Computing and information technology is advancing and changing all the time, so companies value graduates who have up-to-date skill sets in these areas.
What A-Levels do you need?
It varies from place to place. The University of Southampton ask for three As (including Maths at grade A) for their
Computer Science BSc, while the University of Dundee’s Computer Science BSc requires three Bs (two of which should be science subjects). You won’t normally be required to have studied computer science at A-level, though.
What are your study options?
You’ll have plenty of different degrees to choose between – from the likes of forensic computing to robotics. Most degrees will be the standard three years in length, but plenty will also offer the chance to do a sandwich year (meaning your degree will be a total of four years, and you’ll spend your third year working on a full-time placement). Taking a sandwich year can be a great way of gaining some valuable experience, which will help you find a job after you’ve graduated.
Degrees in computing and IT usually involve a mixture of practical and theoretical teaching (and assessment), so you should get a good blend of lab-time and lecture-time.
Why study Computing & IT?
Computing is an exciting and fast-moving field of study, which will allow you to combine your skills of problem-solving, analysis and creative thinking to come up with solutions for various technological hurdles.
The great thing about computing is that it’s constantly advancing and changing as new technology appears on the scene – if you want to be at the forefront of developing and operating this technology, then a degree in the likes of computing could be ideal for you.
As you may have heard, there’s also fairly decent money in the IT sector (and excellent job opportunities), so you should have a good chance of finding work after you’ve finished studying.
In this video, staff and students from
Staffordshire University explain how a degree in computing can connect you to a range of careers, including games programming and cyber security. For more information on the computing degrees the university offers, head to their website.
After your degree...
Think about it – how many companies are there nowadays that don’t use computers, or at least some form of technology? That’s right, pretty much zilch.
This means there will be very few organisations out there that won’t value your skills, and that’s before you even start thinking about the likes of Apple, IBM, and Google (to name but a few), who are always on the look-out for bright computing grads (and who will be recruiting a fresh intake each year). Top graduate employers like Deloitte and KPMG will also look favourably on the transferable skills you’ve gained through your degree, which means you don’t necessarily even have to go into computing – any role that values analysis and problem-solving will be well suited to your skill set.
Alternatively, if you want to change your career path you can always consider doing a postgraduate course after your degree, which will allow you to re-train in another subject like teaching or law.
Q & A with a Computer Science student
Warren Dewhurst is a third year BSc Computing Science student at the University of East Anglia...
Why did you choose to study Computing Science at UEA?
I chose to study Computing Science at UEA because I had heard good things, not only about the subject but about UEA as a whole. UEA is only a 90 minute drive from my parents but this has turned out to be a convenience more than anything. I never thought I’d have to move far from home to get the full independent university experience, and it turns out I was right.
What’s been the most enjoyable aspect of your course so far?
The most enjoyable aspect of my course so far has been the variety in the modules I have been able to take. Since the start of my degree, my modules have ranged from mathematics, programming in Java and C++, and the history of computing, to speech recognition, software engineering, and creating 3D graphics. Each year gives you the opportunity to tailor the course to your interests and allows you to explore new areas you may never have considered.
What’s been the least?
The least enjoyable aspect has been the workload. University isn't easy; you don't have people guiding you through every step of the way. Most of the responsibility rests on your shoulders to make sure you keep up and get things done on time. Even so, there are people who will support you if you need it. Everyone wants you to succeed and will try help you do so as long as you put in the effort.
What are you hoping to do after you graduate?
Once I've graduated, I hope find my way into a web design company. This is an area I would love to work in as it allows me to use the knowledge gained at university with the creative skills I enjoy putting into practice. Another area I hope to get into is game design. This seems to be a difficult area to get into, but graduating from university is a vital step in the right direction.
How well do you think your degree is preparing you for the future?
I think that my degree is preparing me fairly well for the future, as it has allowed me to explore several areas within the broad spectrum that is computing. I have a much better understanding of which areas I enjoy the most, and which I may not be suited for in a career. The level of work we are given has pushed me and made it clear that specialised jobs require hardworking, dedicated people. I think by the time I graduate, I will at least have some idea of what's in store for me in the future.
Q & A with a Computer Science lecturer
David Millard is a senior lecturer of computer science, based in the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton .
Why should students study a degree in computer science?
Because it enables you to be part of the most amazing changes to happen to human beings since the industrial revolution! In the past people thought that computers would just make things faster and more efficient, but what has been really exciting is how they have expanded what is possible: virtual worlds, artificial intelligence, crowd sourcing, augmented reality. Whatever aspect of life, work or play that you are interested in, there is a transformative role for digital technology, and computer science puts you at the heart of it. Who wouldn't want to be part of that?
What kind of skills will students learn on the course?
Different computer science courses will have different balances of theory and practice. The theoretical ones will emphasise the mathematical elements of computer science, and explore topics like logic and algorithm design, whereas the practical ones will focus more on the engineering aspects of how to design and build software. At Southampton we try to have a balanced programme, because we believe that the best way to understand the theory is to be able to do it in the real world. Our students work hand in hand with world-class academics, and in world-class facilities, applying what they have learnt. We think the best graduates are the ones that can both think and do!
What key modules can students expect to cover in their first year?
On the sort of balanced course we offer at Southampton you can expect to learn real skills, like programming, that you will develop throughout your degree. Our students arrive with different levels of knowledge in programming, and so we spend a lot of time supporting students who are new to it, while still providing new challenges to those who have prior experience. You will also learn some of the foundations of computer systems, things like architectures, how memory and processors work, and the principles of information theory. Finally, you also get to delve into the box of tricks that have been developed over the past fifty years, such as useful algorithms, information structures and interaction patterns. It is really setting the foundation for the rest of the degree.
What kind of careers do students typically go into after they graduate?
As you might expect there is a real need for programmers out there, and many of our Southampton graduates do go on to be designers and developers, working to build innovative software. But actually the career options are really diverse, ranging from technical specialists working in areas such as databases, networking, security or the web, to more customer facing roles, such as systems analysts, interface designers, and enterprise engineers. There are computer science careers in the financial sector, engineering firms, the service industry, technology research, entertainment and media, pretty much every aspect of society. To me this variety is what makes computer science such an exciting discipline; in the fullness of time most of our students will go on to have careers that do not exist yet, and our job is to give them the foundations in knowledge, skills and attitude to take on that challenge, and be the ones creating that future.
Top image via Sudhee