Courses, Internships and More: What to Expect in a Computer Science Degree Program
Published on: September 17, 2023
Across the globe, there’s a growing demand for Computer Science professionals. In fact, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of computer and information science jobs are expected to grow 15% between 2021 and 2031—with an estimated 3,300 new job openings per year in the United States alone.
If you enjoy working with computers and dabbling in new technology, then a career in this rapidly growing field may be right for you. And to maximize your skills and improve your ability to be hired, you’ll want to complete a Computer Science degree program with a reputable school.
So, what should you know about enrolling in a Computer Science degree program? While no two schools or programs are exactly alike, there are some general things you can expect when it comes to courses and curriculum, tools, internships and more.
What to Expect in Computer Science
Ultimately, your experience in a Computer Science degree program (and subsequent career) will be yours to create. However, there are some important “expectations versus reality” to keep in mind with this type of work.
Computer Science Expectations vs. Reality
First, let’s debunk the myth that people in Computer Science jobs sit in a cubicle and stare at a screen all day. In reality, these professionals are often working in a team setting on major projects; they may be required to attend project meetings, present ideas and even travel on occasion. This can be far from a boring desk job!
Another common myth about Computer Science is that you need to be a math whiz to succeed. While math skills certainly don’t hurt, the reality is that you do not need a strong mathematics background to do well in a Computer Science program. In fact, many beginning Computer Science students are actually surprised to see how much more writing they do than math.
Courses and Curriculum
Depending on your specific program, you could have anywhere from about a year to four years’ worth of coursework in Computer Science. While each program may differ in the exact courses offered, there are some general tips worth keeping in mind with any formal Computer Science curriculum.
Introductory Courses Impact All Other Courses
First, understand that the introductory-level courses that you take in your Computer Science program are vital to your long-term success. Typically, these Computer Science classes will teach you the basics of common programming languages, principles of computing and computational thinking. These are all essential skills that will build the foundation for your future courses, so they’re not to be taken lightly. Take your intro courses just as seriously as you would treat your more specialized Computer Science courses and you’re bound to have an easier time getting through school.
Utilize Other Resources Besides Class Notes
Class notes can be useful when it comes to understanding basic concepts of Computer Science and Information Technology. However, class notes aren’t the only valuable resource available to you.
Programming languages and other aspects of Computer Science are highly technical and complex—and not all students learn in the same way. Get to know and understand your own learning style so you can adapt your own program experience to best suit it.
For example, some Computer Science students may find that they do better with hands-on practice than with class notes, especially when it comes to learning programming languages. Likewise, there are plenty of free online resources (including instructional videos and practice) that can be valuable supplements to your formal education.
Ask Questions to Understand
Whether you’re taking an online or in-person class, it’s important to ask questions and request clarification when you don’t understand a concept. Because so many Computer Science concepts build upon each other, falling even a little bit behind in one area can also affect your learning in other areas. Your professors and instructors are there to help you better understand the content—and there’s truly no such thing as a stupid question.
If you feel uncomfortable asking questions while in class, take advantage of office hours held by your instructors. This can be a great opportunity to get some additional one-on-one guidance.
Programming Languages and Other Tools
A big part of completing a Computer Science degree program is learning programming languages that you’ll be using in your everyday work. Some examples of today’s most popular programming languages include:
As you familiarize yourself with these languages, keep these tips in mind to work towards mastery.
Spend Ample Time Practicing and Learning
When it comes to coding and programming, you can’t expect to get better without practice. Whenever possible, practice coding by hand. Sure, you probably won’t be doing this on-the-job, but taking the time to code manually will help you better understand many of the complexities of the language itself. This can help make you a better problem-solver and more confidently tackle debugging tasks. Plus, being able to code manually won’t hurt you when it comes time to start looking for jobs in the field, as this is a skill that’s becoming lost on many newer graduates.
Programming Tools Are Challenging
By their very nature, programming tools are complex and challenging. You’re going to get frustrated and run into challenges, especially when debugging. When this happens, remember to give yourself some grace and take advantage of the resources that are available to you. Visit your professor’s office hours if you’re struggling with a specific programming topic. You might also consider joining a peer study group or an online community to help you work through some of these challenges.
Don’t Spend All Your Time Coding
While coding is undoubtedly an important aspect of your work in the Computer Science field, remember that it’s just one of many dynamic components of this type of work. Rather than spending all your time honing your coding skills, make sure you’re also focusing on fundamentals and other important concepts. Problem-solving skills, communication skills and technical writing skills are all vital to your success not only in a degree program, but in a future job as well. Take each assignment and class unit seriously because you never know what you’re going to need to use in the field.
Internship and Job Expectations
As you’re wrapping up your Computer Science degree program, it’s time to start thinking about your future employment opportunities. From seeking out internships to applying for your first “real” job in the field, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Internships Help Tremendously
If you have an opportunity to complete an internship, take it. Ideally, your internship will be paid—but even a non-paying internship can go a long way towards padding your resume and helping you stand out from other job applicants after you graduate. Plus, an internship can provide you with all kinds of valuable, practical real-world experience that will come in handy throughout your career. And who knows? An internship might even turn into a job offer once you’ve completed your program.
Competitive Field, But Many Opportunities
Keep in mind that while Computer Science is a competitive field, it’s also growing at an incredible pace and the demand for workers with Computer Science degrees is enormous. While you may face some competition finding your first job in the field, there will be plenty of opportunities as you climb the ladder. Some of the most common positions Computer Science graduates end up working in include:
- Software Engineer
- Front-End Developer
- Software Developer
- Computer Programmer
While you may have a career trajectory in mind already, it’s important to keep an open mind as you begin looking for entry-level positions.
Find Ways to Distinguish Yourself
Setting yourself apart from other Computer Science applicants will go a long way in landing more interviews and potential job offers. In addition to completing your degree program, there are some additional things you can do to make your resume stand out from others. Consider, for example, getting additional certifications in specific programming languages. You might also consider attending major industry events, such as conferences and trade shows. This can be a great way to build a network with others in the field while picking up some additional knowledge along the way.
Other Common Tips and Knowledge
In addition to the practical advice already covered on succeeding in your Computer Science degree program, there are a few other general tips and best practices worth keeping in mind.
You Will Make Many Errors
First, accept the fact that you are going to make mistakes throughout your program. Computer Science and Information Technology are both highly technical fields dealing with large amounts of data at any given time. With all this in mind, you’re bound to run into some challenges and make mistakes as you master your skills. Whether this is something as small as a minor coding error or something as major as failing an exam, it’s important to give yourself some grace. Remember that it’s better to make these mistakes now than to make them while you’re working in the field.
Learn From Your Mistakes
Speaking of mistakes, use them as an opportunity for growth. Everybody makes mistakes in their studies and in their careers, but the most successful people are the ones who use these failures to learn and grow. In your Computer Science program, keep this mindset at the forefront and you’ll go far.
Most People Don’t Know Computer Science
Understand, too, that most people simply don’t “get” Computer Science. When you talk about your schooling and degree program, the language you use may be too technical for others to easily understand. Be prepared to do a lot of explaining about the type of work you do in the field—and for a lot of misunderstandings. Your friends and family, for example, might joke about you being a professional hacker (or something along those lines). Roll with it and focus on your studies.
Continue to Challenge Yourself
The field of Computer Science is constantly growing and evolving—often more quickly than we can keep up with. While it’s impossible to stay on top of every new industry development, it’s important to constantly challenge yourself and grow in this field. Otherwise, your skills will become irrelevant rather quickly. The most successful professionals in the Computer Science industry are those who never stop learning and are always looking to pick up new skills, programming languages and other specializations.
Your Story Starts Here
There’s a lot to keep in mind when selecting a Computer Science degree program. Even once you enroll, preparing yourself for what to expect from your classes and overall experience can go a long way towards your future success.
If you’re looking for a Computer Science program that will help you develop critical thinking skills for this demanding career, Park University is here for you. We offer a number of Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Computer Science, Information Systems, Cybersecurity and other relevant fields. We even offer certificate programs, such as our CCNA Cisco Certification, that can help you expand your talents and set yourself apart from other job candidates.
Get in touch today to request more information about Park University and all we have to offer. We look forward to helping you kickstart your Computer Science career!