Is it a bit dramatic, perhaps, to say that the fate of the world rests on computer science and that’s why you should learn computer science?
Maybe, but not by much. Computer science is “the study of computation and information, and is a subject which involves you in the very make-up of the world,” the University of York posits. Computer science is everywhere in our everyday lives. I wrote this article on a PC; you’re reading it on one, or a mobile phone. When I get paid this month, a computer-science-powered banking system will send it and receive it.
Beyond our quotidian day to day, computer science also is a vital part of the cutting edge of humanity. The large hadron collider uses computer science. Web3 crypto is based on computer science principles. No matter how big or small you look, almost every piece of modern technology likely requires components designed using computer science.
CS used to be a very specialist field. A lot of folks have learned how to use the programs that ran on computers, but that’s like learning to microwave a ready meal. Learning computer science is like learning to cook. Nowadays, a computer science degree is a popular choice, but even though more and more grads are choosing computer science as a discipline, they can’t catch up to the huge surplus of computer science jobs.
So, why learn computer science? Why bother? What if you already went to college and got a liberal arts degree? What if you don’t think you’re very good at coding?
If you have any passing interest in computer science, you should learn it. Here’s why.
1. Lucrative career opportunities
It seems a little coarse to open with money, but that’s one of the most undeniable benefits for why you should learn computer science. The average computer scientist makes $103k annually, according to Indeed. Furthermore, most companies scouting for employees with a strong computer science background will also offer impressive perks. Take Apple, for example, currently recruiting an AI engineer. Their perks include comprehensive healthcare, 401k matching, and personal development options.
There are a lot of job opportunities for anyone who is learning computer science. What’s more, those job opportunities can take you in different directions. No matter if you want to pursue data science, software engineering, architecture, or analytics, a grounding in computer science will take you far.
Plus, these jobs will stay relevant for the long haul. We’re barely scratching the potential of AI and machine learning. A computer science skill set means employment for life. The flexibility of potential career tracks, combined with the income and future opportunities, make computer science a solid choice to learn.
2. You don’t need a college degree
Why learn computer science, especially if you’ve already got a degree in something unrelated? Plenty of folks worry that it’s too late for them to learn computer science. They think that if they don’t have a college degree, they may as well not bother. But nothing could be further from the truth.
One of the benefits of computer science is that it’s learnable by anyone, anywhere. You can choose to enroll in a boot camp. You can choose to get an accreditation from a platform like Coursera. You can even learn computer science on your own with free resources like FreeCodeCamp. Companies are so desperate to hire people with computer science knowledge, and they’re often not looking for a degree, they’re just looking for people who can get the job done.
This means that even if you studied biology, or didn’t get a degree at all, there’s a way into a computer science track if you have the skills and experience. While many job opportunities in senior positions require some kind of a college degree, many of the entry-level ones only require proficiency in the right language, knowledge of the frameworks, and the ability to interview well.
3. Engage your creative side
When you think of computer science, you probably think of the analytical “right-brain” or people typing quickly into keyboards while sitting in the dark. But computer science is a very creative discipline. It requires a lot of flexible thinking when it comes to coding, and the inherent problem-solving present in any computer science task also requires a lot of analytical thinking.
A computer scientist will experiment, think about the problem, and finally enter some code that might get the job done. Then they’ll iterate, debug, and keep problem-solving until they create a solution. Then, they’ll keep tweaking that solution until it’s optimized.
Painters and writers get a lot of creative credit. Computer scientists deserve as much, if not more. When you ask a computer scientist, “Why did you choose to study computer science?” many will mention the joy of creativity before anything else.
4. The basics unlock potential
When I studied biology, they regularly updated the textbooks and curriculum to keep abreast of the latest discovery or advancements. (CRISPR, anyone?) The really fascinating thing about computer science is that the fundamentals rarely change because it’s basically just an extension of math. Like Newtonian physics, as one Quora responder put it, computer science fundamentals simply don’t need to be updated. And yet new applications of the fundamentals are discovered practically every day. Why learn computer science? Because one set of skills will see you through your entire career.
In many jobs, your hire-ability depends on your ability to know how to use the latest tech. With computer science, knowing the basics will give you everything you need to continue being successful in perpetuity. Yes, new frameworks or languages will crop up every now and again, but for the most part, your familiarity with Big-O algorithms and object-oriented programming will see you through.
5. Learn practical skills
I got a degree in biology. Two, in fact. I never use them other than to whip out fun animal facts at parties. (Did you know giraffes fight by swinging their heads like golf clubs?)
But I do use the skills I learned while I got those degrees. I practice problem-solving, writing skills, critical thinking, and conflict management practically every day. Computer science is a lot like that.
Even if you learned everything there was to learn in computer science and never worked in the computer science field, it would not be a waste of time. You’ll practice your creativity as I mentioned in point three, but you’ll also practice collaboration, communication, and indulging in your curiosity. You’ll learn resilience. You’ll learn how to research.
The “soft” skills you learn when you study computer science are useful and applicable everywhere else in the job industry. That’s why you should learn computer science.
6. Only up from here
Today’s computer scientists are highly sought after, respected, well-paid, and happily satisfied in their jobs. Tomorrow’s will be too. As I alluded to in point four, the basics of computer science are not going to change a lot in the future. But the applications will.
As new frameworks, languages, and technologies are developed, having a solid grounding in computer science will give you opportunities in a quickly-growing field. Look at blockchain and web3 - that’s just one potential direction computer science will take you. I couldn’t possibly predict what ground-changing new development will come next, but I know computer scientists will be at the forefront of it.
Why learn computer science? Because it’s one of the few disciplines that will give you a foothold in whatever the future brings.
Why learn computer science? Hopefully, because you want to.
Learning computer science is not easy. It’s not fast. If you choose to start, it should be because you have a real desire to, not because you think you can take an eight-week bootcamp and be ready to rock and roll at Google. But if you’re reading this article about why learn computer science, and especially if you’ve made it to the bottom, it’s likely that this is something you’ve been considering anyway. These benefits are great, but at the end of the day, the main answer to why learn computer science should be because you want to.
CS is an awesome learning track. No matter if you decide to do it yourself with textbooks and YouTube tutorials, or enjoy a more guided learning experience, learning computer science will be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do.