Dear Certmag: Which Electives Would Best Complement a Degree in CS?

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Question:

I am in college pursuing a bachelor’s in computer science, with a focus on networking. I am deciding what to use my electives on, so I am looking for information about what the best IT jobs will be in four years. I’m thinking programming. What would you suggest?

-James

Answer 1:

“The phrase “best job” is a fuzzy term. What may constitute a best job for one person may not for another. Add to that the fact that new technology is always bursting on the scene, and that individual tastes change through the college experience, and it gets even fuzzier.
That said, I would suggest you go for programming as an elective. However, programming isn’t for everyone. Before you jump in and choose it, enroll in an introductory course and see if it’s something you enjoy.
Other electives that may pique your interest and be very useful to you would include:

  • Databases: All companies use management information systems in one form or another. The three biggest databases out there are from Oracle, Microsoft and IBM.
  • Project management (PM): As companies continue to cut expenses, it is essential that projects are completed on time and within budget. Knowledge of PM will assist you no matter what level you are on the team.
  • E-business: This elective ideally would cover the foundations of different e-business infrastructures, selling and marketing on the Web, Web server hardware and software, business-to-business strategies, virtual communities, Web portals, e-commerce software, payment systems, security and the user experience.
  • Financial accounting: IT managers and deputy IT managers must have control over spending; otherwise, they will find that halfway through the year, they don’t have enough money left in their budgets to carry them through. Working knowledge of financial accounting (including a grasp of current and projected spend) is essential for any IT manager.

Answer 2:

According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook, the fastest-growing occupations, and occupations projected to have the largest numerical increases in employment between 2006 and 2016 for those with a bachelor’s degree include computer software engineers, computer support specialists and computer systems analysts.
For those with bachelor’s degrees and relevant work experience, the BLS adds computer and information systems managers, medical and health services managers, and training and development specialists to this list.
Clearly, there are a number of pursuits within the IT field that are expected to see sustained growth over time. The question, then, is where does your interest lie; and what, if any, experience do you have?
Keep in mind that your education should be well-rounded. For example, a degree in computer science should include exposure to multiple programming languages, as well as a solid survey of business management and accounting classes. If you choose a more general information systems management route, you are faced with the challenge of taking enough broad computer classes to ensure you have relevant training and experience.
Also, take advantage of any work-study, internship, or other project or volunteer opportunities that come up during college. A bachelor’¢s degree is great, but today’s employers look for a solid work history and a mix of education and experience. And that’s one expectation that I can look into my crystal ball and divine will not change in the next four years.

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