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Why should I study Computer Science?

In essence: a strong resilient demand for jobs, high salary, and a stable, challenging, and engaging career.

Full Answer

There are many opportunities for Computer Scientists after graduation, and Computer Scientists demand some of the highest starting salaries of all fields, and have high salary caps compared to most fields.  In addition, a career in Computer Science is both challenging and very rewarding.

But I heard that I can make more money in other careers. If I will get so little reward from it, why should I bother? What are the reasons I should study Computer Science?

In essence: high salary and a stable, challenging, and engaging career.

Full Answer

There are three main reasons to study Computer Science and pursue a career as a Computer Scientist. 

  1. Higher starting salaries and larger caps on salary.
  2. Prospects for a career that is as stable or dynamic as one wishes.
  3. An engaging job that demands creativity, innovation, intuition, integration of theory and practice, and the ability to think at multiple layers of abstraction to solve challenging complex problems.

How high of a starting salary can I get?

In short, as a Computer Scientist, you will be able to demand a relatively high salary throughout your entire career.

Full Answer

The first main reason to study Computer Science and pursue a career as a Computer Scientist is that starting salaries in Computer Science are some of the highest among all disciplines and the mid-career salaries are also some of the highest among all disciplines.  There are numerous reports and surveys, spanning many years, showing that Computer Scientists can consistently command some of the highest starting salaries of any major field of study.  The following figure, Figure 1, represents data collected by regarding 2016 salaries for hundreds of different majors in college.  It shows the top 25 starting salaries sorted by major in college.  Computer Science and Engineering ranks 3rd, Computer Science ranks 15th, Software Engineering ranks 16th and Computer Science & Mathematics ranks 21st out of all majors for starting salaries.  Also worth noting was that 32% of CS grads had a starting salary of over $75k and 13% started at over $100k.  In addition, when ranking majors by mid-career salaries, Computer Science and Engineering ranks 6th, and Computer Science ranks 21st

2016 Top Salaries by Major

Figure 1. Top 25 Salaries by Major in 2016

Computer Science majors commanded similar starting salaries in 2014 as well.  The following figure, Figure 2, shows the starting salaries and the mid-career salaries by major for the top 10 majors.  Computer Science majors ranked 7th in starting salary, and 9th in mid-career salary. 

2014 Top Salaries by Major

Figure 2.  Top 10 Salaries by Major in 2014

Table 1, below, shows for 2013 the average salaries and the top 10% salaries for several jobs that experienced computer scientists are qualified to be hired into.  As can be seen, the salary caps for these jobs are quite high, especially when considered in the context of many other disciplines.  The Computer Research Association (CRA) reported (the report can be found at this website) on 3/16/09 that "according to the United States Department of Labor, computer science graduates on average earn 13 percent more than the average college graduate.  

Table 1.  2013 Average and Top 10% Salaries for Some CS Jobs

CS Jobs

But, I actually heard that it is hard to get a job in Computer Science. Is that true?

As a Computer Scientist, your prospects for finding a job are very good, and a significant majority of graduates in Computer Science have a job in their field soon after graduation.

Full Answer

Some believe that Computer Science jobs are hard to get because there are few open positions.  The belief that there are few jobs in Computer Science is a misconception that is a result of the recent economic downturns, such as the dotcom bust of 2000 and the financial crisis of 2008 to 2012?)(in fact these downturns had little effect on the number jobs available in Computer Science).  The need for automated solutions has been steadily increasing for over 30 years, and the demand for Computer Scientists has been constantly high for decades. 

Even more encouraging for Computer Science majors is the significant over-demand for qualified software engineers.  According to CareerCast , in a 2015 report, an estimated 222,600 software engineering jobs will need to be filled in the U.S. by 2022.  In addition, it is estimated that there will be three jobs available for every new college graduate from a computer science program in 2016.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, future job prospects for computer science graduates are higher than for any other science or engineering field."  Apparently, there is a severe shortage of qualified Computer Scientists graduating from U.S institutions to fill the available positions in just the U.S alone.

In reality, industry can’t fill all of the jobs in Computer Science because there simply are not enough qualified Computer Scientists.  Thus, many of these jobs are filled by importing semi-skilled workers from other countries.  However, many of these workers need substantial training to be able to perform their job responsibilities.  The problem is that even this leaves many jobs in Computer Science unfilled.  Unlike other fields, where you may end up working for Starbucks or a Department Store after graduation, the majority of graduates with a degree in Computer Science are employed in their field within a short time after graduation.

OK, but I heard that Computer Science jobs are boring and lonely – that only introverts get jobs in Computer Science. Is it true that Computer Science is only for introverts?

In reality, Computer Science jobs are interesting and challenging, and require people with strong soft skills and a large degree of imagination and creativity.

Full Answer

Some believe that Computer Science jobs are boring, and filled with lonely geeks who rarely sleep and do nothing but huddle over a computer all day long and who have no social life.  This belief that Computer Science careers are boring and filled with geeks is a misconception that comes primarily from Hollywood, which loves to portray computer programmers with a negative impression.  In reality, the quantity and type of new problems that arise every day mean that Computer Scientists are constantly having to use their imagination and creativity to develop new solutions.  Most new problems today require highly creative solutions that are developed by teams of Computer Scientists with excellent communication skills.  So the jobs are not boring, and the people filling those jobs are socially integrated and must be innovative and creative on a daily basis.  

Another misconception is that Computer Science is completely male dominated.  This misconception is related to the perception that Computer Science is filled with lonely male geeks with no social skills doing repetitive tasks.  It also follows from the perception that Computer Science requires little creativity, which couldn’t be further from the truth.  In fact, women are very successful Computer Scientists, and most companies actually value women Computer Scientists as they bring a fresh perspective to solving challenging problems.

While, historically, most Computer Science programs had a 9:1 ratio of men to women, this has changed significantly in the last decade as the perception of the stereotypical Computer Scientist has become a misconception.  In fact, a large number of Computer Science programs have a ratio of men to women that is approaching those associated with many other disciplines.

But, what are my prospects for a career?

Computer Scientists work in many areas and the job market has been relatively stable in that there is strong demand for people to fill computing jobs, but a significant shortfall of qualified people to fill those jobs.

Full Answer

The second main reason for studying Computer Science is that a career in Computer Science can be as stable or as dynamic as one desires.  Computer scientists work in many complementary areas, including:

  1. Architecture:  designing and building CPUs and computer systems
  2. Operating Systems:  the “infrastructure of computers”
  3. Databases:  managing and storing information
  4. Algorithms:  analysis and comparison of algorithms for correctness and efficiency
  5. Compilers:  performing language translation
  6. Artificial Intelligence:  making computers act like intelligent people
  7. Parallel Computing:  performing multiple computations simultaneously
  8. Networks:  transferring information between computers
  9. Graphics:  generating images on the screen
  10. Bioinformatics:  combining computing and biology
  11. Robotics:  software controlling hardware
  12. Multimedia:  data representing “objects” other than text
  13. Software Engineering:  the construction of very large programs
  14. Programming Languages:  the design of languages to automate execution of algorithms
  15. Applications: applying algorithms to important application domains
  16. Computability:  which problems are (or are not) computable

This is just a small list of the many areas in which a computer scientist can pursue a career.  There are many other areas too.  Computer Science has somewhere between 40 and 50 subfields in which to specialize and pursue a career.  In fact, many Computer Scientists specialize in several areas and switch back and forth between subfields to pursue interesting and challenging problems.  And, while many Computer Scientists will remain with the same company for many years, many will switch companies every few years in order to pursue challenging problems. 

In fact, whether you stay in the same job for many years, or switch jobs every few years, the job market in Computer Science has remained relatively stable, and has been mostly immune from recessions and downturns in the economy.  In 2010, at the height of the recession resulting from the financial crisis of 2008, when there was 9.6% unemployment, the field of Computer Science had only 6% unemployment.  Also, while the recessions had little impact on unemployment in computing fields, recent trends show a surge in demand for people to fill computing related jobs.  In 2014, there are approximately 40,000 computer science bachelor’s degree graduates, but there were about 4 million job vacancies in computing fields.  In 2015, approximately 70% of all new STEM jobs were in computing fields.

Great. But, besides salary, will my career be rewarding?

A career as a Computer Scientist is both rewarding and challenging, requiring creativity and intuition in addition to strong technical skills.

Full Answer

The third main reason for studying Computer Science is that a career in Computer Science can be very rewarding.  Most jobs in Computer Science demand creativity, innovation, intuition, integration of theory and practice, and the ability to think at multiple layers of abstraction to solve challenging complex problems.  This is because solving complex problems that lead to software solutions involves the application of both science and engineering, often at the same time.  Which means that Computer Scientists need strong problem solving skills with the motivation to investigate multiple ways of solving problems, and the ability to think at multiple levels of abstraction simultaneously. Yet, because the discipline of Computer Science is so young, the field is still developing the same kinds of axioms, principles, and laws that one would find in other disciplines (such as Physics or Chemical Engineering).  Which means that Computer Scientists also need lots of creativity and intuition as they develop new and unique solutions to different problems.  Despite all of the tools and techniques that have been developed to design and implement large-scale high-quality complex software, Computer Science is still largely an art form.  This makes a career in Computer Science both challenging and rewarding, as it requires a large degree of imagination and the ability to integrate both theory and practice to solve the types of problems Computer Scientists encounter daily.  Thus, most people employed in a job related to Computer Science find their job is challenging and rewarding, and that they routinely encounter new problems that require their intellect and creativity.

So maybe I should pursue a career in Computer Science. Why should I study Computer Science at Lindenwood University?

The Computer Science faculty at Lindenwood University have expertise in many subfields of Computer Science, and are student focused with an emphasis on student success.

Full Answer

The computer science faculty at Lindenwood University is comprised of scholars and teachers with expertise ranging from computer networks to distributed computing to simulation, who are also mentors and academic advisors.  They are easily accessible to their students, possessing a wealth of personal and professional knowledge and will pass that knowledge on to you.  They are student focused, looking to provide learning experiences that lead to student success.  Class sizes at Lindenwood University are generally limited to 30 students, and Computer Science courses are no exception.  Most Computer Science classes are no larger than 28 students and many are smaller.  In addition, each student is assigned an academic advisor, a member of the faculty, who will help the student navigate the many options for scheduling classes throughout all four years.

As a Computer Science student at Lindenwood University, you will work in many areas.  Programs that have been used in classes recently include databases, games, multimedia, network applications, and systems.  In the first two years at Lindenwood, students take classes that teach them how to write and debug programs, and how to use data structures to represent information in programs.  Some of the programming/scripting languages/libraries students use include C, C++, HTML, Java, JavaScript, Jython, PHP, Python, SQL, Assembly Language, and Visual Basic, among others.  Starting at the end of the second year of study and continuing until finishing the degree program, students begin taking classes in a variety of topics that are fundamental to writing larger scale, more application oriented software.  This includes learning about Databases, Graphical User Interfaces, Computer Architecture, Operating Systems, as well as several technical electives.  In the senior year of study, students take a Senior Design capstone course, where they work in teams to solve a real world problem of some complexity utilizing the skills learned in prior years of study.

Lindenwood University is the oldest college west of the Mississippi river.  It is a private, comprehensive, coeducational University with a student to faculty ratio of 16:1.  Lindenwood University offers values-centered programs leading to the development of the whole person–an educated, responsible citizen of a global community.

Lindenwood University
209 S. Kingshighway
St. Charles, MO 63301