Salary Outlook with PhD in Computer Science

Created by Henry Steele

By Henry Steele - July 30, 2018
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The outlook for computer science jobs in the United States is strong. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, all computer and information technology occupations will see 13% increase in jobs through 2026. Together these occupations will add more than 557,000 jobs. Demand for workers will be due to more emphasis on cloud computing, information security and the collection and storage of data. It is also expected there will be more demand for instructors and professors teaching computer science, which often requires a Ph.D. in Computer Science.

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Those who plan to get this doctoral degree will spend a lot of time and money in college. So it is wise to learn how much you can make with a Ph.D. in computer science. The critical factors to understand what your salary will be with this degree include the following:

  • Level of computer science degree
  • Type of computer science profession you choose
  • Years of work experience
  • Where you live

Level of Computer Science Degree

Research suggests that it is a good move financially for the most part to get your master’s or Ph.D. degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that the average professional with a bachelor’s degree earns $56,000 per year, while the average master’s degree holder earns $68,000 per year. Earning a doctoral degree provides a slightly higher wage on average over a master’s degree.

The difference in salary will depend largely upon the field in which you get the degree. With a master’s or Ph.D. in computer science, you should see a substantial increase in your salary. Below are some of the occupations that you can have with a Ph.D. in computer science, as well as the salary differences between a bachelor’s and master’s degree. The data does not show what the salary is for someone with a Ph.D., but it can be assumed that it will be slightly higher than that for a master’s degree:

  • Education administrators: $52,000 with a bachelor’s degree, $75,000 with a master’s degree, $23,000 wage premium
  • Postsecondary teachers: $43,800 with a bachelor’s degree, $50,000 with a master’s degree, $6200 wage premium
  • Information security analysts: $85,000 with a bachelor’s degree, $100,000 with a master’s degree, $15,000 wage premium
  • Web developer: $61,000 with a bachelor’s degree, $75,000 with a master’s degree, $14,000 wage premium
  • Network and computer systems administrators: $70,000 with a bachelor’s degree, $88,000 with a master’s degree, $18,000 wage premium

Also, reports the following average salaries for occupations where the person has a Ph.D. in computer science:

  • Software engineer: $118,000
  • Research scientist: $110,688
  • Senior data scientist: $115,600
  • Staff software engineer: $122,500
  • Senior software engineer: $111,700
  • Computer scientist: $105,600
  • Principal Software Engineer: $134,900

Generally, professionals will earn a substantially higher salary with a Ph.D. in computer science rather than only a bachelor’s degree.

Type of Computer Science Career

The occupation in which you work will also have a strong effect on the salary that you make over the years. Below are some of the typical careers you may have with a Ph.D. in computer science:

Postsecondary Teacher

A postsecondary teacher is the instructor of college students in many academic, career and technical areas. Postsecondary teachers or college professors may also do research and scholarly papers and books about their subject, such as computer science. At most universities and colleges, professors are in departments that are specialized in a degree field, such as computer science, business or history. Professors usually teach one or several courses in the department, as well as do research about their subject area for publication.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports this profession will see a strong increase in demand by 2026, about 15%. It is possible there could be equally strong or stronger demand in the computer science field. The Department of Labor also notes that the median salary for all postsecondary teachers is $76,000. The top 10% earn more than $170,000 per year. The website also states that the median salary for computer science instructors is $78,600.

Postsecondary Education Administrator

Postsecondary education administrators are responsible for the oversight of student services, academics and faculty research at universities and colleges. Their job duties will vary based upon the part of the college that they are responsible for. Some may be responsible for admissions, student affairs or the registrar’s office. For those who have a Ph.D. in computer science, it is possible they will serve in an administrative or executive role in the computer science department.

Job growth in this field is expected to increase by 10% by 2026, which is faster than average. This rapid growth is due to more student enrollment at universities and colleges across the US.

The median salary for postsecondary education administrators was $92,300 in 2017. The top 10% earned more than $182,000 per year.

Computer and Information Systems Manager

A computer and information systems manager is responsible for planning, coordinating and directing computer related activities in a company or organization. With a Ph.D. in computer science, it is likely that you could serve in a senior, executive role, such as chief technology officer or CTO. A CTO is responsible for evaluating new technology and determining how it can help the company.

This is a role related to chief information officer or CIO. However, the CTO tends to have greater technical and less business expertise than the CIO. The CTO often reports to the CIO, and is responsible for the design and recommendation of the proper technology solutions in support of the CIO’s policies.

The median salary for all computer and information systems managers in 2017 was $139,200, with the top 10% earning more than $208,000 per year.

Computer Science Work Experience

Another major factor in what you can earn with a Ph.D. in computer science is work experience. According to, salaries for professors overall average out to $85,000 with a spread between $49,000 and $154,000. Professors with more work experience will earn a higher salary.

For example, reports these salaries based upon experience:

  • Less than five years experience – $60,000
  • Five to 10 years of experience – $71,000
  • 10 to 20 years of experience – $86,000
  • More than 20 years of experience – $99,000

Geographic Location

The last factor in what you can earn with a Ph.D. in computer science is where you live in the US. The national average salary for all postsecondary professors is $87,200. But the wage you can earn varies widely by the city in which you live:

  • San Francisco: +49%
  • Boston: +32%
  • Los Angeles: +22%
  • Indianapolis: +19%
  • Philadelphia: +16%
  • Seattle: +16%
  • Chicago: 0%
  • Baltimore: -6%
  • Dallas: -8%
  • Houston: -11%

Obtaining a Ph.D. in computer science will take a lot of time, but many professionals find that it is well worth it in terms of the salary and prestige they earn.


Henry Steele
Managing Editor
Henry is Managing Editor of He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.

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