According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, computer science is the STEM college major with the highest job offer and acceptance rate. This is unsurprising given that tech jobs have a much higher predicted growth rate than average. They also have high salaries, which makes these jobs highly attractive to students and job seekers. With so many increasingly specialized tech careers out there, however, which one should you go for?
If you are good at both detailed and big picture thinking: data scientist
Data scientists use—and sometimes build—complex software to enable them to analyze data, make predictions based on this analysis, and thus implement business solutions. Data scientists need to be able to see the big picture—identify trends and predict how they might affect business in the future—but they also need to be able to spot mistakes, inconsistencies, and blank fields in their dataset. It is a highly-skilled job that will require you to have excellent statistical and software skills, and it is most commonly undertaken by those who have master’s degrees or even PhDs. It is also one of the best-paid tech jobs out there: in 2019, the median salary for data scientists was $94,280 per year.
If you like building new things: software engineer
Software engineers and software developers are in very high demand at the moment, partly because more and more companies want to develop mobile apps in order to keep up with their competitors. Beyond developing and maintaining apps and software—which can range from very simple, straightforward apps to extremely complex, cutting-edge augmented reality software—there are many other tasks that a software engineer might be required to do depending on their specialism, such as collecting and processing raw data, creating machine learning algorithms, and performing search engine optimization. A bachelor’s degree in computer science or similar is usually required for software engineering positions, and if you have a degree in another STEM subject, you can complete a masters in software engineering online, which will give you the skills you need to succeed in this in-demand, highly paid career.
If you have good analytical and communication skills: information security analyst
The job of an information security analyst is to create and implement security systems, either for a specific company or for a range of clients. While a lot of this job might be performed by an information security analyst sitting by themselves at their computer, analysts are also required to teach the company’s employees how to implement the security systems and how to minimize risks—for instance, how to recognize a spam email which may contain a virus. With some very high-profile data breach cases making the headlines in recent years, information security analysts are in high demand and earn very good salaries. Most companies require their analysts to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or programming, and some will even ask for a master’s degree.
If you like overseeing the whole operation: network administrator
Also called systems administrators or IT managers, network administrators oversee a company’s IT and web infrastructure, which will include WAN, intranet, security systems, software packages, and hardware. It is a varied role that should continue to be in good demand, although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics warns that the increased popularity of cloud computing may be at risk of slowing down employment growth for this type of role. If you want to work in this kind of job, therefore, you would be well advised to learn about cloud computing as well as some of the older systems that companies use. Like most tech jobs, network administrator positions usually require a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, though some openings only ask for an associate degree or a postsecondary certificate.
If you have a lot of patience: computer support specialist
A popular British sitcom, “The IT Crowd”, featured three computer support specialists who always answered their office phones with the line “Hello, IT. Have you tried turning it off and on again?”. While this is obviously an exaggeration for comedic effect, it points to the reality of working in IT support: a lot of the time, the problems you will be asked to solve will have been created by the user’s relative incompetence rather than by an actual technological failure. This is why it pays to have large reserves of patience—as well as computer knowledge, obviously—in order to be a successful computer support specialist. The good news is that many companies will hire IT support specialists with an associate degree or even with a postsecondary qualification. Depending on their specific role, computer support specialists might be asked to help customers, company employees, or both.
If you are visually creative: web designer
Web designers are responsible for creating websites, a job that requires not only technical skills but also an ‘eye for design’. Since virtually every company has a website these days, there is high pressure on web designers to make their clients’ websites more attractive and engaging than the competition’s. The position of a web designer is often distinct from that of a webmaster, which is the person responsible for maintaining the website and fixing any technical issues with it after it has been created. Both these positions are among the few tech careers that do not normally require a degree.
If you are detail-oriented: database administrator
A database administrator is the person responsible for setting up and maintaining a database. They usually work in large companies, such as insurance companies, colleges, and healthcare providers. A database administrator’s duties include implementing security measures, ensuring that data is input correctly and making the data easily available and accessible to the rest of the company. As with all tech jobs, solving problems is a big part of this role, and in order to be successful as a database administrator, you will need to be patient and able to trawl through large datasets in order to spot the issue. Database administrators are normally required to have a relevant bachelor’s degree.