Computers are everywhere and we use them for just about everything thanks, in large part, to computer scientists. Marshalling their creative insights along with their mathematical and scientific skills, computer scientists design, develop and apply the technologies that define contemporary society. From social media apps to advances in artificial intelligence to online and network security systems, computer scientists play a key role in enabling us to navigate the modern world.
As a computer science major you will study software, software systems and even sometimes computer hardware. You will not only learn how to program and code. You will also learn how to determine what problems computers can tackle, how to create the algorithms that actually solve those problems and how to design innovative apps that work as well on your desktop computer as they do on your smart watch.
Computer science students need to be keen to flex their mathematical muscles and dig deep into the science and theory behind computer technologies. Abstract, logical and analytical thinking is crucial in this field, so be prepared to think outside the box if you want to become a skilled computer scientist.
Specializing in Computer Science
After completing the core requirements—subjects like calculus, linear algebra, physics, chemistry and engineering—computer science majors can specialize in several different areas. Those include: computer or software engineering, database systems, networks, security, graphics, human-computer interaction and more. Students in this field should focus on creating a portfolio, rather than simply a resume, to show their programing knowledge and ability. Portfolios are the most common way to highlight projects and coding skills to future employers.
Computer Science Careers
There is a significant variety of careers a computer science major could have, including: computer and information research scientist, computer game designer, artificial intelligence network engineer, Java developer, computer graphics developer, computer network architects, computer programmers, software or systems engineer, computer systems analysts and software/web developers. You could end up working for the government, the military, private corporations or in academia.
Where You Could End Up Living
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as of May 2018, the states with the highest employment levels for computer and information research scientists were:
- California (7,300)
- Maryland (2,900)
- Virginia (2,740)
- Texas (1,830)
- Washington (1,480)
If you're looking to live and work somewhere that maximizes your earnings, then try Washington, Alabama, Idaho, New Mexico or California—the top five states with the highest mean annual wage. More specifically, big metropolitan areas like San Jose and Seattle had some of the highest salaries, but so too did smaller cities like Hunstville, Alabama, the Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Florida, area and Albuquerque, New Mexico. All of these locations had higher mean annual wages than even San Francisco, Boulder, Portland, Oregon, and the New York metropolitan area.
How Much Do Computer Scientists Make?
The mean annual wage (the mid-point, not the average) for computer and information research scientists was $118,370 in May 2018, according to the BLS. The lowest 10 percent of these workers earned less than $69,230, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $183,820. The top earning industry for computer and information research scientists was software publishing, with a mean annual salary of $140,220.
Job Outlook for Computer Scientists
Job prospects in this field are excellent with the BLS projecting employment to grow 19 percent from 2016 to 2026. That's significantly higher than the 7 percent projected growth for all occupations. But it's not surprising since demand for new and better technologies is almost sure to increase and computer scientists will be needed to create these groundbreaking advancements. However, it's important to note that the occupation overall is relatively small. So even a decade of employment growth will only result in about 5,400 new jobs.