Could Taking A Computer Science Course Change Your Life?

Well it did mine. And Mark Guzdial ha a post last week in which he told two stories of young women taking his Media Computation course at Georgia Tech and how it changed the direction of their careers. (Read Impact of CS on female non-majors: Beyond a pipeline model ) While in my case,a poor confused college student with no idea what he wanted to do with his career who took a computer science course almost by accident and discovered his life’s work not everyone falls so deeply in love with the object that they get a degree in the field. But for many people taking a computer science course, sometimes even just one, adds a dimension to their career that is both unexpected and helpful.

We talk a lot about “Computer science and” these days where the “and” refers to what ever else you may be more interested in doing. Accounting? Yes, computer science knowledge will help. Biology? You better believe some CS will help with all that data you can collect these days. And I could of course go on. In one of Mark’s stories his student got an interview, and ultimately a job, because hiring managers were impress that she’d acquired some CS knowledge to go with her accounting degree. I have to believe this is not rare these days.

I understand that huge numbers of professional developers do not have degrees in computer science. 40% is one number I've heard 40% and higher. I’m sure most of them have some training though. A course or two can help. In my case my undergraduate degree is not in CS but I took a lot of CS courses. I’ve seen evidence that a lot more students are doing CS minors these days. That fits in well with the “computer science and” idea. In many cases I expect that some first computer science course with an inspiring teacher lead them to that additional and supportive minor in CS.

One of the things I hope will come from some of the new initiatives in CS education in high school and earlier is that students will get interested in the field. If they become a major, that’s great. But even if not a major that base of real computer science will serve many students well in what ever career they follow. And that is one big reason I believe we need more good HS CS courses. It means more opportunities to change a life.

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