It might be known for the bright lights of Las Vegas and casinos, but there's a lot more to Nevada than gambling. Though tourism is the largest driver of the economy in the state, Nevada is also the fourth-largest producer of gold in the world, so mining also is a major industry. The seventh-largest state by geography is the 35th in terms of population and has around 16,140 of its 2.84 million people working in computer and mathematics fields according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But as reported by Nevada Business, the tech industry is growing in Nevada in a number of different sectors, driving partially by the state's geography and by its tourism and gaming industries.
Because it sports so much open, flat space, Nevada is an ideal place to develop the large data centers many companies need to run their businesses. The state is also well suited for structures that house huge numbers of computer mainframes that handle things like ecommerce traffic, and companies such as Apple and Switch Communications have looked to create a presence in the state. Tech companies focusing on agricultural applications and mining safety also have found homes in the state, Nevada Business reported, as they look to work closely with its existing industries.
Nevada also offers lower operating costs than the still relatively close San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley, and, as Diversify Nevada notes, the state has added 2,000 information technology jobs just in the last year, bringingthe state's offerings of IT jobs up to about 58,000. While the Nevada tech industry isn't going to supplant Silicon Valley anytime soon, it's still experiencing healthy growth and unique opportunities.
Computer Science Education in Nevada
As a state with a lower population, Nevada has fewer higher education facilities than other states. Of those, several include computer-related degree programs that can help students get the education they need to secure a career in fields like computer engineering and information technology. Though there aren't as many in the state as others, students looking for a technology oriented career can still find strong programs to teach them what they need to know, and a growing industry in which to work.
And computer science as a major is still a strong investment for students. In 2012, U.S. News & World Report ranked computer engineering as one of the best courses of study in terms of return on investment, with graduates earning a median starting pay rate of $61,800 and a median mid-career rate of $101,000. And according to the BLS, in 2014 the annual average wage for computer professionals in Nevada was $93,970.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) College Navigator lists the following Nevada schools with degrees in computer science and technology in 2015:
- 1 public two-year college
- 3 public four-year colleges
- 0 private nonprofit two-year colleges
- 1 private nonprofit four-year college
- 5 private for-profit four-year colleges
Nevada has a total of nine colleges and universities and nine private colleges, as well as two technical or vocational schools. They tend toward smaller enrollments, with only a few schools educating the majority of students. The University of Nevada-Reno and Las Vegas are the two largest schools in the state, with the Reno school placing on U.S. News & World Report's list of top colleges in the nation. Nevada State College, meanwhile, is a four-year public school with a much smaller enrollment, and is joined by private schools like Sierra Nevada College and Tuoro University Nevada. Rounding out the ranks are public community colleges like the College of Southern Nevada, which has an enrollment of about 37,000 students.
The variety of school sizes, coupled with a smattering of private universities and community colleges, as well as for-profit institutions, means that while Nevada has fewer higher education offerings than some other states, it's still more than possible for students to find the right school for their needs.
Highlighted Computer Schools in Nevada
Nevada includes a small number of four-year universities and community colleges, several of which have computer science programs that can help students on their way to careers in field such as information technology. They range from the technical, focusing on engineering, to more software-focused fields, with an aim at training that'll be particularly useful on the job.
The following are three schools with programs that are great for getting students prepared for their futures in computer technology.
University of Nevada-Reno
The University of Nevada-Reno is the largest school in the state, and also the only school to hit on US News and World Report's list of nationally ranked colleges, coming in at 187th in the country. It's also the 105th-ranked public school in the nation, and tied for the 127th place of best engineering school in the country, which includes computer engineering. UNR's Department of Computer Science and Engineering, within its College of Engineering, includes both undergraduate- and graduate-level programs, with faculty who specialize and conduct research in Computer and network system, games and simulations, intelligent systems and software systems.
University of Nevada-Las Vegas
The largest four-year public university in Nevada, UNLV rates as 220th on U.S. News & World Report's High School Counselor Rankings, and 680th of all universities U.S. News ranks globally. Its Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering houses both its Department of Computer Science and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, offering both software and information technology degrees as well as degrees focused on the hardware side of computing. UNLV's Computer Science department offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees in the field, and includes the multidisciplinary Center for Information Technology and Algorithms, which engages in IT research across UNLV departments as well as with other colleges.
Western Nevada College
A two-year community college, Western Nevada College sports a lower enrollment than its four-year counterparts, but also offers more affordable tuition costs for students looking for flexibility in earning associates degrees. The school's computer information technology discipline carries five different Associate of Applied Sciences degrees, with focuses including Computer Networking Technology, Convergence Technology, Health Information Technology, Office Technology, and Web Technology. Students at WNC can also earn useful certifications in disciplines including Cisco systems, computer programming, microcomputer/network technician and network administration.
Tech Industries and Careers in Nevada
Following the Great Recession, Nevada has looked to diversify its industries, which has given rise to an increase in tech-focused and information technology jobs within the state. A report from the Brookings Institution noted that growth of tech-related jobs is beginning to outpace the Nevada education system's ability to provide workers to fill them -- meaning there are more and more opportunities for There also are plenty of well-paying jobs in computer- and technology-related fields where workers can find success with the right training, rather than the right degree. As the Las Vegas Sun reported, "In 2013 nearly one-third of all Las Vegas job openings in IT and over two-thirds of health care jobs in the region did not require a bachelor's degree." The state is also primed for huge job growth through 2017, according to a report from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The BLS found that the following Nevada regions have a relatively high percentage of people working in its Computers and Mathematics category:
- Las Vegas-Paradise, NV
- Reno-Sparks, NV
- Carson City, NV
By far, the largest amount of computer-related jobs can be found in the Las Vegas-Paradise area, although part of what makes Nevada an attractive location for technology companies are its open spaces, which are useful for creating the large data centers that drive the modern Internet with services like cloud computing and storage. Companies like Switch have a presence in Southern Nevada, as do many of the companies with which it deals, including eBay, Cisco and Zappos.com, as NevadaBusiness.com reports. The Atlantic reported in 2012 that Nevada ranked 8th in high-tech businesses, with 9.76 percent of its businesses established in high-tech industries.
Other big-name tech players are bringing their presence to Nevada as well, adding tech jobs as well as different kinds of work in related fields. Among the most notable is a factory owned by automotive company Tesla in Reno, which brings with it manufacturing work as well as the technology jobs required to run the facility. And with job growth throughout the state in a number of sectors, jobs in fields like IT that are essential to running offices successfully are on the rise, as well.
Among technology jobs in Nevada, workers will find the highest incomes as Computer Network Architects, which see an average annual income of $93,970. Following those are Software Developers in Applications, who bring in an annual wage of $90,630, and Network and Computer Systems Administrators, who earn $86,590 annually on average.
Of course, education for any jobs in fields focusing on computers can vary greatly, and whether to pursue a four-year or a two-year degree will depend on what your goals are as a student, what your budget is like for education, and plenty of other factors. Many companies also value on-the-job training as much as education, thanks to constant changes in the technological fields. With so much variation, it pays to research which fields are a good fit for you personally, as well as what kind of employees companies are actively hiring.
"May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nv.htm#15-0000
"The Cyber State: Nevada's Burgeoning Technology Industry," Nevada Business, October 1, 2013, http://www.nevadabusiness.com/2013/10/cyber-state-nevadas-burgeoning-technology-industry/
"Nevada Information Technology," Nevada Governor's Office of Economic Development, http://www.diversifynevada.com/key-industries/information-technology
"College Majors With the Best Return on Investment," U.S. News & World Report, September 12, 2012, http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2012/09/12/college-majors-with-the-best-return-on-investment?page=2
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College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
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"Department of Computer Science," University of Nevada Las Vegas, http://www.unlv.edu/cs
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"Computer Information Technology (CIT)," Western Nevada College, http://www.wnc.edu/academics/discipline/cit/
"Cracking the Code on STEM: A People Strategy for Nevada's Economy," Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, 2014, http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/reports/2014/11/nevada-stem/bmpp_nevadastem_es-web-final.pdf
"Follow these guideposts to shape Nevada's technology future," Las Vegas Sun, November 23, 2014, http://lasvegassun.com/news/2014/nov/23/follow-these-guideposts-shape-nevadas-technology-f/
"Nevada forecasts massive job growth through 2017," Las Vegas Review-Journal, May 1, 2015, http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/las-vegas/nevada-forecasts-massive-job-growth-through-2017
"The 10 Best and 10 Worst States for High-Tech Business," The Atlantic, February 14, 2012, http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/02/the-10-best-and-10-worst-states-for-high-tech-business/253043/#slide3