Why a Computer Science Degree Isn’t Enough

by Dakota Larson

During my time as a university student, one of the biggest pieces of advice that I received was that I needed to get an internship my junior or senior year. Initially I was very surprised to hear this. I felt like I was learning a ton of information all the time, so I didn’t understand why this was so important. Then, as time went on, I matured more academically and I could see how I was missing a lot of the important details.

I recall specifically when I was enrolled in a class that was supposed to teach you everything about PHP, a scripting language that a lot of web applications use on the backend. I signed up for the class in the fall, and took it that following spring, however, I didn’t have a lot of website development experience, so I was a little concerned about how I would fare in the class.

Therefore, in the weeks before the class started, I taught myself the basics of website development. I learned HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and “a little” PHP. The following semester, what I thought was just a little PHP ended up being what the entire class focused on. Entire weeks were devoted to learning the different parts of the language such as conditionals, loops, and integration into HTML. This was my first experience understanding how education in the classroom just can’t move fast enough to cover a sizable amount of information on any topic on Computer Science.

As a result, I didn’t have a need to go to class. Normally, in a college student’s eyes, this is fantastic, but by me not going to class, it showed that I wasn’t learning at the speed that I wanted to. Additionally, I found that there was a ton of information that was missing from the class. There was no discussion of all the different frameworks that are available with the language, a large reason why PHP is so popular. Additionally, there was also no information about security, and how programmers need to write code that can’t be tampered with.

Additionally, computer science students also must take a lot of classes that are of little help in the industry. Learning about the intricacies of programming languages, or about the architecture of computers is very interesting, but not something that is going to have immediate benefits when I am working. I recall in my “Programming Languages” class that I had to memorize a general description for around 30 different programming languages. Not only is this completely ridiculous, the primary language that I am using now (Apex) wasn’t even on the list. So, the amount of education I received that I will put in action is very small.

Finally, college students are very busy. In between classes, homework, studying, work, and sleeping, it is hard to find downtime, let alone time where you want to learn something new. This is just a fact of life, but it is another reason why you need an internship, and one where you are getting that hands-on experience.

With the information that I gained from my classes, I found that if I just jumped into a job right after college, neither I, nor my employer would have a pleasant experience. I just didn’t know enough yet. So, I pursued an internship, and it has been a fantastic decision. I have gained a perspective into what it really is like working 9:00 to 5:00 as a programmer, which is invaluable information for someone passionate about programming. It has allowed me to become more confident in this profession, and allowed me to have a better understanding about what I do and don’t know. So, if you are considering whether you need an internship and you are in a computer related field, the answer is … YES!

-Dakota Larson

Sundog Software Engineering Intern