Breaking Myths about Computer Science

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By Henry, Computer Science
College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Birmingham

This blog is about breaking down the myths that are passed around with regards to Computer Science and the experience of studying CS at university. Just as university isn’t all about work, nor is it all about sleeping till midday (sorry to disappoint), Computer Science isn’t like the clichés that you may have heard.

The first myth, perhaps unsurprisingly, is that to study Computer Science at university you need to have studied the subject before, or be able to read/write any number of programming languages. The path to university normally consists of A-Levels or equal qualifications, and Computer Science A Level is still in its infancy, with some schools not offering it, and other departments not being as strong as other ‘safer’ subjects. This means that your first experience of formal Computer Science education can be, and often is, at university. First-year is designed to bring everyone up to speed and plant the seeds of the more advanced topics, so there’s nothing to worry about, as long as you have the passion – it’s not too late.

The second most common stereotype is that all computer scientists fit a stereotype. All STEM fields have been pushing to make their subjects more accessible for any groups who have been underrepresented, and as such, female students have recently outnumbered male students with a 53:47 split in STEM A Levels. This is just one example, both of how quickly things change in our field, and in the efforts being undertaken to eliminate any remaining stereotypes.

On a related note, not all work is done in a basement and we aren’t allergic to sunlight! Socialising is not only encouraged but actually necessary. Almost all work done in industry needs a whole team and multiple departments, who all need to communicate effectively to reach their combined end goal. This is why the society pub socials & LAN parties are so necessary – honest!

Computer Science has developed a reputation for being ‘hard’. There are many explanations for where this attitude comes from (foreign syntax of programming languages, very little understanding of CS from school etc), but the fact is that any subject being studied at university will be challenging. If you have a passion for the area and put consistent work in, there’s nothing to worry about. There is brilliant support, both academically and generally (if you’re struggling with anything at all), and Birmingham has one of the highest rates of student satisfaction. Not only is Computer Science a brilliant subject choice, but Birmingham is also a solid choice of CS school.

Computer Science isn’t just about programming, or maths, or the internet, or games. It’s a broad subject area with any number of specialities and quirky topics, from physical robotics bordering on Electrical Engineering, to theoretical AI decisions bordering on Philosophy.

Computer Science at university is about your passion, and that’s one true cliché!