If you are thinking of majoring in computer science then you’re probably wondering whether or not it is a good major to choose.
This post will show you whether or not computer science would be a good major for you and some other things to consider.
So, is computer science a good major? Computer science is one of the few majors that will open you up to many high paying jobs with just a bachelor’s degree. However, it can be a challenging major, it would help to get summer internships and it will be important to improve your programming skills on the side.
There are actually a number of things that you should consider before choosing the major and there are a number of things that you can do to make your time in the major easier.
Computer science is one of the highest paying majors
According to Payscale, the average salary of someone with a bachelor’s in computer science is $83,000. This makes computer science one of the best paying degrees that are available.
Many of the alternative degrees to computer science will also have high average salaries. However, not only is computer science one of the best paying degrees but it also puts you in a good position with just a bachelor’s degree. On the other hand, many of the alternatives require a master’s degree to be competitive when seeking a job.
Types of jobs that a computer science degree can open you up to
There are many different types of jobs that a computer science degree will open you up to. These can include:
- Software engineer
- Database administrator
- Data scientist (often requires a master’s degree)
- Machine learning engineer (requires master’s degree)
- Application developer
- Web developer
- Computer systems administrator
When interviewing for many computer science roles, especially software engineering, you will be tested mainly on algorithms and data structures which you’ll learn about during your time in the degree. Make sure to be very comfortable with algorithms and data structures when interviewing.
In addition, getting internships during the summer semesters would be very helpful. It is also important to maintain your programming skills while pursuing the degree as well.
If you are considering getting a computer science degree then there are a number of other degrees that might also interest. Depending on what you want to do after getting the degree you might also want to pick up one of them as a minor.
Alternatives can include:
- Computer engineering
- Information technology
- Information systems
Difficulty of a computer science major
Data shows that 35% of those who initially choose a STEM major switch out of the major within three years. The dropout rate in computer science is often even higher than this.
There are likely to be many different reasons for this. However, two possible reasons could be that computer science degrees require more mathematics than some people would expect and the degree is more theoretical than some would expect.
While it is true that you don’t need to know much mathematics to program it is also true that a computer scientist can make use of mathematics in many different ways. This is especially the case now with the increasing importance of being able to handle large amounts of data which involves a lot of mathematics. In a typical computer science degree, you can expect to have to take math classes such as single and multivariable calculus, linear algebra and discrete math.
Also, a computer science degree will focus more on the theoretical side of programming. While there will be programming involved, programming will not be the focus of the degree. This is something that can surprise many people and is why many students will drop the major.
How difficult the degree will be for you will depend on how well prepared you are for it already. If you already have done well in high school math and you are already proficient in programming then you will likely do well in computer science.
Whereas, if you did not take many math classes in high school and you don’t know how to program then you will have a harder time in the major.
With that being said, even if you don’t know any programming and you haven’t done much math then you will still be able to do well as a computer science major. You will just need to take more introductory classes and you might need to put more effort in initially that some of your peers.
Another factor to consider is your level of interest in computer science. If you are interested in the subject then you will have a much easier time motivating yourself to continue working through problems that you are struggling with.
One more thing to consider is the college that you go to. If you go to a highly selective college then you will likely find that the classes will be at a higher pace and they will be more mathematically demanding. Although, that would be true of the alternative degrees as well.
If you go to a college with an open admissions policy then the classes can still be hard, especially in your junior and senior years. However, you will often find that the difficulty of the class will depend a lot on the professor teaching it.
Things to consider
Below are a couple of things to consider when choosing the computer science major.
What you would like to do after graduating
It would help a lot to consider what you want to do after you graduate as this will have a big impact on the best major for you and what classes you should be choosing.
If you want to get into software engineering, it would help to pick a computer science program that is more focused on things such as algorithms, systems design and other classes related to software engineering.
Whereas, if you would like to get into machine learning, it would help to take classes in machine learning and statistics. It would also help to make sure to learn Python programming in your own time and to complete projects in machine learning so that you can showcase your skills.
The specific computer science program you are interested in
If you are not yet in university, it would also help to try to apply to computer science programs that are suited to your goals. For example, if you have an interest in machine learning, it would help to apply to universities that offer classes related to machine learning while also considering the cost, location, ratings, etc of the university.
Ways to make computer science easier
If you do decide that you want to get a computer science degree then there are a number of things that you can do to make your time in the major easier that I will mention below.
Try to separate the difficult classes
It would help to try to avoid taking multiple difficult classes during the same semester. Taking multiple difficult classes in the same semester will require you to study more than you’re used to, you might struggle to keep up, get stressed and it could hurt your GPA.
Taking the time, early on in your degree, to plan out the entire degree so that you are able to separate the classes in the most efficient way possible would be very helpful. This would be best done with the help of an academic advisor.
It is normal to have to take difficult classes concurrently during your junior and senior years. However, it would still help to separate them if you can.
Consider who is teaching the class
The difficulty of a class will largely depend on the professor that is teaching the class. The professor will dictate the pace of the class, what goes on exams, how the exams are graded and how much homework there is. Some will give out study guides and others will tell you anything from the textbook could be on the exam.
It would help to see what other students have said on ratemyprofessors.com before selecting a class. In your junior and senior years, there will likely only be one professor teaching a class. In that case, you can either take the class anyway or take it in a later semester.
Make sure to do well on the homework and assignments
While the highest weighting will be on the exams, the weighting that gets given to the homework and assignments can be high as well. Many students don’t take the homework so seriously. However, doing well on the homework will help you on exams and it will help make up for poor exam results.
You can improve the grade that you get on your homework by doing it as soon as it is assigned, using multiple resources and getting help where you are stuck.
Read the textbook before jumping to the homework and assignments
Often students will jump straight to the homework problems without reading the relevant chapter from the book. The problem with doing this is that the professor might have skipped over parts of it and the questions will be based on what’s in the book.
Instead, you will likely find it to be much more time-efficient to read the relevant chapter beforehand.
Prepare for the classes before taking them
One thing that you can do to make your classes much easier is to prepare for them before taking them.
You can do this by watching a series on Youtube or a university’s CS website or reading a highly rated book on Amazon.
By doing this you’ll be able to follow along with lectures much more easily and you will be able to do better on the homework and exams.