Computer Science: Realistic Career Goals

Sun, Dec 6th, 2015

Making realistic career goals begins before college graduation. It is at this time in one's life, especially a young person's life, that there is the greatest amount of opportunity and potential in the job market. Before graduating one should make a list of short term and long term goals. Doing so will help prevent you from making a career choice where you are simply a cog in a company's revenue engine. A goal list will instead keep you focused and on the meaningful and rewarding things you have chosen to do with your life. As a computer science student a short term goal may be to secure a summer job or internship at a tech company that interests you. Another example may simply be to finish a programming project successfully so that you may showcase it on your resume. Student long term goals may be to secure a software developer position at your favorite tech company after graduation. Or a more ambitious goal may be to secure a project manager position. Your list of goals is a dynamic list that should be re-visited and updated at regular intervals, perhaps monthly. Keep this list with you on your smart-phone, laptop, or in cloud storage so that you may access it anywhere. Frequently reviewing your career goal list will keep you better focused and on track.

One goal students and professionals alike should consider is supplementing what you are learning in college or at work with another somewhat related technology or skill. According to Sagen, H. B., Dallam, J. W., & Laverty, J. R (2000) , "Employers appear to screen graduates with desired basic characteristics, either specialized preparation and/or high ability and past achievement (GPA). Within this candidate pool, employers then somewhat favor those with desired supplementary qualifications" (p.763). Make one of your hobbies this supplementary skill. As an example, one of my hobbies is programming microcontrollers and building small electronic projects with them. My hobby of electronics and embedded computing supplements what I have learned as a computer scientist and is likely to be seen as a valuable skill set to future employers.

A computer scientist qualifies for a broad range of positions in the job market. With so many choices it may be difficult to choose realistic career goals. Choosing a career goal that is not a good fit or not realistic can be self-damaging. A lot of time and energy may be spent pursuing a goal that is ultimately not achievable or you suddenly find you dislike once achieved. If you're not sure what specific career area you should pursue, give an internship a try at a place that has sparked your interest. As stated by Thiry, H., Laursen, S. L., & Hunter, A.-B (2011), "Students noted that internships helped them to discern what type of work environment might fit their talents, interests, and lifestyle choices" (p. 377). If the first internship wasn't a good fit, try another. Eventually, you will find a perfect fit. The ultimate goal is to work doing something you love so that it does not feel like work and to not waist your precious time and energy reaching the goal. Life is too short to spend years working in a career you dislike and only tolerate because you need the pay check.

The key to a successful career is making realistic goals that challenge you and are rewarding once achieved. The sense of accomplishment after achieving a goal should be high and motivate you to strive for further greatness. If it doesn't then perhaps you set the bar too low and you need to challenge yourself more. Remember, those things in life that are worth doing, are worth doing right. This applies to making career decisions. Remember to re-visit your goal list often and make adjustments if needed. Doing so will keep you on track and on the path to a rewarding career.

Thiry, H., Laursen, S. L., & Hunter, A.-B.. (2011). What Experiences Help Students Become Scientists? A Comparative Study of Research and Other Sources of Personal and Professional Gains for STEM Undergraduates. The Journal of Higher Education, 82(4), 357-388. Retrieved from

Sagen, H. B., Dallam, J. W., & Laverty, J. R.. (2000). Effects of Career Preparation Experiences on the Initial Employment Success of College Graduates. Research in Higher Education, 41(6), 753-767. Retrieved from

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