The technical skills you gain during a computer science degree can prepare you for a range of specialised careers. Skills you gain through your own interest and enthusiasm can be even more valuable. Here are some of the computer science-related paths you might take after graduation, and a few more of the options open to you.
Software developers are the hands-on construction workers for any piece of software. They’re the people who do the coding, working individually and in teams to create and maintain a functional product.
Good software developers are very much in demand. It’s a career with high employability, high salary and excellent prospects. With a few years of experience, it wouldn’t be unusual to earn £50,000. In many cases, it’s also a 9-5 job that allows you a lot of time for a life of your own around the edges. Once you’ve gained experience, you can increase your flexibility by moving into freelance or contract work.
To land a graduate role as a software developer, you may well need more than the skills your computer science degree will give you. If you’re serious about coding, it should be something you do in your spare time, and you should improve your skills on your own, not just for your degree course. You’ll need to be able to demonstrate your technical skills and aptitudes, preferably with specific examples of projects you’ve worked on. It’s useful to look around early to decide the type of software development work you’re interested in – for example, back end development or web development – as this might affect which languages you choose to learn.
A software engineer has wider responsibilities than a developer. They’re the big picture people, the architects, responsible for designing programmes and figuring out how all the different systems fit together. Depending on their role, they may also be responsible for things like working with management, deploying new software, or getting in at ground level and doing some of the in-depth coding.
On top of your technical programming aptitude, you’ll need to be creative and adaptable, with excellent communication and problem solving skills.
QA, more prosaically known as software testing, is an integral part of the development of any software. It’s about ensuring that the software works properly before it’s deployed – testing it in as many ways and under as many conditions as possible, and identifying, reporting and (sometimes) fixing bugs.
Software testing is one of the least technical parts of software development. While a computer science background is an advantage, it isn’t a necessity –
More important is a logical mind and a methodical approach.
Salaries in software testing vary widely depending on the company. Some graduates will start at as little as £18k. In the right company, a software tester with a few solid years of experience can make around £50k.
As tensions around large-scale hacking rise and cybercrime becomes more common, it’s not surprising that cyber security is one of the fastest-growing areas of IT. Because of the potential to save companies vast amounts of money, it’s also one of the best paid.
A lot of cyber security professionals start out in a general IT role, perhaps as a developer, and then move into cyber security through on-the-job training as their interest deepens. If you’re already interested, your first step is to look for internships or work experience in cyber security. You should also take a look at online games and challenges such as the Cyber Security Challenge UK to prove that you have what it takes to succeed.
There’s no denying that this is the dream job for a lot of computer scientists, combining an industry you’re passionate about with a discipline you love. There are a vast number of routes into the industry too – from quality assurance and testing (no, it’s not just playing games!) to network engineering to artificial intelligence.
You might also use the contacts you make to move into other areas of game development that interest you, such as 3D modelling and even concept art.
Because of its dream job status, this is a highly competitive industry, and you’ll need a killer demo to get a foothold. If you don’t already design games for fun, start right away. Collaborate with friends or other enthusiasts and prove to yourself and others that you have the ability to create something amazing.
Consultancies are external companies that advise businesses on the best technologies to meet their business objectives. At the highest level, consultants review the business’s current position, its goals and its infrastructure, and make recommendations based on the technologies available. Consultancy companies often employ engineers, developers and QAs, especially if they offer bespoke software to meet their clients’ needs.
While you need plenty of technical understanding for this role, the most important qualities you can have are commercial awareness, people skills and management skills. If you’re the type of computer scientist who doesn’t want to sit in front of a screen all day, this could be the role for you.
Industry graduate schemes
Every organisation needs IT experts. As a computer science graduate, you can follow your passions by working for an organisation that particularly interests you.
Many large organisations offer graduate schemes that allow you to specialise in IT or a related area. For example, the Civil Service Fast Stream offers a Digital & Technology route which involves IT project management, service design and more. Transport for London offers a specific graduate scheme in Software Development. If there’s an industry that interests you, from public sector to energy and infrastructure, take a look at graduate schemes to see what’s on offer.
We’ve concentrated mainly on roles that make direct use of your computer science skills, but you’re definitely not limited to those. If you’d like to move into finance, law, teaching, accountancy, and many other major areas your degree type is unimportant. What matters are your skills and qualities.
As a computer science graduate, you will need to ensure you develop and demonstrate soft skills over your time at university – for example, communication, teamwork, organisation, research and leadership. This will help you to compete with humanities and business graduates who have had more of a chance to develop them over the course of their degree.
Bright Network is always here to support your career. As a member, we can offer tailored advice to help you discover what to do with your computer science degree. Don’t hesitate to give our membership team a call – 0203 011 1612.