Before I start, I will say that I do in fact have a degree in Computer Science from a reputable university. Getting the degree fit in line with my eventual career goals as I was more inclined towards scientific studies than simply just programming or web development.
But having gone through the process and spending a substantial amount of energy and time, I've seen plenty of people that attempted and failed to make it work for them. They either couldn't sustain the 4-5 years of increasingly complex work, or they found other areas of study that were more interesting to them.
Needless to say, as with most things in life, it's not for everyone. In a future article I will break down the many reasons why you should get a CS degree. But for now, here's a few reasons why it might not make the most sense to you.
You want to develop video games
Everyone likes video games (mostly). And for most of us, video games are the introduction into technology and the digital world. At least this was the case for me. Without knowing too much about Computer Science in general, I assumed that taking that path would kind of lead me into the game development world. Not so. And not by a long shot.
You don't really go to college for a Computer Science degree and learn game development concepts. Not because game development isn't complex or scientific, but quite the opposite. Game development is a very specialized field with its own technology
stack and fundamental principles. You won't be learning complex game
theory in any of your CS classes I'm afraid because there's just too much material to cover in general.
Also, video game development is a broad term as it encompasses many different fields. You could work on the game engine itself, in which case prior experience with Unity or Unreal might make sense to have. Or you might work on the various 3D animation libraries that 3D animators require to do their job. And no, 3D animator is not a part of Computer Science either.
Having said that, more and more universities are now offering degree's in game development. In fact, there are certain schools that only deal with game development. The DigiPen Institute of Technology happens to be one of those schools.
DigiPen is perhaps one of the oldest schools to offer full curriculum's in video game design and development and has partnered with Nintendo of America in the past on various programs.
My main point here being that if you want to develop video games as a career, then working towards a degree in Video Game Design might make more sense than attaining a degree in Computer Science.
If school isn't your thing
One of the main reasons why I also went the university route and Computer Science route was because I, for the most part, always did well in school growing up. I was placed in gifted programs and usually was 1 year ahead of the rest of the class. Essentially, I just worked really hard and kept my head down and stayed out of trouble during my younger years.
Hard work pays off. By the time I graduated from high school I had several grants and scholarships to my name, so attending university was pretty much a no-brainer for me.
Except that a Computer Science degree is stupidly difficult to get. So it's a yes-brainer. I still equate this part of my life as the most difficult thing that I've had to do so far.
Because it's not a degree in programming like many people think. Programming is a part of it. But so is advanced math classes like Calculus I, Calculus II, Calculus III, Linear Algebra and Statistics. And so are weekly quizzes, midterms, exams, finals and semester projects for each of these classes.
There's also the added stress of the college environment as well, such as having to attend labs and participate in school events as well. 4 years is a long time, and there's a high percentage of people that will need to extend their stay by either a few months or at times a few years. And some people just won't make it at all until the end. I've known many that have tried.
These are all important things to consider, particularly for Computer Science. Because, I'll take some liberty in saying this, CS might be one of the hardest degrees to earn.
If you really meant computer engineering
Some people that are into tech strongly prefer working with hardware. They enjoy soldering boards and programming LED lights and creating Verilog scripts to program FPGA boards.
Don't get me wrong, a Computer Science will also have you playing with circuit boards, but only on the rare occasion. CS is for software and CE is for hardware. That's why it's important to feel it out before you dive in. Both are difficult routes to take, but one might be more suited for you.
I've soldered many boards in my day, and I can safely say, that I did not really enjoy it too much. Nor was I that good at it. But I thoroughly enjoyed the software side of things.
And lastly, while the title may have initially left you thinking that I was going to destroy the idea of Computer Science degrees, it's really quite the opposite. It's a great field of study that spans much more than just programming. And while some today may find it to be aging poorly or outdated, it's still responsible for producing the engineers that help to make our country go round.
Walter Guevara is a software engineer, startup founder and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He is currently building things that don't yet exist.