Are Computer Science Majors Happy?
November 01, 2022
People working in the computer science field with advanced computer science degrees—programmers, software developers, and software engineers—earn high salaries and report high job satisfaction.
For a lot of people, the seisemic changes in the nation’s white-collar workplaces over the past few years have (perhaps forever) altered the way they view their jobs and their job satisfaction. Of course, much of this is the result of the sudden shift to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many workers found that they could do their jobs just as well from the comfort of their homes.
To some in the workforce, this is a positive change, allowing for a greater work-life balance and more flexible work hours, both strong indicators of workplace happiness. Other indicators of workplace happiness include enjoying one’s work and deriving satisfaction from the contributions you make toward your company's success, feeling engaged with projects that are challenging but achievable, having access to professional development opportunities, and perks like flex hours and summer Fridays off.
In its recent annual employee benefits report, MetLife found that "today’s workers, to a greater extent than in the past, expect employers to recognize the importance of their lives inside and outside of work." Employees look for purposeful work, flexible work hours, an inclusive office culture and affinity groups, expanded leave programs, flexible working hours, financial planning support, and even pet insurance.
These reset expectations are all solid gauges of employee satisfaction, but the timeless (and biggest) indicator of happiness at work comes from feeling that you’re being paid sufficiently for your efforts. For some younger employees, particularly those in the gig economy, financial security and satisfaction are harder to come by. As Money reports, most younger workers aren’t doing as well as they’d like: "65 percent of Gen Z respondents (those born between 1997 and 2012) say their biggest financial concern this year is having enough money to buy housing." In addition, only 48 percent of these respondents reported feeling "financially healthy" (compared to 64 percent of all workers).
Are computer science majors happy with their choices and prospective careers? This article explores that question and also discusses:
- The value of a computer science degree
Are computer science majors happy?
Delving deeper into MetLife's benefits survey, we find that "job satisfaction is at a 20-year low—with young workers feeling the brunt of the blow…" More troublingly, the results suggest that "employee morale is even worse in 2022."
Despite this dour outlook for most younger workers, one particular segment of this workforce score high in workplace happiness surveys: young people employed at tech companies. For computer science majors, choosing a career path in information technology appears to be a very good idea. Computer science jobs consistently rank high in terms of work-life balance. In addition, they pay well, and there are numerous job opportunities in technology, where high demand is a near-constant. Computer science graduates can find work in areas like cybersecurity, data science, and information technology and enjoy job satisfaction that typically is high above the national average for other industries.
According to Glassdoor’s article, "Burnout on the Rise": "Of the 20 highest-rated companies for work-life balance, seven are in tech, which is the most-represented industry on the list." Glassdoor also notes that the tech industry topped the list of labor sectors whose employees reported a good work-life balance. (Tech also was well-positioned to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and experienced little disruption, since the industry already offered flexible remote-work policies and utilized video conferencing.)
Notably, Java developers at startups topped Glassdoor’s 2021 list of the "50 Best Jobs in America". Other roles in Glassdoor’s top ten were data scientist, software engineer, and information security engineer—and machine learning engineer and data analyst also made the list. More computer science careers fall into this same grouping, including computer programmer, security analyst, software developer, database administrator, and web developer. All these positions are in high demand and usually require a master’s-level computer science degree for a high starting salary.
The value of a computer science degree
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that there is a clear, direct correlation between one’s level of education and their weekly earnings, and an inverse correlation with unemployment rates. BLS data reveals that "those with just a high school degree earn $746 per week on average while college graduates earn closer to $1,248 per week, and workers with master’s degrees earn nearly $1,500 per week."
While it is helpful to look at this overall view, it's difficult to generalize about the real-world value of every master's program. In some industries, a master's degree is not that valuable (as it doesn’t necessarily boost your salary and easily help pay off loans taken out for your master’s degree), while in others it can significantly increase your lifetime earnings.
According to the Georgetown University study "The College Payoff: More Education Doesn’t Always Mean More Earnings," people working the computer science field who have earned their master’s earn a median of half a million more dollars over their lifetime than their peers who only hold a bachelor’s ($4.3 million versus $3.8 million). The cost of a computer science master’s degree is between $15,000 and $72,000. So, earning a computer science master’s degree appears to pay off for many people in the computer science field (and one assumes this contributes to their high levels of job satisfaction).
For so many computer science majors, pursuing a master's degree and securing a career in the world of technology is just what they always wanted. They tend to share a love of computer science courses, extra coursework in programming languages, an interest in algorithms and patterns, and have a knack for problem-solving and engineering. All of this leads many computer science students to computer science programs, rewarding internships in the field, and long and satisfying careers in tech.
So, the answer is yes. In general, most computer science majors are happy with their field of study and career.
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