December 3, 2022

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The most badass careers in computer science

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Computer science majors work as software developers, security analysts, and web developers. And all those top careers in computer science offer high demand and a strong earning potential. But what if you want something a little different?

The most badass jobs in computer science will push the field’s boundaries and challenge you. Consider specializing in offensive cyberspace operations or virtual reality. Or think about making a difference by using computer science to address climate change. 

Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or chasing high-paying jobs, our list of badass computer science jobs has something for everyone.

What is a cool computer science career?

The best computer science jobs include software engineering, web development, and network architecture. But what are the coolest computer science careers? 

For some, working in a cutting-edge field like artificial intelligence or virtual reality is badass. Others want jobs that make a difference, like teaching computer science to kids or researching climate change solutions. And some might think that the highest-paying computer science jobs are the best. 

Whether you want flexibility, the opportunity to work in unique fields, or a fast-paced, cutting-edge career, you can find great jobs in computer science.

11 badass computer science careers

What are the most badass computer science careers? You already know that computer science is in high demand — and that computer science salaries are higher than many industries’. But what if you want a cool, unique computer science job? 

Our list includes some of the most badass career paths in computer science.

Computer forensic examiner

What they do: Computer forensic examiners investigate cybercrimes to gather digital evidence for criminal cases. They work in law enforcement and private firms.

Perks: Working at the intersection of computer science and law enforcement, computer forensic examiners play an important role in investigating crimes.

Downsides: You’ll need to testify in court as part of your job, which might be a downside to the more introverted computer science professionals. 

Fine print: Want to work for a government agency like the FBI? You’ll need to pass a stringent background check.

Climate researcher

What they do: Climate researchers use computer science techniques to investigate climate change. They help climate scientists better understand climate change through supercomputer data analysis, modeling, and simulations.

Perks: It’s a meaningful career path that requires sharp machine learning skills. 

Downsides: Your model might recommend the best remediation steps, but getting people to listen is another problem. 

Fine print: Many of the computer scientists working in climate research hold Ph.D.s and work at academic research institutions. 

Cryptographer

What they do: Cryptographers create unbreakable codes — and decipher codes. As a subfield in information security, they also benefit from strong demand. 

Perks: Cryptographers have more career opportunities than you might think. Financial institutions, the military, and tech companies rely on their skills. 

Downsides: Career advancement often means earning a graduate degree.

Fine print: Interested in breaking into cryptology? Look for internships geared at computer science majors.

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Image: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Drone software engineer

What they do: Drone/unmanned aerial vehicle software engineers develop the software that controls and guides drones. You may even program autonomous drones to avoid collisions and complete tasks without human input.

Perks: You’ll teach drones to navigate 3D obstacle courses at high speeds and participate in testing your software. 

Downsides: If you’re employed by the military or a defense contractor, the drones using your software may directly or indirectly cause loss of life.

Fine print: In addition to strong computer programming skills — particularly in C/C++ — you may need flight testing experience and Federal Aviation Administration remote pilot certification

Artificial intelligence engineer

What they do: AI engineers create speech recognition programs, design data mining algorithms, and use artificial intelligence to solve complex problems.

Perks: Artificial intelligence is a hot field in computer science. And it’s also one of the top careers in computer science for salary. 

Downsides: You’ll need sharp algorithm and machine learning skills, plus some careers require a graduate degree.

Fine print: AI training can take your career in many directions — and PayScale reports an average salary of $125,000 for AI careers as of April 2022.

Computer science teacher

What they do: Teacher might not be the first job that comes to mind when you imagine badass computer science careers. But K-12 computer science teachers help young learners code their first program and learn about STEM careers. 

Perks: Computer science teachers work on the academic calendar, which means long summer breaks. They can also pick up tutoring work to increase their earning potential. 

Downsides: Public school teachers generally need a license from the state, which can mean specialized training. Computer science teachers may need a career and technical education license.

Fine print: On average, computer science teachers earn $61,209, according to April 2022 data from PayScale. Many other computer science jobs offer higher salaries.

VR developer

What they do: Virtual reality developers create new worlds. They design and test VR software. Developers also work closely with programmers and software engineers.

Perks: VR is a cutting-edge field in computer science — and certain companies (ahem, Meta) are going all-in on virtual reality. 

Downsides: You’ll need an extensive tech stack for these roles: Multiple programming languages, 3D programming experience, and VR software training.

Fine print: VR developers command an average salary of over $150k, according to Hired.  

Cyberspace operations officer

What they do: Cyberspace operations officers direct missions in cyberspace. That can include cyber weapons, intelligence, or communications work. 

Perks: You’ll be in high demand with the Space Force or another military branch. 

Downsides: Military careers will mean attending cyberspace training and mission qualification training, plus officer training school. 

Fine print: Joining the military as a cyberspace operations officer often requires relocating. And the military only accepts officer candidates under the age of 39.

Game developer

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What they do: Game developers create the code necessary to run video games. They specialize in everything from simple mobile games to complex, world-building console games. 

Perks: Game developers get to spend their days thinking about video games. 

Downsides: The programming side of gaming is less exciting than playing the game. 

Fine print: Because it’s a badass job, the competition for game developer and game designer jobs can be fierce. Give yourself an edge by learning how to make a video game — and then giving it a try.

White-hat hacker

What they do: White-hat hackers, also called exploitation analysts or ethical hackers, investigate computer networks to identify weaknesses. They perform penetration testing to help organizations secure their systems. 

Perks: Your job options include tech companies, government agencies, and the military. For example, the Air Force hires cybersecurity specialists. 

Downsides: If you’re interested in military careers, you’ll need to go through basic training. But cybersecurity jobs come with a signing bonus. 

Fine print: Worried about the ethics of hacking? Exploitation analysts qualify as ethical hackers. 

Computer consultant

What they do: Computer consultants recommend computing strategies, security upgrades, and technology needs. They advise clients on the best approaches to computing issues.

Perks: Computer consultants benefit from flexibility and an ever-changing work environment.

Downsides: Many consultants work on a contract basis, which can mean gaps between jobs and time spent searching for clients.

Fine print: While the average computer consultant salary exceeds $100k, contract work often means inconsistent earnings.

This article was reviewed by Monali Mirel Chuatico

Monali Mirel Chuatico, a woman with long dark hair, smiles in a headshot.

In 2019, Monali Mirel Chuatico graduated with her bachelor’s in computer science, which gave her the foundation that she needed to excel in roles such as a data engineer, front-end developer, UX designer, and computer science instructor.

Monali is currently a data engineer at Mission Lane. As a data analytics captain at a nonprofit called COOP Careers, Monali helps new grads and young professionals overcome underemployment by teaching them data analytics tools and mentoring them on their professional development journey.

Monali is passionate about implementing creative solutions, building community, advocating for mental health, empowering women, and educating youth. Monali’s goal is to gain more experience in her field, expand her skill set, and do meaningful work that will positively impact the world.

Monali Mirel Chuatico is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network. 

Last reviewed March 18, 2022.

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