Student sitting at a computer in class laughs

Why Study Computer Science?

Why study computer science?

Interview any group of computing folks, and you will find diverse personalities, interests, priorities, learning styles, and preferences about work environments. Ask these people what brought them to computing, and you will get an equally diverse range of answers. Here are some common responses, categorized into the areas of problem solving, contributions to society, and career options.

  • Two students work at a computer together while Professor Shonda Kuiper observes

    Problem Solving

    • Computer science requires creativity, insights, background, and skill in problem solving. Each new application, problem, and opportunity presents an new range of problems, and computer scientists enjoy finding solutions. Computing folks thrive on the challenge of solving puzzles.
    • Computing problems provide intellectual stimulation. Investigations often start with a high-level vision for a technique or application or system. Creative exploration and analysis takes computer scientists through various levels of abstraction and detail. Eventually, this work results in a working algorithm or system that provides an effective solution.
    • Much problem solving in computer science entails a wonderful mixture of theory and practice. The field of computing includes a rich and deep theory that provides a framework for thinking about problems and solutions. In many cases, this theory has direct impact on the development of real systems.
  • Grinnell College students teach middle school students

    Contributions to Society

    • Since computers support so many parts of contemporary society (e.g., in transportation, medicine, engineering, economics, entertainment, technical theater, record keeping, insurance—the list seems endless), work in the computing field provides the opportunity to contribute to many aspects of society. Computing applications have great potential to help address human needs and improve the quality of life.
    • Computer science is inherently interdisciplinary. Complex systems draw upon multiple subjects and perspectives, so most computing folk work with a diverse range of people. Long gone are the days when computing was a solitary enterprise. Today, system developers usually work in teams, and work includes extensive personal interactions with clients and colleagues.
    • By its nature, computer science draws on diverse disciplines as part of the problem-solving process. For example, Computing Curricula 2001 identifies at least three major "processes" that come together in computer science.
      • Theory uses the mathematical model of deductive reasoning from axioms to logical consequences.
      • Abstraction uses the scientific method to collect data, create models of problems and environments, design experiments, and analyze results.
      • Design uses the methodology of engineering to clarify requirements of a problem, design and implement solutions, and develop patterns for testing.
  • Student working on computer at internship

    Career Possibilities

    • Despite many news reports regarding off-shoring, the field of computing has remarkable potential for long-term careers.
    • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of computer and information research scientists is projected to grow 16% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.
    • Payscale’s 2019 College Salary Report listed that computer science graduates earned an average early career salary of $68,600 and a mid-career salary of $114,700. 

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