Are you thinking of studying Computer Science?
With the world increasingly reliant on computers to dictate virtually every aspect of our lives, there’s never been a better time to study Computer Science.
If you’re a fan of science fiction (particularly those plots revolving around artificial intelligence), then Computer Science could be the degree for you. But it’s by no means a degree you have to be a “geek” to be interested in; it teaches skills that are much in demand among employers, and it can put you on a well-paid career path.
What kind of things can I expect to study?
Computer Science deals with many major questions surrounding our use of computers, including how we get them to do what we want, and how far can we go in creating artificial intelligence. The content and structure of Computer Science courses varies tremendously from one university course to another, but the areas below are likely to crop up on most.
Programming and computing languages and algorithms
A major part of your studies will be devoted to learning practical skills such as how to design new systems using computing languages such as Java, Python and C++. You’ll also learn about algorithms – the commands that tell the computer how to go about doing something – and how to create them.
Hardware and software, networks and systems
In addition to practical skills, you’ll also learn all about various aspects of computing, including hardware (processors, memory and so on), software, networks and systems. You’ll look at the theory behind them, how they work, how their design has developed and what applications they have. Among other things, you might study computer graphics and how to portray things realistically on screen. And you might look at software development and testing, including how to identify and find fixes for ‘bugs’ (glitches where the software isn’t working as it should).
This looks at how we can get computers to perform complex tasks. It’s a fascinating area of study, but not as glamorous as the movies would have you believe (we’re not talking about the robots you see in films here).
The psychology of computer use often comes into Computer Science degrees; studying how people interact with computers is an important aspect of designing user-friendly systems that meet the requirements of the people using them.
Computer programming involves the use of advanced mathematical concepts, so maths is an essential part of a Computer Science degree. There may be classes dedicated to developing your mathematical knowledge to aid your learning of certain areas of the subject.
What do I need for a Computer Science degree?
A-level Maths is likely to be essential for a Computer Science course, with additional science subjects favoured, particularly Physics and Further Maths. ICT or Computing are also useful A-levels to have, though not many schools offer these, so they won’t be essential. Surprisingly, Philosophy may also come in handy; Computer Science is a subject that’s sometimes paired with this subject (it’s a course option at Oxford, for example).
What skills will I acquire?
In addition to practical computing knowledge and skills, such as programming, a degree in Computer Science develops strong mathematical and decision-making ability. Attention to detail is vital in a world in which the tiniest error could mean that an entire system stops working. Computer Science requires and cultivates a rational mind adept at working logically through possible causes of problems to find the solution.
Will I get to travel as part of my degree?
Travel opportunities are limited for this degree, as it’s not a subject for which fieldwork or site visits naturally arise. However, if you’re determined to spend part of your university experience overseas, some courses may allow you to spend a year abroad as part of your degree. You may also have the opportunity for spending some time in industry.
What careers are possible with a Computer Science degree?
Computing skills are greatly in demand, and as such, they can command good starting salaries if you have a good degree classification. A frequent destination for Computer Science graduates is technology companies, of which there is a vast number. Obvious roles include programming, such as a web or software developer; among your other options, you could also be an IT technician, a cyber-security expert, or a virtual reality games designer.
Specialist technology companies aren’t the only ones who recruit for these roles, though; all sectors have a need for IT specialists in these sorts of positions, so you can take your pick. You might even use your knowledge to develop computer software that can do clever things for a particular industry that interests you, such as detecting cancers for the medical sector or preventing online fraud in the finance sector. And, of course, you don’t need to go into IT if you don’t want to. The mathematical, analytical and problem-solving skills you’ll develop would also stand you in good stead for plenty of alternative career paths, such as banking and finance.
If you’re interested in studying Computer Science, you may also want to look into these degrees.
- Mathematics – if it’s the mathematical side of a Computer Science degree that most interests you, you may be better off applying for a pure maths course.
- Physics – Computer Science contains elements of Physics, so if this aspect appeals to you, you might also want to consider studying Physics on its own.
A final thought on Computer Science
Computer Science is a degree with major relevance to the real world in an increasingly technology-based society. It’s a young but rapidly advancing field, and that makes it a degree that feels up-to-the-minute and exciting. It’s also a degree that leaves you with much sought-after skills that have the potential to make you a very comfortable living. If you can see yourself one day designing a new search engine, making a fortune from creating apps for mobile phones and tablets, designing new social networks or creating virtual reality games, Computer Science would suit you down to the ground. But these are just a handful of possibilities: with the practical knowledge and transferable skills you’ll gain from this degree, the world really is your oyster.