What Can You Do With a Computer Science Degree?
Perhaps one of the only disadvantages of gaining a degree in computer science is that you may end up graduating with more IT career options than you know what to do with!
OK, so this is not really a disadvantage, particularly if you like having lots of choice. Nevertheless, it is something to consider before, during, and after your studies to make sure you are aware of all the pathways open to you and to ensure you are focusing your efforts in the right areas.
So, what can you do with a computer science degree?
From web developer to IT consultant, we provide insight into many of the common computer science careers for graduates, as well as details on alternative and emerging careers for those eager to pursue paths less traveled.
Those pursuing a degree in computer science will learn theory and programming. The curriculum at it's core prepares nimble students who can adapt to new technologies fast. This makes sense, as computer languages evolve, new languages develop, and innovation paves new ways of using technology, those in the career field must be able to keep up with those new technologies just as quick.
Keep reading and learn about a wide variety of career options available to those pursuing a degree in computer science.
Typical Computer Science Careers
What can you do with a computer science degree? Perhaps the easier question would be to ask what can't you do with a computer science degree? While some senior career roles are generally reserved for master's and PhD graduates, the titles listed are generally open to bachelor's degree graduates, often providing strong opportunities for progression.
As there is no standardization of job titles within the IT world, a systems developer may be known by many names, including database/software/web developer, engineer and programmer, all dependent on the "system" in question. Often the job title will include the programming language involved, such as Java Programmer or C# Developer. Broadly, systems developers are tasked to create, maintain, and fix both hard and/or software systems to meet certain business needs, often working under instruction of a systems analyst or architect. Common responsibilities include designing, developing and testing code for operating systems and software applications. In addition to building, developers are also hired to improve existing software and systems, analyzing data in order to recommend and create better, more efficient systems for their employer. Like many computer science careers this job sees steady progression, leading on to systems or applications specialist roles across an array of industries.
If you are interested in the practical question of how computers actually work, computer programming may be for you. In this role you'll be responsible for creating and testing code for computer programs, writing programs that can store, find and retrieve data and developing software solutions based on the needs of real users. While similar to developer roles, computer programmers will often specialize in just one programming language, while developers may be expected to know multiple languages.
Web developers are the people who write websites and web applications and ensure they run smoothly from the technical side. Any large website worth its bandwidth will have an entire team of developers behind it, whose collective job is to build a site from the ground up (creating back-end software and databases and front-end interface and design), identify and fix technical problems, update the system and back up files in case of malfunctions. Some web developers will work solely on either the back-end or front-end, while others straddle the two, which is known as "full-stack development". Regardless of which end you work on, as a web developer you will likely be working closely with content and design teams to create beautiful, functional and technically sound websites for their users.
The role of a systems analyst is to unite the worlds of business and IT by planning system solutions in line with the company's business targets. As well as a thorough understanding of computer systems, a systems analyst must also have a strong understanding of business. Responsibilities include analyzing data processing issues, improving system compatibility and the flow of information, working out memory and speed requirements and liaising with business teams in order to provide and run an effective computer system. In addition to a very healthy starting salary, there is much room for job progression, including the opportunity of becoming a senior computer systems analyst.
A database administrator is tasked with maintenance and development of a computer database, ensuring performance, reliability and security to its users. As a database administrator, you will address the needs of your users and monitor accessibility, security and performance of your database. In addition to back-end organization, you will also be responsible for front-end design and user-friendliness. Knowledge of and adherence to data standards is a must. Database administrators often work closely with IT project managers, database programmers and multimedia programmers, so sound technical communication skills are also required.
Software QA Tester
A software quality assurance tester, otherwise known as a QA tester or QA engineer, has the job of ensuring developed software meets standardized quality specifications. Often an ongoing role throughout the development process, a QA tester will monitor and test new products, making sure they adhere to government guidelines while also guaranteeing a timely and organized release to the public. In addition to sound analyst ability, a QA tester will have strong communication, timekeeping and organizational skills. Examples of hiring companies include Logitech and Intel.
As an IT consultant your job is to work with clients and businesses to provide IT solutions to business objectives. Often the role is advisory and so its not uncommon for consultants to work on a contractual basis for a number of different companies across a range of industries. As well as providing technical expertise and advice, an IT consultant will liaise with clients to define project requirements, plan timescales and oversee the design, testing, implementation and monitoring of new systems. Having solid communication skills is important as a consultant, as you'll often be responsible for meeting clients, organizing training and providing progress reports. Sales and business aptitude is also extremely helpful for maintaining business contacts and establishing new clients.
Computer science degree graduates with creative flair might consider multimedia programming, a career which allows you to apply your technical skills to the development of multimedia products including web graphics, audio and text, 2D/3D Modelling, animation and digital photography. Often working to the specification of a designer, a multimedia programmer (also known as an interactive, new or digital media programmer) will advise and create code to implement what is needed, ensuring correct front-end experience in addition to technical efficiency and processing. A relatively new and constantly changing field, to be a competitive multimedia programmer you should be a keen researcher with an eye for design, willing to stay up-to-date with emerging technologies and solutions.
Alternative Computer Science Careers
In addition to the common careers above, there are many less-ordinary career options open to graduates with a computer science degree. As well as the examples outlined below, you could also consider academic, training and research roles. As a new graduate you'd also be wise to keep your eye on emerging areas such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, geoscience, interface design, and robotics.
If you never could quite manage to leave your teenage gaming days behind you, maybe a career as a games developer is for you. Here you can use the technical skills learned during your degree in computer science and apply them to creating and producing anything from games consoles to mobile games. Graduates with design experience may be involved with art and animation, but the majority of computer science degree graduates will focus on the programming side (using languages such as C++), often working alongside a team of programmers to take the game from concept to quality testing and through to the final product. Games developer is a broad term and may also cover jobs titles such as AI/engine/network programmer, games artist/animator/editor/3D modeler, audio engineer, producer, quality assurance tester or special effects technician.
Cyber Security Consultant
A career of ever-growing importance in the modern world, cyber security consultants are IT security specialists who advise on and help prevent security risks to digital information and data. Cyber security consultants will restore and reinforce breached systems, ensure the protection of confidential data and analyze the likelihood of security threats. If you've always wanted to be a hacker but lack anarchist motivations, consider "ethical hacker" roles where you will be tasked with deliberately hacking a network in order to expose system weaknesses. Other similar career opportunities include computer forensics analysis and cyber crime investigation.
In a world where consumer markets are increasingly moving online, gaining data on these consumers is big business in order to better target buyers of services and products. A data scientist or data miner's job then, is to find, analyze and organize this data so that it can be used for business purposes. Data scientists can be found in business and finance, e-commerce, government, healthcare and social networking amidst such companies including tech frontrunners Google and Facebook, as well as the likes of PayPal, Trulia, McGraw-Hill, and Capital One. While a specialized degree may be favored, computer science graduates are likely to be welcomed into this field, due to its increased demand and importance across multiple industries.
If you are keen to express your knowledge of computer languages in a language non-technical folk can understand, you could use your degree in computer science to become a technical author. Technical authors are responsible for writing things such as user guides for software applications, instruction manuals, training guides, videos and graphics and online help sections. An understanding of technical products and applications is a must but so to is a strong command of written language and grammar. In addition to media and publishing industries, technical authors are hired across a diverse range of industries from finance and manufacturing to government and defense.
Computer Science Degree Employers
Common employers of computer science degree graduates include IT consultancies and IT service providers which hire out their expertise to a wide array of businesses, often on a contractual basis. Aside from external contracted IT companies however, you should also consider searching for careers within the IT departments of major organizations across a wide number of sectors, including but not limited to aerospace, defense, e-commerce, financial services, government, healthcare and telecommunications.
Opportunities for Further Study
The exciting thing about the question of what can you do with a computer science degree is that the answer is always changing! New technologies are being introduced at an alarming rate and therefore, if you are looking to remain competitive in the industry, you must grow alongside it and be willing to keep learning even after completing your computer science degree. The good news is that often IT companies and or IT departments in large companies will invest in continual training for their staff in order for them (and you) to keep abreast of trends and innovations. As well as on the job training, employers may also provide you with the opportunity for further study (such as a further specialized degree or other professional qualification) in return for a few years of your employment.
Skills Gained with a Degree in Computer Science
Knowing and marketing your skills is just as important as having them, and a degree in computer science can provide you with many functional hard and soft skills including:
- Communication and coordination
- Teamwork and leadership
- Business intelligence
- Report writing
- Problem solving
- Project and process flow
- Awareness of industry standards and commerce
- Ability to cope with technological changes
- Basic customer service