learner could take. One common path includes earning a bachelor’s in data science or computer science, followed by a master’s degree in data science or a related field, as the typical entry-level education required for computer scientist jobs is a master’s degree.Footnote 9

However, if a learner is looking for a second career or gaining additional knowledge and skills, taking computer science classes online via boot camps or short courses is another option to learn computer science for beginners, or Python online. Many computer science courses help learners understand the topics from a beginner’s level, so there are not always many prerequisites required beyond having an open mind for discovery.