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 although a master’s in computer science will clearly earn you more. 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 a Master’s or MBA in information technology.
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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.
Computer Science Career Paths
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.
- Blockchain engineer: Specialize in creating and implementing digital solutions for companies by using blockchain technology. These engineers must analyze the technology needs of the company and create applications to meet needs; may work with projects such as developing and implementing accelerators and assets; help with setting up infrastructure to use Bitcoin and ethereum. May also analyze code and program training on blockchain for new personnel.
- Blockchain consultant: Work with corporate clients to determine their blockchain strategy; assist clients to determine the best enterprise platforms to implement blockchain and cryptocurrency payment systems.
- Cloud Engineer: A cloud engineer is responsible for developing, building, maintaining, and implementing the cloud network within the organization. With cloud adoption becoming more commonplace, these engineers can work virtually anywhere, from small organizations with only one or two computers, to huge businesses that have an international presence. Good cloud engineers have an in-depth understanding, therefore, of the business plan of their organization so that they can develop a cloud solution that is fully fit for purpose.
- 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.
- Application Developer: Help companies to keep abreast of latest technologies and developments on the Internet. Responsible for creating, developing, managing and maintaining new programs and software. You should have an excellent grasp of computer programming, HTML, Linus, and experience with relational databases.
- Computer Systems Analyst: Use computers and related systems to automate computer functions and properly integrate them into manufacturing, distributing, sales and other related functions. Look at what the business organization or department is trying to do, and then determine how to use technology to streamline and automate these processes to achieve the best efficiency and accuracy.
- Data Scientist: An expert in extracting meaning from and interpreting data. This requires you to be highly skilled in tools and methods from the disciplines of statistics and machine learning. You also need to be skilled with R, Python, SQL, statistics, multivariable calculus and linear algebra, data wrangling and data visualization and communication.
- Database Administrator: An IT professional who ensures that software that manages a database is maintained properly and allows fast access as needed by multiple users. Searches, constant access and web traffic have stressing effects on computer databases, so the DBA is tasked with maintaining efficiency of critical system servers. Also works to ensure proper data security, and coordinates with IT security professionals in larger organizations.
- Information Security Analyst: Responsible for providing Internet security solutions for their organization. Major duties include conducting research, collecting technical data, and developing highly secure strategies and maximizing technical productivity. Also in charge of implementing information security principles as they follow strict privacy policies.
- IT Operations Analyst: Performs essential system administration work such as network and system troubleshooting, patching computer operating systems and applications, and executing various computer scripts.
- Java Developer: This is a specialized computer programmer who works closely with web designers, web developers and software engineers to integrate Java into websites for companies and clients, programs and applications.
- Machine Learning Engineer: Performs data ETL, statistical and analytical analyses, and communicates detailed insights and recommendations to both internal and external clients. Also uses machine learning frameworks in development, testing and production environments to create and deploy new technologies.
- Network Administrator: Responsible for keeping all computer networks up to date in an organization. Make sure that the computer networks are running smoothly and as efficiently as possible. Major tasks include installation of components, system updates, system repairs and system testing. Also responsible for updating software for the organization on a regular basis, as well as install security software to prevent cyber attacks.
- Network Analyst: This information technology professional specializes in the maintenance of computer network systems; responsible for working with network engineers and other computer professionals to maintain hardware, software, and related things in computer systems. Network analysts’ primary job is to upkeep and monitor workstations, servers and various connectivity devices.
- Network Security Engineer: Involved in the provisioning, deployment, configuration, and administration of many parts of network and security related software and hardware. Areas of focus include firewalls, routers, switches, network monitoring tools, and VPNs. These engineers also do network based security risk assessments on a regular basis.
- QA Engineer: Creates tests to pinpoint any problems with software before a computer program or system is launched. Responsible for identifying and analyzing any bugs that are found during product testing and fully documenting them. QA engineers also need to pay close attention to technical details and coach programmers on how to manage test tools, report results and bring process improvement.
- Security Analyst: Responsible for maintaining the security of computer networks and systems to prevent cyber attacks and loss of important organizational data. Security analysts must be able to identify security risks to networks and address and neutralize such threats. Having knowledge of security log fundamentals is important, and you also should have experience with hardening systems, firewalls, anti virus, anti spam, secure data transmission and anti malware. These workers also are responsible for designing disaster recovery plans for all types of organizations
- Software Architect: Write customized software solutions, including web services, user interfaces, programs for coding, and databases. They are usually employed by large companies and agencies that design software for other companies. Responsible for devising standard coding practices and programs for other programmers and software designers in their companies.
- Software Engineer: The person who designs software or improves a current piece of software to make it of higher quality, price or to run better. Software engineers need to determine how a piece of software can be improved, and then they figure out how to make that a reality. Most software engineers write a lot of code, and the most experienced ones are managers leading a team of programmers.
- Web Editor: Responsible for initiating, maintaining, updating and monitoring the content of web pages. Most web editors are employed by one organization, but some also are contractors and maintain many websites for different customers. While a web editor is not always a technical, programming expert, they should have skills in HTML and CSS, as well as at least basic skills in Photoshop and content management systems such as WordPress.
- Web Developer: These web professionals build the backend of websites and are focused more on the underlying technical structure of the site than how it looks. Most web developers have a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in computer science, programming, information technology or related field. Web developers must be able to work well with web designers, who are more concerned with the look and feel of the site rather than how it is built technically.
Career Paths by Job Title
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.
See also Salary Outlook with Master’s in Computer Science
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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- University of Victoria. What Do Engineers and Computer Scientists Do? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.uvic.ca/engineering/prospective/home/whatis/index.php
- Computer and Information Systems Managers. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from
- Sreekar, J. Best Places for Tech Jobs. (2015, April 27). Retrieved from https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/mortgages/best-places-tech-jobs-2015/