6 Things Every Computer Science Major Should Know Before Graduating

August 24, 2015 • Devin Partida


Computer scientists are the people who shape the future. They are the ones who solve problems by using technology, make computers do amazing things by writing code and create the apps and webpages we use every day. It’s a field that’s developing at an astonishing rate — particularly due to emerging technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence — and you get to be a part of it as a computer science major.

But it’s also a tough world out there and companies are looking for computer scientists with a unique and versatile set of skills. Employers know they must stay competitive in the marketplace and that name recognition will only go so far. Skilled employees directly help businesses develop new technologies and strengthen existing capabilities.

While you’re probably a computer science major full of individual talent, there are a few things every computer science student should know before they’re out in the working world. Read on to see if you need to check anything off your list. Now is the time to be proactive and address any skill gaps, if they exist.

1. Core Engineering Information

Computer science isn’t necessarily engineering, but it’s a close relative. As a computer scientist, you’ll be working side-by-side with engineers on a regular basis — and it will be necessary to speak a mathematical language they can understand.

To do this, you’ll need to work your way through multiple calculus courses. In addition, physics courses, especially electromagnetism, are a solid support. You’ll likely benefit from taking probability and linear algebra courses, too.

If your academic history doesn’t include as much coverage of those subjects as you’d like, don’t despair. You could supplement your college schedule with online learning by enrolling in free or low-cost courses that help you deal with any knowledge shortages.

On the other hand, if you’ve taken courses involving those topics but still feel you’re not as adept as you could be, investigate the possibility of getting tutoring, possibly from an engineering student on your campus who’s eager to share their knowledge with a computer science major who’s ready to learn more.

2. Writing Proofs

Writing proofs is essential if you want to learn programming. Mastering that skill makes programming flow more naturally.

Take a course in real analysis or algebra — and not the course you took in high school! Proofs require such things as abstract algebra and group theory.

Do you have a friend who’s a whiz in either of those subjects or a similar one? The two of you could engage in proof-writing practice sessions to help you grasp the skill and feel more confident.

3. Necessary Programming Languages

Programming is one of the most basic building blocks of computer science. Without it, all our computers would be toast.

Don’t just learn one programming language, though. The most productive way to learn programming languages is to learn several, as well as the paradigms that accompany them. Some common programming languages you should familiarize yourself with as a computer science major are:

  • Racket
  • C
  • JavaScript
  • Java
  • C++
  • Assembly

Of course, it isn’t enough to just know these languages. You must implement them as well. Use your programming on an interpreter and make sure you take compiling classes, too.

The more you use programming languages in your everyday life, the easier it will be to showcase your skills when it’s time to move into the job market and impress potential employers. Furthermore, learning a number of programming languages makes you more versatile as you move between various companies and roles throughout your career.

In the early stages of your time as a computer science major, your goal was probably merely to earn your degree. And that’s undoubtedly important. However, don’t forget that learning is a lifelong activity, and that’s especially true as the tech sector continues to evolve and new technologies depend on various programming languages to work.

4. Experiment With Fields

Writing all that code sure is fun, but what exactly do you want to do with it? If you’re just starting college and perhaps only decided to become a computer science major recently, you might not have to worry about this yet. But as your college years wind down, it’s wise to start thinking about what field of computer science you’ll want to enter.

As you begin learning about the types of careers you might pursue in the various established fields or those that will exist by the time you graduate, it’ll be easier to eventually focus your career search and potentially showcase your specialization by joining organizations, going to networking events and otherwise making yourself stand out against other job-seekers.

Like most professions, computer science has many subdivisions. You could choose artificial intelligence and robotics. You could design webpages or apps. You could become a software engineer or even concentrate your knowledge in the art of computer graphics. The possibilities are endless!

Choose something that matches your interests — early on in your schooling is probably better. If you know what field you want to go into, you’ll be more productive and focused on your long-term goals.

Consider, too, that getting acquainted with several fields could become more straightforward than you think if you seek out internships that allow you to get engrossed in more than one area of computer science. Taking that approach could let you explore a field you’d not otherwise have thought about entering.

5. Technical Communication

What’s the use of all your programming mumbo-jumbo if the masses don’t understand it? That’s where technical communication comes in handy. It specializes in the clear communication of complex information to people who aren’t in your field.

You’ll implement techniques such as persuasion and organization so anyone can understand computer science. This is critical in situations such as oral presentations in company meetings. After all, if you can’t illustrate your ideas to your management, they’ll find someone who can.

Plus, being able to strip down complex technical concepts to people who think differently is advantageous if you’re pitching an idea to a team of executives or trying to emphasize why your ideas have genuine market value.

6. Microeconomics

Computer science is largely about business, and microeconomics is the foundation for every business theory that’s important.

Supply and demand, competitive advantage, NPVs — these are necessary to know if you want to understand business. A computer scientist who understands the fundamentals of business is worth more to a company than one who doesn’t. You may have an amazing idea in your programming, but it would never fly in our capitalist society. So by taking microeconomics, you’re more likely to excel in your field.

Numerous things — ranging from user-friendliness to the capabilities of the associated marketing team — help determine the possible success of projects you might be involved with after you finish your time on a college campus as a computer science major. Having a solid understanding of microeconomics should help you understand the crucial differences between a project that thrives and one that falters, thereby affecting your earning potential, candidacy for promotions and more.

You may think you’re a computer science hotshot, but you should make sure you know these basics before you catapult yourself into the real world. Once you know them, you’ll be on your way to a successful computer science career.