Featured Image

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.

What Can You Do With a Computer Science Major?

Yaw Anokwa, entrepreneur

AnokwaAnokwa 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

BrownBrown 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

LynchThe 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

UmaliUmali 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
CollegeXpress Logo

$10,000

Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Ariyane

Ariyane

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress really helped me by letting me know the colleges ratings and placements. They gave me accurate information on my colleges tuition rates and acceptance. They even let me know the ration between students and faculty and the diversity of the college. Overall they told me everything I needed and things I didnt even think I needed to know about my college and other colleges I applied for.

Carlie Cadet

Carlie Cadet

High School Class of 2019

CollegeXpress has helped me learn about an abundance of scholarships available to me and my situation. I was able to do research for colleges in my best interest with your website. I've had multiple colleges email me and offer me multiple scholarships and things of that nature because of this website! Thank you so much for uploading scholarships I didn’t even know existed, even if my life took a huge turn and I wasn’t able to go to college straight out of high school. CollegeXpress helped me a lot in high school to be even more motivated to get into my dream college (which I did, by the way). I'm looking forward to using the materials CollegeXpress has kindly provided me for free to look for scholarships to help pay for college.

Jenna

Jenna

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me greatly during my college search. I used their college search feature often and it helped in comparing schools I was looking at. Now that I’ve found a college the scholarship search feature is helping me find a way to find my college experience. CollegeXpress has many helpful features and resources for anyones college search, it truly is a wonderful tool for anyone entering college level!

Sadie Hartmann

Sadie Hartmann

High School Class of 2021

I'm a senior in high school, and CollegeXpress has helped me in so many ways this year in trying to navigate the process of deciding and committing to a university. The COVID-19 Student Resource Center has helped me many times with the most up-to-date and accurate information, along with financial aid and student life [advice]. During these uncertain times, CollegeXpress has been a great recourse to relieve the stress as a senior. Along with the COVID-19 Student Resource Center, I'm constantly using the extremely helpful tools off the site to aid me during this stressful process. Tools like the lists and rankings of universities have been the most beneficial. I've also used the site to receive expert advice on topics like financial aid. Finally, CollegeXpress has helped me easily apply for several scholarships. I'm thankful to be given the chance to win a scholarship to lessen the burden of my college debt.

Victoria Fuss

Victoria Fuss

March Madness Scholarship Winner, Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has helped me dramatically. Moving on to the next level has been a dream of my mine since I was just a young kid, and the support and help CollegeXpress has given me will help me further my education. I couldn’t be more grateful to everyone at CollegeXpress!

College Matches