Recent Survey Predicts Whether You Would Do Well in Computer Science

Posted By Terri Williams on November 26, 2015 at 2:17 pm
Recent Survey Predicts Whether You Would Do Well in Computer Science

Computer science is currently one of the most in-demand fields, and it’s still on the rise. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 15% growth for the profession by 2022 (higher than average), and computer scientists make an average of more than $100,000, making it a desirable career path for recent graduates, too.

However, computer science is also a competitive field, and some people are more likely to succeed in the profession than others. A recent survey by Code School polled 2,200 coders and software developers, and the results reveal several interesting facts about who is likely to succeed, and what traits might predict that success:

Men Women
Interest Over half interested were in computers at age 15 or younger 2/3 were interested in computers at age 16 or older
High school grades Over 2/3 had a 3.6 GPA or higher 81% had a 3.6 GPA or higher
Procrastination 41% wait until the last minute to complete assignments Less likely to procrastinate
Top childhood hobby 83% computers, 61% sports, and 59% music 63% music, 52% computers (25% were in a band and 20% were in a choir/theatre)
College 42% have a bachelor’s, 27% have a graduate degree, and 14% started and stopped college 51% have a bachelor’s, 30% have a graduate degree, and 7% started and stopped college
Wages 25% earn $100K or more, while 20% earn less than $25K 32% earn between $50K-$100K, while 17% earn more than $100K


One of the most fascinating aspects of the survey is that coders and developers with lower high school GPAs tend to earn more money than those with higher GPAs:

  • 62% of those with a 2.9 GPA or lower in high school earn more than $100K
  • 41% of those with a 3.6 GPA or higher in high school earn more than $100K

The survey provides a lot of interesting information, but what does it all mean – especially for students who may be considering a computer science degree/career?

Interest in computers vs. computer science

Male/female exposure and attachment to computers while growing up does not necessarily translate to success in computer science, according to Mark Stehlik, Assistant Dean for Outreach and Teaching Professor at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science. In addition, Stehlik says, “The landscape changes so quickly, and kids of both genders now have and use smartphones, so exposure to the technology will likely be more uniform than a generation or two ago.”

However, he says using computational devices and studying computer science are very different things. “Computer Science, at a high level, is the study of what can be computed and, then, how best to implement the computation. It requires mathematical ability, logical thinking, puzzle solving, creativity, and engineering skill.” And as more kids gain exposure to computational devices, Stehlik says there should also be a focus on exposing them to the attributes of the discipline as early as possible.

Although most students have computers that they hold in their hands, Stehlik says they don’t know what’s inside of their phones or tables. He says they also use apps on a regular basis, but have no idea how they work.

The music connection

Dr. Linda Ott, a professor in the department of computer science at Michigan Technological University, tells GoodCall that she does not understand the connection between music and computer science. However, she says, “Over the years, I’ve observed a strong interest in music among computing students. A high percentage of the high school women who apply to our Women in Computer Science summer workshop are involved in music, and many are very accomplished musicians.” Ott says that campus musical groups will frequently have a disproportionately high number of computing majors as compared to other majors.

Technology companies can make more of an effort to aid or sponsor programs that may not be related to technology, according to Nick Roberts of Code School. “Since our survey showed young girls expressed interest in music and the arts before their interest in programming, I think more outreach and support for not only STEM, but also arts programs (STEAM), would have a long term positive impact on the number of young people who ultimately make their way into STEM fields.”

The importance of early education

Experts agree that introduction to computer science at an early age can help stimulate interest. According to Stehlik, “As traditional fields – biology, physics, business, et cetera – become more and more computational, we need to show students the importance of computation as a cross-cutting discipline, as much as writing was – and still is.”

To accomplish this, Stehlik says, “We need innovative curricular modules that introduce computation into the K-12 classroom, we need to expose more students to the logical thinking and puzzle solving aspects of computer science in the K-8 space, we need to create courses around easy-to-program languages to show students how they can create and control computation, and we need to count computer science courses in the 9-12 space for mandatory graduation requirements/credit.”  He acknowledges that progress is being made on all of these fronts, but says we still have a ways to go.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Ott, who says that girls often develop an interest in computer science when they are introduced to it in an educational setting. “I have heard numerous stories from young women who were surprised to discover how much they enjoyed coding.” Ott says that sometimes this occurred in a required computing course, but since most K-12 students are not required to take a computer science course, it usually occurs in an informal educational setting, such as a summer math or science camp, or an after school program.

As a result, Ott is a strong advocate of including computer science education at the pre-college level.  “If, as a society, we really do believe that computing is a vital STEM field – and among other data, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job growth statistics justify this belief – it makes no sense for the vast majority of high school students to graduate without any exposure to computer science education.”

Exposing all students to computer science education would have many benefits, according to Ott. “They would have a better understanding of the technology that is behind every facet of modern life and would develop better problem-solving skills.” And Ott says that each student would have the opportunity to discover if they enjoy the discipline.  In addition, as a computer science professor, she can attest to the fact that students who choose to pursue a degree in this discipline would bring vastly more experience to their college-level computer science classes.

“Many young women find it difficult to persist in their computing studies because they feel they are not as prepared as their male classmates.  I suspect this perception of being less prepared is also why more women complete their formal education before joining the workforce.”  The education gives them credentials, since they lack the years of experience that the males have.

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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