Computer Science is one of the most popular STEM majors. STEM stands for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics.
Computer Science is popular because it offers promising and diverse job prospects in several industries, along with job security and a generally comfortable starting salary.
Now, you may be wondering what Computer Science is all about and what kind of jobs you can get as a Computer Science major.
In this article, I will explain what Computer Science means as a term, and I will cover some of the skills that a Computer Scientist acquires during a four-year CS program. I will also give you an overview of the types of jobs you can get with a Computer Science degree.
Here is what we will cover:
- What is Computer Science?
- What can you expect to study in a computer science degree?
- What are the career options for Computer Science majors?
Computer Science is the study of computers, computational systems, and technology.
Computer Science is a diverse discipline of study that includes an array of many sub-disciplines. The sub-disciplines are often whole separate specialized fields of study on their own.
In general, Computer Science is a field of study and practice that involves the knowledge of:
- Computational theory and the exploration of ideas regarding how to store and process information.
- Hardware and Software design.
- Development of software systems using programming languages.
Computer Science is more than just programming, computer systems, and working in isolation in front of a computer.
A big part of Computer Science involves having the knowledge and skills to harness the power of computers and technology to innovate and make a positive impact in the world.
Computer Science involves being able to program a computer by writing precise and accurate computational instructions for the computer to execute. You'll learn how to make a computer do the things you want it to do, and you'll be able to find solutions that will solve complex and challenging problems.
Computer Science involves learning to think more logically, more critically, methodically, carefully, and precisely because the computer will not do what you want it to if you are not methodical, careful, and precise with the instructions you give.
The subjects covered in a Computer Science degree will vary from school to school.
In the following sections, I mention some of the subjects that you are most likely to encounter while studying for a Computer Science degree.
Computer Science involves critical thinking and abstract reasoning, which are mathematical ways of thinking. For this reason, Computer Science involves studying mathematics.
While studying Computer Science, you will most likely take math, probability, and statistics courses.
The kind of math will depend from course to course. But generally, most majors involve learning binary and hexadecimal counting, calculus, linear algebra, discrete mathematics, probability, and statistics.
I've listed some recommended reading for you to review so you can have a better understanding of the topics mentioned above:
- Binary Definition
- The Hexadecimal Number System Explained
- Learn Calculus 1 in This Free 12-Hour Course
- Learn Calculus 2 in This Free 7-Hour Course
- Learn Linear Algebra with This 20-Hour Course and Free Textbook
- College Algebra – Learn College Math Prerequisites with this Free 7-Hour Course
- Learn College-level Statistics in this free 8-hour course
As I mentioned earlier, Computer Science is not just about programming. It is more about learning how to solve problems with the help of a programming language.
That said, in a Computer Science degree, you will learn at least one language in depth and learn how to solve problems using that language.
In particular, with a Computer Science degree, you will learn basic building blocks that are part of all programming languages. These include variables, data types, if statements, loops, boolean logic, and logical and arithmetic operators, to only name a few.
Some of the programming languages commonly taught in Computer Science degrees include C, C++, Java, and Python.
To learn more about those languages, check out the following resources to get you started:
- The C Beginner's Handbook: Learn C Programming Language basics in just a few hours
- Learn C++ Programming for Beginners – Free 31-Hour Course
- Get Started Coding with Java!
- Free Python Programming Course 
A Computer Science degree will involve studying algorithms.
An algorithm is a series of well-defined and precise step-by-step instructions. These instructions tell a computer how it should perform a particular task that will solve a specific problem.
An algorithm receives some input and produces some output that solves the problem at hand.
There are a variety of different types of algorithms that you will come across while studying for your Computer Science degree. Some of those include:
- Brute Force algorithms
- Greedy algorithms
- Backtracking algorithms
- Randomized algorithms
- Divide and conquer algorithms
- Dynamic programming algorithms
Most Computer Science courses will include classes on data structures.
Data structures are essential in Computer Science since they allow us to store data in a way that encourages optimal time and space performance.
Data Structures are storage areas for storing and organizing data elements so that computers can perform calculations with those data elements more precisely and efficiently.
Data structures fall into one of two categories – linear and non-linear data structures.
Linear data structures include:
Non-linear data structures include:
Lastly, there are also Hash tables that are data structures that are implemented as both linear and non-linear data structures.
Computer Science involves learning the fundamentals and basic terminology of databases.
This includes learning about the different types of databases, such as the differences between relational databases and non-relational (also known as NoSQL databases). You'll also learn about the principles of database management systems.
There is high demand for Computer Science majors in many fields and industries. This means that Computer Science majors have a plethora of career opportunities to choose from.
In the following sections, I've listed some of the most common career paths for Computer Science majors.
Software engineers work as part of a team and are responsible for creating, testing, debugging, modifying, and maintaining software programs.
They build large-scale and reliable computer and software systems and tooling.
Software engineers are also responsible for designing and developing user interfaces that improve the user experience of applications and also oversee the code running behind the scenes that power the user interface.
They need to be proficient in at least one programming language such as Java, C++, or Python. They also need to know web frameworks, version control systems, and Test-Driven Development (also known as TDD) best practices.
Web development is quite a broad field. And for that reason, it is generally split into the following three areas:
- Frontend web development.
- Backend web development.
- Full stack web development.
Frontend web developers are responsible for designing and creating the visual aspects of a website. This includes the graphics, layout, presentation, and general "feel" of the website.
They are responsible for creating a pleasant and aesthetically pleasing user experience and improving SEO (Search Engine Optimization) ranking.
Backend web developers work on the behind-the-scenes and "hidden" logic of websites. This includes storing and managing large amounts of data in databases, making sure payment transactions are processed smoothly and effectively, and handling the website's traffic.
They need to have knowledge of a backend programming language such as Java or Python and a good command of databases.
To learn more about the differences between frontend web development and backend web development, you can read this article.
Finally, full-stack web developers work as both frontend and backend developers and need to know how to create and maintain a website from start to finish.
To learn more about full stack development, you can read this article.
Similar to web developers, mobile developers design, build, and maintain applications.
The difference between web developers and mobile developers is that the latter build applications that run on mobile devices, such as smartphones or tablets.
Mobile app developers will typically specialize in one Operating System.
For example, some mobile developers develop for the Android operating system using a programming language such as Java, Kotlin, or even C/C++. Here's a helpful course on Android app development to get you started.
And some mobile developers develop for the iOS operating system using languages such as Objective-C or Swift. You can learn the basics of Swift pretty quickly in this tutorial.
Lastly, some mobile app developers design and build cross-platform apps using a language such as React Native. Cross platforms apps are applications that are simultaneously compatible with Android and iOS platforms. Here's a React Native course that teaches you how to build a cross-platform app.
There are many roles within the field of cybersecurity. One of those is the role of an information security analyst.
Information security analysts, also known as cybersecurity analysts, are responsible for keeping an organization's information network safe. They do this by implementing and staying up to date with the best security policies and procedures.
Information security analysts implement security measures, like installing systems, firewalls, and encryption tools to keep data safe and prevent a security breach and cyberattack from happening.
When a security breach occurs, they report vulnerabilities, repair systems, and review and analyze and determine the root causes of the problem.
Here are some helpful resources to help you get into Cybersecurity:
- How to get a cybersecurity job - tips from a hiring manager
- 10 tools you should know as a cybersecurity engineer
- Become an ethical hacker with this 15-hour course
Database administrators (or DBAs for short) manage the different systems a company uses to house important information.
Specifically, they are responsible for developing, regularly maintaining, and modifying databases to ensure an organization's critical data is stored securely and efficiently.
Databases need to be well organized, structured, and regularly maintained.
Database administrators ensure the correct data is accessed quickly and efficiently by the appropriate users while maintaining security best practices and ensuring data remains safe and secure.
Hopefully, this article gave you some insight into what Computer Science is, what a Computer Science degree entails, and the career options available for Computer Science majors.
Thank you for reading!