Today, nearly every career involves technology to some extent. In a world that’s increasingly reliant on digital tools and devices, professionals with software development and computer science skills are becoming more in-demand every day. Many governments and private organizations are even offering incentives for students to study STEM disciplines in college.
Computer science (CS) is one STEM major that’s gaining popularity. But while there are many benefits to earning a CS degree, there are also some drawbacks. Let’s review both of them.
High Employment Rate
A major reason why CS attracts so many students is because of the strong likelihood of employment after graduation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment in computer and information technology occupations is expected to grow by 12% between 2018 and 2028.
That is a much faster rate than the average for all occupations in the country. Equipped with a CS degree, individuals should have no trouble finding work, thanks to the valuable skills they’ve learned.
Versatility of Career Options
There’s a vast array of industries that require the skills of a software developer, from fashion to e-commerce to medicine to education. Even within software development, there are different roles, such as that of a front-end developer or those specializing in certain programming languages.
But you can also apply your CS degree to jobs outside of software development. Among many others, these jobs include:
• Web development
• UX design
• Data science
• Product management
• iOS or Android development
• Software architecture
• Information technology (IT)
• Machine learning
• Product management
High Earning Potential
A big draw for many prospective CS majors is that the degree not only often leads to landing a job relatively quickly but also offers high earning potential. Many of the positions we listed above, along with related ones in technology and STEM fields, are very lucrative.
In fact, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for all computer and information technology occupations in the U.S. was $86,320 as of May 2018. For software developers, it was $105,590. This is considerably higher than the median annual wage for all occupations, that averages $38,640 per year.
Many Programs Focus Too Heavily on Theory Over Practice
Software development and related fields solve problems, innovate, and create new things. Despite the considerable amount of time most students spend in CS programs — usually at least 4 years — much of their coursework doesn’t focus on practical skills but theory.
Moreover, some of the information students learn doesn’t have any real-world applications. This means it won’t help them much in their careers — or at all, unless the information is of great interest to them or they intend to pursue a career in academia.
There Are Less Expensive Ways to Learn Programming
If the goal is to learn coding skills, a CS degree may not be the answer. There are many less expensive ways to learn programming, such as attending a coding bootcamp or even teaching yourself the skills through the help of books, forums, and other resources.
These alternative routes can often lead to successful careers, too. According to a survey by Course Report, coding bootcamp graduates saw a salary jump of 50.5% from their pre-bootcamp earnings, and 79% found their positions within 120 days of completing their courses.
It’s Not For Everyone
If you’re considering a degree in CS strictly for the money, it’s probably not the path for you. It’s true that it can often lead to a highly lucrative job, but if you’re not passionate about technology and science, you’re not going to be very happy in your program or in your career.
The most successful CS majors and professionals are the ones who are truly excited about computer science and the field of software development, not just because learning the material will lead to a high-paying job.
So, while earning a CS degree has a lot of benefits, it’s important to keep the downsides in mind before you decide on your major. Like many college programs, CS is expensive, although there are many scholarships available to help you finance your education. The reward is worth the investment for many but not all — so think long and hard about whether it’s the right path for you.