This article discusses the important aspects of a computer science career. You will learn what computer science professionals do, where they work, job duties, how to become one, common career paths, specialties, and more.
What We Do
Computer science is the study of how electronic, computerized devices can both extend and support our human abilities. Computer science professionals work on computer systems that extend and support a huge range of human abilities – from socializing to reasoning and strategizing.
Computer science professionals use the latest technology to solve problems. They write computer software to make computers operate and to accomplish various tasks in a more efficient manner. They are expert computer problem solvers, and they map out the most practical solutions to various problems of processing, accessing and storing digital information.
The work of computer science professionals now extends to many types of electronic devices as well. They create mobile applications for smart phones and tablets, develop and run websites, and program new software for all types of electronics.
The role of software developer is a particularly important type of computer scientist today.
In the computer science field, you will most likely have most of the following duties:
- Analyze the computer and technology needs of an organization or product/service and recommend possible changes and upgrades
- Provide for the planning and direction of installation and maintenance of computer hardware and software
- Ensure that devices and organizations’ networks and electronic documents are secure
- Carry out data security measures on computer networks and systems
- Learn about new technologies and find new ways to upgrade the computer systems of organizations
- Plan and direct work of various information technology and computer science professionals
- As a programmer, you will write computer programs with modern computer languages such as C++ and Java; also test computer programs for errors and fix any computer code that is faulty
Where We Work
Computer science professionals work in all industries today, but specifically, computer and information systems managers work in these areas:
- Computer systems design and related services: 20%
- Finance and insurance industry: 12%
- Information: 11%
- Management of companies: 10%
- Manufacturing: 9%
Computer programmers work in these areas:
- Computer systems design and related services: 38%
- Software publishers: 7%
- Finance and insurance: 7%
- Manufacturing: 5%
- Administrative and support services: 5%
As far as best places to work geographically, the below cities are worth a strong look:
- San Jose, California: This is the home of Apple, Adobe and eBay among others.
- Huntsville, Alabama: This is the heart of the tech scene in the Deep South. In fact 68 over every 1000 jobs in this city are related to technology. Rent is cheap here, even if the salaries are not as high.
- Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina: A full 66 of every 1000 jobs here is in technology, and the cost of living is low.
- Boulder, Colorado: As many as 70 of every 1000 jobs are in computer technology. Big tech companies such as Twitter and Oracle have bought companies here.
- Austin, Texas: This area of central Texas is known today as Silicon Hills, due to a high degree of venture capital interest and many accelerators and incubators located here.
How to Become
To get started in a computer science career, you should earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Plan to study modern computer programming languages, software development and plenty of mathematics.
If you want to be primarily a programmer and possibly a mid level manager, a bachelor’s degree in computer science is often enough. For those who want to move into a higher level position, including programming director or computer and information systems manager, you may need to earn an MBA in information technology.
Generally, the employment for computer and information technology occupations will go up by an impressive 12% by 2024. This is faster than average. In total, there will be approximately 489,000 new jobs in computer and information technology in this time period.
Job growth is being driven by a bigger focus on cloud computing, storage and collection of large amounts of data, and just more devices being connected to the Internet. The median wage for all computer and IT occupations is $81,400.
The median salary for computer and information systems managers in 2015 was $131,600, and the top 10% earned more than $187,000 per year. Those who work in the information science and computer systems design fields tend to earn the highest salaries.
The job outlook for computer and information systems managers is excellent, with a 15% increase in demand expected by 2024. This is being driven by more companies expanding their digital systems to cloud based systems. Also, more robust security is needed to protect data as cyber threats are increasing.
Another extremely important and promising career path is that of software developer. All of the growth of technology and connected devices requires software to give instructions to the devices so that they can perform the functions that people want. Employment for software developers will increase by 17% by 2024, which is much faster than average. Many software developers work for companies that work in computer systems design, or for software publishers. Median pay is $98,000 per year.
Information security analysts will see 18% growth in jobs as cyber attacks continue to become more frequent. Their median salary is $90,120.
The most common career paths in the computer science field are:
- Computer and information systems managers: Responsible for all of the computer related activities and processes in a company. Their main goal is to determine what the current IT requirements are for a company and then to implement them.
- Information security analyst: They have the very important role of defending computer networks against cyber attacks. They have to stay ahead of cyber attackers who are constantly changing the ways in which they attack computer systems and networks. Heavily involved in disaster recovery plans for companies.
- Computer network architects: They design and build complex communication networks, which can include local area networks and wide area networks. They have to have a large knowledge of the business plan of the company so that the network can be properly designed.
- Computer and information research scientists: They invent and design entirely new approaches to computer and Internet technology, and discover new uses for current technology.
- Computer programmers: They are responsible for writing and testing code that run computer and software applications to run smoothly. They need to transform computer designs that are made by software developers and engineers into code that a computer can follow.
- Software developer: They develop the computer applications that allow computers and mobile devices to complete tasks.
Computer science professionals must have a bachelor’s degree in computer science and possess strong computer programming skills. Those who want to work in software development will want to have some education in software engineering as well.
To move into higher level management positions, some computer science professionals get a master’s degree in computer science or software engineering.
For computer and information systems managers, an MBA is commonly required to advance into senior level roles.
Specializations in computer science will depend upon the exact type of career path you choose. For example, if you are an information and computer technology manager, you could work in these types of specialized roles:
- Chief information officer: Responsible for the technology strategy of the company. Determine what the technology goals are for the company and then ensure goals are met.
- Chief technology officer: Responsible for evaluating new computer technology and determine if it can be used to meet company goals. Recommends appropriate technology solutions to support CIO directed policies.
- It director: Oversees the information technology department and provides supervision for other IT employees.
In software development, you can typically specialize in two major areas:
- Applications software: Design advanced computer applications for the consumer market. They often create customized software for commercial software that is then sold to the public. They also may create computer programs that people us on the Internet and on intranets.
- Systems software: This is the software that keeps a computer or computerized device running smoothly. These are often operating systems for computers and electronic devices that the public buys. Or, they can be custom built systems that are built for organizations. It is systems software developers who come up with the operating systems that are in control of most of the consumer computers and electronics on the market, including smart phones and tablets.
Training and Certifications
If you want to enjoy the most financially and professionally rewarding computer science career, you may want to earn one or more of these certifications:
- Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC): This certification is made for IT professionals, project managers and other computer science workers who need to identify and manage risk from design through set up to maintenance of the system. A good certification for audit managers, security directors, IT managers and IT consultants.
- Certified Information Security Manager (CISM): This is designed for managers who are implementing IT and security policy and not the hands on people. Many who get this certification are information technology managers, security directors and chief compliance officers.
- Six Sigma Green Belt: This certification is based on quality control; the goal is to have no higher than 3.4 defects per million chances. It teaches you how you can improve existing process and how to properly implement a new system.
- Project Management Professional (PMP): Not specifically for the IT and computer science world, but it is highly appropriate for upper level computer science managers.
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH): The International Council of E-Commerce Consultants created this certification. It is designed to teach you how to find flaws, weaknesses and vulnerabilities in computer networks.
- Citrix Certified Enterprise Engineer (CCEE): Citrix is a firm that offers server, application and desktop visualization services to hundreds of thousands of companies. This is an engineering exam that will test your skills in using a complete visualization solution made by Citrix.
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