Education and employment in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) are key to economic growth in the US, according to the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee 2012 report. At the center of all these disciplines is computer science: within five years, most of the jobs in STEM fields will be in areas related to computer science. Plus, it happens to be the highest paying career field for college graduates. Every high schooler should learn to code!

To wit, the top three winners of this year’s Intel Science Talent Search all used computer programming for their projects.  Eric Chen, of San Diego CA captured the grand prize and $100,000 for using supercomputers to identify potential drugs to treat influenza. Kevin Lee, of Irvine CA, won second place and $75,000 for a computer model of heart action which may one day help treat cardiac arrhythmias. Henry Kuszmaul, of Lexington MA, won third place and $50,000 for his research on the mathematical field of modular enumeration, which could help solve problems in computer science and computational biology. Rick Bates, Interim CEO of SSP (Society for Science & the Public,) which founded the Science Talent Search in 1942, noted in the Spring 2014 SSP newsletter, “By linking technology and science to the problems of the world they see around them, Eric and all the Intel STS finalists are tomorrow’s problem solvers.”

Yet even as the US scientific community – and the job-market – is placing technology front and center, the number of graduates obtaining at least an associate’s degree in computer and information sciences has actually declined by 11% since 2003, down a startling 29% for women.  In other words, colleges are producing fewer and fewer qualified computer scientists at precisely the time companies are most eager to hire them.

A recent article in Forbes speculates that the problem is due in part to the fact that not enough high schools students consider a career in computer science, and that many high schools fail to offer computer sciences courses for those that do.

“Some students think computer programming is too difficult. Some think it’s too geeky. And others don’t know about the scores of high-paying jobs available in computer-related fields.”

To that end, we here at Collegiate Gateway are committed to doing our part to raise awareness of the many fulfilling and lucrative opportunities out there for students who are – or might be – interested in computer science. So students: listen up!

From software developers to systems analysts, there are many stellar career opportunities within computer science itself. But what you might not know is that there are scores of opportunities for computer scientists in a wide variety of other fields and industries as well. Indeed, many of the most exciting new interdisciplinary fields incorporate the use of computer science:

  • Neuroscience relies on a combined approach of psychology, biology and computer science. Computational neuroscientists, in particular, build artificial systems and mathematical models to explore perception, cognition, memory and motor behaviors.
  • Digital Arts and Media take a combination of fine and performing arts, film, music, and communication and use computer science and coding to bring those media to life as moving, interactive digital masterpieces.
  • Biomedical Engineering solves problems through the perspectives of biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, and medical applications. It uses computer science to model and explore complex dynamics on both large-scale and molecular levels; the discoveries can improve the quality of people’s lives, for example in the development of prosthetics.
  • Operations Research and Engineering requires knowledge of business, economics, engineering and computer science to solve large-scale challenges in technical and professional fields. In fact, Big Data has emerged as a field of its own, charged with devising ways to organize and analyze the vast amount of data now available – about individuals, organizations and the world.
  • Environmental Engineering draws upon the fields of biology, chemistry, engineering, computer science and urban planning. Even the computer modeling involved in behavioral economics helps us understand how to motivate individuals to make behavioral changes to help our environment.

If any of these fields strike your fancy, do some research! If you’re already a college student, look into majors and programs that would allow you to incorporate computer science into other fields of interests, and see if doing so can expand the career opportunities available to you.  If you’re still in high school, the information offered about these programs can help you clarify your interests, explore these fields through internships, and inform your future college applications. For example: Cornell offers an excellent interdisciplinary program in Computer Science that encourages majors to take courses in a wide variety of other areas, such as Environmental Engineering or Computational Biology. Other excellent interdisciplinary programs include Princeton’s ORFE (Operations Research and Financial Engineering) major, and the Digital Arts program at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Arts).

Of course, you can’t be expected to do everything on your own. For more information and guidance about your major, college choice or career, contact Collegiate Gateway – we’re always happy to help.