Mulling over a possible undergrad major can be one of the most daunting tasks as you wrap up your high school years. One field that won’t be disappearing anytime soon: computer science, which offers promising prospects on the 21st-century landscape. Here, what to look for if you’re considering this tech-focused major.
What is computer science anyway?
Computer science is everything underlying the design, construction, and use of the computers that have become ubiquitous in our lives. This includes, but isn’t limited to, computing theory, programming, and performance analysis of both hardware and software, and scientific computing. To work in computer science, desirable skill sets include problem-solving, creativity, critical-thinking skills, attention to detail, and stick-to-it-iveness—it may take several times before you crack that algorithm to bring your project to full fruition, for instance.
What’s the course of study for a computer science major?
Expect, naturally, a course load heavy in math and science, though specific electives will vary depending on what track you take. Programming, computer operations and systems, statistics and probability, data structure, and theory are likely to be part of the core curriculum, as will calculus and physics.
So what are the benefits of pursuing a major in computer science?
Advantage No. 1: job prospects and salary
Computer science is a rapidly growing field with plenty of prospective paths you can take once you get your degree. Grad school is always an option, but if you’d prefer to jump right into the workforce, options for computer science majors seem nearly limitless—and some of these jobs are among the best-paying. STEM candidates in general are in high demand, and computer science in particular can lead you to such careers as software developer or operations research analyst, both of which are expected to have a “much faster than average” growth rate through 2026 and median salaries that approach or exceed six figures.
Some other common, well-paying careers you can enter with a computer science degree under your belt include:
• IT consultant
• Computer engineer
• Data or business analyst
• Games developer
• Web designer/developer
• Bioinformatics scientist
• Software engineer (the most in-demand title in Silicon Valley at the moment)
But these days, nearly every job sector involves computer technology in some capacity, and that’s only likely to increase as we become ever-more reliant on computers in our day-to-day lives.
Advantage No. 2: You’ll always be on top of the newest tech innovations and fields
Because computer technology changes by the minute, you’ll need to keep up with the most cutting-edge products and services—but that also means you’ll always be at the forefront of what’s happening in your field. And, as we dive deeper into the 21st century, emerging fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and cybersecurity can offer exciting career opportunities that will make you feel like you’re working in a world that used to only exist in science-fiction movies.
Advantage No. 3: You’ll be able to pick from an ample variety of employers, industries, and locations.
You may nab a job with a big-name company that will boost your resume: “Legacy” brands like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple are always on the lookout for qualified candidates, and newer tech firms like Airbnb and Uber are also now on the hunt.
Because technology has now become integral to most of how we live and work, however, you don’t necessarily have to head out to Silicon Valley to find a plum opportunity. Seattle, DC, San Francisco, and the North Carolina Research Triangle are all prime areas now for computer science–related jobs, as are smaller cities like Austin, Texas. If living the “incubator” life out West isn’t for you, make sure your skills are up to speed and look locally—your dream job may lie in wait closer than you think.
Finally, because computers are everywhere, you don’t have to limit yourself to a strictly “tech” field when searching for a job with your computer science major. You’ll find opportunities in a variety of areas, including health care, education, government, and journalism, among others.
Advantage No. 4: You can help effect positive change in the world.
Imagine helping design or program computer software that can protect civil liberties by keeping data safe, streamline scientific research, or keep cybercriminals at bay. There’s no greater satisfaction than completing a day’s work in which you know you’ve put your hard skills and imagination to work making the world a better place.