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As a high school student, how do I know if computer science is the right college major for me?

I'm a 16 year old rising high school senior, and I've been learning how to code in my free time for the past year or so. I've decided that I want to study computer science in college, but I'm still not entirely sure about my decision. #college #computer #computer-science #college-major

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Mitchell’s Answer

Khadija,

Computer science is a massive field. Since you've stuck to coding for a year, you seem like you're at least interested. But code is just one branch of computer science. My mentor is a PhD student in cybersecurity, I'm more interested in programming, but there's also cryptography (perhaps the heaviest on mathematics), network infrastructure, computer engineering (building new hardware components like CPU's; lots of physics). Being into computers is the first step, but maybe you could do some research and see if there are specific branches that interest you more than the rest.

In my experience, if you're a math person, cryptography and code are the two best choices. If you like physics and engineering, computer engineering might be your thing. Network admins are their own breed, and are often good with their hands, since there's a lot of running cables and memorizing numbers and passwords to various systems. They troubleshoot on a more physical level than programmers do.

And all of these have sub-disciplines (programmers might make new operating systems, develop AI, or work with robots for example). It's a deep field that "computer science" doesn't really do justice to. I know I didn't give a very specific answer here, but I hope I gave you some things to research on your own. Good luck!
Thank you comment icon Thank you, that was a great answer! Lately, I've been interested in networking and software development, two vastly different careers. Quite torn between both of them, but hopefully, I'll figure it out! Thank you for taking the time out for providing insightful knowledge! Aun
Thank you comment icon Of course! Always happy to help. Mitchell Harrison
Thank you comment icon Thank you for your help! I will make sure to start researching these fields and trying to figure out which ones interest me the most. Thanks again! Khadija
Thank you comment icon A pleasure, I'm sure. Good luck! Post again if you find more specific questions. Mitchell Harrison
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Rebecca’s Answer

Hi Khadija,

Something that I love about computer science is that it can be applied almost anywhere. I like to think of it as a great tool. If computers are your passion -that's awesome! Like the advise has stated above, you can go in to lots of really great, very technical fields. If you have other interests (healthcare, finance, video games, anything!) computer science can help you break in to those fields as well. I'm a big advocate for introducing computer science to your toolkit, as it can really take you anywhere.

Additionally, as you grow beyond your college years and in to your career you'll find that many people move in to management positions where they design projects and lead others. Computer science is a great way to achieve this type of influence in a field you're passionate about.

All the best!
Thank you comment icon Thank you for taking the time to answer my question! You've given me a new perspective of computer science and how interdisciplinary it can be. Thanks again! Khadija
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Doc’s Answer

Given the pervasiveness of computer technology in today's society, there are many different job options open to the computer science major. The right job for you will depend on your personal skills, values, and interests. If so, computer science might be an ideal career choice for you Khadija.

TOP 5 COMPUTER SCIENCE CAREERS

Computer science majors need to be able to think analytically in order to devise systems and programs, but must also be sufficiently detail-oriented to troubleshoot problems. They must be able to communicate well with non-technical people to assess their needs and convey technical information in plain language. Creativity is essential for those computer science majors who hope to come up with the latest app or technology gadget.

1) SOFTWARE DEVELOPER – Software developers create software programs that allow users to perform specific tasks on various devices, such as computers or mobile devices. They are responsible for the entire development, testing, and maintenance of software. Software developers must have the technical creativity required to solve problems uniquely. They need to be fluent in the computer languages that are used to write the code for programs. Communication skills are vital for securing the necessary information and insight from end users about how the software is functioning.

2) COMPUTER HARDWARE ENGINEER – Computer hardware engineers are responsible for designing, developing, and testing computer components, such as circuit boards, routers, and memory devices. Computer hardware engineers need a combination of creativity and technical expertise. They must be avid learners who stay on top of emerging trends in the field to create hardware that can accommodate the latest programs and applications. Computer hardware engineers must have the perseverance to perform comprehensive tests of systems, again and again, to ensure the hardware is functioning as it should.

3) COMPUTER SYSTEMS ANALYST – Computer systems analysts assess an organization's computer systems and recommend changes to hardware and software to enhance the company's efficiency. Because the job requires regular communication with managers and employees, computer systems analysts need to have strong interpersonal skills. Systems analysts need to be able to convince staff and management to adopt technology solutions that meet organizational needs. Also, systems analysts need the curiosity and thirst for continual learning to track trends in technology and research cutting-edge systems.

4) COMPUTER NETWOK ARCHITECT – Computer network architects design, implement, and maintain networking and data communication systems, including local area networks, wide area networks, extranets, and intranets. They assess the needs of organizations for data sharing and communications. Computer network architects also evaluate the products and services available in the marketplace. Computer network architects test systems before they are implemented and resolve problems as they occur after the setup is in place. Computer network architects need to have the analytical skills to evaluate computer networks.

5) INFORMATION SECURITY ANALYST – Information security analysts create systems to protect information networks and websites from cyberattacks and other security breaches. Their responsibilities also include researching trends in data security to anticipate problems and install systems to prevent issues before they occur. Security analysts also need strong problem-solving skills to investigate breaches, determine the causes, and modify or repair security systems.

Khadija given the rapid rate of change within technology, computer science majors need to have a thirst for learning to keep up with the latest developments. Computer science majors must also be curious about the world around them, since programs and systems apply to every possible area of life and commerce.

Hope this was Helpful Khadija
Thank you comment icon I didn't know much about some of these careers, so thank you for the concise but helpful explanations! Khadija
Thank you comment icon Your Welcome Khadija, It was my Pleasure. The real opportunity for success lies within the person and not in the job. Doc Frick
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Charles’s Answer

There are many areas in the computer science field that may be exactly where your interest could take you. Look into the areas that are available in the computer science area and decide if you picture your future in that area. Sometimes you will come in via a different door as I did. I am an Instructional Design professional and a Training Lead in an area where most of my target audience are Computer Science skilled.

Your initial interest tells me that there is an area within Computer Science that will fit your passion for career accomplishments.
Look high and low within that field and you may find an area that excites you for a career and an area to pursue your studies.

I wish you the best.

Chuck Burgess
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David’s Answer

Luckily there are loads of online courses that you can join for free to get some experience in what is involved in computer science apart from just coding. This will help you to decide if it is the right career for you as if you enjoy learning about computers and programming you will likely enjoy the college course.
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Abhinav’s Answer

Ultimately it will come down to how much you enjoy Computer Science as all other answers have stated. With that being said if you are open to trying out other fields of study you will definitely have the opportunity to do so. Ask yourself if you love what you are doing and do you see yourself in a few years down the line doing that job.
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Saurabh’s Answer

Answer only 2 questions for yourself :
1. Do you like it ?
2. Are there enough opportunities ?
The best way to try and find what you like is trying it out by yourself. You tried it for 10 days or so, and you did not stop, you went on to continue learning it for a year. There can't be any better proof that you like computer science and that's why no matter what, you will do good with this.
Moreover, it is an excellent field for the people who like it. There are tons and tons of opportunities if you pursue it. Don't let any other thought stop you and whatever you learned over the year, don't let it go to waste .
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Nitin’s Answer

Hi,
The first step of identifying if computer science is right Major for you is to know your interest or passion towards technology. And definitely You can see the Influence of Information technology in our Day to day life.
There are always huge Carrier options in the Computer Industry with good pay as well.
So Computer science could be one of good carrier option for you.

At the End I would say explore your interest of area more. There are several online courses you can take to learn more which may help you find what specific are you wanted to explore for example Coding, networking, E commerce, Data science etc.
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Alejandro’s Answer

Personally, I was in this exact same spot. You feel overwhelmed by the amount of sub-fields Computer Science can offer. Begin by reading a bit about each field. Maybe gloss over brief overviews of those sub-fields. You'll gain an idea of what is out there and ask yourself questions about your current interests and other subjects you might be interested in. Find similarities between the overviews you read and what you currently like and what it might develop into. After that, narrow down a list of sub-fields you might be interested in and then research them and the job overview thoroughly.
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Kusuma’s Answer


Do you enjoy computer programming currently? if the answer is yes, then you should look into pursuing this as major in college. if you are not enjoying it currently then look into some other subject to major but still you can take a class on programming to learn.
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karthik’s Answer

From my perspective, the answer is that you won't really know until you have been out of school for a while. This is a reason why I recommend that you don't focus or specialize too much when in school. If you major in CS, do it because you like it and think you can do well in it and think it will help you get a satisfying career later on. It's a respectable degree that will draw a lot of potential employers when you are looking for jobs in your senior year. But broaden your horizons
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Peter’s Answer

My advice on this is simple. Do you like computer science as a discipline? If you do and have a passion for it you should pursue and you will find a way to parlay it into a career. If you have no interest in it you need to think carefully before pursuing.
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Noah’s Answer

I would like to add to the existing answers that women have a high rate of dropping out of CS for feeling unqualified despite having roughly the same skill level as their male peers. If you are a women and are not feeling confident about you skills, I'd recommend giving this paper a read: cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/project/gendergap/www/papers/anatomyWSQ99.html
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Ricardo’s Answer

Khadija,

It's great that you are starting out early in terms of exploring what you want to do in college, it wasn't too long ago I was in those same shoes when I started college back in 2017. Being unsure of what major you want to go is completely natural and understandable. I recommend exploring topics that interest you. Ask yourself questions similar to: "why I am draw into this field?" ""what questions peak my interest?"

Thankfully, just because you choose that major when you start off college does not mean you are locked in. If you are curious about a topic, electives and clubs are a great way to explore those topics and connect with your peers. That what allowed me to become a marine science minor was through taking electives and joining a club about marine science.

Lastly, continue to reach out. You already did a great first step by asking on this site. Go schedule a video call with advisors in the computer science program, see what the course work is and what alumi in that field are doing now.

I hope this helps,

Ricardo
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for this helpful and reassuring answer, I really appreciate it! Khadija
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Basanta’s Answer

It's really good you are thinking to go with computer science, but as said above it's not that simple as it looks, but definitely it has massive opportunities as you grow in the field of computer science. I would suggest, as a student you should ask yourself, what are you good at till now in your high school, do you have really interest in computer field like programming or designing skills. If yes, then you should definitely go for it. Secondly once you stepped into the computer science field, gradually you will get to know the several ways to make a career, so would suggest, learn how much you can but be specialized in one skill/application where you can master on that and make a good career. Thanks !
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Arun’s Answer

Hi there,

Firstly , congratulations on seeking advise from industry professionals to shape your career path. This , in itself is a clear indicator that you are serious about carefully planning your career path.

My advice to students considering a computer science major would be to analyse their interests & strengths. Successful Comp Sci majors wi should broadly have:
1. Good proficiency in math & number crunching
2. Patience, patience & patience....Because in engineering & computer science, not all solutions are ready and available. The individual's inventiveness, perseverance & practice will be crucial differentiating factors to determine their success.

One does not have to necessarily pursue a computer science major to land up in IT or Tech industry. Practically every sector has an IT / Tech component to it. Be it entertainment industry, healthcare, sports, logistics. So, one can choose to major in their most passionate field while gaining additional skills in computer programming & IT.

Wish you the best,
A.C.