An article published on September 23 in Information Week provides great news to Computer Science students: almost all of the eight hottest opportunities in information technology are careers uniquely suited to their skills and knowledge. Although the field changes quickly, with new innovations introduced practically daily, the hot career areas tend to be much more constant. So, even this year’s new freshman students have reason to be excited about the careers that made this list.
The top career should come as no surprise to anyone: the job of software developer continues to hold the top spot. Indeed, for those with the right programming skills, the unemployment rate is just about zero, certainly a rarity in today’s economy. Since Computer Scientists must become at least decent programmers, there is plenty of incentive for them to master this extremely important skill, even if it doesn’t quite click for them at first. Other jobs on this list, including mobile development and data analytics and business intelligence, likewise require good software development and software engineering skills, and that is why programming continues to be an essential component of every Computer Science curriculum.
Other career areas that appear on this list likewise are pursued primarily by people with a Computer Science background. Database development and administration is a key area for computer scientists to pursue, as it requires a the ability to model the essential components of a problem as abstractions, represent them as SQL commands and queries, build software to interact with them over the web and from desktop applications, and tune them as they are used daily to support the work of an organization.
Security and networking likewise provide great opportunities for our graduates. In fact, one of our labs is even named “Security and Networking”. Since virtually all vulnerabilities arise from mistakes that are made in programming a system or through clever hacks programmed by people with an expert knowledge of how computers manage processes and memory and execute instructions, who better to work as a cyber security professional than a computer scientist? Furthermore, you can’t understand the big picture of integrated computer systems unless you have a thorough understanding of how data is communicated between nodes, and so networking design and implementation are sweet spots for computer scientists.
Perhaps the only area where Computer Scientists might lag behind students in other technology education areas is in Project Management. Most Computer Science programs, including ours at Lewis, do not offer coursework in project management. We do touch on such skills in our Software Engineering course as the students work together during the semester to complete a project for a non-profit organization, but it isn’t the primary focus of any of our courses. Still, the methodical thinking required to develop software translates well, I think, to the management of projects. The work of a project must be divided into multiple mini-projects, each of which produce a product that must be integrated with the rest to produce the desired outcome. That’s exactly how we develop sophisticated software. So, Computer Science provides good preparation to learn project management later, but it does not focus on this area as part of the undergraduate curriculum. In fact, this is an excellent area for business-oriented computer programs to pursue with vigor and provides a nice complement to what Computer Scientists typically study.
I presented this list to my freshman students today as a kind of pep talk. We’re entering the difficult part of the semester when the stress of all these competing courses is starting to mount, and it’s easy for them to lose sight of why they decided to study CompSci in the first place. It’s good – no, it’s absolutely necessary – to remind them how many opportunities exist for them. After all, it’s hard to put in the hard work required by a field as demanding as Computer Science if there isn’t a sweet enough prize at the end. Fortunately, there is.