To help meet hiring demands, many colleges and universities are doubling down on their computer science offerings.

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Among the nation’s top tech hubs, Seattle has the fastest growth rate in job openings for computing professionals. That’s according to labor market experts at Indeed Hiring Lab. With so many new jobs to fill, Puget Sound area employers are struggling to find qualified workers. The latest info from the state’s Employment Security Department shows software developers, systems analysts and other tech-driven occupations rank among the most in-demand across the state.

To help meet that demand, many colleges and universities are doubling down on their computer science offerings — or adding Bachelor in Computer Science degree programs to their slate of IT credentials.

The University of Washington received millions of dollars in new funding to hire more faculty and staff, and — ultimately — increase the number of computer science graduates more than twofold. Toward that same goal, the UW plans to open the Bill & Melinda Gates Center for Computer Science & Engineering on its Seattle campus in early 2019.

Bellevue College, recognized nationally as a leader in IT education, made history when it launched a Bachelor in Computer Science degree in 2017. In doing so, Bellevue became the first community college in Washington to offer a Bachelor of Science degree in a subject also available at in-state four-year universities.

And this month, WGU Washington — the state’s only legislatively-endorsed, online university — introduced its Bachelor of Science in computer science (BSCS) degree program. At about $6,000 per year, tuition for that program is less than at other universities and includes valuable certifications from CIW, CompTIA, Axelos and Oracle at no additional cost.

WGU Washington’s BSCS teaches graduates to design, develop, and optimize systems, and prepares them for many of the region’s most in-demand occupations.

“Statewide, there’s a great deal of opportunity for Washingtonians to work and succeed in technology-focused fields,” said Steve Mullin, President of the Washington Roundtable. “WGU Washington’s computer science degree program was developed with the help of the business community to ensure graduates are well-trained to meet current and future industry needs.”

Delivered via an innovative, competency-based model, WGU Washington’s BSCS is excellent for working professionals and people who require flexibility in their studies. Competency-based learning lets students move quickly through content they already know and take the time they need learning new material. Faculty members provide one-on-one support and course materials are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With few exceptions, students can choose exactly when and where they study.

WGU Washington’s terms are six months long, and students in the BSCS are charged a flat-rate tuition of $3,190 per term, regardless of the number of courses completed. Many students will be able to accelerate their studies, finishing their degrees sooner, saving both time and money.

Regardless of where they earned their credentials, computer scientists impact every industry, from manufacturing to medicine, agriculture to engineering. The types of jobs graduates of computer science programs pursue include:

Computer systems analyst

The growing prevalence of cloud computing and increase of IT services in the health care space drives the current demand for these workers. Sometimes called systems architects, they review computer systems and processes and create solutions to improve efficiency and effectiveness. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean salary for computer systems analysts in the Seattle area is about $100,000 per year.

Front-end developer

The experience on the best apps, websites, and online games is the handiwork of top-notch front-end developers. Those women and men implement the creative visions of design teams, making them come to life for users to enjoy. They also handle website maintenance and improvements, staying current on emerging technologies. Indeed.com says the average annual salary for front-end developers in Seattle is more than $110,000.

Artificial intelligence specialist

These folks are turning science fiction into reality! Examples include voice recognition software or autonomous vehicles. Artificial intelligence specialists create the software and machinery that “think” or “act” like humans. Incomes vary widely for AI specialists, but the New York Times reports workers at some of the tech industry’s largest firms can earn $500,000 or more annually in salary and company stock.

WGU Washington is an online, competency-based university designed to expand access to higher education for Washington residents. In 2011, the Washington state Legislature created WGU Washington in partnership with nationally recognized Western Governors University. For more information and to enroll, visit washington.wgu.edu.