Computer science is a vast subject, with an array of specialisms to explore. In general, however, it refers to how information is used, stored and processed and its subsequent application. As a computer scientist, you may be adept at creating new algorithms to be used by machines, for example. Alternatively, you may specialize in developing new software and find new ways for data to be processed.
Unsurprisingly, computer science is a field that’s evolving at a rapid pace. We use technology in every aspect of our lives and we’re always hungry for more. From communicating via social media to managing our homes with smart tech and IoT, we rely on computer scientists to come up with new breakthroughs all the time.
If you’re interested in technology and considering your career options, this makes computer science an attractive option. With the potential to specialize in a niche that meets your interests and a growing career profile, choosing to work in computer science can be an exciting and lucrative way to earn a living.
Of course, you’ll need to do some research and take steps to ensure you’re prepared for what a career in computer science requires. Like any profession, it can take time to develop the skills and knowledge you’ll need to operate successfully. To get started, take a look at what you’ll need to build a successful career in computer science:
Most people working within computer science begin by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. Although you can choose to study computer science at undergraduate level, this isn’t usually a pre-requisite. Instead, you might choose to study for a bachelor’s degree in Information Science, Computer Engineering, Cybersecurity or Information Technology and Information Systems.
While an undergraduate degree is a great way to begin your career, you can advance your knowledge, skills and employability by enrolling in advanced-level study. Completing a master’s gives you the opportunity to specialize in a particular area or further your expertise, for example, and may open up a wider range of career options.
Remember – it’s important to think outside the box when you’re considering which degree subjects are right for you. Although there are many courses which are directly linked to computer science, other subjects can help you to build a career in computer science too.
Choosing a degree topic that has a broad application enables you to keep your options open and explore a variety of careers. With an Applied Statistics degree, for example, you may choose to build a career in computer science, or you may segue into another area. Check out this blog post to see how versatile this type of degree can be.
Furthermore, not all computer science, IT or cybersecurity courses contain the same content or modules. This means it’s essential to compare course providers to determine which program is right for you. Some computer science degrees may feature cybersecurity heavily, for example, whereas others may not. Similarly, some degree providers may offer multiple optical modules, while others may have a somewhat narrow selection.
By researching potential courses and providers, as well as considering your future career development, you can choose the right program for you.
Building a successful career in any industry means gaining experience. If you’ve studied a related field at undergraduate or postgraduate level, you may already have an idea of the area you want to work in. If so, you can focus on gaining experience within this specialism. Alternatively, many major employers offer graduate training and career returner programs which enable you to gain practical experience across numerous disciplines. This can be a great way to gain real-life experience of what your day-to-day work could entail and will help you to decide what specialism or sub-sector is right for you.
However, developing your professional profile in computer science doesn’t rest solely on your work experience. Due to the nature of the industry, you can gain a significant amount of experience by enhancing your own knowledge and practicing your skills. If you want to be a programmer, for example, learning a selection of programming languages, writing your own code and developing your own programs will stand you in good stead for the future.
Similarly, there are many informal groups for aspiring computer science professionals to join. Developers, statisticians and programmers often work together to create new software or contribute to open-source projects, for example. By doing so, you can make contacts within your industry, as well as gaining valuable experience.
As you gain experience, either formally or informally, it’s advisable to create and maintain a portfolio of your work. This will help you to impress prospective employers with your abilities and motivation, as well as verifying your skills and experience.
Develop ‘Soft Skills’
Sometimes known as transferable skills, ‘soft skills’ give you the ability to operate well in the workplace. Whether you’re working with others or operating independently, you’ll need to be able to employ soft skills to help you succeed. This isn’t solely restricted to a career in computer science, as soft skills are relevant in any profession. Indeed, they’re termed, ‘transferable skills’, because they can be transferred to any workplace or profession. Despite this, they’re an important element of your professional capabilities and will enable you to progress through your chosen industry. Some of the most important soft skills to focus on for a career in computer science include:
- Verbal and written communication
- Analytical thinking
- Time management
Many transferable skills give you the foundation leadership skills you’ll require if you aspire to take on a C-suite role. If you want to lead teams, manage departments or become an executive, for example, you’ll need to know how to motivate employees, consistently hit targets, and shape the future of your organization. By focusing heavily on your soft skills now, you can develop the aptitude you need to become a successful manager if you choose to take on a leadership role in the future.
When you’re working within the computer science industry, your role will involve helping your employer and/or clients to achieve their objectives. Although your qualifications, training and experience will give you advanced skills in programming, hardware, software development or any other niche, it’s important not to overlook the commercial aspect of your role.
Your employer may want you to develop a platform that improves efficiency within a specific department, for example. Alternatively, a client may be looking for hardware that will increase automation and reduce their operating costs.
In these situations, your role isn’t necessarily to build the most advanced solutions, nor one that’s packed full of features. Instead, you’ll need to align your goals to the overarching objective of the project and deliver value based on the remits of the task.
When you can align your professional knowledge with commercial awareness and business insight, you’ll be recognized for your ability to enhance the organization and/or meet client needs. As a result, you’ll increase your own employability and optimize your professional reputation.
As computer science is a varied and multi-disciplinary industry, you won’t necessarily be expected to keep up to date with every breakthrough that’s predicted to happen. However, you’ll will need to know where the future of your specialism is headed and what impact this may have on your employer or your employer’s industry.
This foresight will enable you to futureproof your specialism in the context of your role and provide solutions to new issues as they arise or before. By doing so, you’ll prove your worth to the organization and have the opportunity to play a role in shaping its future.
As technology develops at such a rapid speed, it can be difficult for non-tech professionals to keep up with what’s happening and to translate it into a business context. Your role may be the link they need between managing a successful enterprise and incorporating the latest tech, so don’t overlook the importance of being at the forefront of your sector or specialism.
What Are the Benefits of Working in Computer Science?
As a growing industry, computer science is a great career choice. You’ll find new jobs being created all the time, which is great news for your employability and job security. Furthermore, the wide range of applications and specialties ensures you’ll be able to choose a role that meets your needs, reflects your interests and provides you with job satisfaction.
Whether you choose to become a Programmer, Network Architect, Security Analyst, Software Developer or any other type of computer science professional, you’ll have the option to build a career on your own terms and work in an environment that suits you. From being a full-time employee working on site, to traveling the world or starting your own enterprise, there are endless options for reputable computer scientists. What’s more – as technology continues to evolve and becomes more embedded in our day-to-day lives, a career in computer science will only become more varied, exciting and fulfilling.