Remote Work in Tech Is the Norm — For Those Qualified to Do It
The technology sector embraced remote work long before Covid-19 shuttered offices in 2020. Companies in this space had the digital infrastructure to manage distributed teams years earlier and recognized that having generous remote work policies let them court top global talent. Amazon, Intuit, Dell and Adobe topped lists of companies with remote jobs back in 2018. Since then, many high-profile technology firms, including Twitter, Square, Facebook and Shopify, have instituted generous work-from-home policies.
However, there has always been a distinct hierarchical divide between employees with the freedom to work remotely and those required to work on-site. Senior-level employees have the latitude to work from home. Lower-level workers are subject to restrictive work-from-home policies — when they're allowed to work from home at all. It comes down to trust. Tech firms and companies in other sectors let computer science professionals work from home only when they can be sure those employees will deliver as much value off-site as they do in the office.
The two leading metrics employers in and out of technology use to decide which employees get remote work perks are experience and education. Work experience takes years to accumulate, but earning a Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) can help you transition into remote-work-friendly areas of computer science like software development, web programming and cloud computing in just a few months. Enroll in the Online Master of Science in Computer Science offered by the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering & Science at Stevens Institute of Technology, and you won't even need to take time off from your current job to do it.
Earning an online MSCS prepares you for remote work
Having a computer science master's is an asset when your goal is to land a spot on a distributed team or at one of the big tech firms known for flexible remote work policies. According to the 2019 American Time Use Survey, "among workers age 25 and over, those with an advanced degree were more likely to work at home than were persons with lower levels of educational attainment."
You still need to have the skills to back up your bona fides, however. Stevens' online computer science master's program approaches this discipline broadly to ensure that graduates have the tools and knowledge to launch careers or advance in exciting computer science specializations like artificial intelligence, machine learning or game design. The 10-course, 30-credit online Master's in Computer Science curriculum covers topics like:
- Advanced computer programming
- Data structures
- Database management systems
- Distributed systems
- Human-computer interaction
- Mobile systems
- Operating systems
The fact that you earned your MSCS online can be an additional point in your favor when negotiating with employers for more flexibility. Graduate students who complete computer science degree programs online tend to be highly driven and self-disciplined, with excellent problem-solving, collaboration and communication skills — all traits associated with success in remote working environments.
Preparing for the reality of remote work
The list of computer science jobs you can do from home is long and encompasses nearly every role that doesn't require doing hands-on work with hardware. Even some network engineering jobs that not long ago would have involved setting up physical servers and manipulating routers and switches are now remote, thanks to cloud-hosted servers and other new technologies.
Whether someone succeeds in a remote computer science job typically has less to do with location than work experience and temperament. There are relatively few remote entry-level computer science jobs because companies don't have the resources to train junior employees to both do a job and work as part of a distributed team. Companies filling open remote positions typically look for professionals with significant work experience and education who have a proven track record of getting things done.
Working from home isn't easy, and not everyone has what it takes to succeed in distributed workplaces. There are more distractions outside the office environment, and it can be harder to overcome roadblocks. When coworkers work in different time zones, it's hard to stay connected and to prioritize tasks. Remote work can also be isolating. The professionals most likely to succeed in remote roles are self-starters who aren't easily distracted. They have above-average time management skills, and they make an effort not to let their professional lives bleed into their personal lives.
If that doesn't sound like you, an online master's in computer science program can be the crucible in which you refine the skills that make remote work possible. Students in Stevens Institute of Technology's Online Master of Science in Computer Science take synchronous live classes and complete asynchronous self-paced work in much the same way remote workers have to balance meetings and independent work.
How location matters when you're remote
Some tech organizations have generous remote work policies or are open to flexible working arrangements but don't advertise that in their job postings. It's a good idea to search for remote computer science jobs and those based in established tech hubs and major metro areas. When you find postings that align with your skills, do some digging to determine whether the companies hiring are WFH-friendly. Remember that even companies that don't have generous remote work policies may be so impressed by your qualifications that they make an exception in your case.
Some of the best cities for on-site and remote computer science jobs are:
- Los Angeles
- San Antonio
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- Washington, DC
New York and New Jersey are two areas where the tech economy is thriving. New York City, in particular, has attracted technology startups and venture capital funding away from Silicon Valley. The NYC metro and Tri-State areas are home to top fintech firms and companies such as:
Location matters because work-from-home doesn't always mean work-from-anywhere. Organizations are willing to give employees flexibility, provided they don't have to sacrifice accessibility. Many companies with robust work-from-home policies prefer to hire professionals who live in the same city or state so they can quickly get employees on-site when necessary. Others require that employees live in the United States for legal and tax reasons.
Seven remote computer science jobs to watch
Cloud networking jobs
Cloud engineers and cloud solutions architects work on evolving distributed computer systems, so there's no reason they can't work remotely now and in the future. More companies are moving their operations to the cloud, so the demand for professionals in this space is high. Cloud engineers and professionals in related roles typically need to be comfortable working in computer programming languages like Java and Python. However, requirements can differ substantially from company to company since this position is relatively new. You might earn close to $95,000 working remotely at companies like HP, Google and Microsoft.
Security engineers, information security analysts and other cybersecurity professionals work behind the scenes to keep sensitive information and systems safe from attacks. As more information is digitized and more business is done over connected wide area and local area networks, the demand for cybersecurity professionals will stay strong. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts jobs in this sector will grow much faster than the average across all occupations, and there's no reason those jobs can't be done remotely. Companies such as Oracle, Twilio, HP and Citizens Bank hire remote information security staff and average salaries in this subdiscipline are close to $100,000.
Data science jobs
Data scientists help organizations make the most of the information they collect by identifying existing trends and using historical and real-time data to predict what's to come. Salaries in the field are high — about $96,000 on average — and much of the work data scientists do (e.g., building data products) isn't collaborative. Tech companies such as Amazon, Netflix and Noom are known for employing remote data scientists, but experienced data scientists can often negotiate for flex work in other fields.
Database administration jobs
Remote DBA jobs are relatively common and organizations will likely create more of them as they migrate their data from on-site servers to the cloud. Database professionals handle management, warehousing and architecture, and need to know SQL plus how to navigate specific database servers from Oracle, Postgres and Mysql. Average DBA salaries range from $70,000 to more than $100,000, but remote database administrators at companies like KForce and Robert Half International can earn more — especially if they have analysis and reporting skills.
Finding professionals qualified to work at the intersection of software development (Dev) and information technology operations (Ops) is challenging. Some companies are initially reluctant to hire fully remote DevOps engineers but open positions to remote workers to draw from a larger talent pool. Work-from-home or work-from-anywhere jobs for DevOps engineers with CSS, HTTP, SSL, HTML, XML and Java experience can pay around $96,000 or more at companies like Zoom and Datadog.
Programming and software engineering jobs
Software developers, web developers, software engineers, and other computer programmers are more likely to work full days from home than other computer science graduates. They also have a more comprehensive range of flexible work options to choose from because full-time, part-time and freelance remote programming positions are common at companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, Netflix, Spotify and YouTube. Smaller companies and companies outside of tech also hire remote programmers but may not keep as many full-timers on the payroll.
Technical project management and product management jobs
Some computer scientists move into non-technical roles because they want more flexibility, and many gravitate toward project management and product management jobs. Companies as diverse as Amazon, HubSpot, Oracle, GE and Thermo Fisher Scientific let technical project and product managers work remotely some or all of the time. Experienced project managers are more likely to land full-time remote positions and can earn around $108,000.
The highest-paying computer science jobs are remote
Given that senior-level computer science professionals often have more freedom to work from anywhere, it should come as no surprise that there are numerous high-paying remote jobs in the field. The average computer scientist with a bachelor's degree (regardless of whether they were a computer science major) earns $81,000, but the median annual salary for MSCS graduates is about $103,000. Top-paying technical roles in computer science include:
- Cloud Engineer ($116,000)
- Principal Software Engineer ($140,000)
- Senior DevOps Engineer ($117,000)
- Senior Solutions Architect ($136,000)
- Software Engineering Director ($151,000)
- Software Engineering Manager ($140,000)
- Senior Solutions Architect ($136,000)
Whether these and other top-paying job titles in computer science can be remote isn't in question. With the proper broadband connection, anything is possible. However, each tech company differs when it comes to how much freedom employees have to work from home and how frequently distributed employees earn promotions versus those who work on-site.
How to transition into remote work
It's easier than ever before to find remote computer science jobs. Technology companies and tech-adjacent companies (think healthcare, media and financial services) proudly advertise their work-from-home and work-from-anywhere policies. Sites like FlexJobs, We Work Remotely, RemoteOK and Remote.co have made searching for open positions at companies where distributed teams are the norm much simpler. And the demand for certain types of expertise (e.g., cybersecurity and machine learning) is soaring, which means computer science professionals with the right skills have major negotiating power.
However, the reality is that remote-only entry-level and mid-level positions are rare outside of fully distributed organizations. To transition into remote work, you need to add the kinds of standout skills and qualifications employers value most to your resume. Enrolling in the online computer science master's degree program at Stevens Institute of Technology is one way to do that. The time and tuition you invest in your MSCS will pay off in the form of opportunity and flexibility. You'll be qualified to step into a broader range of computer science careers and able to show potential employers that you have the discipline required to succeed in a distributed environment.