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Computer Science profession - what's it like?

  1. Apr 25, 2008 #1
    Alright, just spoke with a few individuals about technology, theory, and whatnot related to CS. So far, I like their answers. Now I need more information from total strangers. Please keep in mind I'm not looking for your typical programming job; I want to work on state-of-the-art technologies, highly advanced R&D, bleeding-edge stuff.

    With that in mind, I'd like to know the best/worst working conditions, what fields are harder to get into, pros/cons of a CS degree, etc.

    Basically, tell me what you like/dislike, changes you expect to happen, things that could be improved, fields that will be in high demand, and related information.


    Jordan Joab.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 25, 2008 #2
    Are you in CompSci right now?
  4. Apr 25, 2008 #3
    Not yet, sir.

    Jordan Joab.
  5. Apr 25, 2008 #4
    Eek, I'm not a sir.

    I'm a newbie at CompSci myself. I'm trying to get into the field myself. Right now, I've taken some beginner level CompSci courses. I think there are a lot of options once you get into CompSci. There are things like software engineering (I think this is one of the big fields), computer graphics (heavily math-based I think), human interaction, AI, information systems, working with databases and systems, and ... other things. But I think, whatever field in CompSci you're in, I think they are pretty much in high demand. I think it's a pretty hit field.

    I think what's interesting about Computer Science, is that it sort of encompasses everything - a broad array of interests. English, Math, Computer Science, and or Physics is probably important. I think once you get into the career field, you will always be learning something new - not just languages -, but whatever your new project is. You could learn about something in, let's say psychology, english or whatever you need to work with. I think it's really interesting.
  6. Apr 25, 2008 #5
    I just don't want to be a "java monkey.":confused:

  7. Apr 25, 2008 #6
    I recently visited Carnegie Mellon, and one of the students told me that their definition of computer science was along the lines of anything having to do with computers and the phenomenon they create. Thus, computer science includes robotics, AI, graphics, OCR, speech, languages, and tons of other things. Learning Java or any other programming language is just the tip of the iceberg. Computer scientists research the principles behind creating programming languages. And that's just a single example.

    That said, I do not know too much about the job market for computer science. You'll have your typical jobs at Google, Microsoft, Mozilla etc., and although a lot of what they do is programming (in more languages than just Java), they're creating useful programs. Just look at how Firefox has changed the browser landscape, for instance, or Google, with Gmail, Google Earth, etc.

    If you do decide to go into comp sci, get started immediately with some projects that your professors may be working on. They'll find a way to get you involved and expose you to things you may find exciting.
  8. Apr 25, 2008 #7
    I suffer from "wanna do many things all at once." Creates a problem in decision-making.

    Jordan Joab.
  9. Apr 25, 2008 #8
    Should take at least one course in engineering economics/optimization/ ...
  10. Apr 25, 2008 #9
    I'll look into that, thanks. My plan is to get a broad knowledge base of CS to build a strong "trunk" and develop solid "branches."

    What I would love to know are the experiences of Computer Scientists: their day-to-day activities, subfields of study, things they discover/create/stumble upon, research they are/were involved in, work conditions, industries they work/worked, etc.

    Getting these answers now helps me and others interested in guiding our developing careers to the destinations we envision.

    Jordan Joab.
  11. Apr 26, 2008 #10
    With a Bachelor's degree in CS, you're pretty much stuck being a code monkey. Enjoy your cubicle.

    With a more advanced degree in CS, there are a lot more possibilities... almost too many to list. Even if you want to remain a code monkey, the bits of code you are asked to do become more interesting and complicated, and the bugs you are asked to solve are more intricate and involved.
  12. Apr 26, 2008 #11
    Excellent. I like these kind of comments. I do plan on going to a professional and/or PhD right after the Bachelor's. So, would a Math minor strengthen my CS knowledge or no difference whatsoever?

    Jordan Joab.
  13. Apr 26, 2008 #12
    In your senior years of CS, some universities offer project courses, where you work on various projects like - creating games, or designing something that is of practical use - let's say creating something for another department in the university that they need. Once you get into CS, see what streams you like. Try to get a job while you are at university over the summer. Talk to professors.

    If you plan on to go to do Masters, a Masters in CS would probably mean research ... or one in Business might be a good idea too if you are into that stuff.

    By doing CS, you will probably take a lot of math courses especially if you want to go into computer graphics. You will probably have your math minor already. It may be a good idea, but you can decide on that later.
  14. Apr 26, 2008 #13
    Indeed. Ah, I dislike these kinds of decisions. The world was so much simpler in the 1990s; you just said "I wanna be X" and that was the end of it. Now we got too many specializations and job titles.

    Jordan Joab.
  15. Apr 26, 2008 #14
    It's not a bad thing. You can choose what you like, and you don't have to decide now.
  16. Apr 26, 2008 #15
    Oh trust me, it's bad. I'm 25 and I still don't know exactly what I want. The majority of my friends already have careers and I still haven't been to college. It's bad, bad, bad.

    Jordan Joab.
  17. Apr 27, 2008 #16
    could be much worse though
  18. Apr 27, 2008 #17
    Knowing more math is always good, because studying math builds up a certain rigor of thought that is particularly helpful in CS.

    That said, the actual math knowledge you'd gain beyond the basics required of any engineer probably wouldn't be much use in a CS context.
  19. Apr 30, 2008 #18
    Is it really true that a masters degree opens up a lot more opportunities in CS? I want to go to grad school for EE and was wondering if its the same with that? Like Jordan I also want to be working with high-level bleeding-edge R&D research type of stuff, or interesting things... stuff that monkeys can't do :)
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