Careers in Computer Science and Computer Engineering

Congratulations on choosing a career in computing!
Your success will depend on the level of effort you put into your education and training. Make the most of your opportunities now for a future in Computing.


Why Computing?

Today, computers are used in almost every aspect of our lives: in car engines, microwave ovens, video games, watches, telephones, desktops at home and work, mainframe computers in government and industry, and supercomputers expanding the frontiers of science and technology. The computer industry is one of the fastest growing segments of our economy and that growth promises to continue well into the next century.

To maintain a competitive edge, industry and commerce must continue to make creative scientific and engineering advances as well as produce high quality products. More than ever, there is a demand for a prepared work force with the scientific and technical training necessary to perform effectively on the job. Now is the time to plan your future in computing.

Preparing for College

Academic Preparation

Most professionals in the computing industry have at least an undergraduate degree in mathematics, computer science, computer engineering, software engineering, information systems, or electrical engineering. Many have advanced degrees. They, however, all started preparing for their careers long before they began their undergraduate degrees.

You can start investigating a career in computing as early as four years before you enter college, but certainly no later than the year before. The different degrees mentioned in the paragraph above each have different requirements and you could get a head start on them by finding out what they are. For example, some of the degrees require a lot of math and science; so, it would be to your advantage to take up to four years of math courses (including Calculus) and up to two years of science courses prior to entering college. Taking courses in programming would be helpful as well. In addition, some secondary or prep schools may allow students to take college courses if there is a college located nearby during their last year. You could have some college hours completed before you even graduate!

You should also make a plan for applying to different colleges with computing degrees and locations that interest you. Be sure to check on things like financial aid, how competitive it s to get into that particular college or university, entrance tests and scores required, student housing expense, tuition, degree requirements, and courses available. If you have the money and time, it is always helpful to make a campus visit and meet the professors and students.

Enhancing Academics

A great way to boost knowledge and understanding of computing careers is by teaming up students with working professionals. Selecting any of the activities below for individual or class development, can prove invaluable for career and technical education. The exposure will provide insight into computing careers, and prove a valuable life experience. Contact your school's administrators or career education office to see how you can start a program.

  • Classroom Demonstrations and Presentations -- Professionals speak about careers and technical topics.
  • Club Sponsorship -- Start a computer science club, or join the chapter of an existing organization.
  • Field Trips -- Plan field trips to places of employment.
  • Mentor Programs -- Match students with working professionals and plan work site visits, personal and career advice sessions.
  • Internships -- Plan work experiences (paid or volunteer) at places of employment, or observations during summer or spring breaks.
  • Student Fairs -- Enter computer science categories in local student fairs and other competitions.

Pre-College Programs

Pre-college programs help boost your technical expertise and supplement your educational experience before you embark on a full-time computing curriculum. There are many pre-college education activities and programs that take place in many cities. Contact the sponsors of these programs for information on the activities in your area and how you can get involved. Below are a few examples:

International Science and Engineering Fair
The Computer Society presents awards in the Computer Science category. Each winner receives an award of  $1,000, $500, or $400 for first, second, and third place winners, plus $500 and $400, for first and second place team award winners. The ISEF is held annually in May.

National Engineers Week
Each year the IEEE works in cooperation with other organizations to promote engineers and engineering during National Engineers Week. As many as 50,000 engineers will volunteer their time in schools as part of this effort.

The College Experience

Curriculum

Colleges offer a variety of programs in computing. Depending upon the country, your program may be three years of concentrated work in your major field or four years where 35% of your work will be in your major field of science or engineering, 25% in math or science (outside your major field), 25% in arts and humanities, and about 15% in electives. The computing course work will usually include abstract or theoretical material as well as hands-on programming exercises or engineering labs, often with state-of-the-art systems.

Accredited Programs

Many undergraduate computing programs are accredited in their respective countries. For example, in the U.S., the accrediting body is the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Accreditation ensures that a program meets a defined standard in instruction and physical facilities. Go to your country's accreditation web site for a list of accredited undergraduate computing programs.

Join the IEEE and Computer Society

Joining a professional organization, such as the IEEE Computer Society, provides many benefits. The IEEE Computer Society offers reduced fees for student membership. As a Computer Society student member, you will be eligible to compete for these Computer Society scholarships and awards. 

Student Chapters of the Computer Society

The IEEE Computer Society has over 150 Student Branch Chapters throughout the world. Joining your local chapter provides many opportunities including a way to network with working professionals, expand technical education, and build leadership skills. 

Career Opportunities

Computing Careers

Computing professionals might find themselves in a variety of environments in academia, research, industry, government, private and business organizations -- analyzing problems for solutions, formulating and testing, using advanced communications or multi-media equipment, or working in teams for product development. Here's a short list of research and vocational areas in computing.

  • Artificial Intelligence -- Develop computers that simulate human learning and reasoning ability.
  • Computer Design and Engineering -- Design new computer circuits, microchips, and other electronic components.
  • Computer Architecture -- Design new computer instruction sets, and combine electronic or optical components to provide powerful but cost-effective computing.
  • Information Technology -- Develop and manage information systems that support a business or organization.
  • Software Engineering -- Develop methods for the production of software systems on time, within budget, and with few or no defects.
  • Computer Theory -- Investigate the fundamental theories of how computers solve problems, and apply the results to other areas of computer science.
  • Operating Systems and Networks -- Develop the basic software computers use to supervise themselves or to communicate with other computers.
  • Software Applications -- Apply computing and technology to solving problems outside the computer field - in education or medicine, for example.

Lifelong Learning

While the computing field is one of the fastest growing segments of industry, it is also one of the fastest changing areas technologically. Computing professionals' education does not stop with the college degree, but continues with seminars, conferences, and advanced courses and training. In computer theory and applications, new ideas are developed every day. Success requires an ongoing commitment to learning to maintain knowledge, skills, and career opportunities.