Considering a Career in Computer Science? Choosing the Right Intro Class.

Recently, someone on Reddit asked which course they should take when considering a career in computer science (CS). Someone suggested programming which is not the starting point I’d recommend for CS.

If your goal is programming, I recommend looking at Computer Information Systems (CIS) or even a certificate. Depending on the college, CIS can take you on a more streamlined path for programming across several languages. It also requires lower levels of math so it might be a good option if that’s a big problem area for you.* These are just a few courses for the 2-year CIS degree at my college:

  • Cyber Security and Safety
  • C++ Language
  • Java Programming
  • Computer Operating Systems
  • Unix/Linux
  • Client-Server Networks
  • Computer Forensics
  • Data Communications
  • Enterprise Server Management I
  • Enterprise Server Management II
  • Network Systems Management

*Don’t let math scare you aware from CS. If that’s what your heart is set on, go for it. I wrote an article on math tips here.

Many people confuse CS with programming. They’re related, but not exactly the same.

Computer science is theoretical, taking a scientific and mathematical approach to information and its computation. Computer programming is practical, it is the process of designing, writing, testing, debugging, and maintaining the source code of computer programs.

I’ll go into different computer careers at a later date. For now, just know that you don’t need a CS degree to program. It’s an option, but not necessary or even the most optimal choice.


If you’re considering a career in CS or simply wanting to test the waters, I recommend a basic intro course–no bells or whistles. Take a course that discusses education and career paths and touches on CS concepts. Most people will know whether it’s for them after one course. (I knew it was for me when I couldn’t stop talking about binary conversions and the fascinating world of search engines.)

Why I Advise Not Starting with Programming

A CS intro course boosts logic skills. Those skills will make you a better programmer, if you go that route in the future.

You won’t get the full CS picture. It’s important to understand what CS is all about. You might not get into those concepts or discuss computer careers outside an intro course.

This is the description of my first computer science course:

Explores the disciplines and professions of Computer Science and Software Engineering. Surveys computer hardware and software architecture, the study of algorithms, software design and development, data representation and organization, problem-solving strategies, ethics in the digital world, and the history of computing and its influences on society. Explores career options and begins the process of planning a program of study. Exposes students to both low-level and high-level programming languages.

Next time I visit this topic, I’ll get into the specifics of what we covered in that course. And it was a fun course! (For me at least)


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