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Top Computer Science Career Paths

Rhita Koubbi - November 26, 2022

Are you struggling to pick from the range of computer science career paths? Fortunately for you, there are many computer science career options to choose from, and not all of them require you to spend four years getting a college degree. The field of computer science is vast enough to accommodate a wide range of interests, from writing software to building hardware to working with data.

When students start thinking about the possibilities for their own careers in computer science, they imagine a future in hacking or dream about becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. But the reality of what’s out there is much more exciting. This article will cover the various types of computer science jobs and help you find the best computer science career for you.

What Is Computer Science?

Computer science is the study of how computers and their various components work. This includes the physical and electrical principles that govern the operation of computer machinery, from hard drives to microprocessors. It also involves the programming languages that human beings use to talk to computers, as well as the data structures and algorithms at their core.

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As the field of computer science grows, so does the number of its applications. If you decide to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science , the fields of study in which you can specialize include software engineering, computer engineering, artificial intelligence and machine learning, human-computer interaction, the theory of computation, and computing systems.

Suffice it to say that these specializations can lead to a variety of career paths in computer science. What you do in computer science might involve theory or practice, hardware or software, data modeling or data security, or anything in between. Computer science is at the intersection of all of these things, which is why computer scientists are in such high demand.

Types of Computer Science Careers

A computer science career professional troubleshooting a system.
Working with physical systems or cloud-based systems are just two viable computer science career options.

Career Average Salary Job Outlook Education Requirements
Computer and Information Systems Manager $159,010 16% Bachelor’s degree
Computer and Information Research Scientist $131,490 21% Master’s degree
Hardware Engineer $128,170 5% Bachelor’s degree
Software Engineer $120,730 26% Bachelor’s degree
Network Architect $120,520 4% Bachelor’s degree
Information Security Analyst $102,600 35% Bachelor’s degree
Data Scientist $100,910 36% Bachelor’s degree
Systems Analyst $99,270 9% Bachelor’s degree
Database Administrator $96,710 8% Bachelor’s degree
Computer Programmer $93,000 -10% Bachelor’s degree
Video Game Developer $84,500 26% Bachelor’s degree
Web Developer $77,030 30% Bachelor’s degree
Health Information Tech Specialist $55,560 17% Associate degree

Computer and Information Systems Manager

Without computer systems managers, also known as IT managers , established companies would shut down and startups would never get going. As the person in charge of managing the technological operation of a whole organization, this computer science career requires deep knowledge of hardware, software, operating systems, and computer networks.

Computer and Information Research Scientist

No computer science career list would be complete without the computer professionals who actually call themselves scientists. Often working in academia or for the federal government, computer and information research scientists study the unsolved problems of computer science, make new discoveries, and work on designing the next generation of innovative technological products.

Hardware Engineer

Getting a job in computer hardware engineering requires a focus on the mechanical and electrical aspects of computers. A hardware engineer develops physical components, such as processors, memory, and motherboards. They may also work on equipment in cars or medical devices. This computer science career option is for those who enjoy hands-on implementation and want to work with a team of engineers to turn complex designs into reality.

Software Engineer

A software engineer is actually two computer science career paths in one, as this role can design either applications or systems. Software engineers help companies research the best way to meet software needs, and then design and develop the software itself. This type of computer science job appeals to anyone who can juggle a lot of different tasks. They can also work anywhere, from tech companies to government agencies.

Network Architect

Much like a traditional architect, a network architect sketches out and devises a network that connects various computer systems. Networks are crucial for sharing and distributing information, and network architects maintain these connections by developing the IP network hardware, including wide-area networks (WAN) and local-area networks (LAN).

Employers expect network architects to meet them where they’re at in their network needs, and to be versatile and dynamic with their designs. Becoming a network analyst usually requires more experience in network administration first, so don’t add this to your list of computer science jobs unless you’re prepared to spend some time building your technical skills.

Information Security Analyst

Cyber security is fast becoming one of the most indispensable computer science career options. Information security analysts enjoy a high median salary, and their ranks are expected to grow rapidly in the coming years. These analysts use their computing skills to implement security measures that prevent hackers from stealing sensitive information stored on computers

Data Scientist

Data scientists are in high demand and are one of the best computer science jobs today. The interlinked processes of collecting data, cleaning data, building data models, and running complex analyses on large datasets cannot be done without an intricate knowledge of computer programming.

Systems Analyst

A systems analyst works in the information technology field and the role focuses on organizing computer information systems. They are responsible for recommending tweaks and providing updates as needed. Professionals in this position may work for tech companies, or they might manage computer systems in banks or other companies in the financial realm.

Venus, a software engineer at Rockbot

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The responsibilities of a systems analyst entail consulting with and advising clients to help them utilize their computer systems efficiently. Must-have skills for this career in computer science include research, attention to detail, and interpersonal skills.

Database Administrator

A database administrator manages databases for a company or organization. Organizations and companies use databases to compile a ton of information, allowing it to easily be accessed when needed. Database administrators keep everything organized and fix any issues that arise. If you want to work under the hood, this is the computer science career path for you.

Computer Programmer

A computer programmer writes code based on the design of a software developer or engineer. In other words, computer programmers use programming languages and libraries to bring software ideas to life. Testing and improving code is also a big part of the job, making this a good computer science career option for anyone who enjoys the nitty-gritty of coding.

Video Game Developer

A video game developer might design games for mobile phones, home computers, or commercial consoles. Their job focuses on bringing conceptual designs to life through coding, and they work with other graphic artists, writers, and developers. Game developers are always working on new versions of games, adding more components, and fixing bugs.

Web Developer

Of all the careers in computer science, web development may be the most popular. It entails writing code to create a website’s layout and formatting. With a focus on functionality and pleasing visuals, front end web developers bridge the gap between a client’s brand and the user experience. Many web development jobs are available to students fresh out of college, and coding bootcamps are a popular route into this profession.

Health Information Tech Specialists

A health information technology specialist bridges the gap between health and information technology. The duties of a health IT specialist include managing databases of patient history and keeping this information secure. Many specialists focus on more granular tasks, such as compiling disease registries. Hospitals are not the only places that hire health IT specialists. Laboratories and public health organizations do so as well.

Computer Science Degree Career Paths: Which Careers Require a Degree?

The career paths a computer science degree offers are many, as you can see in the table above. All of these computer science career paths are easier to pursue if you go to college, but you do not need a university education for all of the occupations on our list. The kinds of jobs for which a computer science degree is important are those that involve overseeing complex operations or conducting high-stakes research.

Unsurprisingly, then, the highest-paying job with a computer science degree is a computer systems manager, followed by a computer research scientist. Suffice it to say that a CS degree is a valuable commodity. While you can get all of the jobs on our list with a computer science degree, the jobs for which a computer science degree is usually required are the following:

  • Computer and information systems manager
  • Computer and information research scientist
  • Hardware engineer
  • Network architect

How to Get a Job in Computer Science Without a Degree

Computer science jobs without degree requirements are relatively common among software engineers, web developers, data professionals, systems analysts, video game developers, and IT support professionals. While a degree does increase your chances of landing a job, it is possible to get a computer science job without a degree by following one of the routes below.

Study on Your Own and Build Your Network

While computer science is the name of both a career field and a degree program, you do not need a degree in computer science to enter the field. You can get into computer science without a degree by acquiring computer science skills online, building a portfolio, and attending tech events and conferences . Meeting people in the field is a great way to get your name out there.

Gain Experience and Get a Certification

Some people climb the ladder in computer science by gaining experience instead of going to college. The best computer science internships for high school students are one way to get your foot in the door. Another way is to find an entry-level position and start studying for certification exams. A certification from CompTIA or Microsoft serves as proof that you know your stuff.

Join a Coding Bootcamp

Since most computer science career paths require coding, it is often the case that coding bootcamps are a viable alternative to CS degrees . Coding bootcamps provide flexible and immersive training in just a few short months. The certificate you get at the end of your training could be your ticket to becoming a software engineer without a computer science degree.

Where Do Computer Scientists Work?

A room full of qualified computer science professionals working on multiple monitors.
The best places to work in computer science are the ones where you have creative control over the projects you do.

Computer scientists work in a variety of industries and locations. It is not just tech companies that hire people for computer science jobs. Other places that use computer technology include consulting companies, hospitals, government agencies, and more. The companies, organizations, and clients in need of computer science services are numerous.

It may be easier to talk about places that don’t employ computer scientists than places that do. Most businesses have an online platform that needs to be maintained by someone with web development skills at the very least. That being said, scientific knowledge of computers is not always a requirement. Below are the economy’s three main computer science industries.

Computer and Electronics Manufacturing

Many engineering departments combine computer science and electrical engineering as a single major. This makes sense because computer scientists need to understand the electrical processes at the heart of computing. Any computer science career path that focuses on hardware engineering is likely to set you up in the electronics manufacturing industry.

Computer Systems Design

Many computer scientists work in computer systems design, which is the industry that deals with the interaction of software, hardware, and computer networks. Professionals with one of these computer science industry jobs not only need to know how to code and how to build computers. They also need to understand operating systems and data processing.

Software Publishing

While software engineering and computer science are not the same thing, software engineers have one of the fastest-growing jobs that require computer science skills. New software products are constantly being developed, and the latest artificial intelligence and machine learning applications are only increasing the demand for people who can write software.

Computer Science Salary and Job Outlook

In terms of salary, computer science is a lucrative field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary across computer science professions is $97,430 per year. Another way of measuring computer science salary is by looking at the salaries of computer science degree holders. PayScale estimates that, on average, a Bachelor’s in Computer Science is worth $81,000 per year.

Whether you get a degree or attend a bootcamp, the job outlook for computer science graduates is good. BLS projects 15 percent growth across all computer science occupations between 2021 and 2031. It is not even that unusual to get hired right out of college or a coding bootcamp, and salaries for entry-level computer science positions are high. According to PayScale, for example, the average entry-level software engineer earns $78,212 per year.

What Career in Computer Science Is Right for Me?

The right career in computer science for you depends on your goals, constraints, and natural abilities. If you have the time and resources to get a degree, consider a career in computer science research or IT management. If coding is where your interests lie, join a bootcamp and pursue a computer science career path that involves software or web development.

Computer Science Career Paths FAQ

Is computer science a good career?

Computer science is a good career for anyone with an interest in technology, an affinity for problem-solving, and a desire for job security. Among computer science professionals, annual salaries and projected job growth rates are generally high, with only a few exceptions. It’s a vast field, too, so you’ll have many careers in computer science to choose from, not just one.

How hard is it to get a job in computer science?

How hard it is to get a job in computer science depends on the career path you wish to pursue. That being said, most occupations in computer science are growing so fast that there are more openings than qualified candidates. If you have the patience and discipline to get a computer science degree or coding bootcamp certificate, you can help close the digital skills gap .

What is the difference between computer science careers and information technology careers?

The main difference between computer science careers and information technology careers is the amount of knowledge required to do the work. Whereas IT professionals need to know how computers and other information systems work, CS professionals need to be able to build these systems from the ground up, mainly through computer programming.

How long does it take to become a computer programmer?

It typically takes four years, which is the standard length of a bachelor’s degree program, to become a computer programmer. For most programming jobs, however, the only essential requirement is knowing how to code. If you practice every day and take on ever more difficult coding challenges, you could become a good programmer in as little as a year.

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Rhita Koubbi

About the author: Rhita is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys feeling clever about breaking down complex topics in coding and making tech accessible to anyone.

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