Computer science degrees come with a common misconception, which often discourages students from pursuing a degree: They'll turn you into an isolated code cruncher. That's not really the case. GraduatingComputer science graduates qualify for a wide range of positions and careers. However, to ensure you have the right mix of skills and hands-on experience to get one, do your homework and decide on a career path before selecting a technical specialty or program. What tips for success can you give to those seeking a degree in computer science? Let us know in the comments below. “The gap between the classroom and the workplace has been a problem,” acknowledges Dr. H.E. Dunsmore, associate professor of Computer Science and chair of the College of Science Undergraduate Education Policy and Curriculum Committee at Purdue University. Purdue’s Computer Science department has taken steps to make more students aware of the versatility of CS degrees. His undergraduates have the opportunity to explore various careers and select an educational track that suits their preferences. “Computer science majors take a course during their freshman year that explains the various career options and what they’ll actually do all day,” explains Dunsmore. “They also have the opportunity to mix with our corporate partners, hear about different job opportunities and then select from a broad array of educational tracks in everything from graphics to security, which may require less math or programming.” If you're interested in CS, consider these five things:

  1. Know Yourself: Do you like working solo or on a team? Do you want to work with cutting-edge technology or support a business unit in a private sector company? The reality is you can be a DBA, business analyst, software engineer, researcher or computer systems analyst. However, you need to choose a career and curriculum that leverages your academic strengths. Currently, less than 40 percent of U.S. undergradscomplete science, technology, engineering and math programs and graduate with a degree.“If you want to pursue a career in software engineering, then you'll have to complete rigorous coursework in math and programming,” says Dr. Larry Davis, professor at the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies and chair of the Computer Science Department at the University of Maryland.
  2. Select a Sustainable Career: Employment in all computer occupations is expected to increase by 22 percent through 2020, but some IT fields will fare better than others, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics biennial update of employment projections. Tech support and programming are still being sent offshore, so select carefully. “Don’t wait until you’re a junior or senior to attend campus job fairs,” suggests Davis. “Go when you’re a freshman so you can meet employers and hear about their future openings.
  3. Acquire Marketable Skills: It might be better to major in Business Administration and minor in Computer Science if you want to work in the private sector because the cloud is transforming IT and creating hybrid roles across the enterprise, according to Gartner. Most computer science students spend time building their own applications and systems but businesses don't necessarily need that type of expertise. Hot skills include systems integration, business intelligence, cloud computing SQL, .Net, C, mobile languages and Java.
  4. Get Hands-On Experience: You can’t learn teamwork or business fundamentals by reading a text book. Participate in student projects, volunteer work, campus committees and internships so you can acquire hands-on technical experience, business acumen, leadership and communication skills.
  5. Persevere: It takes most CS students six years to earn a degree since many initially drop out of math and programming classes, yet manage to succeed the second time around.