Is Computer Science the Same as Programming?

When deciding on a career path, you may ask if programming and computer science are the same subjects. Actually, programming is just one small topic covered by a computer science degree, and it’s one of the least emphasized in many colleges. Computer science is closely related to discrete mathematics and formal linguistic theory. Whether you choose a business, science, or software design path, you’ll gain deep insight into algorithm analysis, quantitative problem solving, and modern computer architecture.

Of course, computer science degrees include courses focused mainly on programming, but not many. During your senior year as a computer science major, you’ll complete your capstone, and if you take the software design track, you’ll take one or two software engineering courses that focus on efficient design concepts. You’re likely only to learn two or three programming languages throughout college.

How to Gain Programming Experience During College

By the end of your degree, you should be very confident in programming in C++ and similar languages, such as Java. Some colleges also teach students how to code in Python, PHP, or JavaScript, but since the conceptual requirements of a computer science degree are so demanding, most colleges expect students to learn to program on their own time.

You don’t need a degree to find work doing small, freelance programming jobs, so you can gain experience by picking up jobs you feel qualified to complete. You can also download the source code of any open-source software and submit revisions you feel can benefit the project. If your work doesn’t quite meet the project’s standards, your revisions will be reverted by the project administrator.

While studying computer architecture, you will probably learn assembly programming, which is a language designed to send system calls directly to the underlying hardware. Assembly language is very different from high-level languages such as C++, Java, and Python, and most programming jobs don’t require a high degree of proficiency in assembly. However, if you thoroughly understand computer architecture and how compilers convert high-level code into machine code, you will not only be an excellent programmer but you’ll also have a pretty good grasp of assembly programming.

Types of Jobs Available for Computer Science Graduates

Depending on the degree track you choose, you can find work in a number of different areas.  Programmers and software developers make up just a small portion of computer science graduates. Typically, to become a developer, you should choose the software design track. You can find employment in data analysis, network administration, and management information systems by following the business track. To continue your education after your bachelor’s degree, choose the science track.

Researchers, analysts, and administrators don’t do as much programming as application developers, although they do write code and need to be proficient in different areas. As a researcher, you will probably spend more time reading and writing about programming than actual programming. As a computer systems analyst, you will use your knowledge of efficient design to help businesses organize their equipment as productively as possible.

While there are many different types of jobs available for computer science graduates, the popularity of a computer science degree means competition for these jobs can be high. Becoming as proficient as possible in programming and computer science will help you stand out from other job applicants.