Arizona State University Professor Andrea Richa works in a field that’s only bordered by the reaches of her imagination. Through the use of computer systems, Richa’s imagination runs wild thinking about the possible application of nano sensor systems that could do everything from stop blood flow out of the body in the case of an emergency to curing diseases. Computer science continues to expand at a rapid rate into uncharted territory, making computer science careers and research an exciting place to be, Richa said.
"My passion is an ever-evolving area," Richa said. "If you think about it, computation is everywhere. Even without a computer we're always computing and analyzing everything we do, even when we're going to the grocery store and making a list and minimizing the steps we have to take in the grocery store."
What does a computer scientist do?
Computer scientists specialize in the study and development of computer systems and computational technologies. Combining the principles of mathematics, engineering, logic and algorithms, these professionals design, develop, analyze and optimize computer software and hardware systems. These systems are an integral part of problem solving in all kinds of business, industry, scientific and social contexts.
As the application of computer science is present in all industries, the work of a computer scientist can vary depending on their specific role and area of expertise. However, general daily activities for computer scientists include:
- Addressing computer security issues to protect business’ data and networks from unauthorized access.
- Analyzing existing computer systems and networks to identify issues and improve performance.
- Researching new algorithms, technologies and methodologies, such as artificial intelligence, data science, computer graphics and more.
- Writing, testing and maintaining software programs and applications for various purposes, including web development, mobile apps, operating systems and more.
The computer science skills you’ll need to succeed
Computer science is no longer a confined skill set that’s only used for specific industries. In today’s economy, some of the highest-paying jobs require computer science skills. These skills are often the key differentiator within the job competition and can have an important bearing on your salary.
"You used to have to take a computer class in high school then go into computer science in your undergraduate degree to get computer science skills," Richa said. "Now, you have additional disciplines, even biology, that need knowledge and skills in computation and analysis."
As you progress in your education and career journey, building current, in-demand computer science skills will ensure you’re prepared to successfully enter the job market. Some of these skills include machine learning, programming language skills, 3D modeling, data visualization and data analytics. Additionally, it’s important to possess complex problem solving and critical thinking skills, as computer science heavily relies upon identifying issues and working to address them.
Computer scientists: In demand and highly paid
Computer scientist roles represent some of the highest salaries among new graduates immediately after completing their degree, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. While computer science salaries can vary depending on the hiring organization’s industry and your level of expertise, you can expect to enter the job market with competitive and lucrative compensation.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer scientists earned a median annual salary of $131,490 per year in 2021. As the demand for newer, better technology grows, so will the demand for computer scientists. The BLS also reported that employment for computer scientists is expected to grow 21% between 2021 and 2031, which is much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations.
Other careers related to computer science also delineate this profound projected growth and substantial pay, such as:
- Computer and information system manager: 16% growth, $159,010 median salary
- Database administrator: 9% growth, $101,000 median salary
- Information security analyst: 35% growth, $102,600 median salary
- Software developer: 25% growth, $109,020 median salary
- Web developer: 23% growth, $78,300 median salary