Top 10 Computer Science Careers

Comp Sci Careers - Square [square]The computer science industry is competitive and rapidly evolving; there are a huge number of jobs available (and a predicted 546,100 new jobs by 2026) in a wide range of different types of roles. These roles are not always clear cut or self-explanatory and the differences between them can be confusing.

We’ve broken down the top ten careers in computer science – looking at key aspects of the jobs including responsibilities, required skills, salary, number of jobs and projected growth. This breakdown should give you a clearer idea of what different roles entail, and which might be of most interest to you. Statistics and financial figures for each role have been taken from the US Department of Labour.

Top 10 computer science careers:

Software Developer/Engineer

Things to know:

  • Strictly speaking, a software engineer is a certified engineer, but the two terms are often used interchangeably in job titles and advertisement.

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Design or customize software (usually for computers but potentially for a range of machinery or hardware).
  • Optimize existing software to improve efficiency or overcome problems.
  • Evaluate software requirements and user needs to determine software feasibility.

Required Skills: Proficiency in at least one programming language (IE Python, C, C++), understanding of design patterns, algorithms and software architecture, ability to debug software.

Number of jobs in 2016: 1,256,200

Projected growth (2016-2026): 24 percent or higher

Average annual salary: $102,280

Web Developer

Things to know:

  • This role can involve ‘back-end’ (working server side) or ‘front-end’ (working client side) development – or ‘full stack’ which involves dealing with both.
  • Javascript is an essential language for this role, particularly for front-end developers.

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Design and build websites – back-end developers design the technical construction and overall framework for a site, whereas front end developers are responsible for how a website looks.
  • Spot and correct bugs identified through testing or user feedback.
  • Integrate graphics, audio and video into the website.
  • Create and test web applications.

Required Skills: Proficiency in HTML, CSS and Javascript. Understanding of UX design, ability to work closely with clients. Web developers quite commonly work in non-technical industries, such as marketing, so the ability to communicate technical ideas clearly is useful.

Number of jobs in 2016: 162,900

Projected growth (2016-2026): 13 percent or higher

Average annual salary: $66,130

Information Security Analyst

Things to know:

  • This role can involve ‘back-end’ (working server side) or ‘front-end’ (working client side) development – or ‘full stack’ which involves dealing with both.
  • Javascript is an essential language for this role, particularly for front-end developers.

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Work with organizations to monitor their network for security breaches and investigate when a breach occurs.
  • Install, use and potentially build software to protect confidential information.
  • Test networks (penetration testing) by simulate attacks in order to spot vulnerabilities and identify ways the system could be exploited.
  • Prepare reports for senior staff on security breaches: how the breach occurred, the extent of the damage and how to prevent it reoccurring.

Required Skills: Proficiency in a range of programming languages such as C, C++, C#, Java or PHP. Strong understanding of networking, operating systems, IDS, IPS, cloud computing and malware. Problem solving is extremely important in this occupation. Communication is also key, as the role involves a significant amount of communication with people who will have significantly less technical expertise.

Number of jobs in 2016: 100,000

Projected growth (2016-2026): 28 percent or higher

Average annual salary: $92,600

Database Administrator

Things to know:

  • There are two kinds of specialisation for database administrators:
    • System DBAs are responsible for the physical and technical aspects of a database. They ensure a company’s database management system functions properly.
    • Application DBAs support a database that is designed to work with other programmes such as a CRM system. They must have the skills to programme and debug the applications that work with the database.

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Identify user needs and create and administer databases that meet them.
  • Maintain databases, ensuring they are up to date, secure and backed up.
  • Identify and fix bugs in the system, developing systems to ensure that this does not affect operational efficiency or risk data loss.
  • Create and test modifications to the structure of the database as required.

Required Skills: Proficiency in SQL, which is the language which most database systems use. Depending on the role and company, there may also be a requirement to become proficient in additional programming languages. This is a role that require a high level of detail orientation and strong analytical skills.

Number of jobs in 2016: 119,500

Projected growth (2016-2026): 11 percent or higher

Average annual salary: $84,950

Quality Assurance

Things to know:

  • This is a role where salary will vary hugely dependent on the company. Some companies will be really keen to ensure robust testing processes, and will pay a senior QA analyst similar money to a software developer, whereas others will pay much less.

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Utilize a bug tracking system to document software issues and report problems to software developers.
  • Spot, interrogate and report on issues with the way a programme works and the information it outputs.
  • Develop test plans and procedures.
  • Take part in product reviews to provide input on potential problems, schedules and functional requirements.
  • Develop programmes that will test a range of areas, potentially including regression testing, software scenarios usability and database impacts.

Required Skills: Proficiency in a range of languages and program testing software, depending on the role. Critical thinking is also important, in order to interpret the information created by testing programmes. Senior QA Analysts will need to be able to design bespoke test suites in order to verify that everything that should be tested is covered.

Number of jobs in 2016: 233,000

Projected growth (2014-2024): 4 percent or higher

Average annual salary: $86,510

Network Administrator

Things to know:

  • This role requires familiarity with both software and hardware and typically network administrators are certified in the products they use – Microsoft and Cisco offer the most common certifications.

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Install network hardware and software in order to meet the system needs of a company.
  • Upgrade and repair networks, ensuring that systems are operating correctly and minimum disruption occurs.
  • Develop and maintain security protocols which protect the network and computer system.
  • Evaluate, analyse and optimize network performance.
  • Train users to use hardware and software correctly.
  • Interpret and solve problems identified through monitoring systems or by users.

Required Skills: An ability to work with equipment and programmes. It is important that network administrators keep up with the latest developments as network technology is constantly evolving. Communication, analysis and problem solving are key, and this job will involve an element technical support.

Number of jobs in 2016: 391,300

Projected growth (2014-2024): 6 percent or higher

Average annual salary: $79,700

Computer Network Architect

Things to know:

  • This role can overlap with Network Administration. The key difference is that administrators are responsible for the day to day running of networks, whereas architects design and build networks.

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Design plans and layouts for data communication networks. These can range from small scale to a cloud infrastructure that serves an entire customer base.
  • Present designs to management, explaining the positive impact to the business and justifying the expenditure.
  • Ensure that designs maintain security.
  • Upgrade hardware and software to support networks.
  • Maintain a detailed knowledge of the company’s business plan in order to design a network which meets its needs.
  • Research and learn about new networking technologies in order to ensure networks are future proofed.

Required Skills: Network Architects typically have 5 to 10 years of experience in the industry, typically as a network administrator. An MBA in Information Systems is required by some companies. Problem solving and communication skills are key in order to design, get signed off and build systems.

Number of jobs in 2016: 162,700

Projected growth (2014-2024): 6 percent or higher

Average annual salary: $101,210

Computer Systems Analyst

Things to know:

  • The key difference between systems and networks is that networks typically involve infrastructure that ties computer and/or machinery together and systems covers all the hardware and software installed on the computers/machines.

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Work with managers and team members to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of IT systems.
  • Research and assess new technology to decide if installing them would provide significant benefit to the company’s effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Prepare costs and benefits reports for management to inform their decisions about computer infrastructure and IT.
  • Design and implement new systems by selecting and configuring new hardware and software.
  • Strategically develop ways to improve the efficiency and add functionality to existing systems.
  • Train colleagues and create documentation and instructions to support systems and processes.

Required Skills: This role is typically more analytical than technical, but a strong understanding of the functionality of different programmes and knowledge of the business aspects of technology are key. Management skills are also important, as well as an ability to analyse the cost of systems and the impact on employees.

Number of jobs in 2016: 600,500

Projected growth (2014-2024): 9 percent or higher

Average annual salary: $87,220

Computer and Information Research Scientist

Things to know:

  • Technology advances often have huge impact in a range of areas, so computer and information research scientists are employed in many different companies and industries – including business, medicine and science.

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Solve complex computing problems to support scientists and engineers with research challenges
  • Invent new programming languages, tools and methods to advance computing technology
  • Improve and develop fundamental software systems that are integral to modern computing.
  • Design, perform and analyse experiments to test the operation of these systems.
  • Publish and present findings.

Required Skills: A master’s degree is usually required. If the role is in a specialized field then knowledge of that field may be necessary in order to facilitate problem solving. Ingenuity is a key skill in this role, as it requires innovation and problem solving, particularly when ideas do not work as intended.

Number of jobs in 2016: 27,900

Projected growth (2014-2024): 19 percent or higher

Average annual salary: $111,840

Business Intelligence Analyst

Things to know:

  • This role balances business and technology, but Business Intelligence Analysts often come from a computer science background. The role may involve working closely with developers and understanding of specific software, but rarely involves programming.

Typical Responsibilities:

  • Devise and assess market strategies by analysing connected trends such as market, share or product trends.
  • Utilize business intelligence and trend data to recommend strategies for growth and development.
  • Ensure that colleagues have access to synthesised business data and provide management with clear analysis and reports.
  • Maintain knowledge of cutting edge business and industry trends.
  • Gather information from a wide range of sources such as public information, industry resources and purchased sources.

Required Skills: Strong mathematical skills, as well as a clear understanding of business and finance. An ability to quickly develop and thorough understanding of software. This may require an understanding of the language the software is coded in, in order to work closely with developers to improve it. This role requires a significant amount of gathering information and interpreting the meaning of it for other people.

Number of jobs in 2016: 233,000

Projected growth (2014-2024): 4% percent or higher

Average annual salary: $86,510

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