5 Unexpected Computer Science Careers
Computer science (CS) is an increasingly lucrative field as technology and machine learning such as ChatGPT become further embedded into our lives. If you’ll scroll through any major college admissions page, you’ll be able to see just how many students choose to enter this competitive field. Most are familiar with software and web development, data science, and machine learning, but here are 5 unconventional uses of computer science in the coming years.
1. Computational Media
Schools like Georgia Tech, Duke, and UC Santa Cruz offer Computational Media (CM) degrees that combine CS skills with the arts or humanities, including Drama, Music, Visual Art, Communications, and more. Such degrees enable graduates to pursue traditional CS careers with a more creative outlook or forge more entrepreneurial paths as freelance developers, animators, marketers, content creators, and musicians.
Computational media is an applied approach to computer science principles through the use of programming, algorithms, data science, and operating systems as artistic mediums. It includes concentration like animation, game design, graphic design, marketing, music technology, and storytelling. It opens diverse career avenues, combining creativity and analytical thinking. Even when used in traditional CS fields, CM exposes programmers to accessible practices and outside-the-box thinking that makes them invaluable hires in the tech world.
2. Data Journalism
Data journalism is the intersection of data science, journalism, and in many cases, social justice. Data journalists sift through enormous amounts of data to build stories, and use data visualization with the accessible language of journalism to tell stories about anything from culture to law to politics.
This field is particularly popular in Europe. Oxford College and the Amsterdam School of Computer Science offer Data Journalism programs; the Guardian even has a dedicated section for Data Journalism. Most recently, in March 2023, they covered a story on systemic bias in AI based on several datasets. In the States, Columbia also offers a highly selective masters’ degree in the field and Stanford integrates it directly into the Journalism graduate programs.
Data journalism combines all of the fun of data science and statistics with hard-hitting reporting of quality journalism.
3. Developer Relations
Developer Relations, or “DevRel” for short, aim to foster productive relationships between companies and software developers through marketing, advocacy, and community events that strengthen those bonds.
DevRel advocates act almost like influencers for various companies or developers. They handle networking by promoting or speaking at conferences and conventions, handling social media interactions, and content creation for a product or company. They often overlap with DevRel marketers, who plan and organize campaigns, events, and content, and DevRel community professionals, who moderate forums and interactive spaces, incentivize development progress, and set the tone of workplace interactions.
Developer Relations combine the hard skills and knowledge of computing and computational thinking with soft skills like problem-solving, collaboration, advertising, and sales. It is another intersection of the analytical left brain and creative right brain.
Ethical hackers, or white hat hackers, work in penetration testing for major corporations and government operations. This branch of cybersecurity allows programmers to attempt to break into secure systems and expose weaknesses that can be fixed to better secure user data, finances, analytics, etc. It is a common career path, especially for those with cybersecurity certifications rather than degrees, but it can also lead more socially conscious coders to the field of hacktivism.
Hacktivists (hacking activists) use ethical hacking skills and other knowledge of cybersecurity and operating systems to disrupt organizations with an opposing political agenda. This form of civil disobedience is not necessarily glamorous and very risky, but may be appealing to programmers with strong beliefs and desire for societal change.
This nontraditional approach to CS reconciles financially impractical activism and social justice with the stable career field of cybersecurity.
At the K-12 and post-secondary education levels, parents and administrators are heavily pushing for the teaching of computer science skills as a necessity for adult success, just as Math or English are considered now. For example, Georgia Tech in Atlanta requires an introductory computing class in its core curriculum. The growing importance of computer science therefore means we need people willing to teach it.
At the elementary and middle school levels, CS teachers expand “Days of Code” events into yearlong curricula on platforms like Khan Academy, Scratch, or Code.org. They expose younger children, even if only temporarily, to computational thinking instead of strict programming. This can include skills like problem-solving, logic, analysis and reason, and mathematical calculations. It often supplements existing core subjects. In high schools, AP Computer Science Principles (CSP), AP Computer Science A (CSA), and some Dual Enrollment or technical IT classes offer college and career skills in computer programming. CSP uses drag-and-drop programming and includes a performance task, while CSA delves into the Java Programming language.
In college, computer science professors get the opportunity to engage and train truly passionate students while also receiving research grants and funding to explore various disciplines for their institutions, the government, or a corporation. Teaching, especially at this level, may require a Master’s or PhD but is completely worth it to those who want to make a concrete impact with their love of computer science.
These are just a handful of hundreds of careers made possible by a CS degree, certification, or concentration. To get started, you can check out some of the CS sessions offered here at Schoolhouse.
As this field grows and develops, more possibilities are sure to come, but creativity and community impact are equally as important to some (including me) as scientific progress. Careers like these embody that push for total progress and the common good in CS.
Thank you to Hafsah M for editing this article!
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