In recent decades, computer science, software and web development, IT, and general technology support have all become thriving and competitive industries to work in. Increasing demand, high pay, and a range of potential opportunities have caused many to consider a career in the field.
Whether you’re looking to transition into a computer science role from a non-technical field or are already in a tech-centered role and looking to advance, there are many ways to achieve this goal. One of the most critical steps you can take is to ensure you have the skills employers are looking for in job applicants.
Below, we explore some of the essential computer science skills to have on your resumé if you are thinking about making a switch.
Download Our Free Guide to Breaking into Computer Science
Whether you have a technical or non-technical background, here’s what you need to know.
Technical Computer Science Skills
Here are some of the most in-demand technical skills for individuals who want to pursue a computer science career.
According to Ian Gorton, Director of Computer Science Programs at Northeastern University—Seattle, familiarity with algorithms is one of the most important technical skills in the marketplace today.
“Algorithms are kind of an abstract thing, but they’re a foundational skill,” Gorton says.
Algorithms are essentially a process or set of steps that must be followed to complete specific tasks that allow many software and technological devices to function. They are commonly referred to as the building blocks of programming. As such, many employers are specifically looking for individuals who can demonstrate familiarity with creating or adjusting algorithms.
One of the easiest ways to indicate your experience with algorithms is to outline your work either on your resumé (in the details below a particular job title) or in your cover letter when applying for a position.
“For example, someone could describe on their resumé, ‘I revised an algorithm for this problem that had this set of characteristics in terms of execution and time and space’” Gorton says.
2. Programming Languages
This one is probably a given, but it warrants being listed all the same. To be successful in a computer-science related career, you will need familiarity with multiple different programming languages. The further you progress within your career, the more expertise you will need.
The exact programming languages you should focus on will depend on many factors, including the type of work and industry you’re pursuing. Certain programming languages are heavily utilized in certain industries and not in others; for example, COBOL is heavily leveraged in legacy government and financial systems, but not much elsewhere.
Some of the most common languages you should consider include:
In showcasing these skills on your resumé, it’s a good idea to list these either under a “skills” heading or even under a separate “coding languages” heading so that employers can quickly spot them.
3. Cloud Skills
Finally, Gorton recommends that anyone interested in breaking into or advancing in the field should develop skills specifically related to the cloud. This expertise has become increasingly important in recent years, as many businesses have moved some or all of their technological needs (such as storage, processing, and security) off-site.
“There’s a very large demand for people with cloud skills,” Gorton says. “And that spans a whole spectrum of roles from people who know how to build back-end systems and databases and analytical systems that run on clouds.”
While there are many cloud-related skills you can master, some of the most important include:
- Expertise with a range of cloud platforms
- The ability to evaluate various services
- The ability to manage an integrated environment
- Database and network maintenance
- Data migration
“[Additionally], good cloud specialists know how to balance capabilities with costs, which is an important skill to have,” Gorton says.
Soft Computer Science Skills
In addition to the technical skills outlined above, Gorton also specifies several soft skills that are highly valued in the field. Incorporate these essential business skills into your resumé’s experience section, your cover letter, or even your interview answers, depending on what makes the most sense for the role.
Working within a team and remaining collaborative is critical to any professional role you take on—and the technology field is no different.
“There are almost no roles in the industry [today] that are individual roles,” Gorton says. “You always have to work in a team. You have to be able to coordinate your efforts, negotiate, and know how to approach problems and divide up the efforts across members.”
2. Project Management Skills
Most large organizations will employ project managers whose job is to usher various projects, including software development, through to completion. However, having project management experience as a computer science professional will give you a leg up against the competition.
“[Companies] need people with technical skills, but they also need people who know how to manage small projects,” Gorton says. “And I think that’s a compelling combination. If you have those skills, as long as you target the right industries, I think that’s a hot one.”
You can demonstrate project management experience by discussing the projects you have completed or managed in the past. It can be especially beneficial to note whether the project was completed on time and within budget or, if not, what you learned from the process that will empower you to do better in the future.
How to Make Your Computer Science Resumé Stand Out
While demonstrating your proficiency with these skills will increase your chances of being hired, you can also take additional steps to stand out among the competition.
Showcase your qualifications.
While it may be possible to be hired for a technical role without a formal education, this is increasingly uncommon. In fact, most of the largest employers of programmers and developers will now only consider applicants who hold at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field. More recently, earning a related graduate degree, such as a master of science in computer science, is seen as a way of standing out from those without an advanced degree.
If you have begun but not yet finished your undergraduate degree, a bachelor’s completion program can be an effective way of doing just that. If you already have a bachelor’s degree in a non-technical field, there are unique graduate programs, such as the Align Master of Science in Computer Science at Northeastern University, specifically designed for students who do not have a foundation in computer science.
Depending on your specialization and career trajectory, you also can consider earning a certification to expand your skills and demonstrate your commitment to continued learning. For example, you could pursue a cloud computing certification focused on the on-demand delivery of resources via the internet or earn a CompTIA certificate to focus on IT fundamentals.
Demonstrate your experience.
Gorton stresses the importance of showcasing any hands-on experience to the employer in applying for any job opening. You can do this by listing out specific projects on your resumé , discussing them in your cover letter, or even by building a portfolio.
“[Including] something substantial in terms of experiential projects is probably a good thing,” Gorton says. “It can be something maybe technical or maybe not, but something that shows initiative, something that shows that you have a sort of self-starter and you can do something and make it happen.”
Developing the Skills that Employers Want
Whether you are transitioning from a non-technical role or are looking to advance your computer science career, developing these employer-preferred skills is a step in the right direction. After refining your skills, add them to your resumé to help stand out from the competition and dramatically improve your odds of being hired for your next role.
To learn more about how an Align master’s in computer science from Northeastern can help you break into the field, download our free guide below.