The current tech unemployment rate is notably low, and employers everywhere need all kinds of tech specialists to help enact their strategies. As a result, it’s a solid job market for new graduates, especially those who have mastered programming languages, frameworks, and even cutting-edge technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (A.I.). What are the top jobs for computer science majors?
If you’re a computer science graduate, chances are good you’ll want to know the best entry-level computer science jobs. You’ll also want to know a bit more about how to pass a technical interview, and which skills (such as problem solving and system analysis) are in demand. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), some of the most in-demand tech majors include:
- Computer science
- Information science
- Management information systems
- Computer engineering
How much can new grads earn? While entry-level positions tend to pay less than those requiring experience and advanced skills, generalized demand for tech professionals has driven up pay in recent years. In addition, entry-level jobs at larger companies in major tech hubs (such as Silicon Valley) can still pay six figures, especially when you include equity and bonuses.
According to Dice’s latest Tech Salary Report, grads can also boost their salary by specializing. For example, a principal software engineer can earn $153,288, while a cloud engineer can pull down $145,416. Back-end software engineers earn slightly lower ($129,150), just ahead of data engineers ($122,811) and systems engineers ($120,800).
Specialization in other fields can likewise translate into high compensation. The average data scientist salary at $117,241, for example, although a new grad may need additional training and mentorship before landing that sort of role.
Top Jobs for Computer Science Majors
Here are some top jobs for computer science majors, along with a breakdown of top skills and interview tips for each.
Skills necessary for a software developer or engineer position will necessarily vary from job to job. However, an analysis of job postings shows that the following skills pop up frequently on employers’ wish lists:
Since colleges and universities usually teach the fundamentals of software engineering and development, you should be prepared for many of the questions you’ll face during the job interview. For the technical portion, sites such as Leetcode can offer some good questions for practice.
Database administrators handle the design, implementation, maintenance, and security implementation of a database. Necessary skills include:
- Database theory
- Database Management Systems
- Database Design and Modeling
- Performance Tuning and Optimization
- Security and Access Control
If you’re an entry-level tech professional interested in database work, you may find a first job as an associate or assistant database administrator, learning the ropes from someone more experienced. Given the mission-critical nature of databases, you need a lot of skills and experience before a company will let you design and build out a database yourself.
Full-stack developers are tasked with handling both the user-facing and back-end portions of a website, service, or app. As a result, they’re often tasked with mastering and utilizing a basket of programming languages, frameworks, and libraries, including but not limited to:
Given the broad scope of a typical full-stack developer job, you may face a wide range of questions during the job interview, but this GitHub repo has a handy list of the ones that appear often, especially for particular programming languages. If you’re applying for a job as a front- or back-end developer, you’ll need to master different sets of concepts, but fewer languages and tools.
With the number and sophistication of cyberattacks increasing yearly, it’s always a good time for new grads to consider a cybersecurity career. Cybersecurity analysts are at the front lines of an organization’s defense, analyzing the tech stack for vulnerabilities and recommending solutions to harden systems against internal and external threats.
Because cybersecurity needs vary from company to company, necessary skills for a position will often vary. Lightcast, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from around the country, identifies the following as crucial skills for cybersecurity:
- Threat analysis
- Information assurance
- Threat modeling
- Cybersecurity knowledge
- Vulnerability analysis
- ISO 27001
- Cybersecurity assessment
- Threat intelligence and analysis
- Data security
- Data loss prevention
If you’ve taken cybersecurity courses and tutorials as part of your computer science coursework, you’ll have a grasp on many of those above concepts. Spending time to learn the tools that help analysts determine system vulnerabilities can allow you to focus further on cybersecurity as a career.
QA testing is a critical aspect of all organizations’ software development, and often the entry point for many tech professionals into their career. Top skills and tools that pop up frequently in job postings include:
Common QA tester interview questions will focus on your knowledge of QA processes and technical terms, as well as how you handle key challenges.
- Data engineering
- Classification algorithms
- Model building
- Unsupervised learning
- Supervised learning (machine learning)
Depending on the company, you may also have to exhibit mastery (or at least a willingness to learn) of multiple tools and platforms, including AWS, Apache Hadoop, Docker, and more. Fortunately, this kind of learning is a lifelong practice, and many companies don’t expect you to know every tool out there—you’ll just need to demonstrate an aptitude for learning during the job interview.
Fortunately, there are also multiple entry points into a data scientist career. Some start out as software engineers and learn data analysis skills; others begin as data analysts and junior data scientists before laddering up to full-time data science. Certifications and skills specialization can unlock upper salary tiers for this position.
Web development is a popular position for many new computer science grads. Depending on your area of focus, you may have to learn a variety of different skills. For example, a web developer focusing on front-end experiences will need to know:
- Front-End Development
- Software Engineering
- Software Development
- Web Application Development
Whereas those who want to work on server-side/back-end development should eventually master:
- Continuous integration
- Amazon Web Services (AWS)
- Machine Learning
- Test Driven Development (TDD)
- Big Data
- Backend Development
While schools will teach the fundamentals of web development, it’s also a field that demands continuous learning from its practitioners. The questions asked during a job interview for a front-end web developer, for example, can differ wildly depending on the organization and its tech stack. However, a solid grasp of the fundamentals and a willingness to learn (along with great soft skills such as communication and empathy) can help you stand out in a crowded field of applicants.
What Employers Want
While the demand for technical talent is robust, the number of students enrolled in computer science majors is rising, too.
The applicant pool for entry-level jobs is strong, acknowledged Chris Pohalski, a career coach, strategist and trainer for STEM and business professionals in the Bay Area: “To attract one or more offers from high-profile companies, you need to shoot for being among the top five to 10 percent of applicants.”
How can computer science grads rise to the top? Prove that you’re ready to contribute from day one, advised college and career consultant Bob Carlton. Employers are willing to pay a premium for people who possess strong foundational skills for the digital economy, he explained. Those skills fall into three categories: human or soft skills, digital building block skills, and business enabler skills.
Specifically, employers are looking for grads who have taken machine-learning courses and know AngularJS in addition to popular building-block languages such as Java, C and C++. They are also looking for critical combinations of skills and coursework that drive data-powered decision-making, such as data analysis, data management and critical thinking. Make sure those skills are prominent in your résumé, online profiles and responses to interview questions.
Don’t Rely on the Traditional Résumé
A new CS grad’s code samples on GitHub, along with skill endorsements from intern managers and colleagues on LinkedIn, carry more weight with a hiring manager than a traditional résumé. So if your profiles or repositories look sparse, fill them in with as many projects and code snippets as you can.
Many current CS students started building code repositories and completing freelance projects during high school, Carlton noted. Consequently, a late starter may need to do side projects and internships to compete with an early bloomer.
Better still, studies show that grads who have applied knowledge in a real-world context are not only more confident and prepared to enter the workplace, they are more likely to possess the competencies that employers value most.
Grads: Acquire In-depth Knowledge
To explain why you’re the ideal candidate for a particular employer, a new grad needs to conduct extensive research before an interview.
As Pohalski pointed out, most job descriptions tell you absolutely nothing about what needs to be accomplished or what it takes to be successful in a particular position.
Get the real scoop through informational interviews with people who have actually performed the role you that you are interested in pursuing. Read trade publications and websites that focus on the business aspects of a particular industry. That way, you can target roles, companies and industries that interest you, and articulate your comparative strengths in a clear, compelling way.
“Being smart isn’t enough,” warned Frank Schroeder, principal at Campus2Career. “You need to be able to explain why you want to work there and sell yourself to the hiring manager in a convincing way.”
Use the knowledge gleaned from insiders to connect the dots between your courses, projects, work experience, soft skills and the open role. More importantly, informational interviews are a great way to boost your self-confidence.
“Studies show that new grads who are comfortable doing informational interviews and networking in a professional setting are able to attract more offers,” Carlton added.
Nail the Interview Process
Recent grads should expect to encounter traditional interviews, whiteboard coding problems and algorithm questions during the hiring process. Acing all forms of job interviews is essential for nabbing an offer. As we mentioned above, you can prepare thoroughly by studying interview questions on Leetcode and other websites.
Actually practicing your answers is an incredibly effective way to prepare for interviews. And “practice” means “out loud,” Pohalski said.