What Can You Do With a Computer Science Degree?
If you’re thinking about majoring in Computer Science, you probably have a few questions about your future options after graduation. What can I do with a computer science degree? Are computer science jobs in demand? What types of computer science jobs would be available to me?
While having a list of questions about this field might seem a little overwhelming, the good news is that you’re smart enough to be asking about it in the first place. And we can help provide you with some answers!
In this article we’ll take a closer look at the jobs you can get with a computer science degree. Along the way you’ll have a better understanding of computer science-related career salaries, job duties and employment growth outlooks.
Computer science jobs: Duties, salaries and growth
Computer Science majors have the ability to apply their skills to practically any industry—automating processes and creating helpful software applications is almost universally useful. But you may be wondering: What are the most common computer science degree jobs? What would I be doing in these roles? What should I expect from a computer science salary? What does the computer science job outlook look like?
You’ll find the answers to your questions below. We’ve combined expert insight with data from real-time job analysis software and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to provide a detailed breakdown of the jobs that most commonly call for a computer science degree. Read on to learn more about the duties, outlook and earning potential for each of these computer science jobs.
6 Top computer science careers for degree holders
This type of knowledge and training can help prepare graduates for a broad range of technology careers. So what can you do with a computer science degree? Our analysis of more than 1 million job postings seeking candidates with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science helped us identified six of the top options.1
1. Software applications developer
- Projected employment growth (2018–2028): 26 percent (much faster than average)2
- Median annual salary (2018): $105,5902
- Common job titles: Software development engineer, Java developer, applications developer
What do software applications developers do?
Think of how often you send an email, scroll endlessly on social media or stream media on your phone or computer. Practically everything we do with the help of computers is powered by software. Software developers are the people responsible for creating, testing and modifying these programs. Everything—from the front-and-center user interface to the unseen underlying code that ensures it performs as planned—is affected by software development professionals.
In their day-to-day work, most software developers work as part of a development team whose work is segmented and guided by project managers. Their product must meet desired specifications and ultimately interface well with other segments of code—which is no small feat. Some software developers may specialize in areas such as quality assurance, where duties focus on testing software for issues, documenting them and assisting in resolving whatever’s gone wrong.
2. Computer systems analyst
- Projected growth (2018–2028):9 percent (as fast as average)2
- Median annual salary (2018): $88,7402
- Common job titles: Business analyst, business systems analyst, IT analyst, information systems analyst
What do computer systems analysts do?
Computer systems analysts roles are so versatile that there are many ways to answer this question. But at a high level, they’re the individuals responsible for merging business needs with IT initiatives. They use their expertise to analyze, improve and plan IT systems in order to meet the specifications needed for a business process.
So what does that look like? They’ll spend a considerable amount of time meeting with the “business side” of an organization gathering information about organizational needs—How will this system be used? Will this need to work at a larger scale in the future? Will this need to connect with other systems? Once the specifications are determined, computer systems analysts will work with the technical teams to develop plans for how they’ll deploy technology to meet those needs.
3. Systems software developer
- Projected growth (2018–2028): 10 percent (faster than average)2
- Median annual salary (2018): $110,0002
- Common job titles: Software architect, software developer, systems engineer, software engineer
What do systems software developers do?
Systems software developers have quite a bit in common with software application developers. They use their knowledge of programming, mathematics and computational theory to develop software to meet a specific need. That said, the work of a systems software developer is often focused on creating or modifying things like entire operating systems (Windows® being a prominent example) or industry-specific software systems.
With Microsoft and Apple dominating the desktop computing scene for operating systems, you might think a role like this would have a very narrow range of potential opportunities. The reality is that many systems software developers work for employers or clients that need specialized software the greater public would likely never see.
Industries like financial services, telecommunications, aerospace engineering and law firms all commonly employ systems software developers. Another growth area springs from the growing number of devices with internet connectivity—that touch screen menu on your fancy new refrigerator required someone to design the interface and the underlying system controlling it.
4. Web developer
- Projected growth (2018–2028): 13 percent (faster than average)2
- Median annual salary (2018): $69,4302
- Common job titles: Front-end developer, back-end developer, web designer, web development architect
What do web developers do?
As you can probably guess, web developers are the tech professionals who build, maintain and design websites. Web development is a subcategory of careers that can cover a fairly broad range of roles. Some web developers focus primarily on “front-end” features like the design, layout and other surface-level functional elements of a website. Others focus on the “back-end” systems that ensure the site works as intended and communicates properly with other systems connect to the site—for example, inventory databases and customer relationship management systems for online retailers.
These roles focused on the “back-end” of a website are likely the best fit for computer science graduates. Their knowledge of database structures, programming logic and mapping information flows can help bridge the gap between desired website functionality and the systems an organization uses.
5. Network systems administrator
- Projected growth (2018–2028): 5 percent (as fast as average)2
- Median annual salary (2018): $82,0502
- Common job titles: Systems administrator, information analyst, information systems manager
What do network systems administrators do?
The role of a network systems administrator can be hard to pin down as job duties and descriptions will vary somewhat from organization to organization. That said, most systems administration roles will focus on the high-level management and maintenance of servers, storage and the associated operating systems and applications that run on top of them. Duties can include pushing out system-wide updates and patches, creating user accounts with appropriate levels of access and deploying new hardware systems as needed.
With cloud-based servers and storage becoming increasingly common these roles have shifted substantially—and in all likelihood will continue to evolve. Systems administrators who understand how to use scripting languages to automate processes are a valuable asset to an IT team.
6. Database administrator
- Projected growth (2018–2028): 9 percent (faster than average)2
- Median annual salary (2018): $90,0702
- Common job titles: Database administrator, database analyst, database developer, data architect
What does a database administrator do?
Data is essentially the lifeblood of technology. As both an input and output, it powers software and systems and helps us do things that would be mind-boggling 20 years ago. Every online purchase, restaurant review left, doctor’s appointment scheduled—the list goes on—depends on databases that are well-structured, secure and regularly maintained. That’s where a database administrator comes in.
Database administrators are tasked with tending to a key component of any information technology or software operation—the databases they use. In this role, they determine how to securely store and efficiently organize important data and ensure access is granted to the right users.
They may also merge existing databases or migrate data to new platforms, which takes careful planning to ensure compatibility and functionality remains for connected systems. Database administrators are also tasked with regularly creating database backups in order minimize damage caused by storage failure.
Qualify yourself for these computer science careers
So what can you do with a computer science degree? It turns out—there’s a whole lot. With all of these computer science degree jobs to choose from, you should feel more confident about your decision to follow this educational path.
Now that you know more about your potential career options, it’s time to learn more the program that can help you get there. Check out the Computer Science degree page for more information.
Windows is a registered trademark of Microsoft, Inc.
1Burning-Glass (analysis of 1,075,843 job postings requiring a Computer Science bachelor’s degree, Nov. 1, 2018 – Oct. 31, 2019)
2Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed November, 2019] www.bls.gov/ooh/. Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2013. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2020.