This article was written by a guest author.
When we looked ‘Behind the Scenes of a CS Degree’ back in 2016, it was clear this field of study held significant value. The world needed people studying computer science “like never before,” with entities from Silicon Valley startups to the White House making their need for coders and other software developers known. At that time, in the mid-2010s, the argument could have been made that there was no hotter profession than computer science.
Despite the fact that the world has only become more dependent on software and technology, the importance of computer science isn’t emphasized quite as much now as it was then. So we decided it was time to ask: is a CS degree still worth it heading into 2021 and the years beyond?
Arguments Against a Computer Science Degree
Some of the negative sentiments surrounding computer science comes from a simple, vague perception that the field is now saturated, and that some sort of “boom” has subsided. The more specific argument, however, has to do with the roles of automation in handling computer science-related tasks.
Is AI threatening computer science jobs?
The main argument against the value of computer science degrees moving forward is that artificial intelligence will ultimately be capable of fulfilling what are now a lot of human functions in the field. AI job displacement is something people have been concerned about for years, and it is now believed that the 2020 pandemic will have sped up the process.
A paper on robots by Boston University and MIT economists recently suggested that in the field of manufacturing, for instance, we are now on pace to see as many as two million jobs replaced by robots by 2025. It’s just one example, but the idea behind this momentum paints a bleak picture: “machines don’t fall ill” or need to isolate. They can reliably perform where humans can’t, and often at a more efficient level.
Of course, computer science is much different than manufacturing, but those arguing against the value of CS degrees will note that some AI-related changes are taking place already. For instance, we now have ways of designing apps and websites without coding, and therefore without developers. Further movement in this direction could in theory devalue this field.
Arguments for a Computer Science Degree
Despite the questions that have arisen about the enduring value of education in computer science, there are still clear arguments in favor. In particular, the accessibility of computer science degrees and the expansion of relevant career options still make a convincing case for this field of study.
Online Computer Science Degrees
One key argument in favor of the ongoing significance of computer science degrees is that they’re becoming more widely available. Virtually every college and university now offers CS as a field of study, if not offer a computer science major. Many high schools have more options when it comes to computer science as well.
Check out hackr.io’s list of the top 10 computer science online degrees for 2021.
And perhaps most importantly, online universities and educational platforms are catering to students worldwide who don’t attend traditional schools, as well as to professionals seeking further education. This is not all happening by accident. It’s a clear sign of increasing demand for computer science expertise across industries.
Students can look into both online branches of traditional universities and official, wholly online education institutions in pursuit of computer science degrees. Additionally, there are countless quality (and often free) online courses and guides that can yield effective computer science education without leading to actual degrees.
See our recommendations for the top 5 best online courses to learn Git.
Computer Science Careers
Another important point to consider is that a computer science degree is more widely applicable than it used to be.
Once upon a time, we thought of computer science and connected the entire field to web development and a vague notion of “coding.” But the truth is, as tech has evolved, CS degrees have come to cover much more.
Regarding the aforementioned online education opportunities in this field, Maryville University’s framing of online computer science programs makes clear that they can lead to careers in numerous disciplines. Graduates with computer science degrees can find work in cybersecurity, information and data management, coding, software development, management, and even hardware engineering. The fact that this list has been expanding indicates that CS professions are alive and thriving.
Computer Science Jobs are Increasing
Looking at actual growth rates across related professions, data also shows computer science work expanding. In a 2019 look at fast-growing tech jobs by The Balance, numerous positions appropriate for graduates with a computer science major were shown to be growing at tremendous rates.
Database administrators (11% growth by 2026), software developers (24%), web developers (15%), and app developers (57%) are just some of the examples. These are clear, data-based indications that computer science degrees still lead to relevant, in-demand jobs.
Should I get a degree in computer science?
Ultimately, our assessment is that the positives clearly outweigh the negatives. It’s only logical to consider the effects of automation and advancing technology on all job markets, including those for CS students. It’s true that certain practices (like basic web development) are no longer as dependent on human experts.
But expanding online educational opportunities, growing relevance across industries and professions, and data indicating steady growth all bode well. Computer science degrees are very much still worthwhile as we head into 2021 and beyond.