Computer science in New Jersey
New Jersey may be one of the five smallest states in the US by area, but it is the 11th most populated, a distinction that also makes it the most densely populated state in the country. Additionally, according to the 2008-2012 census, of all the states, New Jersey has the second-highest median household income. As a result of its small size, many residents of New Jersey commute to the adjacent states of New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware for work. The reverse, of course, is also true -- one need not be a resident of New Jersey to pursue employment there.
Regardless of whether one lives in New Jersey, works there, or both, pursuing a degree in computer programming or other IT/tech industries may be a wise career move. The state is home to pharmaceutical and telecommunications firms as well as 24 Fortune 500 companies. Even if such companies do not specialize in IT, they may require individuals with such various computer science specialties as information security specialists, web developers, database administrators and more. In fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ranked New Jersey first out of the top 10 states with the largest increases in tech job openings between August 2012 and August 2013.
Computer science education in New Jersey
According to the US News & World Report, computer science consistently rates one of the top-paying college majors. Holding such a degree in a relatively affluent area such as New Jersey may leave one open to many opportunities. New Jersey is home to a variety of postsecondary institutions with IT-related programs, including the following:
- 19 public two-year colleges
- 13 public four-year colleges
- 12 private nonprofit four-year colleges
- 4 private for-profit four-year colleges
- 3 private for-profit two-year colleges
- 10 private for-profit 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 Rutgers or the New Jersey Institute of Technology; a state college like Kean University or Montclair State University; a community college like Atlantic Cape or Ocean County College; a private college like Monmouth University or Stevens Institute of Technology; a two-year degree; or just wants to brush up on technical skills by earning an IT certification from a technical or vocational school like the Lincoln Technical Institute, there are many options in New Jersey for people interested in pursuing a career in computer programming or a related IT field.
Highlighted computer science schools in New Jersey
New Jersey Institute of Technology
The New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is a public four-year institution with its emphasis on technology right in the name. Its online graduate programs in information technology are ranked 29th in the nation according to US News & World Report, which also ranks the university's computer science department 50th in the nation. In fact, more than one-fifth (over 20 percent) of NJIT students are in a major within the computer science department. Additionally, according to the university's website, of all research universities in the New York metropolitan area, NJIT's computer science department is the largest.
Montclair State University
Montclair State University, ranked 50th best regional university in the north according to US News & World Report, is another public institution with a strong computer science department. The university is also ranked 12th in the category of Top Public Schools and 17th in the category of Best Colleges for Veterans by US News & World Report. According to Forbes magazine's annual list of "America's Best Colleges," Montclair State is ranked as the number one public institution in the state of New Jersey and third overall. Montclair offers cooperative education opportunities to its computer science majors, which can provide real-world experience for students interested in careers in industry. Supplementing theoretical and practical hands-on work in the field may help graduates be more competitive on the job search.
Stevens Institute of Technology
The Stevens Institute of Technology (SIT) is one of the oldest technological universities in the country. It's ranked 76th among national universities and its computer science programs are ranked 101st in the nation according to US News & World Report. Forbes ranked SIT 116th out of universities in the Northeast.
Like Montclair, SIT offers its students opportunities to pursue cooperative education. The institute's formal cooperative education track allows students to alternate between semesters in school and full-time, paid work in their field. While this format may mean it takes students slightly longer to earn their degrees, individuals in these programs may find the transition from student to professional easier than students in traditional college programs.
When looking at computer science or other tech majors, the ABET Computing Accreditation Commission is the accreditation body of choice. However, because computer programming and IT is a rapidly evolving field, accreditation organizations have not yet developed criteria for all computer programming and related programs. A lack of program-level accreditation, however, doesn't necessarily mean a program isn't excellent. As a result, prospective students should be cautious and ask for job placement of alumni, among other data, to ensure their chosen program will prepare them appropriately for their career goals. Additionally, while there may be a lack of program-level accreditation for many IT majors, prospective students should seek a regionally-accredited institution.
Tech industries and careers in New Jersey
The pharmaceutical industry, telecommunications and the financial industry are all significant contributors to New Jersey's economy, and all these types of businesses depend on computer programmers and other IT specialists in order to run smoothly. According to the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) database for 2014, nearly three and a half percent of individuals in New Jersey are employed in computer and mathematical occupations, earning an annual mean wage of $92,610.
According to the OES, regions within New Jersey that employ a significant percentage of workers in this broad occupational category include:
- Edison-New Brunswick, NJ Metropolitan Division
- New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA
- Newark-Union, NJ-PA Metropolitan Division
- New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division
- Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD
Note that several of these metropolitan regions span one or more states. Because New Jersey is so small, it is important to remember that individuals need not live in the same city or even state where they work. Many New Jersey residents commute to places like Manhattan (NYC) and Philadelphia, so they are able to take advantage of demand for this career path in other states. If an individual does not mind a lengthier commute and/or is willing to take public transportation, many opportunities become available in this densely populated and dynamic region.
Within New Jersey, the top specialties within the larger occupational category of computer and mathematical occupations are software developers (applications), earning a mean annual wage of $100,830; computer programmers, earning a mean annual wage of $86,320; computer systems analysts, with a mean annual wage of $96,740; and computer user support specialists, earning a mean annual wage of $55,080. Computer user support specialists may need only an associate's degree, while at least a bachelor's degree is usually required in order to become an applications software developer. Other significant IT specializations include software developers (systems software), earning an annual mean wage of $113,620; network and computer systems administrators, with an annual mean wage of $88,850 in New Jersey; and computer network architects, with an annual mean wage of $117,370.
It's important to note that wages can vary significantly, not only by specialization but also according to other factors such as an individual's education and experience as well as the metropolitan area in which the job is located. Individuals seeking a computer programming school in New Jersey should consider their career goals carefully not only in terms of what institution and major or specialization are a good fit for their needs, but also where they plan to live after earning their credential. Knowing whether there is a demand for one's chosen career path is important, and investigating to determine whether average anticipated salaries for that career matches the cost of living in a particular area can have an impact on career satisfaction.
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"May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, New Jersey," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 26 April 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nj.htm