A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at CTU will not necessarily lead to the featured careers. This collection of articles is intended to help inform and guide you through the process of determining which level of degree and types of certifications align with your desired career path.
If you’re considering a career in computers, then you probably already know there are a number of different information technology and computer science career paths to choose from. Deciding which of those computer career paths could be the right option for you is a big decision, and one that can affect whether you choose to pursue a computer science degree or an information technology degree program.
What Are Computer Careers?
Computer careers are those with a focus on computers and technology. Computer engineering careers, computer programming careers and IT careers are just a few examples.
Computer Jobs Growth
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment in computer and information technology occupations will increase 15 percent from 2021 to 2031—an increase that is projected to add about 682,800 new computer and IT jobs*,1—although an individual job outlook for a particular occupation may be higher or lower than this projection.
Computer Science Salary and Projected Computer Job Opportunities
Salaries for computer science and IT career paths as well as projected computer job growth rates tend to vary, so it’s always a good idea to refer to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for wage and projected employment information broken down by occupation. That said, the median annual wage for computer and IT occupations was $97,430 in May 2021, which is higher than the median annual wage for all occupations.*,1
Computer Career Paths
Software Developers and Software Engineers
Software developers, sometimes referred to as software engineers or applications software developers, create, develop and upgrade/update computer software. They analyze how users intend to use a particular piece of software and then design it to meet the users’ needs, sometimes working closely with computer programmers who write the code, and sometimes writing the code themselves.2
- Applications software developers design computer applications.
- Software engineers plan a project’s scope and order of work after assessing a project’s system and software requirements.
- Systems software developers create computer operating systems and, often, the user interfaces that make it possible for users to interact with their device.2
Software Developers and Software Engineers
Web developers create websites. Different types of web developers focus on different aspects of site development:
- Back-end web developers focus on the technical construction of a website—they create the underlying framework for websites.3
- Front-end web developers produce technical features for a website’s look. They help design a website’s layout and integrate different types of elements, such as graphics or applications, into it.
- Web designers and digital interface designers develop a website’s look and feel. They make stylistic decisions (font, graphics, colors, etc.) and are responsible for the interface’s functionality, usability and compatibility.
- Webmasters ensure website functionality, test for and troubleshoot errors and may also respond to user comments.
Computer hardware engineers research and design new computer hardware (e.g., processors, circuit boards, routers, etc.). As part of the development process, they perform tests on this hardware, analyze test results and modify the design as needed. They also update existing hardware and typically oversee the manufacturing process for any hardware they design. When hardware and software are being developed simultaneously, hardware engineers will often work together with software developers.4
Computer programmers write and test code that enables computer applications and software to function, and they typically specialize in multiple programming languages. They not only create software but also update and expand existing programs. Computer programmers often may write code for programs that have been designed by software developers and engineers, but sometimes they are responsible for both coding and program design.5
Database administrators create, maintain and organize systems to store and protect data while making sure that authorized users can access the data. Their duties typically include backing up and storing data, ensuring that databases are working efficiently, modifying database structures and updating database permissions. Because databases often contain sensitive information (e.g., personal, proprietary or financial), database administrators must ensure that that adequate security measures are taken to protect it from theft or other misuse.6
Computer Systems Analyst
Computer systems analysts—also known as systems architects or IT analysts7—analyze an organization’s existing computer systems and procedures and then design solutions to improve efficiency based on their findings. Most specialize in computer systems that are specific to the organization they work for. Computer systems analysts may consult with managers to determine the role of an organization’s IT systems, research emerging technologies for potential installation, prepare cost-benefit analyses to determine the financial feasibility of upgrades to IT systems and train systems’ end users, among other duties.8
Network administrators play an important role in many industries and organizations as they are responsible for the daily operation of computer networks, including local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), network segments, intranets and other data communication systems. Typical network administrator duties involve installing, upgrading and repairing network hardware and software; maintaining network and system security; evaluating and optimizing network/system performance; and training users to properly utilize hardware and software.9
Information Security Analysts
Information security analysts protect computer networks and systems from cyberattacks. They research IT security trends, recommend security enhancements and install security software all in an effort to protect an organization’s sensitive data. Information security analysts document network security breaches and assess the damage such breaches cause and are very involved in the creation of an organization’s disaster recovery plan, which is a plan that enables the IT department to continue to operate even after a cyberattack.10
How to Prepare for a Computer Career Path
To prepare to pursue a computer career path similar to the ones above, most positions require at least a bachelor’s degree.1 Whether you choose to pursue a computer science degree program, computer engineering degree program or an information technology degree program should be based on your personal interests and professional aspirations.
A computer science degree program** is a versatile program that may help you prepare to pursue a career path in information security, computer programming or web development. An IT degree program** may also be relevant to multiple computer career paths, including computer and information systems management, computer systems analyst, information systems, information security and computer network architecture.
Meanwhile, either program may help you prepare yourself to seek a career path in software development—you might want to explore a Bachelor’s in Computer Science—Software Engineering** or Bachelor’s in IT—Software Systems Engineering.**
If you’re already a computer science professional or academic and are interested in expanding your knowledge and developing your expertise, a Doctor of Computer Science degree program could also make sense for you.
* This data represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.
** Colorado Technical University cannot guarantee employment, salary, or career advancement.
The list of career paths related to this program is based on a subset from the Bureau of Labor Statistics CIP to SOC Crosswalk. Some career paths listed above may require further education or job experience.
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Computer and Information Technology Occupations,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm (visited 11/30/2022). This data represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.
2 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/software-developers.htm (visited 11/30/2022).
3 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Web Developers and Digital Designers,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/web-developers.htm (visited 11/30/2022).
4 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Computer Hardware Engineers,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/computer-hardware-engineers.htm (visited 11/30/2022).
5 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Computer Programmers,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-programmers.htm (visited 11/30/2022).
6 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Database Administrators and Architects,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/database-administrators.htm (visited 11/30/2022). 7 O*NET Online, “15-1211.00—Computer Systems Analysts,” https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1211.00 (visited 11/30/2022).
8 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Computer Systems Analysts,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-systems-analysts.htm (visited 11/30/2022).
9 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Network and Computer Systems Administrators,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm (visited 11/30/2022).
10 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Information Security Analysts,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm (visited 12/15/2022).
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