The field of computer science offers plenty of opportunities to make a great living, often with nothing more than a bachelor’s degree and strong technical skills. If you’re eyeing positions with $80,000, $90,000 or even $100,000 and above average salary rates, a computer science degree can help you get there.
Planning and designing new systems and computer programs, overseeing and maintaining existing networks and databases and solving hardware and software problems are some of the job duties the highest-paying computer science jobs entail. On our list of the top 10 highest-paying computer science jobs, we explore the most lucrative careers available with a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in computer science.
What Are the 10 Highest-Paying Jobs in Computer Science Field?
Among non-management jobs in the field of computer science and information technology, the highest-paying computer science jobs by median annual salary are:
Computer and information research scientist
Computer network architect
Information security analyst
Computer systems analyst
Software quality assurance analyst
Network and computer systems administrator
For all information technology and computer science jobs, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median annual salary of $97,430 as of 2021. Most of the high-paying computer science jobs on our list reported median salaries above that figure, some of which amounted to 20%, 30% or even close to 35% more than the median wage across the IT and computer science industry.
1. Computer and Information Research Scientists
The highest-paying computer science jobs fit into the category of computer scientist.
What Do Computer and Information Research Scientists Do?
A computer scientist is a professional who applies scientific principles and methods to computing and computation, conducting abstract research or developing practical solutions to computing problems.
While most IT and computer science professionals focus on applications of existing software, computer programming languages and technology to business and consumer needs, computer and information research scientists may create new methods and technologies. For example, computer scientists might study and develop new algorithms for machine learning and artificial intelligence, create new programming languages that can accomplish outcomes existing computer languages can’t or design novel computer architecture.
Because they are working on the cutting edge of science, experimentation is a significant part of computer scientists’ jobs. Computer science research isn’t always academic in nature. In fact, 95% of computer and information research scientists work outside of academia (college and university environments), with the federal government, computer systems design and scientific research and development industries employing two-thirds of the field.
However, serious computer scientists follow scientific methods in their research, from designing experiments that will test their theories and hypotheses to analyzing their findings using statistical methods. As such, these computer science jobs are best-suited for professionals who are interested in the scientific aspects of computing and computation.
Earning Potential for Computer Scientists
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists computer and information research scientist as the highest-paid career within the computer and information technology occupations. The median annual salary reported for this role by the BLS amounted to $131,490 in 2021.
Certain industries pay better than others in computer scientist roles. Generally, the highest-paying computer science roles for researchers and scientists are in the computer systems design and related services industry. This industry, which employed 20% of the computer scientist workforce, paid a median salary of $161,870.
The next most lucrative industry is the software publishers industry, which employed just 6% of the occupation but paid a median salary of $152,940. The 16% of the occupation employed in scientific research and development roles were paid a median annual salary of $132,810, right in line with the overall median wage for the field.
The 31% of computer scientists who worked for the federal government earned less, with a median salary of $112,310. Colleges and universities were the least lucrative of the top employment industries for computer and information research scientists. The 5% of computer scientists working in this field earned much less than their counterparts in other industries, with a median salary of $79,510.
2. Database Architects
Another of the computer science jobs with a six-figure average annual salary is database architect.
Why Are Databases Important?
Databases are the computer systems that store and organize data, or information, so that users can access, update and make meaning of this information.
Today, just about every organization collects and stores some sort of data as part of its normal business operations. Medical facilities keep records of patients. Schools keep records of students. Retailers maintain consumer data through loyalty programs. Even nonprofit organizations keep records pertaining to donors and volunteers.
What Do Database Architects Do?
It’s because databases are essential to modern organizations that database architect is one of the highest-paying computer science jobs. A database architect is a computer science professional who is responsible for designing databases in which organizations can store and maintain their important data.
The term “architect” in computer science typically connotes responsibilities involving high-level planning, organization and design. Creating and testing the code used to build a database is part of a database architect’s job, but database administrators aren’t merely computer programmers. More importantly, they put in the work to research the needs of the organization and develop and model a design that fits those needs.
Earning Potential for Database Architects
The median annual salary the BLS reported for database architects as a whole as of 2021 was $123,430. The administrative and support services industry, which employed 6% of the field, paid the best. The median salary for database architects working in this industry was $127,690.
The management, scientific and technical consulting services industry, which employed 5% of the occupation, paid a median salary of $127,690. The median salary paid by the finance and insurance industry, which employed 13% of the field, was close behind at $127,240, followed by the $126,900 median salary reported for the 7% of database architects working in the management of companies and enterprises industry.
The largest employment industry for this occupation, the computer systems design and related services industry, employed 29% of the workforce but paid the least among the top employment industries, with a median salary of $116,160.
3. Computer Network Architects
Like database architects, computer network architects are designing and building something – computer networks.
What Do Computer Network Architects Do?
Computer networks refer to any interconnected computers or computing devices that share information and resources. There are numerous types of networks, such as local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs), which may be large or small.
In building these communication networks, computer network architects develop plans and designs based on organizations’ needs, including data security needs. A computer network architect uses both computer hardware and software to design a data communication network layout and implement that design.
Earning Potential for Computer Network Architects
With an overall median wage of $120,520, the BLS listed computer network architect as the computer science job with the third highest median salary. Among the largest employment industries for computer network architects, insurance carriers pay the most, with a median annual salary of $127,710. Four percent of the workforce was employed in this industry.
The next most lucrative are jobs in the computer systems design industry, which employed 27% of the occupation and paid a median salary of $121,410. Computer network architects working for the management of companies and enterprises industry – 8% of the total occupation – were paid a median salary of $120,710.
The 9% of the profession working in the telecommunications industry earned a significantly lower median salary of $103,110. The 4% of computer network architects working in the educational services industry reported a much lower median wage of $81,060.
4. Software Engineers, Software Architects and Software Developers
Another of the highest-paying computer science jobs is software developer.
What Do Software Developers Do?
To put it simply, software developers are the computer science professionals who develop software solutions.
Much of the way we use computing devices like desktop and laptop computers, mobile phones and tablets relies on software. Software programs are the instructions that computers use to perform tasks.
While hardware components such as chips and circuit boards power computation, software is critical to the effective use of computers. Without software, we couldn’t perform serious work involving databases, spreadsheets, statistical analysis and mathematical modeling. We also couldn’t play mobile games, shop online or browse the Internet.
Some examples of software systems include the following:
Operating systems: Operating systems are the software systems that allow users to give computing devices commands. Operating systems tend to be largely invisible to consumers since they are already loaded onto the device and don’t need to be installed, but without them, the device couldn’t function.
Utility software: Utility software programs, such as optimization programs and anti-virus software, supports the computer’s operations but is often in the background.
Applications software: At the forefront of computing are applications software, the programs you use to perform just about any task you might desire. Whether you’re working, playing, watching, shopping or browsing, you’re almost certainly using application software each time you use a computer, smartphone or tablet.
Software development encompasses the use of programming languages to write the algorithms – or the rules, instructions or processes – that tell a computer what to do.
Software Development vs. Software Architecture vs. Software Engineering
There are different types of software developers who focus on different aspects of the software development process. The software developer occupation includes both software architects and software engineers.
Generally, software architecture emphasizes the planning and organizing of a software program. Software engineering involves the scientific design of the scope, requirements and order of work on a software program that’s in development.
A software architect and a software engineer both approach software development from a high level, focusing primarily on the design over the work of writing the code that will bring the program to life.
How do you decide whether to become a software architect or a software engineer? Either of these roles is commonly open to computer science graduates who gain work experience in software development. If you think you may want to specialize as either a software architect or a software engineer, consider your skills and interests. Both software architects and engineers need technical knowledge to design computer software, but a software architect is more concerned with planning technical aspects of a program, and a software engineer is more focused on solving problems and devising the process of bringing design plans to fruition.
Earning Potential for Software Engineers and Developers
For software developers as a whole – including software engineers and software architects – the BLS reported a median annual salary of $120,730. Software publishers paid software developers the most, with a median salary of $130,180. One in 10 software developers worked in this industry.
Next most lucrative is the manufacturing industry, which employed 9% of software developers and paid a median salary of $124,950. The 11% of the workforce employed by the finance and insurance industry reported earning nearly as much money, with a median wage of $124,390. You might expect the management of companies and enterprises industry to be one of the best-paying industries for this occupation, but the 5% of software developers working in this field reported a slightly lower median salary of $120,710. The computer systems design industry, which employed nearly one-third of the occupation, paid a significantly lower median salary of $103,010.
5. Information Security Analysts
In today’s climate of constant cyber threats, computer security is critical. Information security analysts, also known as a data security analyst, can help protect the data in an organization’s possession.
What Does an Information Security Analyst Do?
The key responsibility of a data security analyst is to analyze potential cyber threats. Information security analysts accomplish this by monitoring the security systems an organization already has in place, looking for potential vulnerabilities that could leave the organization open to cyber threats and investigating if a breach does occur.
In general, an information security analyst’s job is to notice weaknesses in existing security systems, employment website Indeed reported. Strong analytical skills and attention to detail are critical for success in a data security analyst role.
If you want to do more than just analyze threats and plan for the possibility of a breach – if, for example, you want to make the changes required to strengthen these weaknesses – you might be better off becoming a security engineer. A security engineer is a professional whose job is to implement security solutions.
Earning Potential for Information Security Analysts
The fifth role on our list is also the last of the computer science jobs for which the BLS reported an overall median annual salary above $100,000 as of 2021. Information security analysts as a whole earned a median yearly salary of $102,600.
The information industry paid information security analysts the most among the top employing industries for this field. The 14% of the profession reported earning a median salary of $128,970.
In the finance and insurance industry, where 15% of this field works, the median salary amounted to $104,790. The 8% of information security analysts working in the management of companies and enterprises industry reported earning a median salary of $101,350, and the computer systems design industry, which employed 27% of the profession, was close behind with a median salary of $101,170. Among the top employment industries in this field, only administrative support services, which employed 5% of the occupation, paid a median wage under six figures: $95,270.
6. Computer Systems Analysts
Another high-paying analyst role, computer systems analyst entails assessing a company’s computer systems and proactively looking for potential improvements. Computer technology is constantly changing, so the practices, hardware components and software configurations that were once optimal won’t remain that way forever, especially in specialized areas like engineering computer systems and financial computer systems.
To improve a company’s systems, analysts identify potential upgrades, added functionalities and new technologies that may offer benefits and compare the costs of these improvements to the anticipated benefits.
Earning Potential for Computer Systems Analysts
In computer science jobs, as in other technical fields, strong analytical skills are in high demand. The median annual salary for computer systems analysts as of 2021 barely missed the six-figure mark at $99,270, according to the BLS.
The two highest-paying industries for computer systems analysts paid median salaries that crossed the six-figure threshold. In the management of companies and enterprises industry, which employed one in 10 computer systems analysts, the median wage was $100,340. The median salary for computer systems analysts in the computer systems design and related services industry followed close behind at $100,220. That’s good news, considering that almost one in four computer systems analysts worked in this role.
For the finance and insurance industry, where 15% of computer systems analysts work, the median salary of $99,340 is on par with the overall median wage for the profession. The 6% of the workforce employed in the information industry doesn’t fare too badly, either, with a median salary of $97,230. However, the median salary for the 7% of the field employed by the government is much lower, at $80,040 per year.
7. Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers
Even the best software development professionals aren’t perfect. To ensure that a computer program is working as intended, technology companies hire professionals with strong technical capabilities to test and assess the quality of computer applications.
Testing computer applications for quality doesn’t mean haphazardly playing around with the software program in hopes of identifying bugs or glitches. A software quality assurance analyst and tester first develops plans and procedures that will allow them to identify issues as efficiently as possible. Software quality assurance analysts may use automation tools and programs as well as manual explorations of a software application to test a program for defects.
Earning Potential for Software Quality Assurance Analysts
Testing computer software programs pays considerably less than developing them yourself, but the median salary the BLS reported for this profession is still near the six-figure mark. The overall median annual salary for software quality assurance analysts was $98,220.
In the manufacturing industry, where 7% of software quality assurance analysts worked, the median salary rose to $102,090. Among the rest of the top employing industries for this field, median wages weren’t just below $100,000 – they were also below the overall median wage.
The 33% of the computer systems design services industry reported earning a median annual salary of $98,000. For the 9% of the workforce employed by software publishers, the median salary was $94,980. Software testers in the finance and insurance industry – accounting for 11% of the occupation – earned a median salary of $92,660. The administrative and support services industry paid software quality assurance analysts the least among the top employment industries for the field, with a median salary of $86,060.
8. Database Administrators
Database architects aren’t the only computer science professionals whose work revolves around databases. Another of the highest-paying computer science jobs is database administrator, the role that emphasizes the maintenance of and support for the use of existing databases.
A database administrator doesn’t create databases. Instead, they monitor and maintain the computer systems that allow the database to perform as intended. When errors arise or updates are needed, database administrators are the ones organizations call.
Data security is another common responsibility of database administrators. Because the information contained in a database may be sensitive – and allowing it to fall into the wrong hands could lead to issues like identity theft – organizations must take reasonable data security measures to protect the information in their possession from hackers and cyber threats.
Earning Potential for Database Administrators
Among all database administrators, the median annual salary as reported by the BLS was $96,710.
Six-figure salaries are possible in database administrator roles, particularly in certain industries. The finance and insurance industry, which employed 13% of the occupation as one of the largest employment industries for this career, paid a median salary of $102,930. The management of companies and enterprises industry, which employed 7% of the field, paid a median salary of $101,400, and the computer systems design industry, which employed 13% of the field, paid a median wage of $101,000.
The median salary reported for the information industry, which employed 12% of the workforce, was $99,340. Only in the educational services industry, which employs 9% of the database administrator profession, is the median annual salary significantly lower, at just $77,340.
9. Computer Programmers
Computer programs are made out of code written in special computer programming languages. The work of computer programmers isn’t as high-level as that of architects and engineers, but their competent coding is what brings to life designers’ visions of how computer programs and applications should work and look.
Earning Potential for Computer Programmers
Although the median annual salary for computer programmers was $93,000 as of 2021, according to the BLS, the nearly one-third of the workforce employed by the top employment industry – computer systems design and related services3 – made just $79,860.
Fortunately, employers in other top industries paid considerably better. The software publishers industry, which employed 5% of the profession, paid a median salary of $102,370. The 7% of the computer programmer occupation working for the finance and insurance industry made a median salary of $99,260. In the manufacturing industry, which employed 6% of computer programmers, the median salary was $98,320.
10. Network and Computer Systems Administrators
Long after a network architect designs a communication network, the network requires maintenance and support. These roles are the primary focus of a network administrator. A particular job role in the network administrator occupation is network security administrator, which focuses on the tasks required to keep the network secure from cyber threats.
Earning Potential for Network Systems Administrators and Network Security Administrators
The $80,600 median annual salary the BLS reported for network and computer system administrators is well below most of the salaries on our list – and, for that matter, below the $85,000 median annual wage the BLS reported for the computer science and information technology field as a whole. Still, this salary is nothing to scoff at, amounting to upwards of 33% more than the median salary the BLS reported across all fields.
Network systems administrators and network security administrators working for the management of companies and enterprises industry reported the highest median salaries among top employment industries. The 8% of the occupation working in management reported earning a median wage of $98,320.
In the finance and insurance industry, where 9% of the profession works, the median salary was $96,860. The one in 10 network systems administrators who worked in the information industry earned a median wage of $94,980.
From here, earning potential among the top employment industries declines sharply. The 17% of network systems administrators working in the computer systems design industry reported a median salary of $83,760. In the educational services industry, which employed 11% of the occupation, the median salary was $77,620.
The Best-Paying Senior Roles for Computer Professionals
The very best paying computer science jobs aren’t in the computer and information field at all but instead in the management occupations.
How Much Do Computer and Information Managers Earn?
For computer and information systems managers as a whole, the BLS reported a high median annual salary of $159,010. The highest-paying jobs in computer systems management pay upwards of $208,000, and even the 1oth percentile of earners reported a salary of $95,220.
All of the top employment industries for computer and information systems management roles paid wages at or above $160,000. The information industry, which employed 13% of computer and information managers, paid the best, with a median salary of $165,940.
Median pay in the finance and insurance industry, where 12% of the occupation worked, was $162,240, closely followed by the $162,150 median salary reported for the computer systems design industry, where 23% of computer and information systems managers worked. The 9% of the profession working in the management of companies and enterprises industry reported a median wage of $161,630. In the manufacturing industry, which employed 6% of this workforce, the median salary was $160,010.
What Are Computer and Information Systems Managers?
The computer and information managers occupation encompasses any management-level role in which the computer science professional plans and directs a company’s technology use and activities. Numerous job titles fall under the category of computer and information systems managers, including the following:
Information technology manager (IT department manager)
IT project manager
IT security manager
Technical services manager
Data processing manager
Information systems supervisor (IS supervisor)
Information systems manager (IS manager)
Information systems director (IS director)
Information technology director (IT director)
Computing services director
Application development director
Management information systems director (MIS Director)
Chief information officer (CIO)
Chief technology officer (CTO)
These computer science management job titles span an array of management roles at different levels. Naturally, the more high-level or complex your role is, the greater your income potential is likely to be.
C-suite executives like CIOs and CTOs can expect to make a great deal more money than project managers. Directors are likely to earn more than supervisors.
Where you fit into the hierarchy at your organization will affect your salary potential, as will the size and profitability of your company. Generally, large companies can afford to pay higher wages than small startups operating on a shoestring budget.
The demand for skilled computer and information managers is also higher in large companies than in small companies. Large companies often employ multiple managers responsible for overseeing different aspects of the company’s technical operations, while in smaller companies, one manager may wear several different hats and manage many different aspects of the organization’s operations.
Earning Potential for Other Computer Jobs
Web developers, for example, earned a median salary of $77,030 in 2021, according to the BLS. As the job title suggests, web developers design and create websites.
Some web developers focus on the back-end, or technical, aspects of building a website, while others focus on the front-end, namely the layout and appearance of the site. A full stack developer, who has the technical skills to create both the front-end and back-end of the website, has a higher earning potential. For full-stack developers across the United States, Salary.com reported an average annual salary of $100,270.
More senior-level roles in web development, like senior web developer, are also more lucrative. For senior web developers, Salary.com reported an average annual salary of $105,596.
The BLS classifies data scientist as a math occupation, not a computer occupation, but the profession still involves a great deal of computer technology use and capability. Data scientists develop algorithms and use software tools to glean insights and make meaning out of data. For data scientists, the BLS reported a median salary of $100,910.
Preparing for the Best-Paying Computer Science Jobs
No matter which career in computer science most appeals to you, your best path forward toward a lucrative career in computer technology is earning a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field of study. A computer science graduate will develop the skills needed for a variety of roles in this field.
What About Computer Engineering?
While a computer science degree can prepare you for any of these positions, prospective students might also consider other relevant majors, like computer engineering.
Computer engineering is a subdiscipline of electrical engineering that focuses on the application of engineering design principles to problems and solutions pertaining to computer hardware and software. Generally, a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering is most likely to appeal to you if your intended role in the field of computer science includes “engineer” in the title – such as data engineer, security engineer or site reliability engineer.
Although you don’t necessarily need a full grasp of the engineering design process to work in IT, having this background may be valuable for some roles, including data engineer.
Gaining Work Experience
Recent computer science graduates can’t expect to immediately command a pay rate on par with the average annual salary across the computer and IT occupations. First, they need to gain experience working in entry-level positions, which pay less, before they can move up into more lucrative roles. Any work experience you can acquire in the industry is valuable, including internships and co-op experiences completed in the course of earning your bachelor’s degree.
What Skills Do You Need for the Highest-Paying Jobs in Computer Science?
Success – and average salary – in the computer and IT field depends less upon your level of degree than the skills you possess. Some of the most valuable characteristics for aspiring computer and IT professionals include knowledge of the most popular programming languages and best practices for writing algorithms, designing network or software architecture and other technical competencies.
While a computer and IT professional’s technical skills are paramount, certain non-technical skills are also sought after by employers. The most successful computer and IT professionals have strong critical thinking skills and – particularly for those eyeing a management career – project management skills.
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