How hard is a computer science degree?

Published by at November 4th, 2021 , Revised On November 16, 2021

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.

Computer science – What is it anyway?

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:

  1. Solve problems with the help of technology
  2. Develop code that will ultimately run software
  3. Create applications for mobile devices
  4. Develop websites
  5. Develop and/or validate mathematical, computational and other sorts of models that allow them to interact with people or even other computers
  6. Run mathematical, statistical and/or logical programs to operationalise other programs

Degrees in computer science

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:

  1. Artificial Intelligence
  2. Machine Learning
  3. Data Science
  4. Software Development
  5. Software Engineering
  6. Computer Networking
  7. Game Design and Development
  8. Algorithms, Combinatorics, and Optimization
  9. Computational Biology
  10. Information Systems
  11. Robotics
  12. Cloud Computing
  13. Computer Architecture and Engineering

…and tons more!

Further reading: Check out the universities offering some of the highly sought-after computer science programs in the UK.

Is computer science hard? An indirect answer

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):

  • Your interest – For when you’re passionate about something, nothing seems hard. And even if things are hard, your drive and passion to excel and to create within that field will help overcome the hardships.

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.

  • Your aptitude – For some of us are better at art, while others can recite entire mathematical formulae without even blinking, So, in the end, it generally boils down to whether you have a general, inborn aptitude for logic, maths, creating thinking, etc, or arts and social sciences. In the case of the former, you’d naturally be more inclined to excel at fields like computer science.

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?

  • Your future goals – Perhaps the most important aspect to consider and narrow down, before deciding whether computer science is hard or not. If you intend to major in a field like AI, computer science is the right degree to go for. If not, there are always other options, but figuring out the above two aspects (aptitude and interests) is key to figuring out what your future goals are.
  • The sub-branch of computer science you want to major in – For, as mentioned above, there are many areas within the field of computer science itself. Which area interests you the most? Why? Which one promises more lucrative career options for you in the long run? For instance, an area like AI, even though it might seem interesting at first, might not be your cup of tea in the long run. What other options suit you then?
  • Your level of commitment – For as Shakespeare rightly put it, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Or, in other words, nothing is hard or easy, only thinking makes it so. Are you motivated enough to go through a degree till the end? Are there financial/personal/social problems that need to be first taken care of? Do you lose interest in things after a while? Is a field like computer science everything you’ve ever wanted?

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.

A graduate’s personal account about computer science – A must read

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.

What other students think

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.

Is computer science hard? A direct answer

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:

  1. He is interested in how things work, function, etc,
  2. Has a higher aptitude for logical patterns, mathematical concepts, solving technical problems using critical thinking, etc,
  3. Dreams of becoming an AI or algorithm specialist (in simple terms) and
  4. Understands and is ready for the kind of work that will be required of him in the field he has chosen,

…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:

  1. He’s interested in a lot of things at the same time,
  2. Can do well in any field of study,
  3. Wants a high-paying, easily-attainable job,
  4. Is known for backing down when things get complicated in education, such as workload, meeting deadlines, performing complicated and technical fieldwork, etc,

…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.

Computer science degrees and jobs

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:

  • Ability to communicate flawlessly.
  • A portfolio of relevant experience in soft skills.
  • Extra-curricular projects and/or fieldwork, depending on the field of computer science one is seeking jobs in.

Conclusion

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.

1. What’s a more difficult major, computer science or accounting?

In simple words, computer science is way more technical and comprehensive, mainly because it contains many more sub-branches than accounting. Accounting, on the other hand, despite its many types as well, is less immersed in maths, computers, logic, algorithms, software, etc.

2. How hard are the computer science and engineering classes?

Classes are mostly theoretical. And the theory within computer science might not seem as simple as that of biology, for instance. Consequently, the fieldwork, capstone projects and assignments, etc assigned to students after class also tend to be very technical. However, the exact level of difficulty can only be evaluated once the field of computer science, being studied, is known.

3. Should someone who is not great at math take computer science or mechanical engineering?

Einstein was not good at office work, writing lengthy reports, etc. in the beginning either; that’s one of the reasons why he couldn’t even get a job to begin with. But did that stop him from discovering laws of physics that change the very worldview we hold about our universe?

Not everyone is great at math, but try learning some skills, giving some placement tests and putting your practical knowledge to use. If you succeed, computer science is certainly an obtainable goal. If not, you know where you stand.

4. How hard is a computer science degree? Or how hard is a computer science major?

Computer science is not as ‘hard’ as it is ‘technical.’ However, some consider both the same thing…except that they’re not. If you’re interested in how computers and software etc work, have a long-term goal to pursue this field or any other field within computer science and have a general knack for maths and statistics, etc., you might find computer science easy enough. So, the answer is both yes and no.

5. Why is computer science so atrociously hard?

It’s heavily immersed in things like algorithms, software development, information systems, maths, statistics, models, AI and so on. If that is the same as ‘hard’ then some might find computer science hard, yes, especially if one doesn’t have the knack for such concepts. The question, therefore, is highly subjective.

6. How hard is it to get A’s in computer science classes?

Completing capstone projects is important in a field like computer science. Their completion with accuracy and intended objectives being met will obtain you an A grade. Other than this, getting As or Bs, etc in computer science classes is pretty much the same as getting those grades in other majors. Work hard, study hard, and be punctual!

7. Is computer science easier or harder than engineering? Why?

Computer science is a field of engineering itself.

Computer science is not as ‘hard’ as it is ‘technical.’ However, some consider both the same thing…except that they’re not. If you’re interested in how computers and software etc work, have a long-term goal to pursue this field or any other field within computer science and have a general knack for maths and statistics, etc., you might find computer science easy enough. So, the answer is both yes and no.

8. Is the material or logic hard to grasp, or are the lazy students weeded out? What’s so hard about computer science?

This, too, is a question to which the answer is multi-faceted. Whether ‘lazy’ students are weeded out or not is wholly dependent on the institution’s policy, first and foremost. Then, on teachers’ policies (if any), students’ personal preferences and/or loss of interest in the field, etc. There is much technical work to be done in the field. Failure to complete a course’s capstone projects, no matter which area of computer science one is enrolled in, leads to failure to meet required credit hours.

That, in turn, leads to students being expelled, detained, or some other such policy is enacted.

The main thing that scares many about computer science is its heavy reliance on technicalities like maths, statistics, and the like. However, where some subdomains of computer science rely heavily on these, some don’t. It’s just a matter of subject area within computer science.