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What can I do with a degree in CS?

The first thing you might think a computer science graduate does is programming. Programming is a tool we all use, but primarily CS graduates solve problems. They are creators, designers, analysts, etc. They work with people to develop innovative ways to harness the power of computing to address problems in almost every discipline and industry sector. The programmer working long hours alone in a cubicle is mostly a myth -- and it is the kind of a job that is easily outsourced.

Software engineer is a common job title for a CS graduate. Software engineers are not programmers, rather they are developers of complex solutions to a variety of important applications in almost all economic sectors. Computer engineers have similar roles, but typically emphasize integrated hardware/software solutions. Software and computer engineers have a role as analysts - working with customers, end users and other stakeholders to develop requirements, constraints and approaches - before they begin development. Specialists in systems analysis (computer/software/IT analysts) often work for consulting companies or as experts within other companies where they represent a company's interests and work with developers. Software/computer engineers play a role as systems architects where they develop or adapt high-level designs and solutions that guide the development of specific projects or families of products. Software and computer engineers may begin as testers or in product support as they expand their skills. Often, career paths will lead developers into management positions where they direct other engineers, analysts, architects, testers and product support personnel. Software and computer engineers who specialize in specific solution components may have job titles such as database analyst, communications engineer, network architect, etc.

ACM has an excellent website on computing careers that offers some insight into how computer scientists, software engineers, computer engineers, IT specialists, and IT professionals collaborate to address important problems and challenges in several fields. For example, they suggest to develop the advanced medical imaging systems used by physicians today, requires computer scientists to develop sensor and image processing algorithms, software and computer engineers to develop the integrated software hardware systems, IT specialists to integrate the imaging systems with other hospital systems, and IT staff to train and support the medical staff. As computing, communications and entertainment "converge" (for example iPhones support audio communications, internet access, email, music and movie playing, etc.), we will need computer scientists to develop sophisticated database techniques for managing complex and enormous databases, software and computer engineers to design devices, interfaces, power supplies, etc., information systems specialists to organize and adapt systems that track and meet customer demands, and communications engineers to develop wireless solutions.

Computer science graduates work in traditional high technology companies (IBM, Raytheon, EMC, Sun, Cisco, Microsoft, RSA, etc.) and numerous startups, but also work to bring you better services: finance, consulting and insurance (Fidelity, Mass Mutual, State Street Bank, Keane, SAS, Peoplesoft, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Accenture, KPMG); information and communications (Google, Yahoo, Akami, Verizon, Comcast, Motorola, AT&T, Alcatel ); healthcare, medical devices and pharmaceuticals (Partners Healthcare, Boston Scientific, Abbott Laboratories, Merck & Co., Allergan); assisting people (iRobot, Kurzweil, Staples, etc.); marketing and sales (eBay, Amazon, Orvis, etc.); entertainment and hospitality (media companies, travel agents, hotels, airlines).

In Massachusetts, while the information and communications industries are holding their own, financial services, biotech, education, and healthcare are booming economic sectors -- careers that require knowledge of computing and the application domain. Expect to continue learning through your career, whether to keep up with the latest technical advances, to learn more about application areas, or to keep up with the latest management strategies. Also expect that the knowledge and skills you learned as a computer science major will serve you well no matter what discipline or career you might pursue.

Did you know ...
In Money Magazine's "Best Jobs in America," software engineer ranked #1 and computer/IT analyst ranked #7. CollegeBoard.com listed 6 computing professions in their top-10 Occupations with the Most New Jobs: Bachelor's Degrees and listed 5 computing professions in the Ten Fastest Growing Occupations for College Grads. These last two listings were based on Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) studies. The BLS forecasts a 24% growth rate in new computing jobs (854,000 new jobs) and projects 1.64 million total job openings for the 2006-2016 period. The professional IT workforce is expected to grow at more than twice the rate of the overall workforce between 2006 and 2016, with the largest demand for software engineers (324% growth), software applications developers (226% growth) and computer system analysts (146% growth). The Boston Globe listed five computing careers among their top-25 fastest growing occupations in Massachusetts.

What salary can I expect ...
The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Employment Statistics program reports on salaries in various professions:


Job Title   No. Employed Mean Annual Salary
Computer and Information Scientists, Research 27,650 $96,440
Computer Programmers 396,020 $69,500
Computer Software Engineers, Applications 472,520 $82,000
Computer Software Engineers, Systems Software 329,060 $87,250
Computer Support Specialists 514,460 $44,350
Computer Systems Analysts 446,460 $72,230
Database Administrators 109,840 $67,460
Network and Computer Systems Administrators 289,520 $65,260
Network Systems and Data Communications Analysts 203,710 $67,460
Computer Specialists, All Other 180,270 $69,370