Why You Should Still Learn Computer Science (No, It’s Not Oversaturated)
The need for more computer science professionals in tech fields is not a secret. With more college students opting to pursue this lucrative career path full of job opportunities, high schools and even elementary schools are urging young students to study STEM fields due to explosive demand. U.S. legislators are working to make computer science education a fundamental part of the K-12 experience in order to increase access broaden participation in the field.
As computer science opportunities continue to expand, oversaturation is far off. In fact, the field needs more new and diverse professionals more than ever.
Is Computer Science Becoming Oversaturated? Experts Say No
Computer science and tech are far from oversaturated and the need for computer science skills will only continue to grow in tandem with the world’s reliance on technology.
Pretty much every area of technology is poised to expand because our cultural reliance on technology is expanding so fast.
“Pretty much every area of technology is poised to expand because our cultural reliance on technology is expanding so fast,” said David Joyner, computer scientist and executive director of online education at the College of Computing at Georgia Tech and instructor for GTx’s Introduction to Python Programming. “And the new technologies that are coming out also are going to empower new ideas that we possibly haven't even thought about before.”
According to Emsi data on job titles seeking “computer science” as a skill, there were 2,052,740 jobs posted from October 2019 to September 2021, with 1,284,846 unique listings in the past year. The average growth across 1,000 job titles seeking this skill was 39.4% over the past two years and it shows no signs of slowing down.
Stack data shows that 81% of professional developers have found full-time work , either with employers or as independent contractors and freelancers. Less than 4% said they were unemployed and looking for work. Other respondents were students, worked part time, or had retired. These numbers show that it is still very possible to find gainful, full-time employment as a computer scientist.
On top of that, there is still a massive demand for diversity in computer science and tech. Women and people of color remain drastically underrepresented according to Stack. Only 8% of partners at the top 100 VC firms are women and the industry employs half as many black and Hispanic professionals as other private sector industries.
Are There Too Many Computer Science Graduates?
There will never be too many computer science degree graduates because there are infinite applications of technology across all sectors and verticals, with new innovations constantly emerging.
However, for recent graduates, tech fields can appear to be oversaturated due to the continuous entry of newcomers into this space, both from traditional college tracks and from coding boot camps or online certification paths.
HOW CAN NEW GRADS STAND OUT?
Nick, an undergraduate business student, wanted to acquire the needed technical skills to apply for the roles he was interested in after graduation. By proactively taking courses from edX, Nick was able to excel in a six-month co-op consulting position at IBM and ultimately land a full-time position as a business transformation consultant after graduation.
How Do I Get A Job In Computer Science?
It can feel like a conundrum: You need experience to land your first job, but you can’t land your first job without experience. Fortunately, once you gain one to three years of experience, the job market opens up--and there are plenty of ways to get experience beyond the traditional full-time entry-level tech role.
1. Try Freelancing
For example, with so many companies choosing to outsource tech, it may be advantageous to pick up some freelance work to gain experience as you’re starting out. But you should also give yourself permission to look for more diverse opportunities--and this includes location, too, as you will be competing with qualified applicants from all over the world. Computer science skills are relevant across many industries. Opportunities range from the obvious programming, development, and cybersecurity roles to the less-expected healthcare, education, and law.
2. Explore Different Industries and Fields
“The thing that's cool is that business analytics, data analytics, and data science live in every kind of enterprise you can possibly imagine,” said Gwen Britton, Associate Vice President of Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) Global Campus STEM & Business Programs. “If you have a passion for healthcare you could go into the healthcare industry and be a business analyst or a data scientist. If you have a passion for merchandising, the hospitality industry, the government, the military, or even being somebody in the news, you can pick your passion.”
So you learned coding to become a full stack developer? That skill is also relevant for software engineers, application developers, and user interface or UX designers. You want to become a cloud architect? Your skills would be valuable in a role as a cybersecurity analyst, IT professional, or cyber software engineer. There are over a thousand job titles seeking “computer science” as a skill set, and you can gain relevant experience doing any of them.
“The vision isn't just to get people who are going into a data science vertical,” said Eric Van Dusen, curriculum coordinator for data science education at the University of California, Berkeley. “It's a 21st-century job skill that everybody should have. Everybody should have some knowledge of these tools. Every field.”
Is Coding Still in Demand? Yes, Especially In Cybersecurity and Data Science
Coding, programming, and just about any other tech job you can think of is still in demand and will remain in demand for the foreseeable future.
“The pandemic has accelerated our reliance on technology and that reliance is not going to go away,” said Joyner. Rather, “It's going to accelerate some of the job opportunities that were already there.”
We asked Joyner where he anticipates the most demand and growth happening in the next five to ten years:
“I think we'll see an expansion in cybersecurity, especially if you expand the scope of what cyber security is,” Joyner said. “Usually when we talk about cybersecurity, we're thinking about preventing hackers from getting access to your private data or preventing people from being able to compromise your account, impersonate you, and get access to your banking records and things like that. But if we also expand it to things like disinformation campaigns and efforts to influence decision makers and policy makers--using technology in a non-forthcoming way by misrepresenting who you are--if we expand cybersecurity to include that, then it's going to be one of the hottest areas in the next five to 10 years.”
“Data analytics will continue to expand as well,” Joyner predicted. “The reliance on technology that's developed over the past 12 months has just meant that there's even more data out there to do stuff with, which in some ways, is a bigger challenge, because more data doesn't necessarily mean better data. But it means there is more opportunity out there to derive useful conclusions from what we're logging.”
“Virtual reality and augmented reality will probably be the next revolution as impactful as smartphones were as a way of fundamentally changing the nature of the interactions between people and technology,” said Joyner. “With more general media--things like Netflix and Hulu and all the different streaming services becoming so prominent--they all sit on top of this powerful infrastructure of cloud computing and distributed networks. So we're increasing our reliance on that as well. Over the past 12 months, an outage to Google or to Zoom or to your local school district's platform has become seismic because so many people are relying on it. The need for engineers is going to rise to make sure everything is operating as needed because the losses are piling up so much when something does go down.”
Your Next Step in Computer Science
There are still plenty of opportunities in computer science, and thousands of creative applications of computer science skills across most verticals of interest.
"The people who feel like they don't belong in computer science, are exactly the kind of people we need more of in computer science," said Joyner. "We need to be able to represent all perspectives, all walks of life in the kinds of things that we build."
The people who feel like they don't belong in computer science, are exactly the kind of people we need more of in computer science.
If you’re ready to get started, edX courses can help you build foundational computer science skills, discover your interests, and get a foot in the door to the many diverse and exciting subfields of computer science.
Last updated: November 2021