Computer Science in Michigan
Michigan has several notable attributes - for one thing, it's one of the ten most populous states in the US, and while the Upper Peninsula is known primarily for its natural resources, the Lower Peninsula is a hub for the manufacturing, services and high-tech industries. In fact, as of 2002, Michigan has ranked fourth in the US in the category of high tech employment with 568,000 high tech workers. While it may be most commonly associated with the automotive industry, only 12 percent of Michigan's high tech jobs are in that sub-category. While 70,000 people is an impressive number, contrasted against that 568,000 total, there are many potential tech opportunities in the state beyond auto manufacturing.
In addition to the Big Three auto companies headquartered in Detroit, the state is also home to aerospace and military equipment manufacturers. The state has one of the highest investments in research and development and one of the highest rates of engineering graduates in the country. This means that pursuing a degree in computer programming or another IT/tech specialty may be a wise career move. As manufacturing becomes increasingly reliant on computers and high tech machines, being able to operate and repair them is becoming an extremely vital in order to stay competitive.
Computer Science Education in Michigan
Having a degree in computer science or a related area can prepare an individual to take advantage of many opportunities in a manufacturing nerve center like Michigan. The state is home to numerous postsecondary institutions with IT-related programs. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) College Navigator lists the following Michigan schools in 2014:
- 29 public two-year colleges
- 18 public four-year colleges
- 9 private nonprofit two-year colleges
- 29 private nonprofit four-year colleges
- 11 private for-profit four-year colleges
- 4 technical and vocational schools offering programs that take less than two years to complete
Whether a prospective student is interested in a public research university like Central Michigan University or Michigan University, Ann Arbor; a state college like Lake Superior State University Grand Valley State University; a community college like Grand Rapids Community College or Delta College; a private college like Baker College or Lawrence Technological University; a two-year degree from a school like Career Quest; or just wants to brush up on technical skills by earning an IT certification from a technical or vocational school like Everest Institute, there are various options in Michigan for people interested in pursuing a career in computer programming or a related information technology field.
Highlighted Computer Science Schools in Michigan
Central Michigan University
Central Michigan University (CMU) is a public four-year institution with a strong college of science and technology. The US News & World Report ranks CMU as the 110th best public school in the nation. It's also among the best business and engineering programs in the nation according to the same rankings. Additionally, the school's online bachelor's degrees are ranked as the 13th best, and its online graduate education programs are ranked as the 5th best. With undergraduate majors in computer science and in information technology, the university also offers its students access to UNIX and LINUX workstation labs as well as the CMU Center for Software Development.
Lake Superior State University
Lake Superior State University (LSSU), ranked the 69th best regional college in the Midwest according to US News & World Report, is another public institution with a strong school of mathematics and computer science, housed in the college of natural and mathematical sciences. LSSU prides itself in its bachelor's degree in computer networking, one of the few such four-year degrees on the topic in the country. The school's computer networking students work directly in multiple development environments as part of the curriculum, including Linux, Novell and Windows platforms. Students also have the opportunity to earn industry certifications, partake in hands-on training, and gain formal work experience while in the program.
Lawrence Technological University
Lawrence Technological University (LTU) is ranked 54th best regional university in the Midwest and the 20th best college for veterans by US News & World Report. It is also ranked #111 for its online bachelor programs and #23 in the "Best Online Graduate Computer Information Technology Programs" category. Alumni of this program have gone on to work in areas including software engineering, scientific computing, business applications, cloud computing and game development. LTU students compete in international robotics competitions such as Robofest and the World Robot Olympiad.
Accreditation for Computer Science/IT programs
The ABET Computing Accreditation Commission is the accreditation body of choice when considering computer science or other IT-related majors. However, since computer programming and information technology is a rapidly evolving field, accreditation criteria for all computer programming and related programs have not yet been developed. As a result, the lack of program-level accreditation does not necessarily mean that program isn't outstanding. This means prospective students should exercise caution and ask for job placement rates for alumni, among other data, to ensure their chosen program will properly prepare them for their career goals. Additionally, while program-level accreditation for many IT majors may not always exist, prospective students should be sure to seek a regionally accredited institution.
Tech Industries and Careers in Michigan
The auto industry, information technology, aerospace and military hardware are all major contributors to Michigan's economy, and all these types of companies depend on computer programmers and other IT specialists in order to operate. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) for 2014, individuals in Michigan employed in computer and mathematical occupations earned a mean annual wage of $72,770.
The BLS found that regions within Michigan that employ a significant percentage of workers in this broad occupational category include:
- Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, MI Metropolitan Division
- Ann Arbor, MI
- Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, MI Metropolitan Division
- Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI
- Lansing-East Lansing, MI
Most local employers of IT professionals are located in Michigan's Lower Peninsula, which is more densely populated than the state's Upper Peninsula. According to the BLS, as of February 2015, the state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is estimated at 5.9 percent. Although the region was hard-hit by the Great Recession, particularly the automotive industry, according to the Gallup Job Creation Index, Michigan led all states when it came to the most improvement in job market conditions between 2009 and 2010.
In Michigan, the top specialties within the larger occupational category of computer and mathematical occupations are, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer user support specialists, earning a mean annual wage of $48,280; software developers (applications), earning a mean annual wage of $81,860; computer systems analysts, with a mean annual wage of $82,330; software developers (systems software), earning a mean annual wage of $88,500; and network and computer systems administrators, earning a mean annual wage of $71,690. Some jobs in this category, like computer user support specialists, may need only an associate degree, while other careers such as applications software developer, may require at least a bachelor's degree.
Keeping up-to-date on the latest technologies is important throughout one's career in a field that evolves as quickly as computer programming and IT. Whichever school someone chooses when initially earning their degree, it's important that long-term career plans include seeking out additional certs to keep pace with system upgrades and other improvements and innovations. However, if one attends a school with a strong program initially, finding employment may be easier. Once an individual has a job, employers may cover the cost of additional training or certifications wholly or partially. Selecting an employer known for being supportive of its employees' professional development can help an individual's career advancement.
Obviously wages can vary significantly, not only due to job specialization but also according to other factors. These factors may include an individual's educational attainment and professional experience as well as the metropolitan area in which a position is located. Individuals seeking a computer programming school in Michigan should consider their career goals carefully, both in terms of what institution and major or specialization are a good fit for their needs as well as their life plans after earning their credential. Knowing whether there's a demand for one's chosen career in the area where a person plans to live is important. Not only that, but determining whether average anticipated salaries for a particular career matches the cost of living in a desired area can have an impact on overall career satisfaction.
While the city of Detroit declared bankruptcy, the city left Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy with all finances returned to Detroit beginning at midnight on December 11, 2014. While on the face of it the region's struggles may make it seem like a poor choice. However, the city is making a concerted effort to revitalize itself, with several major corporations based in the city, including three Fortune 500 companies. Additionally, Bank of America recently announced a major $25 billion investment into community development in Michigan. These and other efforts may mean that individuals getting in on the ground floor of recovery and revitalization endeavors stand to gain the most as the region stabilizes.
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