6 Factors That Affect the Average Salary of Computer Science Majors

Classrooms Team

Dec 21, 2020
comp sci

In the United States and around the world, there is widespread demand for computer science majors. As businesses and daily transactions move increasingly online, digital expertise is needed like never before. In the U.S., this field is expected to grow by 13% by 2026, which is much faster than other industries. 

If you are considering a degree in this field — or already have one — then here’s what you need to know about factors that influence the average salary post-graduation.

1. Location

The average salary of a computer science major varies by location. As expected, some states offer a higher national average than others. However, it’s important to remember that the cost of living will also differ based on the region. For example, $112,220 is the annual mean wage for computer and mathematical occupations in California, but in Pennsylvania, it’s $86,730. This correlates with the cost of living, as California’s prices are higher than Pennsylvania’s.

Nationally, the median annual wage is $88,240, but you should expect the starting salary to be lower than the average because new employees have less experience. For a more accurate estimate based on your location, use the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ guide to employment and wage estimates by state.

2. Experience

Most employers negotiate your starting salary based on degree level and experience. The more relevant work experience you have, the higher your starting salary. Many job descriptions may include a minimum experience qualification to be considered for the position. This is part of the reason internships and job placements are stressed during your academic career — because they provide you with relevant work experience to list on your resume. 

Likewise, if your experience was at the company in question, that may influence your wages because they already know your work quality.

3. Specialization

Computer science and information technology are broad categories within a widespread industry. Typically, your official position narrows your expertise further, which is why many students choose to specialize in college. For instance, you can have a computer science degree with a minor in game design and begin a career as a game developer. Each specialization, and subsequent job title, carries a unique average salary.

In the computer science field, software engineers earn significantly higher than systems analysts, though both require a computer science or IT background. 

4. Education

Do you have an associates, bachelors or masters degree? Your educational level influences your average salary as a computer science major. The more education you have the greater the working opportunities. When reviewing job descriptions, check the requirements, but recognize that some experience is preferred rather than required. Most well-paid positions require a four-year degree.

Another way to boost your salary is through additional certifications and qualifications. Employers will see the growth to your knowledge and abilities as an employee. 

5. Attitude

Know your self-worth. There are plenty of computer science majors working below the national average because they did not negotiate for a higher salary. Even if it’s your first position out of school, you should still consider negotiating. Demonstrate your confidence and assertiveness, there are many myths about negotiating for a higher salary and greater benefits, but you’ll never know unless you try.

Carry your can-do attitude into the position and watch as your opportunities within the company expand. Business people want to see that you can work hard and prove your worth, this will improve your salary growth potential through raises and bonuses.

6. Position

Similar to specialization the company and subsequent positions you choose will influence your average salary as a computer science major. Some companies offer higher salaries and benefits than their competitors — it’s a fact of the market. It also helps to draw in new talent.

One of the best indications of wage earnings is to compare several companies within the same area. Keep in mind that co-workers who live in different states, work online, or who have separate job titles will like have different pay raises as they progress.

Before writing off a company for its low starting salary, consider what additional benefits and company perks they offer. It’s possible you’ll earn more from non-tangibles than you would in another position with a higher salary but fewer benefits.

Look to the Future

By understanding these six factors, you can strategically optimize your resume to earn better pay. A more detailed analysis of your industry and location will help you to recognize what job descriptions are worthwhile and which are underpaid. Keep in mind that as you work, your experience will make you more valuable to employers and your wages should increase. If you feel the position is stagnant, it may be time to consider another company. Ultimately, look to your future and consider your priorities, a comprehensive time-off, healthcare, or parental leave policy may be worth more than a boost to your annual wages.

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