Computer science degrees are all about information – how to store it, transmit it and process it electronically.
Computer science is considered by many of its practitioners to be a foundational science - ie. one which makes other knowledge and achievements possible.
The possibilities that have been opened up by computer science experts permeate every aspect of modern life. Look at mobile phones, satellite navigation, the internet; it’s easy to forget just how sophisticated these now everyday objects are.
Choose a computer science degree, and you could be working at the forefront of the next great technological innovations. You're also likely to find your skills in high demand across many different industries, with the potential for high earnings.
However, this is definitely not an easy option - and gaining a place on a computer science course is often highly competitive. Be ready to demonstrate technical knowledge and proficiency, combined with passion for the subject.
If you make the cut, you will begin by acquiring a basic grounding in algorithms, programming, and organizing data, with a smattering of essential mathematics. You will then be able to choose from a raft of computer science specializations, which in turn open up a whole host of careers.
Computer science specializations
Given the widespread nature of computer technologies in today's society, it shouldn't be surprising to find there are many different computer science specializations. Some of the possible tracks within computer science degrees include:
This is the use of computers to render still or moving two or three dimensional images. Computer graphics has applications outside of the traditional remit of computer science – think architecture or product design – as well as things like computer games design
Programming language theory
Though programming is often treated as a means rather than an end, it is a key area of study. Programming language theory is an interdisciplinary specialization, incorporating elements from subjects such as mathematics and linguistics.
With technology coming to play a greater and greater part in our lives, human-computer interaction is becoming increasingly important. The wheel of an iPod, the motion sensing devices of modern games consoles, and augmented reality applications on smart phones are examples of innovations in this field, making changes to the way we use our gadgets.
Sometimes incorporating artificial intelligence, robotics is the development of mechanical devices to perform tasks more efficiently than a human could (or tasks that a human could not do). Unsurprisingly, there is much crossover with engineering.
This is the study of existing computer systems with a view to improving them by making them more efficient, user friendly and generally fit for purpose. Specializing in systems analysis could lead to a career in consultancy.
Computer science careers
One of the most appealing things about computer science degrees? In our increasingly technological era, employers will virtually be fighting over you, and computer science careers seem likely to continue to grow in scope and demand.
In the UK, for instance, 1 in 20 workers are now employed in IT and telecoms – a field for which computer science graduates are particularly well suited – and there is still further demand, with computer science graduates enjoying one of the lowest unemployment levels in the country.
Meanwhile in Australia there are more vacancies for ICT professionals than for business, finance and human resources professionals put together.
Computer science jobs
Computer programmers are always in demand, from established and new companies alike. And as more and more aspects of our modern lives become computerized it seems unlikely that computer science jobs will be drying up too soon.
The Association for Computing Machinery identifies a raft of potential career paths. For example, there is designing and implementing software, a path has changed a lot in recent years, with web development mobile computing coming to the fore.
You might also work in an academic or industrial research capacity, coming up with new ways in which we might use computers. Or you could work in planning and managing organizational technology infrastructure.
This final career is best suited to candidates who specialize in information technology, as modern courses in this field tend to focus on this area.
There’s plenty of scope for using your knowledge in an entrepreneurial capacity, and there are plenty of non-computer science jobs graduates might take up. Teaching, management and general IT roles are some examples.
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