Computer science is beautiful. Computer science is fascinating. But is computer science fun?
It depends on whom you ask. Some regard computer science as just a means to an end—i.e., making money—and chances are, they don't think this discipline is very fun. They couldn't care less that, thanks to computer science, we can now 3D print food or that people are using code to make beautiful art.
Then there are the people who get a kick out of learning how to apply new technologies and complex problem-solving to make the impossible possible. They love to tax their brains to the maximum extent.
You might say computer science is fun—just a very particular brand of fun very different from what you've seen on television and in the movies. Here are some things computer science is not:
Can it be creative? Yes. Can it be thrilling? That's up for debate. "Almost all movies will give a bad portrayal of this," writes one Quora commenter in a thread about how movies portray programming. "Eight hours sitting in a coffee shop with your laptop trying to find out why your code isn't working is not an interesting thing for others to watch."
It might, however, be an interesting thing to experience if you have the right temperament. That makes answering a question like "What are the least fun computer science jobs?" tough. If you love your branch of computer science, you'll probably find many of the jobs associated with it fun. On the other hand, if you're thinking about getting into comp sci for the money, you'll probably lump all CS jobs in the "not fun" category.
In this article about the least fun computer science jobs, we cover:
Computer science can be divided into two broad categories:
Within those categories, there are many subcategories—each of which encompasses many different roles in industries as diverse as healthcare and finance.
Computer architecture is concerned with how software and hardware work together to create functional and useful systems. Roles in this area of computing include:
AI and machine learning are hot topics right now, and pay in roles like these tends to be high:
Careers in theoretical computing tend to fall into two silos—research or academics:
HCI has many subfields, and jobs in this space include:
Data scientists work in all industries and have job titles like:
Good luck breaking into this field, where the competition for roles like these is fierce:
The applications of graphics in computing are numerous, with many roles related to visualization in computing, like:
Many people don't draw a hard distinction between cybersec jobs and infosec jobs like:
IT careers in networking tend to be secure. You usually won't need an advanced degree to work in roles like:
Professionals in this space develop the operating systems on which computers run. They have titles like:
Learn programming languages like Java, and you can get jobs like:
There are many roles in software beyond 'engineer' and 'developer,' like:
The people least likely to have fun working in computer science may be those drawn to the field because they want to become game developers or they enjoy building PCs. They quickly discover computer science is less about computers than it is about math—and that game development is one of the most challenging computer-focused fields to break into because everyone wants to be a part of it.
Other people understand what they're getting into when they launch computer science careers but still end up bored, stressed, or otherwise dissatisfied with their work.
Entry-level jobs in computer science often combine repetitive, routine work with entry-level pay. Titles at this level include:
These positions are seldom at the kinds of high-profile Silicon Valley tech firms newly minted comp sci degree holders dream about, though they eventually lead to bigger and better things for those who stick with them. The only problem is you might not be able to get one—which is a whole new level of not fun.
"Every time I look at job application postings on LinkedIn, it shows that for an entry-level position, there were like 30 percent applicants with a BS and the rest are people with master's degrees," writes one Redditor on a thread about the value of master's degrees in comp sci. "It blows my mind that I'm competing for an entry-level position with people with master's degrees."
Computer science jobs aren't stressful because they're hard, but because they're unpredictable. Uncertainty stinks, whether it's related to people, job security, compensation, or tech. Jobs with salaries tied to sales figures or other performance metrics are seldom fun. Roles involving real-time critical infrastructure failures are especially stressful. These include:
One of the least fun computer science jobs is Chief Information Security Officer. You'll earn about $165,000 in this role, but it'll be your rear end on the line when there's a breach. Maybe you lose your job. In the worst-case scenario, you face legal action.
These are just some of the titles on lists of the most boring computer science jobs and in blog posts written by people who can't believe how yawn-worthy their professional lives have turned out:
Whether you agree that the above roles are some of the least fun in computer science will probably depend on where you work. Doing relatively routine work at a funky paradigm-shifting startup can be tons of fun while solving interesting computational problems with custom algorithms might feel like a total grind at a major megacorp where job security is low and stress levels are high.
What we can say with relative certainty is that getting a Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) can be your ticket out of a less-than-fun computer science job and into jobs at companies like Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Netflix. Your computer science master's will give you the bona fides to get into the more esoteric and exciting specialties in comp sci—or into management, where the work isn't exactly fun, but the perks can be.
Computer science salaries also tend to rise with education. The median annual salary for bachelor's degree holders is about $86,000, while MSCS holders are more likely to earn closer to $103,000.
Should you get a computer science master's? A computer science master's degree is worth it—especially if it comes from one of the below colleges or universities.
You can get a computer science master's anywhere. There are great computer science programs in New Jersey, Boston, and everywhere else. HBCUs have MSCS programs, too.
The top computer science graduate programs in the US are offered by the following schools:
Online MSCS programs are a great option if you need to work while earning a computer science master's. The online computer science graduate programs at the following colleges and universities are some of the best:
Surprisingly, many of the above grad schools have computer science graduate programs for non-CS majors (including online MSCS programs for non-CS majors). You'll find out pretty quickly whether you're the sort of person who finds comp sci fun in them, as they often start with very dense survey courses designed to get students up to speed in one semester—and to weed out less serious students.
That said, take (almost) everything in this guide with a grain of salt. The fun computer science jobs will always be those that gel with your interests, aptitudes, and tolerance for pressure. Remember, some garbage collectors love their work and some CEOs are miserable because the highest-paying jobs aren't always the best ones. The smartest thing computer science majors can do is choose a career pathway in comp sci with an understanding of what the work is really like.
"I would say [computer science] is 10 percent fun and 90 percent sweat," explains one Redditor in a thread about whether this discipline is fun. "You can't know in advance which part will be fun, and you can't skip the sweat part. Sometimes the fun part is so much fun it compensates for the hard work, but sometimes it's not. You don't have to dedicate 100 percent of your life to computer science to be good at it, but if you want a job where you can sit all day and play ping pong, then it's not for you."
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