Computer Science Careers: What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree

Industry Advice Computing and IT

Computer science is becoming a popular choice for students around the world, and it’s clear to see why. In the United States alone, the field of computer science is growing rapidly, resulting in a wide variety of career paths professionals with the necessary skills can follow.

Here, we offer a look at the positive job outlook for computer science professionals and outline ten of the top jobs for computer science graduates.

Computer Science Job Growth

The computer science industry is one of the fastest-growing fields in the U.S.—exceeding the average growth for all other occupations by nearly double. In fact, by 2028, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has predicted that nearly 550,000 new jobs will become available for trained professionals.

“The computer science field is growing at a crazy pace,” says Ian Gorton, director of computer science programs at Northeastern University–Seattle.

One reason for the industry’s rapid growth, according to Gorton, is the ever-evolving technology landscape and its demand for skilled workers with new and changing expertise.But that growth isn’t all good news: While computer science jobs are plentiful, there’s a deficit of qualified individuals to fill that need. In fact, it is estimated that roughly 1.4 million computer science jobs went unfilled in 2020. 

According to Amit Shesh—associate teaching professor and director of Northeastern’s Master of Science in Computer Science program—this is due in large part to the fact that many of today’s jobs in computer science demand niche skills which can vary based on the business or industry you’re in. Unfortunately, Shesh explains that it’s not always possible to obtain the necessary knowledge of computer science solely with a related bachelor’s degree.

“The bachelor’s degree is more about breadth than depth; it makes you more of a Swiss army knife in computer science,” Shesh says. “Computer science is one of those fields where having a bachelor’s degree is enough to get some jobs, but certainly not all, particularly more senior roles. There are companies that are looking to fill positions with people who have a master’s degree—that’s motivation for a lot of people to pursue one.”

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Computer science is also attracting a broader group of professionals—ones who perhaps didn’t study the topic as an undergrad, says Ben Hescott, teaching professor in Northeastern’s Khoury College of Computer Sciences. Many of these individuals have niche industry and business knowledge, but lack technical skills. Pursuing an advanced degree opens this group of people up to new and advanced career options.

For this subset of students—which includes those seeking a career change or are investing in computer science skills to bolster their current career—Hescott recommends seeking out a program that caters to them. Northeastern, for example, offers the Align Master of Science in Computer Science program, which provides non-computer-science majors a direct path to a master’s degree.

There are more than 152,000 open job listings in the computer science industry for those with a graduate degree, and 24 percent of employers prefer or require candidates with this level of education. For this reason, pursuing a graduate education can strategically provide you with the competitive edge needed to land one of the field’s fastest-growing jobs.

Popular Jobs for Master’s in Computer Science Graduates

If you’re seeking a career in computer science, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the jobs that are available to you. Below, we offer a look at nine of the most in-demand computer science jobs in the industry, and outline the average salaries you can expect from each role both nationwide and on a city-by-city basis. Primarily, we focus on Boston, Seattle, and the San Francisco Bay Area—three regions known for innovation and computer science opportunities and, subsequently, the three of Northeastern’s regional locations.

1) Computer and Information Systems Managers

U.S. Annual Median Pay, 2020: $151,150

U.S. Projected Growth, 2020-30: 11 percent

Individuals in these roles plan, coordinate, and direct computer-related activities in an organization. They help determine the information technology goals for the organization and are responsible for implementing computer systems to meet these goals. This career requires additional experience beyond a bachelor’s degree, Hescott says, which is why it’s a popular career option for those with a master’s in computer science.

Computer and Information Systems Managers Salary by City

2) Computer and Information Research Scientists

U.S. Annual Median Pay, 2020: $126,830

U.S. Projected Growth, 2020-30: 22 percent

These professionals are tasked with generating and designing new approaches to computing technology and seeking out innovative uses for existing technology. Computer and information research scientists solve and study complex problems, work with algorithms, and design new computer architecture—often in the fields of business, medicine, and science.

Computer and Information Research Scientists Salary by Cities

3) Computer Network Architects

U.S. Annual Median Pay, 2020: $116,780

U.S. Projected Growth, 2020-30: 5 percent

Computer network architects build data communication networks, including local area networks, wide area networks, and intranets. Some computer network architects may work on small networks, such as between two offices, while others might work with next-gen capabilities, such as cloud infrastructure that serves a number of customers.

Computer Network Architects Salary by City

4) Software Development Engineer

U.S. Annual Median Pay, 2021$112,360

Software development engineers (SDE) work in various industries to design, build, and maintain computer systems and software for their organizations. In addition to designing new systems and modifying existing systems, they must also test all software to ensure that it works properly and troubleshoot issues when necessary.

Software Development Engineer Salary by City

5) Software Developers

U.S. Annual Median Pay, 2020: $110,140

U.S. Projected Growth, 2020-30: 22 percent

Software developers are creative professionals who design, test, and develop applications that help people do their jobs. They also ensure that these programs function properly, recommend software upgrades, and collaborate with other computer specialists to create the most appropriate software for the job. These professionals typically work closely with computer programmers and, sometimes, write code themselves.

Software Developers Salary by City

6) Information Security Analysts

U.S. Annual Median Pay, 2020: $103,590

U.S. Projected Growth, 2020-30: 33 percent

These professionals plan and carry out security measures to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems. Hescott identifies this role as another example of a career that requires a graduate degree. “We’re starting to see more undergraduate programs in cybersecurity pop up, but generally these roles require a master’s degree,” he says.

Information Security Analysts Salary by City

7) Database Administrators

U.S. Annual Median Pay, 2020: $98,860

U.S. Projected Growth, 2020-30: 8 percent

Database administrators use software to organize and store data, such as advertising and sales metrics. They are also responsible for securing this data and making it available to authorized users. Database administrators also monitor the performance of databases and conduct performance-tuning support to ensure that data analysts and others can easily access and find the information they need.

Database Administrators Salary by City

8) Computer Systems Analysts

U.S Annual Median Pay, 2020: $93,730

U.S Projected Growth, 2020-30: 7 percent

Computer systems analysts look at a business’s computer systems and procedures, then develop solutions to help them function more efficiently and effectively. These professionals must be proficient in data modeling, as they conduct tests to analyze data and trends to improve a system’s performance. Computer systems analysts think about the needs and limitations of both the business and IT.

Computer Systems Analysts Salary by City

9) Network and Computer Systems Administrators

U.S. Annual Median Pay, 2020: $84,810

U.S. Projected Growth, 2020-30: 5 percent

These professionals are responsible for the everyday operations that keep businesses running. They set up networks and computer systems, install network hardware, collect data to optimize network or system performance, and assign security permissions. Network and computer system administrators work to ensure that email and data storage networks function properly, and that employees maintain access to the central computer network.

Network and Computer Systems Administrators Salary by City

10) Web Developers

U.S. Annual Median Pay, 2020: $77,200

U.S. Projected Growth, 2020-30: 13 percent

These professionals design and create websites, and ensure that the sites’ performance and capacity are optimized. Web developers often also write code, collaborate with team members to develop the look and feel of the content, and monitor the website’s traffic. Some developers handle all aspects of a website’s construction while others specialize in either back- or front-end development.

Web Developers Salary by City

Pursuing an Advanced Degree in Computer Science

With jobs in computer science poised to grow in the years to come, people seeking new skills through a master’s degree will be armed with a unique competitive advantage and ample opportunities for career advancement in this field.

“One of the mantras we have in the Khoury College of Computer Sciences is that computer science is for everyone—whether you’re looking to learn new skills or want to make a career change,” Hescott says. “The great thing about a master’s in computer science is that you can specialize in exactly what you like and combine it with nearly any interest you have.”

Browse through Northeastern’s Master’s of Computer Science program page or the e-book below to learn more about how this degree can help you on your path toward a top computer science career.

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This article was originally published in December 2017. It has since been updated for accuracy and relevance.