Salary and Career Info for a Computer Science Doctoral Degree

Sep 21, 2019

Doctoral degrees in computer science typically cover the theoretical and practical applications of research in the field. Find out about the requirements of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for computer science graduates.

Computer science doctoral degrees can lead to several employment opportunities, such as a computer hardware engineer, college professor and computer and information research scientist. Students are required to complete about six years of study in their chosen specialty and will be tested on their level of understanding after each series of classes is completed.

Essential Information

Doctoral degree programs in computer science are typically research based. On average, these programs take six years to complete. In addition to taking courses specific to a chosen specialty, students concentrate on a research project in their area of focus, which is intended to produce a dissertation. Most computer science doctoral degree programs require students to complete an examination after a series of classes and prior to starting their research. Passage of the exam ensures that the student has a deep understanding of his or her chosen specialty and is ready to progress to the next step.

Career Title Computer Hardware Engineer Postsecondary Teacher Computer and Information Research Scientist
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree Doctoral degree Doctoral or relevant professional degree
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 6% 11% 16%
Median Salary (2018)* $114,600 $78,470 $118,370

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Holding a Ph.D. in Computer Science typically leads to a career in research. Many Ph.D. holders work in academia, although public and private career paths are also available. The field of computer science involves a multitude of areas, including hardware and software systems, computer theory, and scientific computing. Additionally, sub-disciplines of computer science range from programming languages and computer architecture to bioinformatics and cryptography.

Computer Hardware Engineer

Computer hardware engineers apply their skills and knowledge to making and improving computer parts that maximize qualities like speed, efficiency, and capacity, as well as the interconnectedness that allows various computer parts to work together. Job duties can include design and testing roles. Entry-level jobs typically require a bachelor's degree in computer engineering or a related field. Factors that can help computer hardware engineers get ahead include holding an advanced degree and earning a degree from an ABET-accredited program.

Computer hardware engineers earned a median salary of $114,600 in 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); those who worked in computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing earned $125,210, while those who worked in scientific research and development jobs earned a median salary of $130,800. Working more than 40 hours per week isn't uncommon in this career. An average job growth of 6% is expected from 2018-2028, per the BLS.

Postsecondary Teacher

Postsecondary teachers perform a broad array of tasks that include preparing courses, delivering lecturers, and evaluating student work. Additional duties can include mentoring graduate students, committee work with other teachers, and conducting their own research for presentation and publication. Postsecondary teachers typically need to have a doctoral degree; previous teaching experience isn't required, but some schools prefer it.

According to the BLS, the median pay for postsecondary teachers in general was $78,470 in 2018. Specific salaries vary based upon subject area taught as well; computer science teachers earned a median salary of $82,220 at that same time. The job market for postsecondary teachers is competitive and is predicted to increase 11% from 2018-2028, per the BLS. The predicted job growth for computer science teachers specifically is 4% for that same period.

Computer and Information Research Scientist

Computer and information research scientists explore how to use computing technology to solve problems through research, development, and experimentation. Areas of specialization can include robotics and computer programming. Employers typically require applicants to have a doctoral degree; in some cases, applicants are expected to have coursework in the area of specialization in which they wish to work.

The median pay for this career was $$118,370 in 2018, per the BLS, which is higher than the median salary of all computer occupations, which was $86,320 . According to the BLS, jobs in this field are expected to increase 16% from 2018-2028, which is much faster than the national average.

There are many research-based job opportunities available to those with computer science doctoral degrees. While some may choose to teach at the postsecondary level, other forms of employment can be found in the computer systems industry in areas such as hardware development, robotics and programming.

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