Computer Science Career Myths

  1. A career in IT means sitting in front of a computer all day alone.
  2. There are no jobs in the field.
  3. Computing is not for women.
  4. The field is too difficult for the average person.
  5. There is no creativity involved in computer science.
  6. Computer science is a very narrow field.
  7. Most jobs in computing are moving overseas.
  8. Computing professionals are not likely to help people.
  9. Computer science is the study of computers.
  10. Computing is for geeks.

1. A career in IT means sitting in front of a computer all day alone.

The reality is that there are very few such solitary positions. Computer science involves problem solving, and problem solving involves interaction with others: clients, managers, colleagues, and support personnel. The field contains all kinds of specialization, areas to match many personality types, from the outgoing information management, customer service and support personnel to scientific database and system programming to support staff and operations management. All of these areas require some degree of interaction with others, and communication skills are important. A good resume can land a computer science graduate a particular job, but it is her communication skills that will determine how far she advances in her career.

Beaubouef, T., & McDowell, P. (2008). Computer Science: Student Myths and Misconceptions. Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges, 23(6), 43-48.

2. There are no jobs in the field.

"Over the next five years, Canadian businesses will have to fill no less than 90,000 new IT positions," said Stephen Ibaraki, vice-president, Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) and association of IT professionals in Toronto.

"However, Canadian colleges and universities will not produce the required number of qualified candidates for these positions."

Arellano, N. E. (2007). Canadian IT industry needs image makeover, say analysts, itWorld.com (24 Jan 2007).

3. Computing is not for women.

The first all-electronic, digital computer, the ENIAC, was programmed by six women. Grace Hopper, a woman, invented the first programming language.

Sanders, of the Center for Women and Information Technology, believes it's all about diversity of thought and how diversity leads to a better product. "Anything created by a homogeneous group isn't as robust," she explains.

From, Where are the Women in Tech?., by Eve Tahmincioglu, MSNBC.com careers contributor, February 29, 2008.

4. The field is too difficult for the average person.

The reality is that computer science involves a great deal of math [2], and students must be disciplined enough to work at learning required math skills. Some of these skills involves general problem solving skills, and many students do not have enough experience in this area [3]. Like any skill, however, there are ways to learn new techniques and to gain practice in this area if the student remains interested and diligently tries to master problem solving.

Beaubouef, T., & McDowell, P. (2008). Computer Science: Student Myths and Misconceptions. Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges, 23(6), 43-48.

5. There is no creativity involved in computer science.

Creating high-quality computing solutions is a highly creative activity, and computing supports creative work in many other fields. The best solutions in computing exhibit high levels of elegance and beauty.

Software development is also a highly creative activity. There is very little that is mechanical about software development, if there were, those aspects of the discipline would have been automated years ago. Putting together a software system means thinking creatively about the design, finding clever solutions to problems, exploiting the best engineering practices, and maintaining a high-level vision of how all the parts fit together.

Top 10 Reasons to Major in Computing in the ACM Computing Degrees & Careers brochure, and Frequently Asked Questions on the ACM Computing Degrees & Careers web site.

6. Computer Science is a very narrow field.

IT workers are being snapped up not only by software and hardware companies, but also by financial firms, ad agencies, food and drug makers, manufacturers and even the fashion industry.

Computing is an essential tool for discovery and advancement in virtually every field of science. And as we move forward, computing holds the key to progress in almost every human endeavour.

"IT talent shortage hurting most Canadian companies", by Nestor Arellano, columnist for itbusiness.ca, Sept. 23, 2008, and
Rashid, R. (2008). Inspiring a New Generation of Computer Scientists. Communications of the ACM, 51(7), 33-34.

7. Most jobs in computing are moving overseas.

This myth appears to be entirely without foundation. Because of the enormous demand for people with strong information technology and computing skills, the opportunities for software engineers and other information technology professionals are expanding in Asia, just as they are everywhere else. The available evidence shows that even though some jobs are being moved offshore, the number of new computing jobs created in the United States is substantially higher. A recent report by the Association for Computing Machinery offers extensive background data and analysis of the effect of offshoring in the software industry. In a March 1, 2006 editorial, the New York Times observed that the real threat to the U.S. computing industry is not offshoring but the fact that so few students are getting the necessary training in the field: "The industry isn't gone, but it will be if we don't start generating the necessary dynamic work force".

From Frequently Asked Questions on the ACM Computing Degrees & Careers web site at http://computingcareers.acm.org/?page_id=5.

8. Computing professionals are not likely to help people.

Computing drives innovation in the sciences (human genome project, AIDS vaccine research, environmental monitoring and protection just to mention a few), and also in engineering, business, entertainment and education. If you want to make a positive difference in the world, study computing.

From, Top 10 Reasons to Major in Computing. on the ACM Computing Degrees & Careers web site at http://computingcareers.acm.org/?page_id=4.

9. Computer science is the study of computers.

"Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes, biology is about microscopes, or chemistry is about beakers and test tubes. Science is not about tools. It is about how we use them, and what we find out when we do."

From M. R. Fellows and I. Parberry, "Getting Children Excited About Computer Science," Computing Research News 5, no. 1 (January 1993).

10. Computing is for geeks.

It used to be that geek was a derogatory reference to a person obsessed with intellectual pursuits for their own sake, who is also deficient in most other human attributes so as to impair the person's smooth operation within society. This is no longer true.

Computing professionals today are athletes, medical professionals, game developers, business analysts, information security designers, and excellent communicators. Computing professionals work and play in all walks of life, and are valued members of society. Ask Warren MacKenzie, a 1976 graduate of UNB Computer Science who now owns his own consulting company and has established a non-for-profit cancer research organization.