How to Know if Computer Science Is for Me

About the Author

Jacob Peterson

Jacob Peterson is a professional writer, editor, and educator with over 10 years of experience. He graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a multidisciplinary Bachelor of Science (in Science, Technology, and Culture). He formerly worked in the education industry, where he focused on helping students gain admission to top universities through test prep, advising, and curriculum design. He currently runs Elevation Editing, an on-demand writing and editing company that offers a variety of services, including special help with college application essays.

Computer science is one of the most popular fields today, with millions of workers already working in the industry.

This article explains what it is like to study and work in this field so that you can determine if computer science is right for you.

What Is Computer Science?

Simply put, computer science is the study of computers and the wide variety of actions that they perform. It includes the study of hardware (physical devices), software (programs), and the theory that underpins it all.

READ MORE: Ultimate Guide to Computer Science

What to Expect While Studying Computer Science

While studying computer science, you will be required to learn at least one programming language (such as Python, Java, Ruby, or Swift). Computer science majors typically must also learn the fundamentals of science (especially physics), mathematics, and English. Yes, reading and writing are important, even when working with technology.

Additionally, computer science majors must complete coursework in other fields. Your choice of electives should be based on your intended specialty. If you plan on studying app, browser, or data structure development, then courses in information systems may be helpful. If you want to focus on hardware, then courses in math and electrical engineering will help you meet your goal.

What Type of Degrees Can I Get in Computer Science?

A bachelor’s degree with a computer science major is the most common path for those who hope to work in software engineering. However, many other positions in this field require a graduate degree (a master’s or doctorate)—especially those in academia and advanced research labs.

If you already have a bachelor’s degree in another field—or even if you only have a high school education—you may be able to get a job as a software engineer without getting a new four-year degree. Many schools offer career-focused two-year programs and professional certifications that can help you get a leg up. In addition, many inexpensive online degree programs are available.

READ MORE: Most Affordable Online Computer Science Degrees and Best Online Master’s in Computer Science

Is Working in Computer Science Right for Me?

Most work in computer science—unsurprisingly—heavily involves computers. However, because computers and related technologies are such an integral part of work in most industries, computer science skills can be used in many fields, including health care, economics, law enforcement, and education. If you have another passion or skillset, you can combine it with computer science to forge a unique career path.

In a computer science career, you will apply creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills on a daily basis. Many careers require frequent use of logic and theory (such as algorithms), but others are more focused on practical applications (such as software products). Most companies require their workers to engage in frequent collaboration, so get comfortable working with people who may not share your perspective or background.

Because of the ever-changing nature of technology, most computer science workers must regularly complete new training. In many cases, candidates for certain jobs must also clear the hurdle of acquiring certifications from professional organizations to prove that they have the requisite skills.

One aspect of working in computer science that some people have difficulty with is gender disparity. Over 80% of recent computer and information science graduates are male. Some employers also have problems related to gender discrimination (such as pay inequality). This shouldn’t be a deterrent if you love computer science, but because the issue doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in the foreseeable future, you may want to consider it before embarking on a career in this field.

What Types of Jobs Can I Get in Computer Science?

After graduation, most people who hold computer science degrees become software engineers or computer programmers. However, if you do not want to work with code all the time, you are in luck, as there are many other opportunities in this field. You can become any of the following:

  • cybersecurity expert
  • game designer
  • computer project manager
  • systems analyst
  • computer support specialist
  • database manager
  • network administrator
  • data structure analyst
  • web developer
  • computer researcher
  • business analyst

Regardless of the exact career path that you choose, you should not have to worry about money; tech jobs tend to have fairly high salaries, with a median wage of over $42 per hour. Software developers, in particular, have great career options, with a median wage of over $50 per hour and projected job growth rate that is much higher than average.

The benefits in this field are also often generous, with some workplaces even offering free lunches.

In sum, a computer science degree offers many directions for someone who enjoys solving problems using computers. You must have the patience and dedication to not only complete an advanced education (including math classes) but also engage in ongoing training. However, most computer scientists are rewarded by their constant hard work with a competitive salary and strong benefits.