Is a computer science degree worth the investment? It’s a question on every student’s mind (as well as most parents). The long trek to graduation can be arduous, but studies show it just might be worth it over the long term.
Stack Overflow’s 2019 Developer Survey suggests that 62.4 percent of responding developers who attended an undergraduate program majored in computer science, computer engineering, or software engineering. That’s a pretty big number, suggesting that such a degree is still relevant despite many companies choosing to emphasize skills over degrees.
And the most recent Dice Salary Survey shows that application developers make an average of $105,202 per year (a year-over-year increase of 7.6 percent). Programmer/analysts made an average of $91,404. Overall, tech pros earned $93,244 on average in 2018; and when you consider that many of those jobs stem from a CS degree, it’s clear that type of education has worth.
Indeed, no matter which source you consult, it seems that CS degrees have paid off for awhile. In 2017, for instance, Michigan State University’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute (CERI) picked through data from hiring companies and recruiters that source talent from colleges (it says almost 200 “career service centers” and 4,350 employers in the U.S. participated in the study). It found that the average starting salary for graduates with computer science degrees was $57,762, with a lower range of $15,000 and an upper of $130,000. (In a confusing twist, CERI also said that “Computer Programming” ranked higher on this list, with an average starting salary of $59,163.)
In that study, a Master’s or PhD helped matters: CERI says a computer science Master’s degree will earn you $72,071 out of the proverbial gate, while a PhD will start you at $77,811.
Another study shows that, of all STEM-related academic fields, technology has the most upside once a degree is earned. Using Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, Edward Lazowska, a professor at the University of Washington, found a computer science major was the only STEM degree where employer demands match graduation rates.
Earning a computer science degree is a difficult process, especially for those who are completely new to programming when they enter school. While it’s sometimes hard to keep focus on the potential career payoff when you’re knee-deep in binary trees, data shows these degrees are a great path forward, no matter what job you eventually land. In other words, CS remains a worthwhile pursuit for those who want a career in tech.