Why you should get a degree in computer science

Helping out at a job fair at my old high school made me reflect on why I chose to get into IT. What’s the real value in getting a CS (related) degree when there are so many other subjects to study?

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You will become a problem solver

Every single person I’ve met with a background in computer science has great analytical skill. They are able to decompose complicated problems into manageable smaller problems. This is an extremely valuable skill in a world where systems and processes are getting more and more complex.

Seeing how different sub-systems are connected isn’t just a technical skill, but can also applied at a higher organization level, such as business processes. It’s up to you to make problems tangible and communicate them well.

You can work anywhere

Want to work at Google? Or maybe at a hospital? Feel like working in government? Would you like to work in a large company or a small team? IT is everywhere and just about every organization is dying for highly trained IT professionals.

You are able to pick your own problem domain and apply your knowledge in just about every organization of your liking. It’s never a good choice to get into something for the money, but computers aren’t going anywhere soon.

You will learn concepts

Rather than learning tools, you’ll learn abstract concepts that form the foundations of different techniques or implementations. You will follow a course on object-oriented programming, not on Java. Java is merely a vehicle to get these concepts across.

These concepts allow you to easily pick up a new tool and start using it. You will not be an expert on a tool when you get your degree, but you will be able to pick up any tool and grasp 80% of the tool’s concepts within hours.

This isn’t just about programming

There are amazing CS students that are lousy programmers. Computer science is about models, logic, system architecture and so much more. While most CS students are pretty good at writing code, there are plenty who aren’t. Like any other skill it takes time and dedication to get to a certain level.

When you talk about IT in the broad sense, there are even more situations in which you don’t need to be a programming expert, but it most certainly helps.

You can create anything

One of the things that still amazes me is what you can do with a $600 computer. There are only a few professions that allow you to try things with so little expenses. Imagine being a civil engineer; there is no way you can build a big project on your own dime.

Most of the tools you will be using are available for little money, or no money at all. Some of the biggest IT companies were started in dorm rooms or dark attics.

The field is changing

I’ve seen a change in the kind of people that enroll in computer science in the last three years. I see a large variety of people and less stereotypical CS majors. IT is losing its negative stigma and that’s a welcome thing.

If you’re already in IT, please take the time to tell people about what your job involves. I was genuinely surprised how little kids know about our profession and it’s time to educate them.

Disclaimer: I’m not actually a CS major, but took a lot of courses that are included in the CS curriculum. I know the field, I know the people.

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