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Is Computer Science Hard?

February 16, 2021 | Staff Writers

Is Computer Science Hard
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The short answer is – Yes, it is. That, however, is not to say it’s impossible.

Although it may be one of the hardest fields to learn, if you’re willing to do the work and put in the hours required to master your craft, a bachelor’s degree in computer science holds the key to one of the most financially lucrative and rewarding careers today.

Think about this for a moment. Every industry relies on technology. From the smartphone or PC you’re using to read this piece to the complex systems used to power planes. Even robotic automation in manufacturing plants relies on software engineering and artificial intelligence.

Computer science will never go out of style. This article takes a deep dive into why it’s a degree choice worth pursuing.

Types of Work in the Computer Science Industry

Employers are always on the lookout for experts who know how to develop and improve software systems. Such individuals are highly sought-after, making the computer science field increasingly popular among those looking to land a well-paying job soon after graduation.

You would be surprised to learn that the top tech companies in Silicon Valley routinely pay seven-figure salaries to fresh computer science graduates. In some cases, the sign-up bonus alone is usually enough to pay off all your student debt.

Nonetheless, the demand for professionals with a computer science degree is not just limited to vacancies in Silicon Valley. The ever-rising reliance on technology in the business world means several firms across different industries are hiring these graduates.

Here’s an overview of the different types of work available in the tech industry.

Types of Computer Science Jobs in Management Information Systems

As a computer science graduate working in MIS, your day-to-day work would be primarily concerned with effectively and efficiently organizing computer resources. This involves the creation, management, and maintenance of computer systems.

Here are some of the top MIS careers worth looking into.

Computer Systems Analyst

Working as a computer systems analyst is a cross between business and information technology. A professional in this field would need to understand the ins and outs of a client’s company and how it relies on technology to ensure that the computer system runs as efficiently as possible.

They oversee the installation of new computer components, test them, and train the company employees on how to use them. If any issues arise, they need to troubleshoot the system to pinpoint the problem area and come up with a viable solution on how to fix it. A computer science career in this area ranks among the top jobs in tech.

Software Developer

This is a programmer who builds software to run across different computer systems. They rely on ready-made tools to build complete applications that tend to an organization’s needs.

Software development degrees are often specializations for computer programming or information technology. If you have an affinity for inventing new problem-solving technology and consider yourself a bit of a creative, this is a career you should explore. Keep in mind that you have to be an excellent coder to excel in this field if you want to develop systems that promote the seamless flow of information.

Aside from coding new programs, the work of a software developer revolves around maintaining and improving upon existing codes. They’re also charged with looking for software bugs and using their analytical skills to eliminate them.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, this job is in high demand. It is projected to grow at a faster-than-average rate compared to other occupations in the computer science industry.

Software Engineer

Although the terms software engineer and developer are often used interchangeably, the two careers are completely different. A developer writes a complete program from scratch, while an engineer works with several other components of the entire system beyond just the code.

They analyze, design, develop, maintain, test, and evaluate computer systems to solve problems. Software engineering also involves developing reporting tools, user training manuals, policies, and procedures for data management, as well as designing, building, and implementing management information systems.

They do everything software developers do, but on a much larger scale.

Network Architect

Computer networks are at the heart of an MIS. The role of a network architect is to design, create, maintain, and modify an organization’s communication networks. These include everything from a local area network (LAN), a wide area network (WAN), and a company’s intranet.

A professional working in this field needs to be well-versed in implementing them using Internet Protocol (IP) for all software, hardware, and virtualized components on the network. If any vulnerability arises, they should always be prepared to create and implement security countermeasures to curb the threat.

Web Developer

If you have a degree in MIS, an eye for detail, and artistic flair, working as a web developer might be just the career path for you. Working in this field involves creating a working website from scratch.

It’s important to mention that web design and web development degrees may sound like the same thing, but far from it. Designers are graphic artists who tap into their creativity to design the overall look and layout of the website.

Developers, on the other hand, use coding languages to create the core structure of a site. They’re concerned with developing applications to make it functional over the internet. In other words, they make the creative vision of the designer come to life.

The specific role of a web developer depends on their specialty area. Here’s a brief overview of each.

Back-End Developer

The back-end of a website refers to its core structure. It’s the part of the site that’s not visible to users. Back-end developers code on databases and web servers as opposed to web browsers.

Therefore, you would need to be well-versed in working with complex computer language like C#, SQL, and Java.

Front-End Developer

A front-end developer is concerned with the client-facing side of the website. They use their coding skills to create frameworks that allow the end-user to interact with the website in question.

You would need to have expert-level knowledge in working with a programming language like JavaScript, CSS, and HTML to create the functional components that the client uses while they’re on the site. Forms, for instance, are created by these professionals.

Full-Stack Developer

This individual is a cross between a back-end and a front-end developer. They work across various layers or “stacks” between the back and front-end of the website, making them experts in all areas of web development.

They typically need to meet with clients to discuss the most desirable aspects of a company’s website and develop it to meet their needs. Having excellent communication skills to interpret the client’s vision is crucial for this role.

Information Security Manager

The security component of a firm’s management information system is critical to protecting its computer assets and data resources from external threats.

As an information security manager, your role would be to set up procedures to monitor an organization’s network, identify potential security risks and/or breaches, and act quickly to neutralize and eliminate the issues.

Information security professionals are also responsible for training employees on the best practices to keep sensitive company data safe and secure.

Technical Support Specialist

Tech support work revolves around helping customers with software, hardware, or any other technical issues they might encounter while using a business’s digital resources. A computer scientist working in this field needs to have effective communication skills since they’ll be dealing directly with customers, most of whom may not understand the complexities involved in software engineering.

They also need to be quick problem-solvers to address a wide range of customer issues ranging from the inability to access data to slow performance. If you enjoy connecting with people, this is a career you might want to consider.

Computer Hardware Engineer

Each computer science job we’ve explored up to this point has to do with the software component of a computer system. On the other hand, a hardware engineer is concerned with the design, manufacture, and installation of the physical components of computer systems.

Most professionals in this field get employed in computer companies, manufacturers of computer hardware, the government, and research organizations. If you’re passionate about creating and accelerating emerging technology, such as what’s involved in creating virtual reality machines and machine learning, this is an area that might interest you.

Employment Outlook for the Computer Science Industry

One of the key things to consider when choosing a career is the job outlook for the industry you want to get into and whether or not it aligns with your career goals.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals with a computer science major are projected to grow by 15 percent by the year 2029, which is considered to be much faster compared to the average growth rate of other occupations.

The Bureau attributes this fact to the increased demand for machine learning and data-mining services as a result of the rapid growth in the amount of data businesses are collecting in their day-to-day operations. This requires individuals with a CS degree to develop algorithms that help organizations make sense of the large volumes of data they collect.

There’s also the ever-growing emphasis on cybersecurity. Professionals in the field have to constantly come up with new and innovative ways to keep cyber attackers at bay and protect the information systems within companies.

Research and development is yet another reason for the positive job outlook for the industry. As the demand for better and more efficient technology continues to rise, the need for qualified professionals who can turn ideas into industry-leading innovations also continues to grow.

Additionally, as the demand for problem-solving software increases, the need for new programming languages that can make software development faster, easier, and more efficient will continue to grow. This only goes to show that a computer science career will never become obsolete.

Pros and Cons of Computer Science Jobs

Like everything else in the world, pursuing a career in computer science comes with its own unique set of benefits and drawbacks. Here’s everything you need to know to help you decide if a career in the field is right for you.

Pros

Below are some of the advantages of choosing a computer science profession.

  • High salary – Entry-level, mid-career, and late-career professionals in this field earn higher-than-average salaries compared to other professions
  • High demand for computer scientists – Every industry in the world relies on technology or some kind of online service in its operations
  • Numerous career opportunities – Technology is always evolving, which means there are lots of innovative products and solutions that haven’t been invented yet
  • Flexible hours – It’s one of the few occupations that doesn’t require individuals to work conventional 9-to-5 jobs
  • Making the world a better place – New and emerging technology has had a positive impact on several industries, the most notable one being the healthcare sector

Cons

On the flip side, here are some of the disadvantages of pursuing a career in computing.

  • Pressure-filled career choice – Professionals in this field often have to work with tight turnaround times and meeting high (and sometimes, unrealistic) client expectations
  • Long hours – Flexible hours doesn’t necessarily translate to less work
  • Increased potential for health-related problems – You’ll likely be seated for several hours at a time, not to mention the debilitating effect of the blue light from computer screens
  • The rapid pace of technology evolution – What’s hot today may be obsolete tomorrow, so you need to have your finger on the pulse to stay up-to-date with new emerging technologies
  • Continuing education requirements – The learning never ends if you want to remain competitive in the field

Benefits of Earning a Computer Science Degree

Now that you understand what lies ahead for students with a computer science major, this section explores everything you need to know about what goes into earning a degree in CS.

Is a Computer Science Degree Worth It –Expert Opinion

If you’re passionate about technology and innovation, the career prospects for programming experts are virtually endless. Not to mention how lucrative the salary-earning potential is.

However, this shouldn’t be your sole motivation for pursuing a degree program in the field. You need to love it and have a knack for problem-solving. The course has some of the toughest exams and the highest contact hours compared to other degrees.

You might argue that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg all flunked out of college and went on to become widely successful tech visionaries. Elon Musk didn’t even study computer science and is one of the top three richest people in the world. The one thing they all have in common is that they were pioneers in their respective fields.

Today, however, the tech world is highly competitive, and you need a solid set of computing skills to excel in the industry. Rest assured that all that hard work will eventually pay off.

Benefits of Studying Computer Science at a University

We’ve already established that a career in computer science is pretty lucrative as far as the earning potential and job outlook are concerned. However, if you’re like many prospective students, you’re not entirely sure if you’re willing to devote the number of years required to study for it. The price of tuition isn’t exactly cheap either.

You could always learn how to code on your own, but it’s not the same as going the degree route. Here are some of the advantages of studying computer science at a university.

Structure

Going through a traditional four-year computer science program at a university allows you to be more methodical about your approach to the field. The slower and structured learning pace at the institution you attend makes it possible for you to mull over concepts to gain an in-depth understanding of the foundational skills you acquire during your time there.

Depth

As you study the topics and attempt to solve the problems assigned by your professors at college, they ignite the desire to investigate even more theories and approaches as you work your way through the coursework. You get into the “how” and “why” of any problem you may encounter, which further enriches your career approach.

Some colleges even offer computer science and electrical engineering as a major designed for students who want to build a career in both fields. It gives you the chance to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. That’s something you won’t get by teaching yourself.

Prestige

Let’s face it; a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science is worth a lot in today’s job environment. Although some assert that employers pay more attention to actual skills than credentials, the reality is that competition is pretty stiff out there.

If two candidates – one with a degree and the other without – were applying to the same position in a tech firm, with both having the same skill level when it comes to coding and all-things computer engineering, preference would undoubtedly be given to the computer science graduate.

Disadvantages of Studying Computer Science at a University

While those are some pretty compelling reasons why going through a computer science degree program at a university is a solid choice for anyone looking to pursue a career in the tech world, it does come with some drawbacks.

Time

A computer science course takes four years on average to complete. If you’re a full-time computer science student, it will often feel like you’re in a state of limbo since you’ll devote the majority of your waking hours in class, in front of a computer cranking out some pretty tough assignments, or elbow-deep in books.

As a result, it becomes quite difficult to hold down a real-world job while you’re studying for a bachelor’s degree. This, in turn, negates the chance to apply the knowledge you learn in class.

Cost

Although college is an investment in your future, the fact remains, it is expensive. If you’re somehow able to swing the cost of tuition as well as all the other expenses related to your bachelor’s degree, you may not immediately realize the lifestyle that prompted you to enroll in the course in the first place once you graduate.

There’s also the fact that you’ll probably have to enroll for a master’s degree in addition to a host of certifications that computer programmers need to maintain a competitive edge over their peers. All these cost money – and loads of it.

How to Determine if Computer Science Is the Right Field for You

With so many options for undergraduate and graduate degree programs, it can be quite difficult to narrow down and choose a major you want to pursue. A top choice for many students is a degree in computer science.

However, before you jump in head-first, you need to establish if it is the right field for you. If you happen to fall into any of the two categories of individuals we’ve outlined below, you should consider making a CS degree your top choice.

You Consider Yourself a “Technophile”

You’ve probably grown up in an era that’s seemingly always had smartphones and PCs. If you have an almost innate ability to understand how to use, develop, and administer technology in a host of different settings, and perhaps enjoy it as a hobby in your spare time, then you would be classified as a “technophile.”

Because of your background, transforming your tech hobby into classroom success becomes quite easy as you learn about the fundamentals of object-oriented programming, IT administration, network security, and database administration.

You’re Great at Math

One of the most frequently asked questions by students who want to take up a degree in computer science is – How do you know if you would be good at coding? If you’re skilled at math, you’ll likely excel as a computer programmer.

The heart of information technology and computer science, in general, revolves around object-oriented programming and advanced mathematics. If you had the opportunity to take up some computer programming classes in your high school’s computer science department, those skills translate directly into your coursework when studying for your Bachelor of Science degree in CS.

If you’re a student who enjoys problem-solving and prides yourself in having an analytical, logical, and rational thought process, then you would make an excellent computer engineer.

You’re Willing to Invest a Lot of Your Time

If the thought of giving up your thriving social life gives you anxiety, then you should probably consider studying something else altogether. The reality is – a computer science degree is quite grueling and time-intensive.

You’ll need to devote several hours of your school life to learning how to code in different programming languages, building apps and fully functioning systems that work on different platforms, and debugging programs to identify and fix issues that crop up in your code. It’s almost reminiscent of searching for a needle in a haystack.

If spending the better part of your college life behind a computer screen furiously typing away at your keyboard sounds exciting, this is a great degree choice for you.

How to Get Started in the Field of Computer Science

Every successful computer science professional goes through three phases in their career development. Each phase requires that you acquire and refine a specific set of technical skills before you can advance to the next one. Here’s an overview of each of them.

Phase 1: Coding

A coder is essentially someone who knows how to speak the language of a machine. In this phase, you need to learn how to break down a particular problem into bits of instructions that a computer can understand. That way, it can come up with a solution.

Being great at math is usually a good indicator of whether or not you’ll excel at coding. Linear algebra, for instance, applies to several areas of machine learning. You can teach yourself how to code or use the online resources available to get started on the right foot.

If you’re struggling with this phase, then you might want to think about taking a different career path altogether.

Phase 2: Programming

Once your coding skills are on point, you’re now ready to advance to the next stage – programming. Ideally, you want to master the basics of at least two programming languages – one that’s statically-typed and the other dynamically-typed.

You also need to learn how to use algorithms and data structures to write seamless code. The more functional and efficient your code is, the more sophisticated your computer programming skills are.

Best Ways to Learn Programming

There are several online resources you can use to learn to program. Here are some great sites to consider:

  • CodeAcademy – A great starting point for newbies learning how to code
  • Codewars – Uses game-like challenges to teach you how to code
  • FreeCodeCamp – Offers a community-approach to learning
  • MIT OpenCourseWare – It’s a little like attending MIT except that it’s free and doesn’t have any of the competitive admission requirements that are synonymous with the institution’s computer science department
  • Coursera – More than 50 percent of the courses on the platform are coding

While those sites are great and all, sometimes, it’s just easier to watch a video of someone coding to learn how it is done. LinkedIn Learning has a vast video library of professionally-shot video tutorials on a wide range of programming topics. It’s worth checking out.

The other option would be to study at the best computer science school in the country. They’ll teach you everything about coding and programming from an elementary level to an expert.

Phase 3: Computer Science

Once you’ve perfected your programming skills, you’re ready to proceed to the next final phase of advancing in your CS career – becoming a computer scientist.

At this point, rather than concern yourself with the nitty-gritty details of a computer program, you now need to think in terms of the big picture. We’re talking – building large fault-tolerant distributed systems designed to handle massive loads.

Computer science graduates, who’ve gone through a bachelor’s program, have usually attained this level of expert knowledge.

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