Computer Science Education in High Demand
Despite the growing importance of computer programming skills both in the working world and in everyday life, most schools fail to even cover the basics or broach the subject.
But because there has been a longstanding will, there are now many ways.
For many eager learners, this gap in classroom material and formal instruction has been filled by online programs that are rapidly gaining esteem in the professional world. Something necessary as the job outlook for recent graduates is bleak. In a recent paper, Northwestern University economist Robert J. Gordon asserts that the US should prepare for “an extended period of slowing growth, with economic expansion getting ever more sluggish and the bottom 99% getting the short end of the stick”. However, despite stubbornly high unemployment and low rates of growth, the long term job prospects for computer science related fields remain remarkably strong.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 28% growth rate from 2010 to 2020, well above average for most other industries, excluding some healthcare fields. In a 2011 Forbes poll to determine which master’s degree programs would provide the best long-term opportunities, computer science tied physician assistant studies for the advanced degree with the best job prospects. While many other fields see half of their graduate into unemployment, computer science programs can prepare graduate for competitive offers from growing companies.
Computer science is also a very lucrative field of study as mid-career median pay is, on average, $109,000 and almost twice the national average salary of $41,000 annually. “We’re in the midst of a technology wave, and computer scientists are so highly valued,” says Al Lee, director of quantitative analysis at Payscale. “As long as people and businesses use technology, computer science degree-holders will be in demand,” Lee adds.
Yet, despite the growing need in business around the globe, most students still never receive comprehensive computer literacy training. In the UK, where the number of people studying programming has fallen by a third in the past four years, Prime Minister David Cameron recently admitted that the government is not doing enough to teach the next generation about computer science. Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt also recently pointed out that while students learn how to use software, they are not taught about how software is made.
The need for programmers has lead many hopeful programmers to seek out many rapidly growing independent resources. Dream in Code, for example, is a site that allows users to learn the fundamental elements of programming by browsing their content and those serious about learning can sign up to become a permanent member. The expansive content of Dream in Code covers almost every programming language and consists of a broad base of expert users. W3Schools also offers an exhaustive scope of information on web technologies, including tutorials for simple HTML through complex AJAX and Server Side Scripting.
Computer programmers at every level can learn or brush up on skills at Google Code University as well. Offering courses on AJAX programming, algorithms, distributed systems, web security and languages, as well as novice guides on Linux, databases and SQL, GCU includes relevant material for any programmer. Each course consists of simple tutorials that cover basic steps, as well as video lectures from university professors and professionals that are licensed under Creative Commons, meaning anyone can use the material or feature is in their own classes.
Some traditional schools have already noted the trend toward free or cheap online community resources for computer literacy and begun to offer university materials through similar platforms. MIT and UC Berkeley, among others, have pioneer EdX which hosts most of their content online and free of charge.
The shift towards online resources for computer education is allowing many who would otherwise never have the opportunity to acquire first-rate skills in a field that will be among the most marketable for years to come. In the coming years, as computers and technology are only expected to become further engrained into our lives, these resources will allow ambitious and focused students to lead the way.