Given how important computers have become to our day-to-day activities, many people probably assume that any field having to do with computer science must be a fast-track variety of career path. You’d be mostly right, too, but the answer to the question, “How much do computer scientists make?” is more complicated than an aggregate average salary will tell us. Oh, the number is certainly still useful, but as we hope to show you with this guide. there’s a wide world that exists beneath the broad umbrella of “computer science,” that encompasses dozens of different career paths and specialized sets of knowledge. If you’re interested in knowing more, keep on reading!
Whether you’re spending your time on a desktop computer, laptop, or even a smartphone, the magic that makes your device work is owed entirely to experts in the field of computer science. Spend errant hours on Facebook or Imgur, browsing the day away? The portal to your leisure is the result of specialists who come from the same field; people who have the drive to innovate and evolve in an area that’s both aged and still emerging.
Indeed, there are few areas of professional development and work undergoing more change than computer science. Consider the advancements that you’ve seen in terms of hardware and software as an average consumer, and you’ll start to understand how much things are changing behind the scenes.
Web developers. Hardware designers. Software coders. Online administrators. IT specialists. Video game developers. Each of these distinctive careers is recognizably unique, but did you know that each of them has a root in the larger field of computer science? More than any specialization, these jobs, and their respective skill sets are hugely dependent upon knowledge of the computer science field. That much, at least, hasn’t changed in the past twenty years.
How does that factor into the wages that computer scientists earn? Well, the truth of the matter is that it changes everything. Just as each of the careers described above is recognizably unique, so too do they each have their own average salary. There are dozens of similar careers, all of which are built upon that base foundation of computer science. If you want to know the average salary of a computer scientist, all of these diverse careers are the numbers that you’ll need to start bringing together.
To call that number “wide-ranging” would be something of an understatement.
In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the careers that contribute to the larger field of computer science. First, we’ll examine the average salaries of computer scientists in the United States. After that, we’ll begin looking at many of the most prominent areas of expertise that dwells atop that foundation, and see if we can’t bring a bit of specificity to a number that amounts to little more than a useful aggregate.
How Much Do Computer Scientists Make?
According to the Computer Science Degree Hub, the starting salary for someone with a computer science degree (or someone just beginning in the correlating field) is approximately $58,000. As far as starting pay goes for someone just entering a new career, that’s not a bad gig!
However, before accepting that average wholesale, it’s important to take a look at some of the factors that go into determining the salaries that lead to it. Primarily, this is important because computer science is a huge field with many potential areas of expertise. In addition to that, salaries often partially reflect the regions they’re located in since they align with the local cost of living.
If this is making the whole situation seem slightly more complex than you might have assumed, then at least you’re seeing it with the right eyes.
These salaries are also affected by the actual jobs in which people practice their expertise. Since many companies employ computer scientists for particular tasks–even when the companies themselves might not be that aligned with computer science–salary numbers can be affected by the overhead company more than the expertise of the computer scientist. The same link provided above expounds upon the listed average salary, explaining that even if the average salary for computer scientists is slightly down from the last recorded average in 2012, it’s still considerably higher than most starting salaries for college graduates and people new to their fields.
What Are Computer Science Careers?
Here’s another struggle that comes hand-in-hand with such a broad field as computer science–the actual careers that it leads to can be something of a mystery, if only because the potential field of them is so damned expansive! There isn’t a defined “niche” that people with computer science knowledge have to fit into, and whether a person has a correlating college degree or not, the field is wide open for these types of expertise.
A statistics report from Payscale that examines the paid career positions for computer science professionals in 2015-2016 is actually quite telling of exactly this. You can follow the provided link for a very thorough compilation of information, but here are a view very well-known career paths that use computer science as a foundation:
- Chief Information Officer. Median pay: $176,000
- Quality Assurance Director (of Computer Software). $142,000
- Software Engineering Manager. $136,000
- Software Development Manager. $126,000
- Data Architect. $124,000
This is only a handful of the possible career paths available to computer scientists, but look at those salary medians! If you’re looking for a good reference of the top-end varieties of pay that people with computer science knowledge can earn, this is the gold-standard that you want to aim for.
Are they the average amount that you can expect as a new computer science expert? As we’ve established above, of course not. But it’s just as useful to look at the top end of the pay scale as it is to look at the overall average. After all, nobody is hopping on a particular career with the intention of allowing their learning, work, and knowledge to stagnate, right? We want to be better and earn more.
How to Get Started in Computer Science
One of the best degrees that you can get from a wide variety of public and private universities is a computer science degree. We’ve already shown you how widely applicable it is in a huge variety of fields, but what we haven’t explained is that it’s currently a growing field. That growth is occurring rapidly in interesting directions, and going to school to study computer science and the career directions it can lead in has the potential to be an immensely rewarding experience.
However, you don’t need a computer science degree to get into this field. What you need is the skills and knowledge that this type of degree will give you, and thankfully, a great deal of that can be obtained using nothing more than the resources that you currently have on hand.
Computer? Check. Internet connection? Double-check. Hours, days, weeks, and months that you’re willing to dedicate to exploring and learning the various hardware and software environments that you’ll need to know? Whoa, now! Hold on!
If there was ever any doubt in your mind that computer science is a field requiring an immense amount of dedication, let me get it out there right now. This field is going to be demanding of your time, attention, and energy, in ways that only other scientific studies can match. Failure to properly gain the necessary knowledge will result in you being far less employable.
In case you are ready, though, there are plenty of places online where you can get started. Places like Udemy offer online coursework–some paid, some free–that you can apply yourself to at any pace that you like. While these courses are going to pale in comparison to what you might receive in a university classroom, you’ll nevertheless be given the same introduction to the same systems that degree holders learn how to use. There are several other options online that can provide coursework similar to what you’d find in a degree program; try searching for a few, and always check the credentials and background of anyone offering to sell you online coursework.
As with many fields that are so continually demanding of their respective experts, the learning isn’t going to end at any point in time. Computer science has been around for a while, but it’s still technically an emerging field that’s constantly evolving and growing in new and interesting ways. If you want to remain marketable, you’ll have to stay on top of current trends in the industry!
The above information should do far more than simply tell you how much a computer scientist makes per year. Though you owe yourself a fair bit more research if you plan on diving into this exciting area of study and work, our guide will hopefully have piqued your interest, and urged you in a direction that suits your interests! If you have any remaining questions about computer science of salaries attached to computer science careers, let us know in the comments below!