Computer Science and College

Stephanie Chen, Op-Ed Editor

The harried, debt-ridden college student working as a barista in Starbucks: we’ve seen this scene often enough. Unfortunately, many of these waiters, servers, or clerks are actually graduate students or people with a degree. And none of them have jobs with satisfactory pay in a field where that they labored to obtain a degree in. This is the reality of many young adults in America today. Encouraged by the mantra that college will lead to success, the reality of their student loan debts and the necessity of finding a job is a blow to these graduates. One field, however, may make the American dream of college seem outdated: computer science.

Many parents of today’s generations are immigrants who have come to the US with the mantra of working hard to support their children. To their children, they say to study hard and get into a good college; after that, getting a job and money will come naturally. This certainly has been true over the last two centuries, when immigrants or children of immigrants are able to find better jobs with education. People who spent their lives working in construction or digging out railroads encouraged their children to become literate and educated. Consequently, the children took on middle-class jobs such as being doctors or lawyers. However, realities are changing, and as colleges get more expensive and more people go to college, college is not the panacea it once was.

These adults are entrenched in debt ($26,000 on average) and cannot support themselves while paying their student loans back. This is because employment opportunities have actually declined over the past few years. Not only are many people employed, but others are “mal-employed”—or employed in a “low” profession that has nothing to do with their degree. Thus, many college graduates feel dissatisfied with their lot in life, because of the belief passed onto them of the virtues of college. Many feel “entitled”, per say, in obtaining a job in the profession that they got a degree for. In this slump of dissatisfaction and money troubles, eighty-five percent of college graduates still live with their parents, despite their hard work in obtaining their degree.

So perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that times are changing and realities with it. Kids are given encouragement that they will succeed wherever their passion lie, yet when they go out in the real world, they find out that their degree in creative writing means nothing. They might as well not had it and become a receptionist anyway. Another problem is the money poured into kids in the form of SAT tutors or programs, expecting the investment will be paid off once they grow up. This may not be a guarantee anymore, once the now grown up child lives with their parents.

In fact, lately successful people have been entrepreneurs: people not afraid to take risks and step outside the boundaries of regular life. People like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs have been the new figureheads of success in society. What do they have in common? They are both in the field of computer science, which is rapidly expanding. The best part is that computer science can be self-studied, because the Internet has introduced a vast array of resources (no pun intended!). Massive open online courses, commonly referred to as MOOCs, are now replacing lecture halls. Even free courses such as KhanAcademy are just as informative as a regular teacher is. For example, one course such as DevBootCamp costs $12,000 in teaching novices how to program. After that course, 90% of graduates found jobs, many with starting salaries as high as $90,000 a year.

This is not to say someone can’t go to college for computer science. They can, and computer science graduates actually have the second highest salaries after graduation. They are also the most sought after, having 56% of applicants receive offers, which is the highest percentage of application-offer rate.  More importantly, this shows that the computer science industry is growing rapidly, especially with the exponential growth of technology in computers recently.

So perhaps today’s message is to become an entrepreneur: the traditional path may no longer be the best one, and “scary” fields like computer science may become the future.