When you think of computer science, maybe you picture people hunched over their computers, squinting their eyes at hundreds of lines of tedious code and complex algorithms. You’ve heard that it’s challenging and rigorous, and you’re worried that you don’t have what it takes to make it through all of the courses on programming languages and data structures.
But you can’t get over your fascination with technology—wanting to know how computers and networks work. You are excited at the thought of creating the newest software or application that could be used by millions of people or using technology to solve a business problem.
But while computer science may seem challenging to some, others are naturally inclined to achieve success in the field. We analyzed more than 820,000 computer science job postings from the past year to identify the most desired soft skills for these positions.* Keep reading to hear from the pros about why these computer science skills are so important.
You should consider working in computer science if …
1. You’re an expert communicator
Do you enjoy telling stories to your group of friends? Do you find yourself constantly holding conversations with complete strangers? Communication skills are the top soft skill employers are seeking in computer science candidates. This may be surprising, but jobs in this field aren’t as solitary as they seem.
Programmers, IT specialists and other tech professionals are constantly communicating between teams, clients and companies. Both oral and written communication are essential to helping understand how to employ programs, assisting clients with software and documenting instructions.
“I had to learn to focus on not just doing the software engineering, but also writing technical comments so that other programmers can easily use my code,” says Alex Gendinik, Software Engineer and Founder of Problemio.
2. You always have a plan
From turning in assignments on time to always remembering to buy a gift for your mom’s birthday, you always have a plan to get things done punctually. Being able to manage time and projects is another crucial computer science skill. Regardless of the position you hold, you can bet you’ll be working to meet strict deadlines and collaborating with others’ schedules.
“A goal is just a dream unless you’ve got a plan you’re following to reach it,” says Sean Vogt, Director of Operations at Greenview Data. “You’ll need a map to reach your goal.” Vogt adds that being proactive and creating plans helps solve (and avoid) problems.
3. You’re a problem-solving whiz
This may be the most obvious skill on the list, but computer scientists must possess superb problem-solving skills. Some of this can be taught in school, but it helps to have an innate sense of logic and strategy. So if you love filling your free time with puzzles, strategy games or Sudoku, computer science could be the challenge you need to further exercise your problem-solving abilities.
“Problem-solving is simply part of the job description,” Vogt says. “Whether you’re front-line customer support trying to figure out exactly how to produce the issue that the customer is facing or a back-end developer troubleshooting your own code, you will run into problems. That’s the fun of it.”
4. You love collaborating with others
Collaboration goes hand-in-hand with communication skills and is the ability to work effectively in teams. While some computer science work may involve solo projects, most of the work you will do in the technology field involves working with a team at some level.
“Programmers who are able to work as a member of a team with other non-programmers is a huge advantage and provides great value to a company,” Josh Nolan of Bold Array LLC says. “Successful applications are built by a team … and the success of the product is driven by the ability to communicate and collaborate with others in a meaningful manner.”
“This skill is not only important for working within your immediate team, but also across different departments and even different companies,” Vogt adds. He believes your ability to collaborate with groups whose culture and priorities are different than your own will serve you well in the field.
5. You have a keen eye for detail
Do you find yourself double-checking your work before finishing it? Do you pay attention to the smaller details of life and remember them? A detail-oriented person takes note of minute facts and ensures that every requirement is met. This is a desirable trait in the computer science field, particularly for programmers.
Detail-orientation is an essential trait of many successful computer programmers, as noted by David Dodge, CEO of CodaKid, in a blog post. “Programming languages can be unforgiving, and even in simple programs many small details must be analyzed, digested and executed,” he wrote.
Due to the intensive, and sometimes tedious, coding tasks these professionals are faced with, those who possess the ability to pay attention to detail could thrive in computer science.
6. Creativity is second nature to you
You may not associate this with tech careers, but surprisingly, computer science pushes the bounds of creativity. From designing interfaces to inventing applications, those in the tech field are constantly using their imaginations to think of innovative ways to solve problems.
“Whether it’s a new way of onboarding a customer that solves a problem you bump into every time or writing a script that automates something you've had to do by hand a hundred times, there's a level of creativity and satisfaction in it that is unlike any other job I've run into,” Vogt says.
So if you possess a healthy balance of creativity, curiosity and practicality, the computer science field may be the perfect fit for you.
Do you have what it takes?
It’s clear that computer science is more than just crunching numbers or tapping away at a keyboard. “Today, creating applications and programs is becoming more focused on user experience, ease of use, integration and other non-technical features,” Nolan says. “This is where [these] soft skills come into play.”
If you can relate to a handful of these computer science skills, you might be naturally inclined to work in the field. All that’s missing is the practical knowledge and technical know-how that comes from a formal education.
If you’re curious about the types of careers this type of training could lead to, check out our article, What Can You Do With a Computer Science Degree?
*Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 820,474 computer science jobs, December 16, 2015 – December 12, 2016).