Whether you're fresh out of school or thinking about a career change, you're bound to face plenty of questions when choosing a field. What will provide the salary you need to live comfortably? What can promise the schedule and work environment that suits you best? What offers the most job security?
If you are interested in technology, you've likely given some thought to pursuing a career path in computer science. We wouldn't blame you. The field not only offers a wide variety of compelling and diverse occupations but also impressive salaries and steady demand.
Computer science jobs aren't just growing at the moment—they're skyrocketing. According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of computer and information technology professionals is projected to grow 12 percent through to 2028, adding about 546,200 new jobs.
BLS data also show that many common career paths among computer science degree-holders lead to six-figure salaries. For instance, in 2018, the median annual income among software developers was $105,590. Computer network architects took home a median annual income of $112,690 the following year.
When some think of computer science jobs, they often think only of programming, but the field casts a much wider net. Employment opportunities in computer science include the many disciplines the field encompasses: software design, computer security, information systems, big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and much, much more. With this in mind, here are a few entry-level jobs to consider.
Our guide to entry-level computer science jobs answers these questions:
Computer science offers a wide range of full-time entry-level jobs that require minimal work experience. These jobs can open doors to more advanced professional opportunities down the line.
Entry-level positions may include terms like "junior," "assistant," or "associate" in job postings to signify that they hold a lesser degree of responsibility than mid-level or senior positions within an organization. May require some on-the-job training.
Software engineers typically employ engineering principles and programming languages to develop applications and systems software. Applications engineers typically design, build, install, and maintain applications, usually on a large scale, for a business or organization. System engineers maintain the IT infrastructure of a company. Professionals in either role tend to be intellectual, instinctive problem-solvers. They also typically work within a team alongside other programmers and stakeholders, which makes communication skills a must. As an entry-level engineer, you will likely complete assignments created by a supervisor who closely monitors your work.
Professionals with this job title fall into three general categories, with each one fulfilling a unique need in the website creation process. The front-end developer creates the look, feel, and interactive components of a website, including how text, images, and colors are displayed and how the user experience translates on different screen types. Back-end web developers code server-side web application logic and integration of the work front-end developers do, which enables the user-facing side of the website to function.
Lastly, full-stack developers work on both front-end and back-end parts of a website. These professional jacks-of-all-trades are known for their in-depth expertise of the server-side of web programming and the front-end languages that control how content looks on a site's user-facing side. Entry-level employees tend to start in either the front-end or back-end, but you may find a full-stack role if your employer is small enough.
The systems that allow computers to share information and apps are called computer networks. They don't just happen; someone has to set them up, keep them running, and make sure they remain safe from cyber attacks and intruders. Network architects create these systems—you won't be doing that as an entry-level employee—then hand them off to administrators for day-to-day operations.
Quality engineers work within a broader team of designers, developers, and product managers to track the development process of a product from start to finish. Their overall aim is to make sure that the final product is safe, reliable, and meets customer expectations. QA also looks for opportunities to keep the manufacturing process as productive and cost-effective as possible.
Many in this entry-role are employed by large companies that produce software or are in web development. They're responsible for designing and implementing tests to find bugs in software for developers to fix. They also review system requirements and track quality assurance metrics to ensure that quality testing remains constant throughout the manufacturing process.
Computer systems analysts help companies and other organizations use computer technology to their greatest advantage. To do so, they're responsible for monitoring the hardware and software that are part of an organization's computer systems and either working to improve them or develop new systems that benefit the organization more substantially.
They typically specialize in certain types of computer systems specific to the industry they work in, such as healthcare-based computer systems or financial computer systems. In the business world, they may hold the title of IT business analyst, since they infuse technological solutions to business-related problems and align IT development with the operational systems that run an organization. As an entry-level analyst, you'll assist a senior analyst by gathering data, running tests, and making suggestions.
Programmers may be specialists in one type of computer programming or generalists who write code for many kinds of software. They're generally responsible for taking designs created by software developers and engineers and turning them into sets of instructions—or source codes—using programming languages such as Java, C++, and Ruby.
Writing source code often requires expertise in many different subjects, including knowledge of the application domain, specialized algorithms, and logic, as well as the ability to correct bugs and test software to ensure it's free of errors and working optimally.
IT support specialists provide technical support for an employer, its customers, and its staff. Their work may include installing, configuring, and updating hardware and software, and fixing any issue related to a user's equipment. Depending on their employer's size, their work may span several areas of expertise or departments or be more eclectic in scope. For example, some companies hire IT support specialists to work on either desktop computers or portable devices. Others may require them to tend to a wide variety of frequently changing requests.
Many entry-level jobs require a bachelor's degree in computer science, computer engineering, information technology, or a related field. Students in bachelor's-level computer science programs typically learn basic programming languages like Pascal, Logo, and Python and explore operating systems, software development, and testing platforms. Many undergraduate programs also require students to complete an internship to get a head start on shaping their career plans while growing their professional networks and gaining real-world experience.
While a bachelor's degree may be the norm, many employers hire candidates with relevant work experience whose highest level of education is an associate's degree. These programs are typically two years in length and emphasize both general liberal arts and computer science courses.
Additionally, some recruiters are willing to overlook a lack of undergraduate education for entry-level candidates who show proof of their ambition and willingness to learn, whether that's through a strong portfolio, professional certification, or other criteria. Even some of the most well-known technology companies in the world—Google and Apple included—consider non-degree-holding applicants whose portfolios demonstrate promising skills and intelligence.
Career advancement generally requires candidates to have substantial technical know-how and strong management skills, which can be gained through a combination of continued education and additional years of experience. Some candidates may choose to upskill through data science boot camps or self-teaching. Others may complete a master's degree to secure their advancement into these roles, which blend computer science with leadership duties.
In general, computer science master's programs provide students an in-depth knowledge of advanced topics in the field while prioritizing problem-solving and reasoning. Course requirements vary by program, but most include technical coursework in areas like programming, algorithms, cryptography, data science, and network security.
Many programs also operate in an online format, allowing students to balance their education with the demands of family, work, and other outside obligations. The online MS in computer science at Tufts University is one example. The program requires students to complete 33 credit hours comprising 10 courses and a capstone project. They can typically finish their degree in under two years.
Often referred to as a systems architect or IT architect, a computer network architect designs efficient, cost-conscious network infrastructures that meet the long-term IT and business goals of an organization while also permitting the organization to achieve its short-term goals and financial obligations.
Day-to-day, you'll most likely find this position monitoring and analyzing their organization's network performance and reporting on data input or output to detect problems, identifying unproductive use of computer resources, or budgeting technology roadmaps. They're also responsible for regularly communicating with their organizations' system users to diagnose and solve operational IT problems.
IT directors play an essential role in their organizations' IT management strategies. They are often responsible for maintaining the accessibility, functionality, and security of all computer resources. They function as both leaders and tech specialists, with responsibilities ranging from recruiting, training, and managing a team of IT staff to developing specialized data security and information management policies to help mitigate a wide range of cyber security risks.
Also known as a computer and information research scientist, computer scientists are responsible for exploring fundamental issues in computation and developing theories and models to address them. Their work affects computing processes in business, science, medicine, and a range of other fields. It often leads to technological advancements such as better networking technology, faster computing speeds, and improved information security.
Computer and information research scientist jobs operate at a more theoretical level than other computer-based professions. They typically require candidates to have a master's degree in computer science or a related field. According to the BLS, however, a bachelor's degree may be sufficient for computer scientist roles within the federal government.
Data scientists work closely with business stakeholders to understand their goals and determine how data can be used to achieve those goals. More specifically, they're responsible for collecting, analyzing, and interpreting large amounts of data to answer questions and drive strategy. Professionals in this role have business acumen and analytical skills as well as the ability to mine, clean, and present data and communicate their findings in a way that drives business decisions.
Many employers hiring for cyber security-focused jobs prioritize candidates with advanced degrees, including those seeking out c-suite positions. As an executive, the CISO oversees an organization's information and data security policies, programs, and procedures.
Day-to-day, they may work closely with the executive team to develop information security policies and procedures, supervise teams of computer analysts, information security specialists, and other professionals, and prepare financial forecasts for security operations and maintenance. They also hold other duties related to the strategic, operational, and budgetary aspects of data management and protection.
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