As with most questions about jobs and job security, there is no simple yes and no answer to the question is computer science a good major?
It will depend on many things. Not the least, how well you are suited for it.
That’s why I decided to take an in-depth look at the subject to help you decide if computer science is a good choice of major for your future career plans.
So, let’s get started…
- A Growing Industry
- Not That Simple
- The Rewards
- The Top Companies Can See It
- The Degree Course Itself
- The Pros and Cons
- Do You Really Need A Degree?
- Are There Any Cons?
- The Types of Work
- What Projects Will I Do?
- Smaller Projects
- Agency Work
- Talent Shortage Equals Bigger Salaries
- University Or Private Course?
- The Outlook In The Long Term
- Why Don’t Companies Train In-House?
- The Big Decision
- Studying Your Degree In Computers?
- Final Thoughts
A Growing Industry
Computer technology and all its spin-offs have always been a growing sector of the employment market. As companies invest more and more in sophisticated hardware and software, they need people to develop and manage it.
Some statistical agencies are predicting a 10-12% growth over the next five to ten years. That is a job market that in some areas is in serious decline.
What positions will they be looking to fill?
They cover a wide range, and there are too many to go into detail about them all. But it certainly looks like there will be plenty of choices. And of course, as there is a shortage, salaries are likely to be, at the very least, competitive.
Not That Simple
But it isn’t that simple. Get a job with security that pays well, and you could be set up for life. Is it that simple? Well, the answer to that is no. Attempting to get yourself a Computer Science Degree is not going to be for everyone. First, there is suitability. Do you like:
- Problem Solving.
Do you look at that list and realize that most of the subjects do not interest you? If so, then you will be better off looking in another direction for your studies. Computer Science and all its offshoots are probably not for you. However, if you do enjoy these subjects, then that is a great start. But as we shall see, there is a lot more to it than that.
They can be exceptional, but not for everyone. There is a demand for people with Computer Science and associated qualifications. But they aren’t all with the Blue Chip companies. Some are with smaller businesses where the pay is much less, the work less exciting, and the benefits sometimes lacking.
To get into the top 20%, you’ve got to be good, very good. To stay there, you have to be even better. That in itself brings pressure some just will not want no matter how excited they are about the job or the company.
The Top Companies Can See It
They can see when a graduate is fired up about the prospects and whether you love to do all that is required to succeed. They can recognize it because they are like that. If you are only doing it because your dad told you it was a good idea, they will see right through you.
But if you do tick all the boxes we listed earlier, then there could be a bright future in getting that Computer Science Major.
The Degree Course Itself
Computer Science, as in many degree courses, offers a variety of avenues to study. Yes, there is a basic study course, but there are specialist subjects that can be bolted on that prepare you for a specific role later. These include:
- Basic Computer Programming, introducing you to various languages, infrastructure, and architecture.
- Calculus, for mathematical solutions to advanced computing design and modeling concepts.
- Data management looks at the storage and usage of data.
- Electronic design, looking at the engineering requirement involved in computing.
- Computation thinking, giving you the basis for understanding how computer scientists analyze and create new processes.
- Statistics, providing you with a basis for understanding algorithms and statistical formats.
Adding one of those, and/or others, to your studies can make you a very attractive proposition to a company.
The Pros and Cons
The most obvious advantage is your employability. In an industry that often has some difficulty finding the right staff, you are placed well. You will likely be involved in cutting-edge projects. This could be anything from building sophisticated space systems to ordering a pizza.
Yes, you’ve got it. You might be thinking you’re getting the office equivalent of a ‘rock star’ job. You aren’t. There will be the mundane as well as the exciting.
Do You Really Need A Degree?
In days gone past, in many cases, no, you didn’t. In some companies, you might get a foot in the door and learn ‘as you go along. Those days are behind us now. To get into a decent position with a future, you will need a degree. Preferably a good one from a good college or university.
In many cases, companies are canvassing universities and colleges looking for staff. You may find they come to you.
Are There Any Cons?
If you like the work, are interested in the subjects, then there aren’t really. But don’t expect it is going to be a Free Ride. If you are going for the bigger money earners, you will be expected to earn it. You won’t get it for nothing. And as an added consideration, it can be a high-pressure occupation. In some areas, targets will need to be met, rigorously. Therefore, it could involve a few late nights.
The Types of Work
As varied as you can imagine. But let’s talk geography first. If you are not from a big city, are you willing to relocate? Of course, there are computer companies everywhere. But the major companies centralize in the big cities. In the US, that probably means New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. But of course, as I said, there are good size companies in many American cities.
In Europe, it may be harder to find a good position. But London and Amsterdam are huge centers for IT and are worth considering.
What Projects Will I Do?
Impossible to list them all here, but they will include things like small and larger development projects. There may be a choice of working in what is known as the front-end. In the case of website-based applications, that is what the customer will see and react to.
Or it could be ‘back-end’ development. This is how the interface will interact with all the information that is held, producing reports, analysis data, etc. Some people prefer to do both in smaller companies. These are known as ‘full-stack’ operations.
Web development is an option. Developing the software the customer will never see. And then there is the latest big thing, Data Engineering, and Data Science.
With the way computing works these days, new technologies are emerging almost daily. These have to be designed and implemented. They could be for apps for large and small companies. Gaming is another area that will appeal to some computer science graduates.
That is a possibility but probably unlikely until you have gained a bit of experience in a particular field. The salaries will be high but so will the hours and the expectation levels.
Talent Shortage Equals Bigger Salaries
Not hard to work that one out. Even straight from University, with a degree in hand, you can expect to earn a lot more than in any other work environment. The skills are in demand, and where there is demand, that is where you will find the best deals.
It will depend to a certain extent on the type of company. Also, what Education establishment you attended and the level of your degree or diploma. All things being equal, a Computer Science Degree is going to be something worth having.
University Or Private Course?
Some companies run private courses for about ten weeks or so. Whilst this may give you a very basic, and I mean a very basic understanding of computing, that will be all. Most companies will be looking for quite a bit more than that. A Three or four-year university course will be a clear favorite in the employment stakes.
The Outlook In The Long Term
It is hard to see the situation in the work environment changing in the future. Certainly, in the next five to ten years, things will stay as they are. That means plenty of jobs to choose from and good money to be had.
Why Don’t Companies Train In-House?
Some used to do that to fulfill a function. The problem with that was that people joined the companies, finished their training, and then left for somewhere else. That proved to be a poor investment with limited returns. Far easier to let someone else train them to a level and then teach the finer points in-house.
The Big Decision
Undertaking a Computer Science degree is a big decision and not to be taken lightly. As I said earlier, if you are going into it just for the money, it probably won’t work. You may get qualified, but as we have already discussed, companies will realize any lack of enthusiasm.
And the enthusiasm is what takes both at any interviews and in conducting the work. Computer Science is a very good major to study. It will bring you a good standard of living, and it has an element of job security. But it has to be right for you.
If you want to ready up a little more, here are some good options:
Studying Your Degree In Computers?
That’s great news! But with so many specialty subjects as mentioned above, it can get confusing. So we’ve researched online for some amazing aids just for you.
For your computer programming options, we’ve got Computer Programming for Absolute Beginners, Computer Programming: Learn Any Programming Language in 2 Hours, Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software, the Python Programming: An Introduction to Computer Science, Computer Programming: The Most Complete Crash Course, and The Art of Computer Programming available online in 2023.
More of a “Math-Whizz,” then you’ll want to take a look at the Data Structures and Algorithm Analysis in C++, the Computer Vision: Algorithms and Applications, The Algorithm Design Manual, the Algorithmics of Matching Under Preferences, and the Practical Discrete Mathematics: Discover math principles that fuel algorithms for computer science.
Computational thinking and data management are the last of my specialty subjects. For that, we have Computational Design Thinking, the Introduction to wxMaxima for Scientific Computations, Thinking as Computation: A First Course, and the Introduction to Computation and Programming Using Python.
Finally, we found the Data Management: Databases and Organizations, the DAMA-DMBOK: Data Management Body of Knowledge, the Clinical Analytics and Data Management for the DNP, and Data Management: a gentle introduction: Balancing Theory and Practice all available online.
There are plenty of full-time universities and colleges offering courses for undergraduates. And you will find that some have different paths to follow.
The best university degrees are ones that will satisfy the STEM requirements. That is a standard that most companies will find acceptable.
Finding the establishment to complete your studies will be down to you and whether you can get accepted. The best universities will be harder, of course. And not all degrees are equal. The qualifications from a well-known, established university with a reputation will carry more weight in the employer’s eyes. Ask around to see who offers what. It will be worth a little research.
All the very best with your Computer Major!