Computer science is a fast-growing field with numerous possibilities for careers. If you major in this cutting-edge discipline in college, you’re setting yourself up for a career with high earning potential and plenty of job opportunities — even right out of college. While more and more employers are hiring candidates without a degree in a technology-related discipline — or a degree at all — for technical roles these days, having this credential can help you land competitive jobs.
Considering studying computer science? Here are 15 lucrative jobs you can pursue with your degree.
Computer science, at its core, is the study of computers. It involves theory, practical applications, systems, software, hardware and much more. Programming and software development are integral to the field, but computer science is not limited to these areas.
As a computer science major, you’ll study topics like algorithms, artificial intelligence, engineering, logic, math, numerical analysis and physics and other sciences, along with engineering and programming. There are numerous subtopics in the discipline, as we’ll explore in greater detail below.
As a computer science major, you’ll probably take courses in subjects like:
• Artificial intelligence
• Computer architecture
• Computer science theory
• Data logic
• Data management
• Data mining
• Database systems
• Human-computer interaction
• Information technology
• Logic design
• Numerical analysis
• Operating systems
• Programming languages (often individual languages like C++, Java,
• Software engineering
• User architecture
Students will also usually participate in research projects while in school.
Computer science is closely related to computer engineering — in fact, at some colleges, computer science is a major within the engineering school or department. It’s an extremely challenging subject, and you must be a dedicated student and problem solver with strong skills in math, science, critical thinking and other areas in order to succeed in school and in your career.
While a graduate degree isn’t crucial to finding a career with a high earning potential in computer science, it can open up the door to additional opportunities, such as teaching or research.
There are many, many subfields within the broader discipline of computer science. Below are just some of the most common and popular examples you’ll encounter in college and in the professional world.
Software engineering is one of the most popular and important fields within computer science these days. It overlaps with software development in a number of ways, although its scope is somewhat larger and more complex.
Software engineers are responsible for many of the products we use in our work and personal lives every day, including programs like Microsoft Office, mobile and web apps, websites, systems and more.
Software engineering involves creating software from start to finish, including conceptualizing a program, system or product; determining requirements; designing the software; creating (building) the software; testing the software; and deploying the software.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a subfield of computer science that has been the subject of speculation, mystery and fear for centuries, inspiring books and films that foresee a world in which machines exceed humans in terms of intelligence. But in reality, it’s doing a lot of good, helping us advance technologically.
At its most basic level, AI is about machines that have intelligence. They can make decisions, tackle problems and act without human interference, although they must be initially programmed in order to function independently. Machine learning, a field within AI, involves technology learning patterns and becoming more sophisticated over time.
AI is a rapidly developing specialty, and those with extensive knowledge of it can find plenty of opportunities within the field.
Cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated in their attacks, which can wreak havoc on people’s lives and destroy businesses. That’s why professionals who specialize in cybersecurity play such an important role. Using a number of practices, cybersecurity specialists will work to identify vulnerabilities and develop and implement strategies for protecting networks, systems, devices, data and more from attacks or unauthorized access.
So-called white-hat hackers are one type of professional working in the larger field of cybersecurity. They will attempt to penetrate systems in order to spot vulnerabilities and help people and companies patch them in an effort to strengthen and protect the systems.
Data science intersects several fields, including computer science. Like the other categories on this list, it is a fast-growing and highly in-demand subfield. Data scientists use algorithms and other principles and processes to mine and clean data in order to extract useful information to help businesses glean insights.
Data scientists ensure that they are presenting information that is actionable and relevant. This data is critical in allowing organizations to make educated, informed decisions.
Computer science majors have an extremely high earning potential. Annual salaries are often in the six-figure range, depending on the particular niche and specialty. These can be even higher when graduates earn a master’s or doctorate in the field, although, as we’ve discussed, a graduate degree isn’t usually necessary for finding a lucrative job in a computer science or related discipline.
According to PayScale, a software development director earns $162,000 on average, and this is one of the highest-paying jobs for people with computer science degrees. This is not an entry-level position, but even roles that require less experience are often well paid. A SalesForce developer, for example, earns $109,000 annually on average, according to the same report, while a cybersecurity engineer has a similar average salary.
As you’ll see from the list below, while the salaries for different positions related to the field do vary, they’re often quite high on average. Remember, too, that factors like the number of years of experience, location, highest level of education and others play a role in earning potential.
While a computer science degree isn’t usually critical for landing these jobs,many people in the niches do come from this or a related major or discipline. These are just some of the top positions you can land with your degree.
Average annual salary: $109,175 (Indeed)
One of the most well-known and common jobs in the computer science field, software developers are responsible for building the software we use on a day-to-day basis. They are closely related to software engineers, who usually oversee the software development process from start to finish. Both types of professionals must be able to write and read code in several programming languages in order to build and maintain programs, systems and products.
Average annual salary: $107,755 (Indeed)
Computer hardware engineers are the brains behind the physical systems, such as memory devices and circuit boards, in contrast to software engineers, who deal exclusively with the programs on these devices. In this role, you’ll be responsible for designing, building, testing, maintaining and repairing these physical devices and systems. As software evolves, hardware engineers must devise new ways and plans to meet these changing needs.
Average annual salary: $86,951 (Indeed)
Cybersecurity analysts are tasked with protecting computer networks, systems, devices, programs and data against threats and attacks from malicious sources. They play a critical role in warding off potentially highly damaging cyberattacks, including data breaches, which cost businesses across the world millions of dollars each year. This professional researches current threats and devises and implements ways of protecting companies and individuals.
Average annual salary: $117,497 (Indeed)
Mobile application — or mobile app — developers are one niche of developer that specializes in creating apps for devices like smartphones and tablets. Often, they focus on Android or iOS development. Given how important apps have become to our daily lives, skilled mobile app developers are in high demand as businesses try to create the next great product.
Average annual salary: $164,769 (ZipRecruiter)
Average annual salary: $98,195 (Indeed)
User experience (UX) design combines several different fields, including computer science, graphic design, marketing and more. The goal of the professional is to create a compelling experience for the end-user, whether via a website, application, program or another product. As businesses seek to build products that are not only functional but engaging for the user, UX designers play an increasingly integral role in development.
Average annual salary: $122,515 (Indeed)
Networks are pivotal to business operations, facilitating communication and collaboration throughout the company. The network architect is responsible for designing, creating and testing these networks, including intranets, extranets and more. They are critical members of technological teams (such as information technology or IT departments) at businesses.
Average annual salary: $69,739 (Indeed)
While network architects design and build networks, network administrators manage and maintain them. The administrator also oversees the networks, educating employees, managing all types of these systems and providing additional support as needed. Additionally, they will work on pushing out updates and serve as technological point people.
Average annual salary: $76,276 (Indeed)
With a computer science or related degree, a systems analyst will be well prepared to oversee a business' computer systems strategy. They are tasked with assessing their organization's technological needs, creating a plan for implementing new systems and/or upgrading existing ones and advising leadership on the best course of action, as well as educating employees on how to use new systems.
Average annual salary: $94,807 (Indeed)
Data is fundamental to helping businesses operate and grow. And in order to properly store, maintain and protect data, they need databases. Those databases, in turn, require the oversight and management of a qualified professional with the necessary technological and project-management skills — a database administrator. Database administrators wear several hats, building these databases, ensuring proper use, making them accessible and educating users, as well as strengthening security and facilitating troubleshooting.
Average annual salary: $101,644 (ZipRecruiter)
Do you love playing video games? As a game developer, not only do you get to enjoy games but build them as well. Combining skills and competencies like design, software development, critical thinking and more, a game developer devises concepts for and develops games that will appeal to users. In addition to a strong technological background, these professionals must have creativity. A degree in computer science isn't critical, but without one, a prospective game developer will need to prove their skills through experience and a varied portfolio.
Average annual salary: $75,028 (Indeed)
Few people are strangers to the importance of web development — the creation of websites, web applications, web programs and web pages. Given how big a role websites and other web products play in today's landscape, it's no wonder that skilled web developers are in high demand. While the role of web developer differed from that of web designer, with the latter focusing on design and user appeal over programming the website, sometimes, the two positions overlap.
Average annual salary: $122,338 (Indeed)
Data science has played an increasingly critical role in the business role as of late. Data scientists are math and statistical masters who develop models for gathering, analyzing and developing conclusions from data sets. With their findings, they are instrumental in helping organizational leaders make important decisions about their businesses and strategies.
Average annual salary: $100,196 (Indeed)
Product management sits at the intersection of fields like software development, project management, marketing, market research and several others. Essentially, a person with this role formulates strategies and develops requirements for products based on research into market demand and the digital landscape. Depending on the organization, a product manager may or may not play a heavily technical role.
Average annual salary: $109,381 (Glassdoor)
Many of the applications and programs we use regularly — Google Suite, Dropbox, Facebook and Gmail — are all cloud-based. The cloud has become a pivotal part of our day-to-day life, and with it, so are cloud engineers. These technology professionals devise, maintain and plan cloud solutions that offer security, efficiency, flexibility and many more benefits to users and businesses.
These are just some of the many roles people with a computer science background and degree can have in our increasingly digital landscape. Armed with education and experience in this important sector, you'll be well-prepared to land a high-paying, important job.
*Actual salaries can vary significantly based on factors like experience and location; these are just reported national averages.