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  • Computer science is study of hardware and software design, programming, and the way humans interact with technology.
  • Strong problem solving and analytical skills are essential in the computer science field.
  • Computer systems designer and artificial intelligence engineer are just a couple of the many careers a computer science major could have.

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 sometimes computer hardware. You will learn not only how to program and code, but also how to determine what problems computers can tackle, how to create the algorithms that 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 résumé, to show their programming 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 2021, the states with the highest employment levels for computer and information research scientists were:

  • California
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Maryland 
  • Texas 

If you're looking to live and work somewhere that maximizes your earnings, then try Oregon, Arizona, Texas, Massachusetts, or Washington—the top five states with the highest mean annual wage. More specifically, the metropolitan areas with the highest salaries included San Francisco, Phoenix, Santa Maria, Sacramento, and Portland.

How much do computer scientists make?

The median annual wage for computer and information research scientists was approximately $131,000 in May 2021, according to the BLS. In 2021, the lowest 10% of these workers earned less than about $74,000, and the highest 10% earned more than  about $208,000. As of May 2021, the top earning industry for computer and information research scientists was computer systems design and related services, with a median annual salary of approximately $162,000.

Job outlook for computer scientists

As of May 2021, job prospects in this field are excellent with the BLS projecting employment to grow 21% from 2021 to 2031. That's significantly higher than the 5% 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 7,000 new jobs.

Visit our Free Scholarship Search to find college scholarships for computer science majors.

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