Computer science shows up on a lot of lists about the hottest jobs these days. Businesses in almost every industry seem to be looking for people with the skills to write software, and it can seem like they are ready to throw money at anyone who can fit the bill.
Computer science certainly can be a great area to be involved in, and a way to have a career that’s relatively future-proof. A CS degree from LSU can open a lot of doors for you. But it’s also important to remember that software engineering is a job that means real work -- not just being fanned by people with stacks of cash all day.
We spoke with three experts in the field about common misperceptions they see from people looking for computer science jobs.
A CS Degree Is All You Need to Work in Software Engineering
Han Chang, co-founder of InvestmentZen, says a degree in computer science does not mean the holder is 100 percent prepared to work in software engineering. Chang has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science and a software engineering background, and he’s familiar with the shift from student to professional.
He says a degree teaches you theoretical computer science, but the professional tech world calls for an understanding of software systems and the business constructs that surround projects, so you’re going to need some real-world experience on top of a degree for a software engineering role. For example, look for internships to build your skills.
A Coding Bootcamp Is as Good as a CS Degree in the Job Market
Coding bootcamps are rising in popularity, promising participants they can land lucrative programming jobs after short training. This can make it seem like a four-year degree in computer science isn’t a good use of time and money, but Chang says there’s almost no way that a coding bootcamp will get you the same job as someone with a computer science degree.
Bootcamp participants should end up with a “passing understanding of web development, but they won't truly understand the intricacies of run-time analysis, time-space tradeoffs and, most importantly, how to choose the best data structure or algorithm for building robust software systems,” he says. A four-year degree will show employers that you know these intricacies, and that will give you a strong advantage in the job market, he says.
All You Do Is Code in a CS Job
Bryan Clayton, the CEO of GreenPal, says his company often hires and recruits interns and new employees for software engineering, and many come in thinking they will do little more than write code. Instead, they learn that GreenPal software engineers spend an hour every day to handle customer support tickets, and are included in critical product and product design decisions. These tasks are meant to help software engineers gain a clear understanding of customers’ needs and the products they are designing.
“Software engineering isn’t all about writing lines of code. It's about making products that satisfy customers’ needs, customer service and product design,” Clayton says.
You’ll Always Work on the Coolest Tech Problems
Ryo Chiba, co-founder and chief operating officer of TINT, says the common portrayal of software engineering as dealing with lasers and robots is misleading. While there are some cases of software engineers working on a “splashy consumer product or innovative next-generation skunkworks project,” the norm is typically less exciting projects, Chiba says.
It’s great to be excited about the possibilities of tech, and there’s plenty of opportunities to deal with fun and exciting products, he says. However, it’s just not realistic to expect that everything you work on is going to be cutting-edge, so it’s better not to set yourself up for a letdown in that regard.
You’ll Get Paid More Than Everyone Else
Software engineering does involve relatively high compensation, Chiba says, but he notes that it’s not the highest paying job on the planet. Or even in a tech company. For example, top-performing salespeople often make more than people in software development, he says. Starting with realistic expectations about pay can save you a lot of anxiety later if you’re expecting to be on the top of the heap pay-wise.