Computer scientists impact society through their work in many areas. Because computer technology is embedded in so many products, services, and systems, computer scientists can be found in almost every industry. Design of next generation computer systems, computer networking, biomedical information systems, gaming systems, search engines, web browsers, and computerized package distribution systems are all examples of projects a computer scientist might work on.

Computer scientists might also focus on improving software reliability, network security, information retrieval systems, or may even work as a consultant to a financial services company.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer scientists and database administrators held about 507,000 jobs in 2004, including about 66,000 who were self-employed. Employment was distributed among the detailed occupations as follows:

Network systems and data communication analysts 231,000
Database administrators 104,000
Computer and information scientists, research 22,000
Computer specialists, all other 149,000

Although they are increasingly employed in every sector of the economy, the greatest concentration of these workers is in the computer systems design and related services industry. Firms in this industry provide services related to the commercial use of computers on a contract basis, including custom computer programming services; computer systems integration design services; computer facilities management services, including computer systems or data processing facilities support services for clients; and other computer-related services, such as disaster recovery services and software installation. Many computer scientists and database administrators are employed by Internet service providers; Web search portals; and data processing, hosting, and related services firms. Others work for government, manufacturers of computer and electronic products, insurance companies, financial institutions, and universities.

A growing number of computer specialists, such as network and data communications analysts, are employed on a temporary or contract basis; many of these individuals are self-employed, working independently as contractors or consultants. For example, a company installing a new computer system may need the services of several network systems and data communication analysts just to get the system running. Because not all of the analysts would be needed once the system is functioning, the company might contract for such employees with a temporary help agency or a consulting firm or with the network systems analysts themselves. Such jobs may last from several months to 2 years or more. This growing practice enables companies to bring in people with the exact skills they need to complete a particular project, rather than having to spend time or money training or retraining existing workers. Often, experienced consultants then train a company’s in-house staff as a project develops.

Technology intensive firms that hire computing graduates include Apple Computer, AT&T, Cisco Systems, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, Intel, IBM, Iomega, Motorola, Panasonic, Sun Microsystems, Toshiba, Verizon, and Google. Federal, state and local agencies, universities and other other companies such as gaming developers, casinos and transportation entities also hire computing graduates.