Computer Science Job Description: Experts Dig in to the Details
When you think about the hot career fields of today, computer science likely pops into your mind. Computers have changed so much in society since their invention that it’s tricky to imagine our world without them. But it can also be tricky to imagine what a computer science job description would cover.
In part, that’s because computer science isn’t just one job. It’s a whole field of study that can lead to many different jobs. While that common educational foundation means there’s significant overlap between many of the roles associated with computer science, you’re not going to easily find a one-size-fits-all job description.
“A computer science degree can lead to a career as a developer or programmer, but now can also lead to a career as an analyst, engineer, auditor, scientist, researcher, administrator or technical leader,” says David Armendariz, general manager of the technology division at Lucas Group. Armendariz says one of the biggest benefits of a computer science degree is that with our increasingly digital world, the skills can be applied in a huge variety of industries.
But researching all of those careers and options one by one could get tedious. To give you a better resource, we combined insights from computer science graduates in their careers with job analysis research. Keep reading to get a bird’s eye view of common computer science careers and some great advice on what it takes to fit a computer science job description—no matter the role!
Common roles seeking computer science graduates
It would take a very long list indeed to detail every career you can find opportunities in as a computer science graduate. But with that said, we analyzed over 3,000,000 job postings seeking candidates with computer science degrees to gather some of the top job titles. Here’s what we found:1
- Software development engineer
- Business analyst
- Java developer
- Systems engineer
- Data analyst
- Software developer
- Network engineer
- Solutions architect
- .Net developer
- Systems administrator
Our experts shared job experience in many of these roles, as well as careers in marketing, management, cyber security and executive positions. It’s safe to say that a computer science degree is versatile and can pave the way to many different careers.
“Really being flexible makes a big difference,” says Samantha Moore, community relations manager at iBUYPOWER. Moore explains that you might find yourself moving between jobs that are pretty different from one another.
“As fast as time goes, so does the technology,” Moore says. “You have to be flexible and adaptable to new trends. As a graduate of computer science, being a flexible learner made a huge difference.”
What do computer science students learn?
“A computer science degree is not about teaching you to code—you can do that yourself,” says Ido Sarig, founder of Geometry Help. “It’s about how to think creatively, analytically and systematically about the ways to solve a problem. It taught me there's more than one ‘right way’ or one tool to perform a task.”
That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of technical information and skills to master—computer science programs are designed to give a strong foundation and framework to build from. This typically includes topics like operating systems, programming fundamentals, inferential statistics, database systems, software engineering and security.
“College taught me to learn, and my degree in computer science gave me the fundamental tools to become a great computer programmer,” says Gene Mal, CTO at Static Jobs. “I want to emphasize that you do need a formal education because computer science presents ideas in an organized and systematized manner. You probably won't discover many of them on your own.”
Important qualities for computer science graduates
Computer science programs teach tons of information. But beyond the education, you’ll need skills specific to the career you pursue. We asked our experts what they thought the most important qualities are for success as a computer science graduate—here’s what they said.
“There are times that you are still learning a certain programming language, when suddenly a new one comes,” Moore says. “You have to persevere in learning so that you can catch up to the evergreen technology nowadays.”
Beyond the challenge of keeping up on new languages and technologies, Sarig says software development can be a frustrating job for even the best in the business. “Searching for that elusive, hard to reproduce defect in the code, trying to pin down the root cause of why the code you wrote isn't working is frustrating,” Sarig says. “Modern computer systems are incredibly complex and distributed, and you need to have the determination to see it through.”
“I'm a techie, and I'm curious,” Mal says. “I studied computer science in college, and I still find it fascinating to be able to tell computers what to do after years in software development.” Mal says he still reads up on computer science as well. Having a genuine curiosity about the subject of computer science or certain areas of technology will be important to keep you motivated in this ever-shifting field.
It’s not just a curiosity about what’s going on within the industry, either. Software development often requires a little reverse-engineering of existing work to solve new problems—and having that natural desire to figure out why something works can be a big help.
Group projects probably aren’t the first thing that spring to mind when you think of a computer science program—but they do reflect the reality of how things are done in many computer science roles. Working in a large group is common for developers, and you’ll need strong interpersonal skills to navigate the challenges that can come with it.
“When you work in a larger team all sorts of issues arise,” Sarig says. These can come in the form of technical issues like version control and dealing with different syntax preferences or personal frustrations like a team member not taking criticism well during a code review. For better or for worse, computer science professionals are likely to work with others and need to be able to navigate relationships effectively.
Your computer science job description
Many of our experts emphasized that computer science doesn’t lead you to one specific job—it can lead you lots of different places. “It's not easy learning computer science,” Moore says. “But being a holder of a computer science degree helped me to foresee how my career would go.”
The challenges, the coding errors, bugs and repeated testing were all very worth it in the end, Moore says. “If you’re a graduate of a computer-related program, you can be flexible in any job related to it. Because we were taught that way, right?”
A computer science degree grants you the educational background you’ll need to pursue many different jobs in many different industries. The question is...what would you do with yours? Our article, “What Can You Do With a Computer Science Degree?” highlights some of the most common positions seeking computer science graduates.
1Burning-Glass.com (Analysis of 3,295,033 job postings seeking candidates with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, May 01, 2018 and Apr. 30, 2019).