Your ultimate guide to computer science study options
1. Starting out
Learn through play
You can learn code by playing around with robots like Sphero, Dash and Dot. Or try out coding platforms that allow you to create your own animation – these can be the ultimate go-to for coding fun.
Learn the basics
Math is a really important skill. You’ll need to keep taking math and make steady progress in your classes so every computer science class is available to you, including Advanced Placement (AP) computer science. Check with your counselor for more info on what’s involved.
Plenty of tools and techniques exist to get you started in code. Interactive coding games help you learn, and easy-to-use programming languages let you code your own interactive stories, games and animations. You can also share your creations with friends.
The coding community welcomes everyone with an interest in programming, regardless of experience. Hackathons, online communities and coding camps are great places to get started. See here for some resources.
2. Get going
The human brain is geared to code – we all have a natural ability to solve problems. Computational thinking (CT) describes these problem-solving processes. Pump up your CT skills with puzzle games and coding.
Learn advanced science to get more computer science study options
Some of the most cutting-edge coding jobs involve science, so signing up to an advanced STEM course might lead you to a career that hasn’t even been invented yet! AP courses are college-level classes in subjects like calculus, computer science, studio art and physics. See which courses your school offers on the AP Course Ledger and check with your school counselor early to make sure you’re on track. Some schools teach AP STEM courses through summer assignments.
Join a computing club
It’s more fun to learn with friends, and coding clubs are a great way to meet new people, learn outside the classroom and build your skills. No club at your school? No problem. Girls Who Code, Hack Club and CoderDojo provide all the support you’ll need to start your own club.
Take an online computer science course
Whether you’re a beginner or a coding ninja, you can always learn more. Udacity offers a range of courses, many of them free, including a CS101 course for beginners. Other free courses on coding topics are provided by Codecademy, Free Code Camp, Udemy, Khan Academy and Future Learn.
3. Take a break
Unlike many subjects, there’s no set way into computer science after high school. So if you are weighing your computer science study options, it might be an idea to take a gap year. This extra time will give you a chance to see if a career in coding is right for you, by exploring CS through short online introductory activities, gaining work experience, building a website, or joining the many hackathons, competitions, and communities supporting young people interested in coding.
Another option is to take a community college course. Nearly 45% of Bachelor’s grads first attended a community college. It’s a quick way to get a head start and provides a strong foundation of general knowledge.
4. Make a difference
If you can code, you will be in demand. Around one in every 20 open job postings in the US involves programming, with an average salary of $101,000. This demand is rising, and 17% more jobs for software developers is expected by 2024 than there were in 2014, fueled by the way CS is breaking into all aspects of life.
“You might be working on an app to detect cancer, or maybe something to help in the political process, or something that makes work more open and connected,” says David Garcia, a software engineering manager at Facebook. “You work on anything, because everything needs some amount of CS.” Coding skills are your key to a future of bright possibilities, where you can not only match your career with your passions, but also invent the future. So what are you waiting for? Jump on board and find out your local computer science study options.
5. Go your own way
Although more than 90% of Silicon Valley software engineers have a computer science degree, you don’t have to have one to work in CS. Recruiters are looking for people who are passionate about the industry and take the initiative to teach themselves new skills. Maybe you want to explore a passion like law, arts or science. No problem. At Stanford, about 90% of undergraduates take at least one programming class, and many colleges offer CS + X combined degrees, minor options, or CS classes.
Perhaps a set college program is just too slow (or fast) for you. Take massive open online courses (MOOCs) on websites such as Coursera and edX, sign up for online courses at Code School, W3Schools and CodeAcademy, or even go vintage and read CS technical books. If you learn better on the job, why not apply for an internship or a technical summer job? Thousands of internships are listed on LinkedIn, Looksharp and many other recruitment websites. Or you can ask to shadow or chat with industry professionals through your contacts or via hack.pledge().
6. Choose your path
Coding has been an important part of science for decades, with degrees such as computational physics (think computer science + physics), computational chemistry (CS + chemistry) and bioinformatics (CS + biology) offered at many colleges and universities. But what if you want to combine CS with a different passion, a different X, such as CS + English Literature or CS + Art?
Colleges are beginning to realize that computer science is becoming necessary for many jobs, from marketing, advertising and journalism to gaming, medicine, and finance. You can combine CS with languages, art, music and many other Xs. Check the joint degree programs on the websites of colleges you are interested in for further information.