By Chris Yust, Homeschool Programming, Inc.

Do you have technically-inclined students who might want to pursue a career in computing? The future has never been brighter! In this article we will explore the golden opportunity awaiting graduates with Computer Science and related degrees. We will also help decipher what the different types of degrees mean and how a high school student can prepare for a computer-related major.

Jobs Offered – Please Apply! No Economic Downturn in sight!

You might think that all computer jobs have been outsourced overseas. That’s simply not true! Research from ZDNet and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows there is a real shortage of trained professionals to fill the computing needs of local technology companies. Throughout the recent economic downturn, computer jobs have seen steady growth and salary increases.

From 2009 to 2010 the average salary offer to a bachelor’s degree graduate declined from $48,000 to $47,000. The average offer for a Computer Science graduate from 2009 to 2010 rose about 5% to $60,000!

Why are Computer Science graduates in such demand? Simple supply and demand! A survey by the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) in 2009 showed the enrollment in computer classes was down significantly in high-schools across the country. The main reasons cited were: The fast pace of computer technology, lack of qualified teaching staff, and lack of curriculum resources. Another recent poll by the Computing Research Association found that enrollment in BSCS degree programs dropped 20% in 2007 and another 10% in 2009.

What Degree Is Right for Me?

If you review a college catalog you’ll find a perplexing list of seemingly similar computer-related degrees.  Let’s take a quick look at some of the more common degrees to identify what they mean!

The classic Computer Science (CS) degree is what most people think of when talking about computer programmers. Computer Science courses will include all major areas of programming, from theory to applications. Computer Engineering (CE) degrees include a mixture of hardware and software courses. Students learn major programming topics, plus they will investigate the digital wizardry that makes computers work “under the hood”.

Electrical Engineering (EE) traditionally covers analog circuits, power lines and radio signals.  Classes may also cover semiconductors, transistors, and processor or circuit board design. EE students can also focus electives on the same computer-related topics as a Computer Science or Engineering student.

A general Software Engineering (SE) degree involves some computer programming but may focus more on the software management, organization, and lifecycles. Information Technology (IT) degrees concentrate on how computer systems and networks interconnect and function together.

A number of emerging degree types focus on digital entertainment. These degrees may incorporate more artistic talents to make computer drawings, model 3D worlds, and yes, create games! These specialty degrees may be named “Computational Media“, “Digital Arts and Sciences“, “Computer Game Design“, etc.

What do all of these computer-related degrees have in common? At some level, students must understand fundamental computer programming!

Preparing For Computer Science in High School

If your student is already a whiz using applications such as word processors, spreadsheets, presentation software, email, and web browsers, great!  But those skills alone do not offer any special insight into Computer Science.
What can your high school student do to prepare for a computer-related degree? First,

you want to ensure a solid mathematical foundation. Programmers should be comfortable with math at least through algebra. The more math skills you have the better!

Second, a solid foundation in computer programming is an invaluable head-start! Students that already understand real-world programming and have confidently mastered their computer environment have a big advantage. Plus, an experienced programming student already knows whether or not they like the subject matter and is less likely to waste time on an unsuitable major.

You can provide a quality Computer Science education for your high school student even if you’re not an expert yourself.  Self-study courses can teach students how to write their own computer programs and, yes, games! Why not make these courses available to your inquisitive student and kick-start a lifelong passion for Computer Science today?

About the Author

Chris Yust from Homeschool Programming, Inc. is co-author of the KidCoder and TeenCoder programming curriculum for 4th-12th grade students. Find out more about computer programming for kids and teens at http://www.homeschoolprogramming.com!  References for all quoted statistics can be found on the website Newsletters area.