Choosing what you want to do in life when you are just 20 years old can seem tremendously daunting. Currently, computer science is on everyone’s mind as a career option: according to a survey, 90% of parents in the US want their offspring to study computer science. The discipline will take over 2/3 of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) jobs to be created according to the same source, while only 8% of STEM students actually study computing. But which specific field in computer science would be right for you? Just think back to what excites you as an everyday user of technology, and you might just nail it.
Cybersecurity is set to be one of the most interesting, rewarding and coveted areas of computer science. Especially after the most recent waves of malware attacks, online security is an issue that everyone is concerned with, from individuals to multinational corporations. So remember how you reacted when you heard the news about the guy who single-handedly stopped WannaCry in its tracks: did you feel envy? Did you wish that you had done something as cool and out of the box, saving thousands of strangers worldwide? Do you want to combine a passion for semi-detective work with a love for technology? Then this is the discipline for you.
2. Computer Networking
If you are more interested in building things that work than in fending off intruders, then perhaps you should consider a degree in computer networks instead. Networking is all about devices sharing resources and data – and your job is to make sure that that communication is as smooth and efficient as it gets. This discipline is arguably among the ones that require the most technical knowledge, so think about your interests as an IT hobbyist. Are you excited to play around with open-source, freely available networking software such as HAProxy? If you aren’t but it sounds appealing, you are free to do so and dive into the documentation online before you decide, to see if it’s the right fit. This open source load balancing software helps redistribute load across servers and optimise system speed and performance, and if that sounds great, you are on the right track. It’s the backbone of how the internet works. But if WLAN and VPN sound pretty much foreign to you – and quite boring – then perhaps we should move on.
3. Coding and Programming
Programming and writing code is one of the most crucial aspects of computer science – without code, applications and software would not be able to run and we wouldn’t really be able to communicate with our computers. Programmers and coders are the reason that we get results done and if you have a knack for building bridges and communication but like tech stuff and working on your own a lot, then perhaps coding is you calling. It’s good for your career, too: 87% of programmers worldwide are already employed, while it is easy and fun to get hands-on experience before you go into the job market, too. In fact, 17% of programmers still in college have three to four years of programming experience and 56% stated that programming is also a hobby for them.
Should you decide that none of the above is quite creative and fun enough for you, you might still want to consider a career in game development. Chances are, if you are thinking of a computer science degree, you probably are a gamer or at least have some familiarity with the market. Some players just enjoy the storyline and the game – others keep nagging about what could have been designed better, how playability could be improved and what new features they’d like their characters to have. If you find yourself in the second group, worry not: you are not a serial complainer, just on your way to greatness as a game developer.
So unless you are one of those few and rare lucky folks that knew marine biology or boutique cake baking was their calling since they were able to walk and talk, chances are you need a little push to discover what exactly what it is you would like to do. Review your experience with computers and what it is that captivates you (or not) about them, and plan your studies accordingly.