Cassidy Williams

Software Engineer in Chicago

Cassidy's face

What is Computer Science ACTUALLY like?


Hi there cutie pie!

So, as you might already know, I’m a computer science major, and I LOOOVE it! A lot of people, though, typically give me a cringe reaction when I say that it’s my major.

And yes, I know not everyone likes the idea of coding. They picture someone sitting at a computer all day long in a crappy cubicle staring at a screen with green text and a black background.

Well, I’m here to tell you that you need to erase that image from your mind, because being a computer science major is SO much more than that!

So here’s some stereotypes that CS majors face, and then some counterexamples to show that they are not true. 😉

You’re in a cube all day staring at a screen.

False. In all of my internships that I’ve had, only one of them included a cubicle. Even then, I was only in it for a couple hours a day because I was in meetings and conference rooms and other places throughout the office. The company I’m going to work for, Venmo, has no offices at all!

Now sure, if you want an office with cubicles or offices or couches or anything, there are definitely companies out there with those, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But you should know that because of the flexibility of the degree and the job, you can honestly work in any type of environment you want.

It’s full of a bunch of boys.

I am not a boy. Next.

Heh okay, I admit there are a lot of guys in computer science. Overall in the US, only 18% of all undergraduate computer and information sciences degrees are received by women (stat from NCWIT). But ladies (and guys), don’t let that deter you! There are so many great opportunities in computer science career-wise, project-wise, and networking-wise that something like gender shouldn’t be a decision-making factor when deciding to go into the field or not.

It’s basically math with a computer involved. No fun.

No.

Okay, yes, math is a good thing to know. But it’s not the end of the world if you didn’t rock your trig class in high school.

Computer science is about problem solving. You’re given a set of skills with the major. Each language you learn is a tool, each idea you learn is a method of solving something. You get to be as creative as you want at that point!

Let’s say you wish there were an easier way to keep track of your calorie intake. That’s your problem. You can solve it in all kinds of different ways. Sure, you can write it in a notebook or something, but what if you don’t have a pen nearby? Let’s turn to tech. You could make a phone application that does it for you. You could even have it look up how many calories an avocado has for you so that you don’t have to do that yourself. What if you wanted to get REALLY creative with it? Let’s add some image recognition to your application. You could have your phone take a picture of an avocado, recognize what you’re eating, and then do the looking up of calories for you and list it on your calendar. You could make a website for it! A smartwatch application! A Google Glass tracker that publishes to Twitter! There’s so many options!

Computer science is great because of it’s flexibility. Do you like art? You can work with code that only works with art (there’s a whole website dedicated to that kind of coding here). You like chemistry? You can make programs that test strengths of covalent bonds between atoms (I asked my computer science/chemistry double major buddy for that example, so it’s super legit). You like math? You can work with Turing machines and algorithms exclusively. You like marketing? You can be a developer evangelist and work with events, writing, code, and competitions (here’s a blog post of someone who did just that). You like foreign languages? You can make products to bridge the gap between nations.

Also, what if you don’t want to code? You can have jobs like being a technical writer, a project manager, a technical recruiter, a patent lawyer… there’s so many opportunities for you even if you just know a little technical knowledge!

I could go on and give an example for pretty much every single other subject you throw at me. Technology is constantly growing, which only means there will be more and more ways to relate computer science to pretty much anything. Not just math.

I don’t have coding experience, so there’s no point. It is too late.

*Touches your shoulder tenderly* It is never too late for now.

Not everyone goes into CS knowing things about coding. A majority of people I knew in my freshmen classes had little to no experience at all!

Don’t let those people intimidate you. You can totally learn at your own pace, in the way that you want. Having previous experience, sure, that’s a nice bonus. But you could say that about literally every other field (I tried thinking of exceptions to this rule, and there are none). Don’t worry about getting your feet wet, or even moving a little slowly. It’s a subject that takes patience. It’s so vast that some things are pieces of cake to some people, and pure torture for others. As you go through your classes, you figure out what you like, and you can gear your electives towards your preferences.

Plus, there’s so many jobs in computer science out there that you don’t have to even think about being worried.

WHAT A CLEVER SEGUE:

Computer Science is being outsourced all over the place, there’s no jobs here.

No no no no no.

There are so many jobs here, it’s ridiculous.

Quick history lesson: Baby boomers started taking on a lot of jobs, computer-related ones too, many years ago. Now, they’re starting to retire a lot. Millions have retired over the past 6 years.

So, what does that mean for you, for us? JOBS! Not Steve Jobs. I mean careers. For you and me.

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that by 2020 there will be more than 1.4 million computing-related job openings. At current rates, however, we can only fill about 30% of those jobs with U.S. computing bachelor’s grads (Source).

That’s a LOT of jobs. Get on it.

Computer scientists are socially awkward.

No we’re not.

Well, some are.

But honestly, you could say the same about every single other major out there. Why we were targeted with that one, I couldn’t tell you.

We’re normal. I’m normal. NORMAL.

You are probably tired of reading this.

I hope I’ve deterred some of your malicious thoughts about CS majors (okay I’m sure they weren’t malicious, more like “curious,” but whatever) and answered some of your questions!

You should totally give computer science a try. You don’t have to major in it if you don’t want to, but you could just try a class. You’d be surprised at how fun it is.

Get jiggy with it. Peace out, girl scout. (Crap, I just reread that… maybe I AM one of the weird ones…)

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