You stream movies, play video games, work, study and scroll through Reddit on your computer. But have you ever wondered how computers actually work or what is computer science all about? A simple computer science definition is:
Computer science is the study of computers, including computational theory, hardware and software design, algorithms and the way humans interact with technology.
If you’re interested in a challenging and rewarding career path, you may want to consider becoming a computer scientist.
Computer scientists are problem solvers. When a computer scientist receives a problem, they gather information and communicate with computers using programming languages and logic (e.g. scripting). They create a set of rules or instructions for the computer to execute and solve the problem. Read on to learn more about what computer science is, the importance and benefits of computer science, professional tools and resources, and how to pursue a career in computer science.
What is the Importance of Computer Science?
Even when we think we’ve “unplugged” from society, there are devices running in the background throughout our homes and in our neighborhoods. It’s safe to say we live in a world that relies heavily on technology. In this society, two types of people have emerged: those who let technology run their lives and those who create technology that changes lives. Which side would you rather be on?
Computer scientists solve complex problems such as predicting natural disasters, mapping viral outbreak patterns, improving our health care system and making education accessible. For example, online education was something people once scoffed at, and now, people can learn almost anything online from YouTube tutorials to free learning platforms, such as Khan Academy.
What are the Benefits of Computer Science?
Most companies are tech companies in some capacity, whether it’s a brick-and-mortar retailer moving into the e-commerce space or using an app to get your favorite food delivered to your door, computer science technology has improved our access so that almost anything we want is at our fingertips. Salary may depend on experience and industry, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a median pay of $110,140 per year or $52.95 per hour.
According to the BLS, there were 1,469,200 jobs for software developers in 2019, which includes applications and systems software developers. The field is expected to grow 22% between 2019-29, which is more than four times faster than the average growth for the U.S. job market.
Clearly, there’s a need for computer science-related technical skills as companies upgrade their business models. A career in computer science, especially software development, is an innovative space and can be exciting work for those who enjoy lifelong learning.
Computer Science Tools & Resources
At this point you may be wondering where to start. What tools will you be using, what do you learn in computer science, and are there resources that can help you get started?
A well known site called The Odin Project offers a free computer science course complete with tutorials, blogs and a helpful community. As you start your journey, you’ll run into StackOverflow, a question-and-answer site helping novice and experienced programmers discover solutions and connect with their peers.
If you’re looking for a more structured and academic approach, Harvard’s CS50 curriculum is available on YouTube. It’s a great introduction on how to think like a programmer and understand important theories of computer science. The self-taught approach has worked for many computer science enthusiasts, but traditional education has also helped professionals take their career to the next level.
Interested in Pursuing a Computer Science Career?
If computer science seems like a good fit, the first step is getting a bachelor’s degree in computer science or major in a STEM or business-related field with a concentration in computer science. Outside of traditional education, you can work on projects to apply what you already know and use some of the resources in this article to start solving problems and launch your career.
If you didn’t study computer science during your undergraduate studies or feel stuck in your current computer science-related role, you could pursue a master’s in computer science online. A master’s in computer science may deepen your understanding of computer science theories and application, increase your earning potential, and allow you to pursue a specialization in an in-demand field, such as cybersecurity or data science.
There’s plenty you can do with a computer science degree, but it’s important to determine which part of computer science interests you the most: the theoretical side or the practical side. To learn more about STEM careers, check out our guides.
Last updated: July 2021