Median mid-career pay: $97,900
Median starting salary: $56,600
Sky-high grades and work experience play significant roles in landing top computer jobs, but independent projects are valued too, says Gayle Laakmann McDowell, author of "The Google Resume: How to Prepare for a Career and Land a Job at Apple, Microsoft, Google, or any Top Tech Company."
"If you build a really interesting Google Maps competitor and a ton of people download it and it's really well-known, that's going to count more than an internship at a company that nobody knows," she says.
Attending a big-name institution can help get your foot in the door, but it's not crucial to landing an impressive post-college job.
"There are tons of people who come from completely lesser-known schools and get jobs at Microsoft," McDowell says. "A candidate who has a 3.5 (grade point average) from MIT, but has no work and project experience, isn't that interesting."
To turn recruiters' heads, McDowell recommends doing internships, taking classes that assign tough projects and spending your free time coding as much as you can.