Computer science is becoming an increasingly popular area of study, and for good reason. A BA in computer science is the first step to a range of high-income positions in tech. If you choose to learn computer science and pair it with some coding skills, you’ll be in the running for any number of dream jobs.
Computer science isn’t for everyone. Those who like solving problems, working through logic puzzles, and math tend to thrive in this major and the related career paths.
But even if that sounds like you, it doesn’t mean computer science is going to be a breeze. There will be moments of frustration. Like any field of study, you’ll be challenged. But if you stick with it, it’ll all pay off in the form of a lucrative and rewarding career.
If you’re like hundreds of others considering majoring in computer science, you’re probably questioning how hard the next four years will really be. So we’re going to give you a little preview. In this article, we’ll dive into how hard it is to excel in computer science. We’ll also give you a little inspiration and show you all the potential career paths you could take after you graduate.
How Hard is a Computer Science Major?
Computer science isn’t that hard, as long as you’re comfortable with basic math and statistics, and you’re willing to put in the time to read the course material. You’ll be able to excel in this major with some persistence and dedication.
And when you’re done with those four years, you’ll be on track to excel in a whole host of desirable tech roles.
What Is Computer Science?
Unlike IT and hardware engineers, who work with the hardware, a computer scientist specializes in building software and software systems.
Computer science includes subjects like software engineering, bioinformatics, programming languages, the theory of computing, AI, math, and data analysis. Most who choose to major in computer science won’t actually go on to become a “Computer Scientist.” You’ll likely earn titles in web development or data science – but we’ll share more on that later.
Is Computer Science the Right Major for Me?
The promise of high-paying tech jobs often entices students to major in computer science. (And we get it: salary does matter.) But that shouldn’t be the only deciding factor.
A computer science degree is perfect for you if you’re not afraid of math, you have a sharp eye for detail, and you’re also comfortable with a small amount of abstract thinking and logic.
Keep in mind that a computer science degree will require a lot of problem-solving and analytical skills. You’ll have to come up with creative ways to reach a solution.
That’s not a bad thing. Many professional web developers love what they do because they enjoy the satisfaction of coming up with an elegant solution to a sticky business challenge.
But do some introspection, and consider whether that applies to you. Ultimately, you’ll succeed in your computer science degree if you enjoy most of the work, and if you’re committed to turning it into a long-term career.
Why Is Computer Science Popular?
A computer science degree is a stepping stone to the tech industry, which means excellent job security, higher than average paychecks, and diverse job prospects. Many tech jobs come with other fringe benefits, like the ability to work remote from nearly anywhere in the world. Even if you do have to go into an office, because skills like data analysis and coding are in such high demand, you’re likely to have a range of jobs to choose from in any major city in the U.S.
Computer science deals with human-made and natural information processes in computing systems and machines. These processes can include communication, control, perception, learning, and intelligence. You’ll also be introduced to algorithms, computational problems, computer hardware design, software, and applications. So many college students end up choosing to study Computer Science because it covers such a wide range of knowledge and disciplines.
A typical computer science course will guide you in how to create and use new technologies. This area of study will help you sharpen your computational skills, mathematical thinking, logic, and critical thinking abilities.
All of those skills will prepare you for long-term success in a wide variety of professional challenges, no matter what field of work you eventually pursue.
Another reason why computer science is a popular area of study is the potential for career advancement and high salaries. A 2017 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the median annual salary for tech professionals hovered around $84,850 per year. Compare that to the median annual wage of all U.S. workers—which at $37,690 is less than half that figure.
But there’s still one major question you have to answer for yourself: what do you want your future career to look like? Here are some of the career paths that are most popular among computer science majors.
Computer Science Careers
Once you complete your degree, you could be on the path to earning any of the following job titles:
- Solutions Architect
- App Developer
- .NET Developer
- Software Engineer
Before declaring your major, you should probably do some background research. Software engineering or web development is one of the most popular career tracks. In short, a web developer is responsible for planning, designing, and coding a website to meet client requirements. But before you decide if that’s the right path for you, find out what a Software Engineer actually does, and think about whether you can see yourself in that profession for years to come.
If you want to be a top candidate for any of the above roles, you’ll need to learn how to code. Coding is an incredibly important skill that’s related to computer science; if you master a few key coding languages, you could enter the field with a high salary, and even get on track to a senior leadership position like Chief Technology Officer. (If you need a little extra motivation, read up on how much you’ll make as a Software Engineer.)
So make sure you take some coding courses as part of your computer science major, or compliment your learning with a coding bootcamp.
If you’re most interested in learning how to code and landing a job and feel like you could skip some of the theoretical background, then you may want to enroll in a more streamlined online course that’s laser-focused on making you a professional Software Engineer. A computer science degree is typically much more broad and may not be applicable to your career goals.
Is Computer Science a stable industry?
The web is evolving at an exponential pace as businesses across the globe race to build their online presence. And that means computer science pros have become the rockstars of the digital world.
They’re responsible for this incredible growth, and must keep on-trend with the latest development techniques to build stunning, stand-out websites. If you’re a creative person and want to be part of this digital revolution, a long-term career in tech awaits. And computer science is a great way to build the foundation that leads to a long-lasting career in web development.
What Do You Need to Know to Major in Computer Science?
If you’re serious about pursuing a degree in computer science, there are probably a few questions that have crossed your mind by now. Learning to code, combined with a broader introduction to the computer science industry, sounds daunting. You might be envisioning late nights hovered over your laptop and questioning whether this is really the right path for you.
We’ll cut straight to the chase and tell you that computer science isn’t the easiest major, but it’s also entirely manageable – even if you have no prior knowledge of comp sci or coding.
Two things you’ll need in good supply, however, are patience and determination. Discipline and a methodical will go a long way when it comes to completing a computer science degree (or any other major, for that matter).
Creative thinking and analytical skills will also be essential. This isn’t a major where you can memorize lists, ace the exam, and expect to excel in the field long-term. You’re going to learn how to address real world problems and come up with effective solutions.
If you want to learn computer science, you can. You just need to stay focused, and choose an education option that works for you. That means enrolling in a course that doesn’t stretch your budget, and offers the support you need to launch a long-term career.
All of our online courses provide you with 1-on-1 mentorship, which is a great option if you really want to get into tech.
How to Choose the Right Computer Science Program
Web developers also need to showcase out-of-the-box thinking to build innovative websites and applications. Any web development training you sign up for needs to reflect this. Read up on the curriculum, and make sure you’ll learn how to apply your skills to real-life challenges.
In order to make sure your degree will lead to a high-paying career, make sure your program touches on the following hard skills.
HTML and CSS: A web developer needs to master these two fundamental skills before they can start building websites. HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language. It’s the most common markup language used to create web pages. CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets and is used to apply consistent styles and formatting across a website.
SQL: Structured Query Language is a database technology used to communicate with and manage databases. Web developers must possess SQL knowledge to work on the back-end.
Responsive Design: A responsive design means that a website must be capable of adjusting according to the screen size. Not only desktops but several devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones are being used to access websites. So it becomes imperative that the website looks good irrespective of the device.
How Much Math Is There in Computer Science?
A lot of students are intimidated by math, so this is a very common question. The truth is, the proportion of math in computer science will depend on the type of program and the school you choose.
In any case, your main focus will be on mastering the tech concepts and hands-on skills needed in the field—but all career-oriented computer science programs will include at least some statistics and analysis as well. In computer science, math is used to program systems to run more efficiently.
The good news is that most of the math incorporated in computer science is relatively easy. And if math isn’t your strong suit, that’s ok: you’ll be relieved to hear that it's not always required in the day-to-day responsibilities of your job, even if you decide to pursue a high profile role in tech.
How Much Can You Make with A Computer Science Degree?
Similar to any industry, salaries in the field of computer science vary widely depending on location, specialization, and level of experience. With that being said, salaries in the tech industry are all quite high, no matter where you are in your career.
For example, a Web Developer with a computer science background can expect to earn around $93,000 a year. Web development is one of the most popular career tracks for Computer Science grads, and you can see why.
But whichever title or specialization you choose, there’s ample potential for career growth with a computer science degree.
How to Turn Your Education Into A Career
Many students choose a four-year Computer Science degree, which has the potential to lead to high-paying roles in tech companies. It’s a great option for many driven young professionals.
But if you know that you ultimately want to work in software development, you may not need to devote four years to a degree: instead, start by learning to code. If you're well-versed in languages like SQL, Linux, and Java, you’ll be a highly appealing candidate for many entry-level roles – even without a college degree.
If you enjoy the challenge of coding, then a software engineering bootcamp will prepare you for a career by focusing on the specific coding skills employers need. And you don’t need a computer science degree to excel. With a bootcamp certificate, you can go on to careers in information systems, systems engineering, and software engineering (and with much less debt than you’d take on if you’d majored in Computer Science).
Still deciding which career path is right for you? Sometimes you need to start by narrowing down the areas of the industry fit your skills, personality, lifestyle and goals. To help you determine what the best path for you is, take our tech career quiz.
If you’re able to commit your best efforts to learning the basics of computer science, and combining them with hands-on tech skills, the benefits will last a lifetime.
How long does it take to get a computer science degree?
Most computer science programs take four years to complete. If you’re motivated to graduate early, you might be able to work ahead and earn your degree in less than four years.
Is computer science a good degree?
A computer science degree gives you the foundation to excel in a wide range of lucrative tech jobs, so many consider it a very valuable degree. Like any degree, it’s likely to take a few years and thousands of dollars to complete; but you’re likely to earn a high starting salary and enjoy long-term job stability.
What are the computer science dropout rates?
According to computerweekly.com, computer science has some of the highest dropout rates: in 2017, the dropout rate for computer science majors was 9.8%. Dropout rates vary by school, so you should check the statistics for computer science majors in your specific college.