Where do you want to work?
But more than a paycheck, jobs in Computer Science are fascinating to those who work them because of the opportunities they present to solve real problems. In a nutshell, that's what Computer Science is anyway -- problem-solving using computers and employing technical skills.
There are a number of jobs that fit this description, from computer programming to web developer to any number of analytical jobs that involve sorting through various data. Given all the ways a Computer Science Major can be used in the "real world," upon graduation it can be a bit overwhelming when it comes to deciding in which field you should begin to specialize.
Well, that's where we come in. We literally created a map, just for Computer Science Majors such as yourself, to navigate your way through the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone -- it's pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who prefer step by step navigation on your path, keep reading. We'll give you the rundown on:
First thing's first: what skills you'll need to get started.
Hard skills for Computer Science Majors are easy enough to figure out -- for the most part, they're just the programs you use or the tasks you complete on a daily basis. These include things like programming languages, database management,
The soft skills are the larger, less easy-to-classify abilities that come from studying a particular discipline for a long enough period of time. For Computer Science, these skills tend to focus on your ability to process and solve specific problems, as well as your capacity for interacting with other members of your team.
Let's take a closer look at what this means for Computer Science in particular:
Critical Thinking and Analysis
You've got to have a good head for pattern recognition and data analysis in order to be successful in Computer Science. Having a logical understanding of your chosen Computer Science discipline will go a long way toward helping you establish your analytical skills.
Contrary to what you might think, creativity is extremely important when it comes to Computer Science. You'll often be asked to do the impossible, or at least improbable, and being able to think outside the box when it comes to problem-solving will allow you to think of better and more efficient solutions to problems.
Another unexpected skill for those who imagine Computer Science Majors to be doing most of their work in some dark basement, apart from humanity. In fact, it's very likely you'll be working with some sort of team, and in order to work effectively with others you need to have some understanding of how to translate your skills and work experience into something that your other less-technical coworkers will understand.
Internships are an excellent way to start accumulating experience in any discipline, gaining valuable resume cache while also helping you start your network of industry contacts.
In Computer Science, an internship will allow you to start learning to code and develop software early on, putting the math and programming skills you've been developing in school to a practical test.
Tech industries, especially startups, are an excellent place to cut your teeth in Computer Science if you're looking for a little more autonomy than an internships would typically provide. More traditional internships can be found at more established companies in the IT department, where working with senior employees will allow you to start learning industries skills in a lower stakes environment.
Before you settle on an internship or placement, though, you'll want to make sure it's the right fit for you. Ask yourself these questions:
As a Computer Science Major, you're most likely going to be looking for jobs in IT or communication technology in general. The specifics will obviously be tied to your specific skillset -- such as the programming languages you know, what sort of technology or software you're familiar with, etc. -- but in general, you'll want to be looking at companies that have either a strong focus on technology or that need very specialized computer assistance.
With our map, you can click the Job Titles and learn more specific information for each position (what their responsibilities are, how much they get paid, etc.). But here, we wanted to call out some of the most common jobs for recent Computer Science Major grads.
Here are a few of the most interesting jobs for recent grads such as yourself:
Java Developers use their proficiency with the Java programming language to develop things like user interfaces, multimedia applications, documentation and assistance tools, and various other software that can be accomplished through Java specifically.
Software Engineers apply the principles of engineering to the field of software design, designing and developing software for a variety of computer programs, applications, and systems.
Programmer Analysts identify the requirements of clients, then help to develop programs designed to meet these requirements. Their exact involvement with the programming process depends on individual position, and can range from supervisory to programming it themselves.
While You Can, Work on Big Projects
It's hard to find time in the so-called "real world" to try working on enormous projects that have no guarantee of money or even success, but these kind of projects are essential to getting early practical experience in the Computer Science field.
If you're still in colleges, keep an eye on classes with significant lab components. These classes will give you an opportunity to immerse yourself in a given project and make use of the expertise you already have while figuring out exactly how this expertise translates to the reality of Computer Science.
If you're no longer in school but are still having trouble finding a job, it's worth your time to work on some of these larger projects on your own. Try experimenting with creating something new in a programming language you already somewhat understand, or maybe contribute to an Open Source project. Look to see if there are any easy freelancing gigs you can cut your teeth on. The more you can find to help you gain experience, the better off you'll be for trying it.
Look for Startups
It's tough out there to find a good position with minimal experience required. Most job listings out there seem to be looking for people with a certain level of education or so-and-so many years of experience.
But while that is often also the case with computer science jobs, the story changes a little when it comes to startups. Once they start to scale up, startups are often less concerned about how experienced a person is and more concerned with how talented and driven they are. They're willing to hire young people with almost no experience, so long as those people are willing and driven to learn everything they can as fast as they can.
Of course, the fact that they get to pay these folks a little less has something to do with their willingness to take risks, but the potential rewards for helping a startup become successful are very high, especially if you can find your way into getting some equity options.
Obtaining a graduate degree in your course of study can serve as an excellent way to separate you from the herd - but you must first decide whether it's worth your time.
A Master's in Computer Science is largely useful as a means of getting a chance to learn some extra skills, take time to earn some extra certifications, and ensure that down the line you won't be barred from any promotions that might require a higher education level. These sort of paywalls are not always present, but they do occur.
PhDs in Computer Science, rather than preparing you for working in the Computer Science industry, instead has you working with research and writing papers. While the PhD does primarily prepare you for working as a researcher or educator, the Computer Science PhD also tends to be more industry-focused than other PhD programs. Many of those who receive a PhD go on to work in the industry, typically in more specialized analyst positions.
Here are common advanced degrees that people with a Computer Science degree normally consider:
Master's in Computer Science
If you're still not sure what to do with your degree here are some external sites, to help you with your decision:
The largest science and education computing society in the world, the ACM has been helping fields like Computer Science become educated and make professional connections for over 50 years.
An organization devoted to the study and development of artificial intelligence, the AAAI is a great group for those interested in working with computers in the information age.
Enter "Computer Science" into the search bar and you can get a sense of what kind of government jobs are available to Visual and Performing Arts Majors. Find a job title you like and come back here to learn more about it.
The BLS offers detailed data on pay, location, and availability of different kinds of jobs across the country.
In fact, we draw a lot of our research on the best places for jobs from the information provided on the site.
And if this all seems like a lot - don't worry - the hard part (getting your degree!) is already over.