Is computer science hard? How hard is it hard to find a job with a computer science degree? Should I even major in computer science? Do computer science jobs pay more than others? If these are the kinds of questions you've been wondering about, keep on reading the following few pages, for we look at how hard a computer science degree actually is.
The fact that you can read this sentence right now; play games on your PC; send emails; listen to music…all tasks being carried out at the same time, even. This was made possible by the genius and art that is computer science. It deals with the study and working of computer systems.
The algorithms on YouTube, for instance, which show you recommended videos, are also another feat made possible by computer scientists. Similarly, all the software you have and will ever come across is born out of the hard work of computer science.
In a nutshell, computer science and its scientists:
Computer science doesn't fall under the social or natural sciences. It's a branch of engineering and a very broad field in that, too. It has the following further sub-branches:
…and tons more!
Further reading: Check out the universities offering some of the highly sought-after computer science programs in the UK.
When someone hears ‘computer science,’ the first words that pop in their minds are probably ‘hard’ or ‘complicated’ etc. Which makes sense, too, of course. For when we think of computers, the software used to develop and run them, all the mathematical work that goes behind creating models that run our mobile devices, it’s natural to think of such a field as ‘hard.’
However, the answer to that question is not as straightforward as the question itself.
Whether or not computer science is a difficult area to major in depends on a few factors, including (but not limited to):
So, ask yourself this before asking the ‘Is computer science hard’ question, what interests me the most? How computers work, or how a bird flies? How can I listen to music on my phone while messaging at the same time, withdraw cash from an ATM, or draw without thinking about it? Because narrowing down the answer to whether computer science is hard depends on an awful lot on narrowing down your interests.
So, consider things like, am I better at understanding map/GPS directions, or coming up with a new recipe? Does my memory serve me best in things like remembering formulae, or colour schemes to create new colours?
Again, self-assessing and self-reflecting about such questions are very important to decide whether a field like computer science is hard or not, whether it's something you ought to pursue.
Narrowing down an area within computer science, therefore, is important to figure out whether this field is hard or not.
Also see: What can you do with a computer science degree in the UK?
Interesting read: The Student Co UK ranked computer science at #9 in its top 10 hardest degrees for the year 2021.
There’s nothing more accurate and perhaps even relatable than a student’s own, personal account of what it’s like to study a certain major. Check out Shaun Munsey’s first-hand experience of studying software engineering—a sub-domain of computer science—at Aberystwyth University. The account was published as a feature piece of Aber’s official platform five years ago.
After reading Munsey's account, do you think computer science sounds hard? Why not? You can use such self-reflection to do your research, for, at the end of the day, no amount of self-help articles or books can give you a solid answer. That's for you to find; such resources are a nudge in the right direction, at best.
The Student Room is one of the best online platforms to check out what other students—graduates as well as beginners—are saying about different degrees and professions. From possible career paths to degree pros and cons, you can learn a lot from these students' direct, personal accounts of what it is like studying for a computer science degree.
Above, we looked at certain factors that need to be considered before jumping to the conclusion that computer science is/isn't hard. Those factors mainly include a student's interests, aptitude, future goals and personal level of commitment. Let's take a hypothetical student, Ben, who, after much self-reflection, discovers that:
…then a field like computer science is as practical and not-so-hard for Ben as cooking is to a chef!
BUT, for hypothetical student, Billy, who realizes that:
…a field like computer science IS very difficult indeed.
So, the answer to the question is computer science hard, or is it hard to major in a field within computer science, is both yes and no. It all depends on who you think you are as a person and as a student; whether you have your interests, goals, ambitions and skill levels identified and narrowed down or not.
There is another myth surrounding computer science, apart from the one where everyone seems to generalise difficulty with this field. And that second myth is that it's easy to get an IT-related job if you have a computer science degree.
One of the best things about technology is that it changes everything. However, that's also one of the worst things about it. Since everyone is changing because of technological advances in the modern-day, demands keep increasing for highly skilled and experienced professionals.
What skills and what experience might that be? Didn’t everyone say summer internships would land me a great IT job later, some students would think? Yet even more might assume they can get promoted easily if they have a background in computer science.
But newsflash: a degree in computer science will not land you an IT job right away. Because sadly, none of these are the cases in reality. In reality, there is always someone more skilled, more knowledgeable and more experienced than us. So how can one compete in times like this? In industries where there's no shortage of skilful personnel already?
Technical recruiters list the following couple of things as needed in fresh computer science graduates looking for work:
Computer science is a field of engineering dealing with computer systems, software and everything in between. There are many lucrative areas within the field of computer science itself, such as AI, software development, etc. A degree in computer science is hard and not-so-hard, depending on where you come from (professionally), what you like, where your aptitude lies in, so on and so forth.
There are many career pathways for computer scientists. However, it's a misplaced notion to believe one will easily find an IT job with a computer degree alone. Since this field is so heavily immersed in maths, logic, computers, etc, relevant, extra-curricular work experience is becoming a requirement for fresh computer science graduates.
Nothing is good or bad, hard or easy; only thinking makes it so. Therefore, one needs to self-reflect, narrow down one's interests, future goals and motivation level, etc. and supplement all of that with work experience and soft/technical skills to start a lucrative career in computer science. Nothing is impossible, of course, but certain fields—including computer science—just require that extra bit of hard work.