What Can You Do With a Computer Science Major?

Do you think it would be cool to design the technologies that make your electronic devices work better? To invent new ones? To help make people's lives and jobs easier? Then maybe computer science is the right path for you!

Think about the things you do every day: posting status updates, downloading songs, checking your class schedule online...

Do you think it would be cool to design the technologies that make those devices work better? To invent new ones? To help make people’s lives and jobs easier? Then maybe computer science is the right path for you! 

But first, let’s set some things straight. Computer scientists aren’t the people you call when your printer stops working. And they don’t sit in dark cubicles all day without talking to anyone.

“Whatever you think computer science is, you’re wrong,” says Dianna Xu, Chair of the Computer Science Department at Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

So...what is it?

Computer scientists use technology to solve problems. They write software to make computers do new things or accomplish tasks more efficiently. They create applications for mobile devices, develop websites, and program software. And you can find them everywhere, from big tech firms and government agencies to start-ups and nonprofits.

“It’s more than everyday computing,” says Liz Burd, Pro-Vice Chancellor in Learning and Teaching at the University of Newcastle in Australia. “It’s building the tools that enable everyday computing.”

Related: Search colleges with computer science majors

One of the biggest things Computer Science majors learn is how to logically think through a problem and find a way to solve it. Chris Stephenson, Executive Director of the Computer Science Teachers Association, adds that good computer scientists also understand teamwork and are good communicators. They work with other people all the time, she says, including those who don’t come from a CS background. “No matter how brilliant you are, at some point you will have to explain to someone how your product works or what your code does,” Stephenson says.

Bobby Schnabel, Dean of the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University Bloomington and chair of the Association of Computing Machinery's Education Policy Committee, says some students go into computer science because they like working with computers. Others want to solve problems with technology. Whatever your passion, a CS degree is a great foundation for all kinds of jobs.

Yaw Anokwa, entrepreneur

Anokwa was nine years old when he first programmed a computer. It was his father’s, used in teaching journalism at Butler University in Indianapolis, and Anokwa wasn’t allowed to touch it—but he did anyway, entering an online competition to win a faster modem.

In high school he started a business repairing computers for his classmates’ parents. In college he earned two degrees: one in Computer Science from Butler and one in Electrical Engineering from Indiana University—Purdue University Indianapolis. There Anokwa began to think that people could use computing to change the world for the better. After all, computers are everywhere: on your desk, in your pocket, and inside devices you use every day. “Software is very powerful,” he says.

During graduate school, Anokwa spent six months volunteering with a public health organization in Rwanda, where he helped introduce an electronic medical record system that’s now used nationwide. That experience inspired Anokwa to develop Open Data Kit, a platform that replaces paper forms with smart phones and tablet computers. Its tools are used all over the world. Election observers use it to monitor the polls in Egypt, health workers in Kenya use it to track efforts to combat HIV, and Brazilians use it to measure illegal logging in the rainforest. Anokwa and a partner eventually started a company called Nafundi, which consults clients using tools like Open Data Kit.

“These days, day-to-day I don’t do a lot of programming,” Anokwa says. “Those skills are in my head. All the skills I need now I learned in my first couple of years of undergrad.”

Joey Brown, software engineer

Brown meant to study philosophy when he enrolled at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. But he also liked tinkering with computers. He took a class about logic, then classes on computer programming. It might not seem like the two subjects have anything in common, but Brown liked how they both relied on logical thinking. “It seems like a very straightforward correlation,” he says.

The summer after graduating with his Computer Science degree, he went back to his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, and got a job lifeguarding at a country club. Through someone he met there he found his next job, in which he helped other companies find new employees for their information technology departments.

Outside of work he joined some informal groups for programmers. That’s how he met the founder of a website called MyRepresentatives. The site makes it easy for people who live in the Memphis area to find out who represents them in local, state, and federal governments. Brown started working for the site as its lead developer. It was an unpaid but valuable position.

He’d been working for MyRepresentatives for a few months when he landed a paid job as a software engineer with Lindsey Software, a company that designs programs for public housing agencies, where he works today.

Eileen Lynch, technical analyst

The computer programming class Lynch took in high school was one of her favorites. “I liked knowing step-by-step logic and understanding how things work,” she says. “How does this work, and how do you solve this problem?”

She majored in Computer Science at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont, where she learned a little bit of everything about computing: programming languages, the mathematical principles behind technology, managing a website, how to attack problems with systems, and more. “The biggest thing my degree did for me is that it gave me the perfect foundation to build on for my career,” Lynch says. “In my experience, it was a general degree. A technical degree, but a very general degree.”

Now she’s a technical analyst for Esri, a software company that uses a sophisticated mapping technology called geographic information systems (GIS). Lynch didn’t even know what GIS was before she joined Esri, but now she can’t imagine working in any other industry. Among other things her company’s software has been used to map the damage Hurricane Sandy left on the East Coast and illustrate where the federal government has sent money for different projects.

Lynch designs applications for companies that use Esri’s software. In her job she helps customers and works with colleagues to develop and test the applications. She likes that she does different things every day. “Every few months something changes, and I get to be at the cutting edge of what’s happening in our field,” she says.

Rick Umali, web engineer

Umali might not be playing video games all day, but since his company, Turbine, develops some of the world’s most popular online role-playing games, he sometimes needs to play to make sure everything works correctly.

Turbine makes games like Dungeons and Dragons and The Lord of the Rings. Umali works behind the scenes to keep the games running smoothly, making sure users can sign in when they want to play and that the list of the top players is up to date. “It’s a very energetic and dynamic environment,” he says.

Umali graduated in 1990 with a Computer Science degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Since then he’s had several jobs in the software industry, managing data so people can access it when they need it.

Technology has changed a lot since he was in college, but Umali says that being a computer science major taught him timeless skills, like how to examine and process information. “They taught us principles of how to break up a problem into manageable pieces,” he says. Then he was prepared to learn about innovations in the field, like new programming languages.

Overall, Umali says studying computer science can lead to cool jobs in a wide range of industries. “It’s such a broad field,” he says. “Pick something that you’re interested in and just embrace it.”

Related: Computer Science Majors and Potential Jobs

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Hannah Nelsen

Hannah Nelsen

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has helped me look at colleges that fit my interests by taking my profile and matching it to colleges that have the programs I'm looking for. It has the ability to connect me to colleges so I can be contacted by them and look at them more in-depth to find what's right for me. Additionally, the scholarship database is super beneficial for getting scholarships for college. Not only does it help lift the financial burden of college but it shows all the opportunities available. Overall, CollegeXpress has been very helpful to me.

Victoria

Victoria

High School Class of 2019

CollegeXpress has helped me by opening my eyes to new opportunities. I learned about such easy ways to get financial help to achieve my dreams while also learning about myself and who I truly am. I know this isn't a very long explanation of what CollegeXpress has done for me, but nonetheless, I believe it's crucial to how I developed as a person throughout my time as a college student.

Kayla

Kayla

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me organize the schools I wanted to choose from in one place, which I could then easily compare and find the school that was right for me!

Farrah Macci

Farrah Macci

High School Class of 2016

CollegeXpress has helped me in many ways. For one, online searches are more organized and refined by filtering scholarships through by my personal and academic interests. Due to this, it has made searching for colleges and scholarships significantly less stressful. As a student, life can already get stressful pretty quickly. For me, it’s been helpful to utilize CollegeXpress since it keeps all of my searches and likes together, so I don’t have to branch out on multiple websites just to explore scholarship options.

Melanie Kajy

Melanie Kajy

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me tremendously during my senior year of high school. I started off using the college search to find more information about the universities I was interested in. Just this tool alone gave me so much information about a particular school. It was my one-stop shop to learn about college. I was able to find information about college tuition, school rank, majors, and so much more that I can't list it all. The college search tool has helped me narrow down which college I want to attend, and it made a stressful process surprisingly not so stressful. I then moved to the scholarship search tool to find scholarships to apply for because I can't afford to pay for tuition myself. The search tool helped me find scholarships that I was eligible for. The tool gave me all the information I could ever need about a particular scholarship that was being offered. The CollegeXpress scholarship search tool is so much better than other tools offered, like the Chegg scholarship search. Thanks to CollegeXpress, I was able to apply to tons of scholarships in a relatively easy way!

College Matches
X

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Grace College

Winona Lake, IN

Pace University—Westchester

Pleasantville, NY

Hofstra University

Hempstead, NY