Career tips

Computer science students are in demand and they know it

A new survey reinforces the notion that a computer science degree is a smart career move, and finds that students are well aware of it

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Credit: Donna Sullivan-Thomson CC BY 2.0

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If you’re a college student trying to pick a major that will maximize your career prospects, it’s no secret that computer science is a good choice. There’s no shortage of data, reports, and surveys which find that people with CS degrees can expect some of the some of the highest starting salaries of any field of study. Now comes a new survey of recent college grads which shows again that students who major in computer science have excellent job and salary prospects.

The survey was conducted by Looksharp, a marketplace for internships and entry-level jobs, which published the results last week in its State of College Hiring Report 2015. Looksharp surveyed 50,000 U.S. college students and recent graduates this past April about their experiences with recruiting for internships and full time jobs. Some of the general findings, across all majors, were that students who had multiple paid internships, took online courses, and had higher GPAs had greater chances of landing full time jobs at graduation.

In addition to the published results, Looksharp was kind enough to share with me some additional data specific to computer science graduates, all of which support the notion that studying CS is a wise career choice. Here are some of the key CS-related findings.

Computer science majors have some of the best job prospects

The survey found that, of all students who had graduated the year before (in 2014), less than half, 45%, had full time jobs at the time of the survey. However, of those students who studied computer science, 61% had full time jobs, tops among all majors besides military science (62%) and better than the rate of 50% overall for STEM grads in general. Additionally, 31% of CS majors had full time job offers by graduation, which ranked third behind finance majors (38%) and those studying mechanics and repair (33%).

Computer science majors make the most money

Of all majors, students studying in CS had the highest average starting salary, $66,161, followed by engineering ($65,000), math and statistics ($60,300), economics ($58,600), and finance ($58,000). In addition, 32% of CS grads had a starting salary of over $75k and 13% started at over $100k.

Computer science majors know their value

The survey shows that CS majors are aware that their degrees are valuable; on average, they expected a starting salary of $68,120, slightly above the actual average starting salary of $66,161. In addition, 73% of them expecting a starting salary over $55K (compared to 70% who actually got that much) and 12% expected a starting salary of over $100k, slightly less than the 13% of them who actually got 6-figure jobs. As Looksharp’s CMO Nathan Parcells told me via email, “It shows that students understand how in demand the CS major is and that it can command a 6 figure salary immediately out of school.”

In fact, those CS student at the high end should continue to increase their expectations since, as Parcells explained to me, the practice of capping entry-level salaries is starting to erode as companies vie for new developers. “Some growing tech companies do negotiate and are willing to offer this large salary to top CS talent,” he said.

Even non-CS majors see the value of computer science classes

The survey found that 53% of all students, regardless of major, had taken computer science classes, “oftentimes with the express purpose of standing out in the job market,” Parcells wrote in the survey report. Among non-CS majors, business students led the way with 69% of them taking CS classes. These results, Parcells told me, show “how pervasive that skill set is becoming for students wanting to make an impact in their career.”

CS grads are pickier about the jobs they’ll take

Given that computer science majors know they’re in-demand, it’s not surprising that the survey also found that they are a little pickier than other students about what tradeoffs they’re willing to consider to get a job. For example:

  • 68% would do an internship after graduation to get a foot in the door, compared to 75% of all respondents.
  • 46% would consider working in an industry that wasn’t their top choice, compared to 52% of all respondents.
  • 39% would consider taking a job with a less than ideal work-life balance, compared to 52% of all respondents.

The bottom line of all is that computer science continues to be a great choice of major of students, and the students know it. As Parcells told me, computer science “is an incredibly in demand major and a high value major for students.”

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