How To Become A Computer Scientist
Computer science is so much more than being able to write code. Many do not know what a computer scientist does, but it is there that lies the secret of how to become one.
I believe computer science is the best career. Of course, I am biased; this is my career and I could not love it more. I first started dealing with computers when I was ten years old, and my love for it has only grown since then. I think this is a career of power. I feel powerful when I can accomplish something. To others, what we do may even seem like magic. The truth is, something I, myself, feel like a magician. Arthur C. Clarke once said:
Magic is just science that we don't understand.
But the truth is that you can understand it. And if we understand it, it does not have to stop being magic, rather, we can become magicians. Of course, this is a path, and you have to decide whether this is the right one for you. So in this article, I will describe objectively what computer science is, what we, computer scientist, do, and how you can become a computer scientist yourself.
What Does A Computer Scientist Do?
In order to become a computer scientist, you must first find out if you want to become one, to begin with. But, in order to answer that question, you must first know what it means to be a computer scientist. Three colleagues walk into a bar. The bartender asks: "What do you do?" and they each answer something different. What is their career? There is much truth to this not-so-funny "joke." The answer to that question is a bit more convoluted than you might think. Computer scientists have a tougher time answering this question. If a medical doctor is asked that question, they can get away with the "I am a doctor" answer. A computer scientist cannot do that because people do not really know what it means–other than the obvious fact that it has to do with computers.
Many will think that you fix computers, others will think you are a programmer, others think that you are a hacker, and some will even ask you to fix their toaster.
Why Is It Complicated?
Computers impact our everyday lives, but it does not stop there. The field of computer science grows rapidly every day, and with new rising technologies, come new opportunities. In fact, being a computer scientist will almost guarantee that you get a job with a competitive salary. There are so many things that one can do as a computer scientist that most likely you will find something–within the field–that you would enjoy doing.
Though, I will admit that having so many choices within the field can sometimes be intimidating; there are so many choices that the path of where to go may not always be so clear. But, in the end, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.
But Seriously, What Do We Do?
Almost anything. If you have been misled into thinking that a computer scientist is only a programmer, well, I am glad you are reading this article. Programming is one of the things a computer scientist can do, and the term "programmer" is too broad to define all aspect of programming anyways.
A computer scientist understands a computer very well, much like a doctor understands the human body. When you study computer science you begin to understand how everything works, that is, you go into the hardware and to the software. You learn how bits–zeros and ones–can make a computer perform different tasks. Of course, much of what you learn depends heavily on where you study the field.
A computer scientist should have a basic understanding of the pieces that makes a computer tick, such as how the operating system sits on top on hardware to make computers work, how computers are programmed and how to program computers, and how the internet and a computer network works. Also, you learn software; how to program new software and the art of software engineering. When you study computer science, you will not necessarily become an expert in one of those sub-fields unless you decide to specialize in them. This is much like a general doctor does not necessarily know much about the heart unless they become a cardiologist. The good news is that there is so much to choose from; you could decide to specialize in hardware programming, software engineering, artificial intelligence engineer, operating system designer, system administrator, web designer, mobile developer, and much, much more. Defining what each of those do in detail is worthy of another article, but I can tell you each of those sub-field have a beauty in them, you just have to be willing to find it.
So, How Do I Become A Computer Scientist?
Well, that depends, of course. If you are really interested in being a computer scientist and understand the computer at the same level that a computer scientist does, then you need to go to college and study computer science. However, becoming a computer science requires dedication. In my experience, not everyone that goes to college and studies the field is fully aware of what a computer scientist really is supposed to be.
To become a computer scientist, you must go beyond what a programmer knows–you must understand how the computer works, and that takes work. Everything you will learn is like the piece of a puzzle, but the most important part is not to have the pieces but to know how to put them together. When you go to college to obtain a computer science degree, you are given the pieces–and you should take them–however, it is your job to put them together.
If on the other hand, you just want to learn how to program software, you may not need a computer science degree to do so–though you will be better off if you get it anyways. The truth is that you do not necessarily need to learn everything that a computer scientist will learn throughout her/his career. In fact, a software engineer degree would be sufficient if you just want to program software.
How Long Does It Take?
If we are taking in terms of how long it takes to obtain a computer science degree, then it is approximately four years, though it depends on which college you attend. However, I consider the journey of becoming a computer scientist a bit more complex. I believe it takes a good amount of practice to put all the pieces together. This is one journey to learn, and even after graduating from this career I find myself learning many new things.
I Am Not Good With Math, Should I Try Computer Science?
This is a valid concern and one that many have asked before. I will tell you exactly what I believe. If you want to be a computer scientist, then you cannot let yourself get in the middle of it. If math is not your forte, then you should work on it, and believe me that you can. You do not need to be a math genius to be a computer scientist, but you need to at least understand the basic concepts well. Many that struggle with math just need to go back to the roots; the fundamentals. Once you understand those, you will find that more advanced topics won't seem as intimidating and they perhaps seem now.
This is true for any topic in which you struggle. If you are struggling with programming, what you need to do is understand the fundamentals so well that you can build on top of those; after all, most of the advanced topics will come from ideas based on the fundamentals.
If you struggle with math, you have two choices; (1) You can defeat yourself and walk away from computer science or (2) You can believe that you can work through it and make an effort to get what you want. You must think and decide if this is what you truly want. If the answer is yes, then I wish you the best of luck. If the answer is no and you are not willing to learn math to become a computer scientist, then perhaps this is not the career for you anyways, but either way, I will wish you good luck with whatever else you decide to pursue.
Before we finish this article, I'd like for you to watch this short video I prepared for computer scientist and engineers. If you feel inspired, then you can seriously consider the career:
As always, thank you for reading, it is a pleasure to have you here. If you have any comments, please share them below, and if you think anyone else could benefit from this article, please share it.