So, you’re looking at your university options and contemplating taking on a degree in Computer Science: what a great choice! Clearly, in today’s tech-obsessed world, the need for computers isn’t going anywhere, and you’re going to leave university, land yourself a swanky job at Apple, Google, or one of the other tech giants in silicon valley, invent some form of artificial intelligence (which will eventually take over all of our jobs of course), and make your millions. Right? Well, that’s one possible outcome, and, certainly, job prospects for computer science graduates are promising. Every industry uses computers, whether that be science, engineering, healthcare, banking, education and more and so the range of career options for computer science graduates is much more diverse than you might expect. Read on to find out more.
What skills will I gain from a Computer Science degree?
Obviously, you will be gaining many technical skills during your Computer Science degree which can set you in excellent stead for a wide variety of careers going forward. Combining theoretical study with practical projects, Computer Science graduates learn subject specific skills including network design and engineering, software engineering, software tools and packages, hardware architecture and construction and much more. Of course, knowledge of programming languages is also vital to today’s job market and this can give you a competitive edge over other candidates. Thinking ahead, if you think that your desired graduate job will involve a large element of programming, make sure you find out which programming languages you are likely to need and take the right university modules to make sure you learn these. Alternatively, you can also use relevant open-source software to ensure you’re up to speed as the market changes.
Importantly too, as well as learning to construct and design computer-based systems, evaluating and recognising potential risks and designing creative solutions to IT problems, you will also gain ‘soft’ skills through your Computer Science degree which are highly useful for a broad range of future careers, from healthcare, to consultancy, to marketing and education. These include problem solving, time-management and organisation, numeracy, teamwork and leadership, communication skills, commercial awareness, negotiation and much more. As we all know, rapid development and change is the norm for careers involving technology and software, and demonstrating that you are adaptable and can manage this change well will be an asset in whatever career you decide to pursue.
How are prospects for Computer Science graduates?
With a serious skills shortage in the UK for IT, it is perhaps unsurprising that computer science graduates can rank among the highest earning graduates, not just in the UK, but globally. In the UK, computer science graduates earn more than any other undergraduate degree holder, with graduates from Imperial College London earning a particularly high median salary of £50,000 six months after graduation, according to the 2018 Good University Guide published by the Sunday Times. According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2017, the average (median) gross pay for graduates from UK universities with Computer Science degrees was £34,996, which is still significantly higher than the average starting salary for all graduates, which is estimated at between £19,000 – £22,000 according to Graduate-jobs.com.
… But don’t get complacent!
That said, however, it is worth noting that an increasing number of companies are ending the requirement for IT professionals and developers to have a computer science degree (or even a degree at all) in order to diversify and widen their talent pool.
As well as being a rapidly growing and constantly changing sector, graduate jobs in the IT sector can also be highly competitive, with many of the skills employers are looking for also matched by graduates in other fields such as arts and social sciences. For business-focused roles such as IT consulting, the soft skills I mentioned earlier – your ability to communicate in a professional manner, work in a team and to manage your workload – are absolutely vital and can be equally important, if not more important, than the technical skills gained from a Computer Science degree.
For this reason, Computer Science graduates who have taken work placement years can often have the edge over the rest of their cohort, as this enables them to gain professional experience and have a wealth of examples to use in job interviews in order to demonstrate these ‘soft’ skills, alongside their vital technical skills. In addition, running personal projects alongside your degree (perhaps developing an app with some friends to solve a problem), can also demonstrate a great deal of initiative, creativity and self-motivation: qualities which are highly valued in the IT sector.
So, where can I go with a Computer Science degree and who can I look to as examples?
Hopefully, this article has gone some way in convincing you that a Computer Science degree can take you in many different directions: more directions than I can possibly explore here. You might find yourself in the in-house IT department of aerospace, financial services, defence, government or healthcare organisations; you could set up your own start-up business, work for a games studio, or work for a dedicated IT consultancy firm.
With the threat of cyber attacks always looming, top banks and financial services companies are always on the lookout for computer experts to write code and keep abreast of the latest security challenges. And, if you see yourself as a bit of a James Bond (and, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t like to be James Bond?) you could also end up working for national intelligence agencies who also need graduates to help them counter the threats of cybercrime and terrorism found in the modern world. As computers and technology more broadly continue to shape and innovate the world we live in, the demand for graduates who can understand these systems and create new software will continue to rise, just as long as you have the relevant soft skills to balance your technical skills and communicate your game-changing tech innovation effectively.
Finally, as for some big names who have studied Computer Science degrees, these include none other than Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Larry Page – you could have guessed those ones – Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Anita Borg (founding director of the Institute for Women and Technology) and, last but not least, Liam Neeson who studied computer science in Belfast before moving into acting and becoming an all-round boss man, thus providing unequivocal proof that Computer Science degrees are cool.