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Should I get a degree in Computer Science? A CS student’s perspective • Studyramen

Should I get a degree in Computer Science? A CS student’s perspective

Computer Science (CS) is one of the hottest degrees amongst university applicants nowadays, as reported in this article.

Given the tech-driven world that we live in today, this trend is no surprise – job prospects for computer science graduates are pretty solid. Techies rejoice!

For more trends on the future of work post-Covid, check out this article.

Are you considering taking up a degree in Computer Science? This article might help you out with your decision by explaining Computer Science from an NTU CS student’s perspective.

(Disclaimer: I’m not a CS student, but I’ve tried as far as possible to give accurate information! These thoughts are compiled responses from my friends studying CS and some web research.)

What is Computer Science?

Computer Science is the study of computer systems and computing. It comprises two main categories: hardware and software.

Hardware teaches you the components of a computer and how these components work together to enable the device to perform its functions efficiently and optimally.

Software is where programming comes in – it focuses on writing programmes to solve problems. You learn topics like software engineering, object-oriented programming and data structures and algorithms.

Altogether, what you learn teaches the logical thinking processes behind coming up with solutions for computing problems. This translates into Computer Science-related professions like software engineers or programmers.

In NTU’s Computer Science degree programme, students are introduced to the most popular programming languages such as Python, C/C++ and Java in Year 1 and 2. You will also be exposed to some low level programming languages such as ARM Assembly Code.

After learning these languages, most projects should allow you to pick a programming language of your liking to complete, and you will specialise in Year 3.

More on NTU Computer Science’s curriculum here.

Misconceptions about Computer Science

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Computer Science is often confused with other degree courses.

  1. Computer Science vs Data Science

Computer Science is a very large field comprising many areas of study. Data Science is a subset of Computer Science which focuses on analysing and studying data to gather insights.

Computer Science comprises the big picture of technological growth and advancement, e.g. in the development of supercomputers.

On the other hand, Data Science focuses on managing data, e.g. maintaining and handling huge volumes of customer data. Graduates who specialise in Data Science become data analysts or scientists.

(p.s. It’s a specialisation that you can choose in Computer Science!)

  1. Computer Science vs Information Systems

Information Systems is a more specialised version of Computer Science.

Information Systems studies the practical usage of larger codebases (a collection of source code) to host large-scale systems, networks, databases etc.

While Information Systems is considered a subset of Computer Science, it focuses on the practical/business aspect – the enterprise solutions for a particular technology. This degree commonly leads to professions like system administrators.

Computer Science focuses on the technical details of implementing algorithms and code. Some questions a Computer Science student would ask are ‘How do I code this?’, ‘How do I implement xx feature?’.

  1. Computer Science vs Computer Engineering

Computer Engineering and Computer Science are very similar. In NTU, there are quite a few overlapping modules between these two degree programmes, but Computer Science focuses on software while Computer Engineering has more hardware-related modules.

Some other misconceptions…

  1. CS is just coding.

While it is true that Computer Science involves a lot of coding, they are different in nature.

Computer Science is the theory behind computing, learning about what computers can do and how it works. Some things that are taught in Computer Science that aren’t explicitly coding are digital logic, data structures and AI.

On the other hand, coding is the practical tool that is used to make computers do stuff. It is the means to an end.

If coding is the ‘How’, Computer Science is the ‘What’ and ‘Why’.

As a result, understanding how computer hardware works is equally as important as coding is! The programmes you code must be compatible with the computer, after all.

  1. CS will cover the hottest new trends and topics in the computing world.

Because technology is constantly evolving and changing, we often hear new buzzwords very frequently, like bitcoin and blockchain technologies, and many people think that school will cover these topics.

While the syllabus is updated once every few years, Computer Science modules mainly cover more fundamental concepts because they are foundational to understanding and resolving more complex problems. Most (if not all) trending new technologies are built on these fundamental concepts.

This equips you to ‘learn how to learn’ so that you can easily learn new technologies that appear when you’re in the workforce.

NTU CS vs NUS CS

Many people wonder what the differences between NUS and NTU’s Computer Science programmes are. In terms of syllabus, they seem to be pretty similar.

NTU Computer Science explores a bit more hardware in Year 1 and has a common first year with the Computer Engineering people, so if you’re more interested in Computer Engineering halfway through, it’s easier to change majors.

NUS Computer Science and Computer Engineering are two entirely unrelated majors, so it’s a little tougher to change majors.

Additionally, in my friends’ opinions, NUS’s Computer Science professors are more engaging teachers. This doesn’t mean that NTU’s professors are any less knowledgeable, though, and I encourage you to ask seniors about their experience too!

If you’re a prospective freshman, here are NUS and NTU’s freshman guides.

Or, if you’re thinking of changing course/university, check out this guide for answers to the most frequently asked questions.

Career Opportunities

Almost every company will require a computer specialist, so computer science degree holders will have many job options post-graduation. These are a few of the more common ones.

(All statistics were retrieved from MOM’s Occupational Wages Table 2020)

  1. Data Scientist

Job scope: Find, manage and analyze huge volumes of data to draw business insights from

Median salary: $8,000

  1. Database Designer and Administrator

Job scope: Create systems to store and secure different kinds of data (i.e. a database) and ensure they run efficiently

Median salary: $6,274

  1. Software and Web Developer

Job scope: Create and maintain softwares or websites that tackle a business need

Median salary: $5,000

  1. Systems Analyst

Job scope: Design new IT solutions and modify or upgrade existing systems to include updated features to meet a business need

Median salary: $6,433

  1. Network, Servers and Computer Systems Administrator

Job scope: Installs, maintains and organizes LAN networks, WAN networks and intranets, and takes charge of a company’s computer systems

Media salary: $5,200

As you can probably tell, the Computer Science field has some pretty well-paying jobs. If you’re interested in knowing about other high-paying jobs in Singapore, check this article out.

How do I know if Computer Science is for me?

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I hope you’re not just in it for the money, because it is not easy to get through if you don’t enjoy it! Consider this – if a few years down the road, Computer Science isn’t as popular anymore, would you still do it?

My friend took Computer Science because she knew she wanted to do something STEM- and software-related, and Computer Science seemed like a harmonious mix of both.

If you like problem-solving and are interested in going into IT-related fields in the future, it should definitely be amongst your top few choices.

You can also try enrolling for CS50’s Introduction to CS course on Edx to get a feeling of what learning it might be like. It teaches many fundamental areas in Computer Science and is sufficiently informative for an introductory course. (p.s. it’s also free!)

If you prefer reading, websites such as W3schools and GeeksforGeeks are also some online resources that provide good information on basic concepts.

If you find these basic concepts unenjoyable or boring, then maybe a degree in Computer Science isn’t for you. But if you do enjoy them, then maybe you’ve just found your calling!

Tips from an NTU Computer Science Student

  1. Online resources! Computer science is hard, but luckily you’re not alone. Online resources like W3Schools and GeeksforGeeks are two useful websites to help you understand difficult concepts.
  2. Competition is pretty fierce. Better grades are required to get into both NTU and NUS CS as compared to previously, according to Today. For some numbers, this year’s NTU SCSE intake was around 800 people, and Computer Science students form the majority of the cohort.
  3. Notion to take notes. My friend recommends Notion specifically for coding modules because they have the ‘code blocks’ function that allows code portions to be recognised as code, so your coding notes will look nice.

In conclusion…

If you’re considering taking a degree in Computer Science, I hope this article has been helpful!

While this degree can probably help you rake in a good amount of cash once you start working, I hope it’s something you’re genuinely interested in too. I encourage you to ask seniors currently in Computer Science for more advice on their experience, because they may give you a different perspective.

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