By:  STEM Contributor
May 29th, 2018

What is computer science?

Understanding: What is computer science?

What is computer science to begin with? Computer science deals with computers; making them, fixing them, programming them – you name it! Computer science is becoming such a vital skill to have in so many industries, so it’s about time you familiarise yourself with computer science. In this guide to what is computer science, we’ll cover; who can study computer science, the skills you need to be a computer scientist, and the job prospects of computer science.

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What is computer science?

Have you ever wondered how Google predicts your search query before you’ve finished typing it? Or how Google Maps finds the best route to your destination, and adapts it to the traffic conditions? Computer science is becoming more crucial to both science and our daily lives.


Computer science is a general term that covers:

Machine learning and algorithms. Things like the virtual assistant on your phone, or predictive text.

Coding. Coding is like speaking a computer’s language. It’s used in anything from designing websites, to programming robotics, or even gaming!

Anything to do with computers. Computer programmers deal with languages that speak to the computers, while engineers deal with creating the hardware.


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Who can study computer science?

Computer scientists break problems down into manageable pieces. They use systematic problem-solving techniques to find amazing solutions. They can take a puzzle and write an algorithm that doesn’t just solve it, but does so in the fastest, most efficient and most elegant way. They are smart, practical people who use technology to solve big problems.

So who can become a computer scientist? How can we recognise the kinds of people who will be good at these sorts of challenges? Are they people who have been programming forever, and spend their lives in darkened rooms sitting in front of glowing screens? Far from it!


Consider becoming a computer scientist:

If you love to problem-solve. Coding is like a puzzle waiting to be solved. It’s easy enough to learn and there are plenty of gamified tools that teach you to code like it’s a game!

If you’re skilled with language. Computer programming is like learning another language, except this one is written in symbols and can’t be spoken!

If you want a ground-breaking career. Coding can be used in anything from Defence, to gaming, to medicine – just about anywhere! You’re not restricted to working only with computers. You could be making a big difference in the world by being at the forefront of technology!


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What skills are needed for computer science?

Computer scientists need to be able to think logically, but many people who start computer science at university have no programming experience. In fact, most Australian CS degrees have only one entry requirement, apart from your tertiary entrance score – maths.

While programming experience is not necessary for you to make a start in CS at university, the important thing is to have a wide range of skills to solve a wide range of problems as computer scientists do. As computer scientists, we need to be able to communicate with people in all different fields so we can understand the problems they need us to solve.


Computer scientists need to be good with:

Maths and mathematical thinking. If you’re maths-averse, the good news is that computer science reframes maths in a whole new light. You’ll be applying maths to solve interesting and complex issues – nothing like what you’ve seen in the classroom!

Communication. It’s not enough to be an excellent coder – you’ll need to communicate your efforts to people who may not be as tech-savvy as you, such as clients or customers.

No coding experience necessary. As coding is only starting to gain popularity, most computer science degrees don’t require prior knowledge. It’s easy to learn, so why not give it a go?


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What kind of career does computer science offer?

Combining computer science with another area that interests you is one of the most useful and interesting things you can do. You can do CS in double degrees with almost every other area of study, including music, commerce, law, education, design, engineering and biology.

Understanding another area of research will help you apply computer science effectively to solve the problems in that field. For example, you’ll be able to build systems to find patterns in music, recognise relevant cases in law databases, simulate the impact of a mutated flu virus, or control a self-driving car.


Computer science offers careers in:

Tech. This one’s obvious, but not to be forgotten. Work in software, building websites, building virtual gaming worlds, creating cybersecurity programs etc. There are so many possibilities!

Biology. Replicate the factors of the human body through code to examine the trajectory of viruses, or disease.

Defence. Create cybersecurity software, or program drones as part of the Defence force.

Design. Use code to create artworks, like animation or design software that tailors clothing to the user from the pattern-making stage.

Just about anywhere!


At uni, I did a science degree, intending to study genetics. Computer science was a fill-in subject, but I found myself doing more and more CS until it was all I was studying. Before I knew it, I’d become a computer scientist!

I was hooked! If you like a challenge, love to solve problems, think logically and want to change the world, computer science is the way to go.

– Linda McIver

Linda McIver What is computer science?

“I found myself doing more and more CS until it was all I was studying. I was hooked!”

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Author: STEM Contributor

This article was written by a STEM Contributor for Careers with STEM. To learn more, please visit our contact page.

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