What Can You Do With a Computer Science Degree?
If you’ve studied computer science, you will have gained many technical and non-technical skills which are highly valued by employers, from leadership to programming. The increasing scope of computer science means you have plenty of choice in a wide variety of highly specialized areas. With computer technologies playing an ever-growing role in all aspects of modern life, you’re likely to find your computer science skills in high demand across many different industries. These include financial organizations, management consultancy firms, software houses, communications companies, data warehouses, multinational companies (IT-related, financial services and others), governmental agencies, universities and hospitals. However, unsurprisingly, most graduates go into roles within the computer industry.
As always, it’s extremely beneficial to have completed relevant work experience. You should also consider compiling a portfolio of your own independent projects outside of your degree, which could be in the form of programming, moderating online or even building an app. This will demonstrate to employers your interest in the subject and your problem-solving skills, creativity and initiative.
Common computer science careers include:
Working in partnership with clients, an IT consultant advises clients on the planning, design, installation and usage of information technology systems to meet the client’s business objectives, overcome problems or improve the structure and efficiency of their IT systems. As you represent a broad role in IT, your job will be similar to that of systems analysts, systems designers and applications programmers, whose roles are more specialized but nonetheless work on a consultancy basis. You may also become involved in sales and business development, identifying potential clients and maintaining good business contacts. There is fierce competition in this role, so gaining work experience in a commercial environment would help increase your prospects.
Depending on what computer science specializations you studied during your degree, you may wish to specialize as a cybersecurity consultant or an information security specialist. Maintaining cybersecurity in the modern world has become increasingly important, so in this role, you will focus on understanding the risks to the security of information or data. You’ll analyze where security breaches may occur or have occurred, and restore or reinforce systems against such breaches, to ensure that confidential data is protected. This role could include ‘ethical hacking’, meaning deliberately attempting to hack into your employer’s network to expose any weaknesses. Alternatively, you could work as a computer forensics analyst or investigator to combat the increasing phenomenon of cyber-crime.
Information systems manager
A similar role to an IT consultant, an information systems manager is usually a full-time member of staff, responsible for the secure and effective operation of computer systems within their company. You’ll be responsible (perhaps with the help of a team of IT staff) for the entire upkeep of the ICT infrastructure within your organization, with typical tasks involving the overseeing of system installation; ensuring systems are backed-up and that the back-up systems are operating effectively; purchasing hardware and software; setting up secure access for all users, including remote users; ensuring security of data from internal and external attack; and providing IT support and advice for users.
You’ll need to make sure the ICT facilities meet the needs of your company and are current, while remaining within a set budget, and within all relevant software licensing laws. You may also need an understanding of business and management principles in order to contribute to an organizational policy regarding quality standards and strategic planning in relation to IT.
A database administrator (DBA) is responsible for accurately and securely using, developing and maintaining the performance, integrity and security of a computerized database. The specific role is always determined by the organization in question, but is likely to mean being involved purely in database maintenance, or specialized in database development. The role is also dependent on the type of database and processes and capabilities of the database management systems (DBMS) in use in your particular organization.
Typically, this role includes ensuring data remains consistent, is clearly defined, easily accessible, is secure and can be recovered in an emergency. You’ll also be required to troubleshoot should any problems arise; liaise with programmers, operational staff, IT project managers and technical staff; provide user training, support and feedback; and write reports, documentation and operating manuals.
A multimedia programmer is responsible for designing and creating multimedia computer products, making sure they are functional and maintaining fidelity to a designer’s specification. You’ll use creative as well as technical skills to develop multimedia features including text, sound, graphics, digital photography, 2D/3D modelling, animation and video. You’ll need to work with the designer to understand the design concept, discuss how it can be technically implemented, identify the operational rules necessary, write efficient computer code or script to make the features work, run tests of the product to test for bugs and rewrite or add new code if necessary.
You’ll also be available for technical support after the product is completed, and need to keep abreast of industry news and developments in order to suggest and implement improvements. You may work across platforms (such as the internet or mobile phones) or remain specialized in one platform. Your role may overlap with similar IT roles such as web developer, games developer, systems developer or software engineer, or you may find yourself working in tandem with these professionals to achieve mutual goals.
A systems analyst uses computers and associated systems to design new IT solutions, as well as modifying and improving current systems to integrate new features or enhancements, all with the aim of improving business efficiency and productivity. This role requires a high level of technical proficiency and a clear awareness of current business practices. Clients may be internal, e.g. departments within the same organization, or external, depending on your employer.
Games developers produce games for personal computers, games consoles, social/online games, arcade games, tablets, mobile phones and other handheld devices. This role splits into two main parts. First, there’s the creative side of designing a game and dealing with the art, animation and storyboarding. Second, there’s the programming side, using programming languages such as C++. To increase your chances of entry into games development careers, it would be helpful to have studied related aspects during your degree. It is also essential that you create a portfolio (for artistic roles) or working demo (for programming roles) with examples of work to show employers.
Needed in many industries, technical writers produce descriptions or instructions to help people understand how to use a product or service. The strong technical knowledge that you’ve gained during your computer science degree will be very useful in this role, particularly your knowledge of software packages, as you could be writing manuals for high-tech products. Technical writers work for an extensive assortment of industries, from finance to nuclear energy. Again, relevant experience is useful, as are strong writing skills and the ability to convey instructions clearly in the relevant language/s.
Other computer science careers
If none of the above computer science careers suits you, other options with a computer science degree include: working in other areas of development (such as web, games, systems, products, programs and software), as an analyst (be it business continuity, systems or technical), as an administrator (of databases or networks), or in an academic or industrial research capacity, contributing to the ongoing development of computers and related technologies. You could also pursue computer science careers in teaching, IT training, journalism, management or entrepreneurship.