The time will come when you will graduate and need to find a real job! What type of job will you pursue? It is a tough decision! But, the most likely reason you decided to pursue a degree in higher education is to improve your chances of post-graduation success! Many consider going straight to the workforce, while others consider graduate school. With a CIS undergraduate degree, both are very reasonable options.
This page focuses on answering the most common questions regarding a CIS career. If you choose the career path for your future, there are many things to consider.
Numerous reports have been released in recent years that place a wide variety of Computer and Information Science careers as the best careers a person could pursue . In addition, they have also been found to be among the most recession-proof careers out there . In a report from Money Magazine and Salary.com titled, "Best Jobs in America," the position of Software Engineer was placed at the very top of their list, with Computer/IT analyst appearing in position 7 . These positions are needed in virtually every part of the economy, as are the majority of careers in this field. As of 2006, many careers in this field had entry-level positions with average starting salaries at $60,000+ nationwide, with compensation for experienced professionals being $80,000-$90,000 or better [3, 4].
Here are some links to current articles that will hopefully convince you that this field is not only lucrative, but offers plenty of opportunities for the best graduates:
There are a large number of possible careers you can choose from in CIS. If you are seriously interested in working with computers for a living, we strongly encourage you to spend time looking through all of the possible career paths you could pursue. While pursuing your degree, you will most likely acquire multiple skills. This is beneficial, as it means that you are rarely locked into just one type position in the computer field. But, you may fare better in the long run by being able to narrow your career interest(s) now before you graduate.
For a comprehensive list of CIS careers, please consult the following resources:
Computer science (CS) spans the range from theory through programming to cutting-edge development of computing solutions. Computer science offers a foundation that permits graduates to adapt to new technologies and new ideas. The work of computer scientists falls into three categories: a) designing and building software; b) developing effective ways to solve computing problems, such as storing information in databases, sending data over networks or providing new approaches to security problems; and c) devising new and better ways of using computers and addressing particular challenges in areas such as robotics, computer vision, or digital forensics (although these specializations are not available in all computer science programs). Most computer science programs require some mathematical background.
For more information, please consult ACM's Computing Career paths in CS.
Information systems (IS) is concerned with the information that computer systems can provide to aid a company, non-profit or governmental organization in defining and achieving its goals. It is also concerned with the processes that an enterprise can implement and improve using information technology. IS professionals must understand both technical and organizational factors, and must be able to help an organization determine how information and technology-enabled business processes can provide a foundation for superior organizational performance. They serve as a bridge between the technical and management communities within an organization.
For more information, please go to ACM's Computer Career paths in IS.
On a final note, please remember that choosing a major in college does not ultimately determine your course for life. It is merely a place to begin your adventure!
There are numerous misconceptions of the CIS field.
The job market is saturated in the US! Moreover, CIS jobs that are here are leaving to companies overseas.
Nonsense! Current reports suggest that there are more computing jobs available now than there ever was in history.
Computing jobs are solitary. I don't like working alone!
Computing professionals hardly ever work alone. In today’s world, building software requires the coordinated efforts of many people with a wide variety of skills. Designing a successful product requires effective communication not only among the members of the development team but also with the eventual users.
Computing jobs are boring. I'm a dynamic person longing for challenge and creativity!
Software development is also a highly creative activity. There is very little that is mechanical about software development—if there were, those aspects of the discipline would have been automated years ago. Putting together a software system means thinking creatively about the design, finding clever solutions to problems, exploiting the best engineering practices, and maintaining a high-level vision of how all the parts fit together. In fact, we often hear from students that one of the aspects of programming that they enjoy is the creative aspect of the work.
Computing jobs are just for men.
Nonsense! Unfortunately, far too many young women have the misconception that computer science is boring, or too difficult, or too "geeky" and male-dominated. Many think it only revolves around programming. The work goes far beyond programming. In fact, computer scientists draw upon a combination of creativity and logical thinking; programming is merely one of the tools we use to study and solve many interesting and relevant problems.
If you are a woman with this misconception, we encourage you to read through some of the following resources:
For more information and these and other common questions about CIS, you should read the following article:
Be willing to work hard and learn as much as you can now
Spend your time wisely now while you are still in college. A CIS career path can be a very rewarding path for the student that is willing to put forth the work now to learn as much as they can now, before they enter the workforce.
Be ready to keep learning after graduation
The computer field constantly changes! It's perhaps the most dynamic field anyone could get into for their career. Many students and professionals in the field find the dynamics of computer technology to be a very exciting aspect of their work. However, this can be equally challenging as well. This same fact often requires the professional to continue to work to keep their skills up-to-date beyond college. However, most respectable companies are fully aware of this, and will encourage their staff to take a class or go to a conference. (HINT - you ought to ask your prospective employer about their policies and thoughts of continuing education!)
Consider a certification either before or after graduation
You will soon discover that the dynamic nature of this field constantly requires you to keep learning! One great way to keep your skills up to date is through certification. There are numerous certifications available to CIS students and professionals. Be warned, however, that not all employers place high value on such certifications. Some may view it as just another piece of paper. However, this is more the exception than the rule. In fact, many employers will view a certification as evidence that you, the prospective employee, are willing to learn everything you can about your field in order to keep yourself up-to-date with cutting-edge technologies. Successful completion of a certification might be a way to help yourself stand out among other candidates. This is particularly true if your GPA is less than stellar, or if you have been unable to gain any experience while in college.
If you choose to supplement your education with a certification, choose a certification that can build on the area(s) in CIS that you want to work and excel in. For example, if you want to be a software developer in Java, becoming a Sun Certified Java Programmer is a great item to add to your resume! But, choosing to be a Sun Certified Java Programmer will do little to help you if you want to be a Network Administrator.
Simply put, you need to be ready to work hard right from the beginning. You are working to turn yourself into a marketable, viable candidate in the eyes of prospective employers. For most students, the majority of the hard work will revolve around successful completion of your coursework. However, you should also get involved with other students, always be ready to network and talk about yourself, and try to obtain some CIS-related experience before graduation:
Work hard to get good grades in your classwork
See the student page for good tips for maximizing your grades in CIS
Get involved with other students
Consider joining the MU Computer Science Club. It is a great way to exchange ideas and experiences with other students. You can get on one of the CS Club student programming teams and prepare to compete at the PACISE conference.
It is never too early to start looking for opportunities to talk about yourself and your skills. You never know who might be looking for someone just like you down the road!
Obtain any CIS-related experience that you can
Employers love to see good grades earned by entry-level candidates. But, in this field, many employers also want to see that you have done something with the computer skills you've learned besides using Twitter, Facebook, game playing, blogging, and e-mail. You should consider any opportunity you can that will allow you to put something extra on your resume. In addition, it will give you something of essence that you can discuss during your interview.
Here are some possible things you could consider doing to gain experience:
Consider an internship
Obtaining CIS related work experience before you graduate can be very beneficial when you start looking for a job. Many of our students complete internships with local employers and across the country with large corporations. Students working through an internship can choose to earn up to 6 major-related elective credits plus an additional 6 free elective credits.
Discuss doing a special project with a faculty member in an area that you want to learn more about.
There may be opportunities to work one-on-one with one of the faculty on a special project of interest to you or to them. Don't be shy! If there is something in CIS that you are interested in learning, a faculty member may be able to assist in guiding you. In some circumstances, independent studiy projects are available for credit. Please discuss the possibilities with your advisor and the faculty member you want to work with. Some research projects might allow for opportunities to present your findings at the PACISE, CCSCE, or CCSCNE conference.
Consider developing some web- or desktop-based application for a club or organization on campus, or for a local charity or business.
Not all of the experience on your resume needs to be through a paid employer. If you aren't able to land an internship or a CIS-related job while still in college, sometimes you need to be creative. Find an opportunity on your own. Talk to people about your skills. Start networking now. There are plenty of opportunities to gain some experience doing something outside of your routine classwork. It will give you something interesting to place on your resume and discuss during the interview. Additionally, it showed that you have initiative to seek out an opportunity to apply your skills. It may also show your prospective employer something about your character.
MU's Career Center
You should take some time to work with the university's own career center. They provide numerous resources to help get you started in the right direction.
Online career resource information and job search engines
There are an extraordinary number of career resources and job search engines online, so much so that it can be overwhelming to the new prospective employee like you! Remember, this is a crucial time for you in your path. Do not let the plethora of available resources frustrate and discourage you. Try out several of the job search engines available and stick to a small number of them that work the best for you. Each of them have strengths and weaknesses, not only in their interface and usability, but also with respect to the quality and quantity of potential job hits that are returned, particularly with CIS positions.
We have found numerous career resources that carry a respectable number of CIS positions on their web sites. Here are a few of the more popular resources to get you started:
Some of the online resources claim to automatically incorporate resources from the most popular search engines, from company web pages, and other resources such as newspaper classified sections. Here are a couple of the more popular web sites that fall in this category:
Both Pennsylvania and New York maintain their own state-run career websites. You will find a combination of public state jobs and jobs in the private sector: