While computer science (CS) always seems to be an excellent career choice, this happens to be a particularly great time to pursue a CS major, say experts.
And a plethora of statistics tend to confirm their Top Five reasons:
1. That’s where the jobs are.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts there will be 9.2 million jobs in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields by the year 2020 with half of them in computing. Meanwhile, through 2020, there will be an average of 150,000 CS job openings annually, outpacing the supply of CS graduates.
For example, with respect to a narrow slice within the health field, “the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a projected shortfall of approximately 51,000 qualified healthcare IT workers over the next four years,” says Cameron Wilson, director of the Washington, D.C.-based ACM Public Policy Office.
“Combining all the new jobs that are being created plus all those that will be open because people are either retiring or things are changing in the field, it’s clearly an incredible field to find opportunities,” says Peter Harsha, director of government affairs at the Washington, D.C.-based Computing Research Association (CRA).
Indeed, according to the BLS, 6% of all jobs nationwide are STEM jobs, while 2.7% of all jobs nationwide are CS jobs.
2. CS salaries are relatively high.
The national average salary for computing and mathematical occupations in 2011 was $78,730 in 2011 compared to $45,230 for all occupations, according to BLS estimates.
“It’s not just that you can find a job right out of school, but it’s also that it’s a well-paying job,” says Harsha. “So that’s a real practical reason for going into computing.”
3. The educational opportunities are greater than ever before.
Regardless where you are in the world, with many of the major universities putting their classes online, it’s easier to get an education in CS. Computing itself has changed the way education is done and it’s making it easier to learn how to compute.
4. It’s an exciting field.
So much of the world has moved online and will continue to be online. And computing has become a big part of discovery in essentially every major discipline.
“Biology is increasingly driven by information studies as is chemistry, you can’t do physics without doing computing, in fact every aspect of the sciences has computing somewhere near its core now because computing has joined theory and experiments as the drivers of discovery,” says Harsha. “Modeling, visualization, and data mining are a big part of the way science is done now. So if you want to play a part in the future, if you want to play in the sciences, you pretty much have to have some sort of computing literacy.”
5. Help your country–and the world.
That’s something that appeals to a lot of students who want to be able to do something that’s really good for everyone … and CS allows you to do that. From a U.S. national needs standpoint, President Obama has a number of initiatives–like smart energy, big data, and cybersecurity–that all impact the way the federal government is going to be spending money in the future. And many of those initiatives have computing at their core.
“CS is a discipline that’s full of academic and intellectual rigor,” concludes Harsha. “If you seek discovery or the thrill of new frontiers, computing offers many great opportunities to make people’s lives better – and to change the world in ways we have yet to discover.”
Paul Hyman is a science and technology writer based in Great Neck, NY.