Is Computer Science Hard? What to Know

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Published on November 3, 2021
Reviewed by Brian Nichols

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You may have heard people mention that now is a good time to learn coding or computer science. They are right. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 13% job growth for computer and information technology occupations between 2020 and 2030, which eclipses the average projected growth rate for all jobs.

However, computer and information technology professionals earn high salaries and experience high demand for a reason: gaining the knowledge required to thrive in the field can prove to be challenging.

But just how hard is computer science? Read on to learn more about how to excel in necessary computer science skills and how to earn a job in the field.

How Hard Is Computer Science?

Computer science is the theoretical study of the principles and usage of computers. The field encompasses hardware and software, algorithms, programming, and various computer applications.

Computer science maintains a reputation for being tough to learn. Students must master several programming languages, and the field continually builds on itself, requiring mastery of different algorithms and tools. The field requires significant critical thinking, resilience, and problem-solving skills.

However, the right resources can help any student learn computer science. Keep reading to learn more about those resources.

How to Learn Computer Science

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mastering computer science. Different methods work for different types of learners.

In the following section, we break down various options for learning computer science. Consider your learning style, your schedule, and your professional and personal commitments to find the best fit.

Coding Bootcamps

Coding bootcamps are accelerated learning experiences that help students master specific elements of computer science in short periods of time. Bootcamps may focus on specific programming or coding languages, software engineering, cybersecurity, database management, or full stack development.

Coding bootcamp providers often offer full-time and part-time programs and boast strong job placement rates. They are usually more affordable and take less time than full degree programs. In 2020, the median bootcamp cost was $13,500. However, you may gain deeper knowledge by earning a computer science degree.

Professionals employed in a different industry may wish to complete part-time bootcamps in roughly 6-8 months. Career changers who are in between jobs can also dive in and complete full-time bootcamps, which last an average of four months.

Computer Science Degree

Prospective students can pursue both two-year associate degrees and four-year bachelor's degrees in computer science. Since they last longer, these programs allow students to gain a depth of knowledge they cannot obtain through coding bootcamps. Students spend more time on each concept, which can lead to increased mastery.

Nevertheless, that increased skill set comes at a cost. Two-year and four-year degrees are often much more expensive than six-month bootcamps. According to EducationData.org, the average college student paid $35,720 in tuition and fees during the 2020-2021 academic year.

Learners can pay for these programs by applying for specialized computer science scholarships.

Online Programs

Pursuing a two-year or four-year degree in computer science online can help learners save on tuition, transportation costs, and room and board. Through online programs, students can gain the deeper knowledge that a full degree provides without paying quite as much in tuition and fees.

Learners can also try to teach themselves computer science through online platforms like Coursera, EdX, Treehouse, and Codecademy. Teaching yourself computer science online requires plenty of dedication and discipline. However, online programs may be your cheapest and most effective path to learning computer science.

Computer Science Careers

Computer science is a diverse field that encompasses various careers. In the following section, we dive into several possible jobs for professionals who have learned computer science.

What Does a Computer Scientist Do?

Computer scientists use computers, programming, and algorithms to solve practical problems. Their day-to-day work is diverse. These professionals may debug code or create software for space exploration or autonomous drones.

Most computer scientists work standard business hours and spend their days at desks. They may collaborate with programmers or developers when creating software. According to PayScale, computer scientists earned an average annual salary of $82,180 in September 2021.

Software Engineer

Software engineers create computer programs and applications. Like computer scientists, most software engineers work nine to five in office environments. They may also work in teams with other developers on specific projects.

According to the BLS, software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers earned a median annual salary of $110,140 in May 2020. The BLS projects 22% job growth for these professionals between 2020 and 2030.

Data Analyst

Data analysts clean and interpret data using various computer functions. They analyze large data sets for trends and insights. They must be capable of working with Excel, MongoDB, and MySQL.

According to PayScale, data analysts made an average annual salary of $61,840 in September 2021. With additional mathematical training in areas like machine learning and predictive modeling, computer science students can also find work as data scientists.

Web Developer

Web developers design and perform upkeep on websites. Like other computer science professionals, developers work standard business hours in offices, often with teams. According to the BLS, web developers and digital designers made a median annual salary of $77,200 in May 2020, with 13% projected growth between 2020 and 2030.

Bootcamps are a strong option for prospective web developers, as many programs focus specifically on web development.

Information Technology Manager

Information technology managers take charge of all computer activities for organizations. They sometimes need both business and computer science expertise. These positions often require an associate degree or bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field.

The BLS found that computer and information systems managers earned a median annual salary of $151,150 in May 2020, with projected growth of 11% between 2020 and 2030.

Is Learning Computer Science Worth It?

Computer science offers significant financial rewards. If you stick with computer science and hone the requisite skills, you can earn a high annual salary as a web developer, data analyst, or information technology manager.

However, learning and mastering computer science requires a significant investment of time and money. Even bootcamps often ask for six months of your time and over $10,000. Furthermore, the tech industry is known for high levels of burnout.

If you enjoy solving problems and are up for a challenge, computer science can prove very rewarding, both personally and financially. If computer science is not a good fit for you, there are plenty of other similar and fruitful careers out there.

Frequently Asked Questions About Computer Science

Is computer science a type of engineering? true

Not technically. Some people use "computer science" and "computer engineering" interchangeably. However, computer science is a branch of math, while computer engineering, which often involves more hardware, usually falls under the umbrella of electrical engineering.

Does computer science require a lot of math? true

Yes. Math is a foundational element of computer science. Data structures, algorithms, programming, and differential equations are all components of computer science that require a strong grasp of math. You cannot avoid math in computer science.

Is learning computer science stressful? true

Learning computer science can prove to be stressful. Students need problem-solving and analytical skills and plenty of tenacity and resilience. A natural aptitude for math and science can also help.

The most successful computer science students nurture a growth mindset, seeing challenges and stumbling blocks as opportunities. You can think of computer science as a sport. You can work on individual skills, which contributes to your overall expertise within the field. And the more you practice, the better you can get.

Reviewed by:

Born and raised in upstate New York, Brian Nichols began his IT education through a vocational high school where he focused on computer science, IT fundamentals, and networking. Brian then went to his local community college, where he received his associate of science in computer information science. He then received his bachelor of science in applied networking and system administration from a private college. Brian now lives in Kansas City, where he works full-time as a DevOps engineer. Brian is also a part-time instructor in cybersecurity. He's passionate about cybersecurity and helping students succeed.

Brian Nichols is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.

Learn about the differences between computer information systems and computer science. Find out which field is a better match for your personality. Computer science is a highly lucrative and in-demand field. With a computer science degree, you can earn good money as an expert in computing and technology. Learn about earning a master's degree in computer science, and find out about programs, career opportunities, and earning potential.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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