Six Steps to a Career in Computer Science

52Computer science is not for everyone. If you like math and solving puzzles, then you will probably enjoy computer programming. Give it a try and see if it’s right for you. However, if you find puzzles to be tedious and frustrating then you should probably consider another line of work. Debugging computer programs can take hours of focused work with little reward until the end. Some people find this sort of work stressful.

If you think you have what it takes, here are six steps to launch your career in computer science and maintain a high salary:

Study math in high school. Computer programs rely heavily on algebra, with variables, functions, etc. Try to take the highest math classes your high school offers. Computer programmers sometimes employ trigonometry, calculus, and linear algebra depending upon the application. Take any computer classes offered as well.

Take computer science in college. While some folks can get a programming job with a high school diploma or associate’s degree, most employers require a four-year bachelor’s degree. Each university is different but the major is usually called “computer science”, “software engineering” or “computer engineering”. If they offer more than one that’s even better! Find out which department has the best reputation for producing skilled computer programmers.

Learn a programming language used in the industry. Some universities only teach “toy” languages because they are well suited for teaching computer science theory. If this is the only thing on your resume, employers will not be impressed. Decide what type of work you’d like to pursue (web development, desktop applications, etc.) and find out which are the most commonly used languages in that industry.

Complete a warm up project. There’s an old catch-22 about needing experience to get a job, and needing a job to get experience. A good way to gain programming experience is to volunteer on an open source project. Just choose a project that interests you. You can either start a new project on your own or contribute to an existing project on SourceForge. Prospective employers will be impressed by your initiative and you can even show them excerpts of your code as a sample.

Navigate your career path. Recent college graduates generally start in an entry-level position. With a good attitude and work ethic, you can move up the ladder to senior engineer in about five years. This may mean moving between companies. It’s common for employees to change jobs every year or two in high tech industries. Sometimes that’s the fastest way to get ahead and find a job you really enjoy.

Stay up to date. The technology of computers is always evolving rapidly. Make sure to continuously learn new developments in the industry. This will ensure a long and prosperous career. However, beware of short-term fads and don’t waste your time and effort to learn about them.