Is Computer Science the Only Major that Matters?
- September 18, 2009
- 0 Comments
Chris Dixon’s blog, which I recently was turned on to by another blogger, recently opined that the only college major that matters is Computer Science. Nice to see someone sticking up for my major! Naturally my bias led me to believe this post was sheer genius.
Of course, let’s put this in context: Chris is pre-supposing that you are interested in being involved with software companies. But given that context – if you are interested in working at a Google, Yahoo, Facebook, or any of the startups they’ve gobbled up over the years, the easiest and best way in is to know how to write software. And if you’re going to do anything else for them, it would be good if you at least know what code looks like. As Chris puts it:
Why is it so much better to learn computer science in college (or before)? Because after college it’s very hard to find the time and discipline to teach yourself coding. On the other hand, it’s pretty easy to pick up business skills, economics and all sorts of other skills on the job or in grad school.
He’s right. Learning computer science requires a lot of long, uninterrupted time to focus on what you’re doing and get the job done. There’s a reason computer science labs are open all night, but libraries typically have closing hours. A program isn’t done til it works. That paper is done when you feel like it is done (and you’ll probably get a better grade on it). The rigor required of proofs and code forces you to spend quite a lot of time on learning the art of coding. Very few people have the free time, or the discipline, or both, to really learn computer science well if it is not done in college, or as a kid, or as their full-time job. And it is difficult to get a software job if you don’t know how to write code…
I think one of the saddest things is that the media (newspapers, television, blogs) have convinced everyone that all the software jobs are leaving the US. Meanwhile, corporate America is, in some cases, helping make it so – by actually sending lots of those jobs overseas. But in fact the total number of software jobs in the US has increased. And, a computer science major will prepare you for more than one possible career (when I was a kid, I thought computer scientists just wrote games for a living – what else would you use a computer for, right? So the media scare on this front is a bit overdone.
As Chris states, not everyone who majors in Computer Science will write code for a living – any more than everyone who majors in History ends up studying it for a living. You can still go on and get that law degree, but now you’ll actually understand some of the stuff you’re protecting or litigating.
So maybe Computer Science isn’t the only major that matters – but it might be if you’re in the software business.