The study of Computer Science is merely that: it is the science of computing. It has been said that scientists build to learn, whereas engineers learn to build. Anyone with less than a Ph.D. in Computer Science will probably end their “scientist” career when they receive their diploma or master’s degree. When a student crosses that threshold and enters the business world, they become engineers. Usually, their title will reflect this change. “Project Engineer” or “Software Engineer” might be your starting title, often with a “Junior” or “Associate” added to it. Sometimes the title is as simple as “Application Developer.”
This doesn’t mean that you stop learning. On the contrary, you will learn more on the job than you did in school. Theory will take a backseat to practical applications of everything you’ve learned up to this point. Topics that may have been glossed over in school will be highlighted on your to-do list, such as gathering requirements, testing, and learning the business. In school, you are taught two things: the basics of your craft, and how to teach yourself. When you land your first job, you can bet that you will be relying heavily on both of these new skills – the former to serve as a starting point for the advancement of your understanding, and the latter to push it forward.
If too much academic pressure is overwhelming for you, you can still get a job. However, it likely won’t be a very fun job and it probably won’t pay you very well either. In such a case, you’d be looking at data entry, desktop support, or a whole host of other jobs that require zero brain power and a lot of tedious hours of pointing and clicking.
If you enjoyed your program, on the other hand, and you did well, chances are high that you can land a pretty decent gig straight out of college, often making more than what most of your peers will be making. IT jobs are lucrative, and unlike a lot of high paying jobs, they are plentiful. Everything needs an IT guy in some capacity. Small companies need someone around to help keep the employee’s computers running and to help build and run the website. Large companies need help in just about every area that a computer scientist could want to go.
Below are some of the most lucrative areas to begin your IT career. Salary ranges are listed to give a sense of the minimum and maximum one could expect to make in the given field, based on a national average.
“Project Engineer” is a blanket term that covers any kind of engineering field. These will typically be found in more corporate environments that don’t have time to waste on thinking up more applicable job titles. The end result is, you will need to read the job description very carefully to know what you will be doing. This will include anything from infrastructure support to application development. The bottom line is, you will be in charge of projects. Some of these can be high visibility, so the potential for awards and advancement is high. Salary range: $51,000 – $92,000
Database Administrators, or DBAs, can be compared to accountants. Their jobs are very detail-oriented. Most IT jobs are, but databases are often the foundation of the company. Lose data, and you lose everything. Corrupt data can mean loss of customers, revenue, or even jail time. It is for this reason that DBAs are held in high regard for their rigor and tenacity. They are the gatekeepers to the data. They ensure the regularity of backups, and do routine checks to ensure that if one database goes down, the mirrored database picks up the load without users noticing anything. They also assist developers in tuning their queries so they run more efficiently. Because of the detailed knowledge required, DBAs often specialize in a particular database vendor. This makes them highly specialized, but often stagnant. They are paid good salaries to stay where they are and keep doing what they do so well.
Salary range: $47,000 – $95,000
A software engineer is a very specific field of engineer and they are more than just developers. Software engineers are responsible for the entire development project, start to finish. They will talk to the customers, gather requirements, manage a team of contractors, divide up tasks, ensure project timelines, develop and execute a testing plan, present it to management and customers, and see it through to completion. Software engineers are given a project and it becomes their baby. They must nurture it and help it grow if they want to be successful. In the end, they have a working system that they designed, developed, tested, and delivered from start to finish. It is a very demanding, but rewarding job. They are the creators, but good software engineers are hard to come by. For this reason, they are rewarded handsomely for their hard work and dedication.
Salary range: $61,000 – $100,000
Data Scientist, Data Mining Analyst, Business Intelligence Analyst – a rose by any other name is still a very lucrative rose. Data is at the heart of business today. The problem is, it is a mess. There’s so much data, we don’t know what to do with it. But these experts know exactly what to do with it. They can slice it and dice it and extract exactly the information the CEO needs to present to shareholders to explain why they expect stock to rise in the next quarter. Without these data geniuses, the data is just a jumble of numbers. With their help though, patterns emerge, flaws are noticed, and the business is improved. And in return, they are paid accordingly.
Salary range: $93,000 – $148,000
Computer science is so closely related to math that the two are almost inseparable these days. Operations researchers are generally computer nerds who are really good at math, or math majors who secretly wanted to be computer science majors. These Einsteins of business will examine your operations and determine what can be done to optimize operations and save the company a ton of money. The field was popularized in the 1980s by the airline industry, but now it’s more uncommon not to have an OR person on staff. They are celebrated in business for their ability to reduce costs and streamline operations.
Salary range: $58,000 – $130,000
Everyone has a boss. But in some cases, you get to be the boss. Managers in the IT field often come from the trenches, having worked in one of the fields listed here. Rarely are they hired straight out of college, even if they have a master’s degree. Management is all about experience. It is when the experience pays dividends and the salary increases. Of course, so does the responsibility. You will be in charge of hiring and firing, performance reviews, team outings, and meetings. And when things go wrong, you will be the one who takes the fall.
Salary range: $64,000 – $135,000
There are, of course, many more paths one can take with a computer science degree. These are some of the better paying, and more exciting fields in IT that will also allow for advancement. The promotion process will vary from company to company. The good news is, your skills transfer. If you hit a wall at one company, another will gladly take you and put your skills to work.
All salaries were taken from glassdoor.com.