There are roughly
three jobs for every
qualified applicant in the
• Computer Networking—This (along
with support) is the creation and maintenance of data infrastructure. It accounts
for 21% of the careers in computing.
These are the people who actually write
code. Sometimes they are writing programs for consumers; more often they
are customizing software for a specific
business or industry. Generally a four-year degree in computer science is preferred, although it is possible to get into
the field without such credentials. Software engineering and programming are
the largest single part of the computing
puzzle, comprising about 27% of projected jobs in computing though 2018.
This;is;the;link;be-tween software and management—the
folks who know enough about computing to plan and manage large projects. Most systems analysts come from
the ranks of software engineering and
often hold advanced degrees in computer science or business in addition to
experience in the field.
• Database Administrator—This person
manages the design and management
of large amounts of data. Data administrators often have some programming
background as well as management
roles. Much of the interesting work in
data today revolves around data mining, which is about using advanced techniques to read inferences from data.
Computing;is;a;young;dis-cipline, and there will always be a need
to investigate the frontiers. Computer
science researchers generally work
at universities or large companies. A
Ph.D. in computer science is generally necessary, and the number of such
people is relatively small.
Computing seems like quite a promis-
ing career, but it does require some plan-
ning. A student who is interested in com-
puting ought to take a few steps in high
school and perhaps earlier:
playing with the software is a good start.
However, don’t expect your CS professors to be impressed that you’ve built a
computer or played a lot of games. These
things are great, but assembling components from a computer store doesn’t
really teach you much about how computers really work. Having a consumer-level knowledge of games and applications is also a good starting point, but
which environment you use, but
make the switch from using tools to
making stuff. For example, it’s one thing
to play around with Google Earth. It’s
quite another to build your own content
and add it to the database. You could be
creating content in art, writing, or music, but eventually you’ll end up giving
detailed instructions to the computer.
now to recommend computer programming, but I can’t think of a more
practical second-tier skill (after the
fundamentals of reading, writing, and
mathematics). You don’t need some
complicated or expensive language,
but you will need to learn how to think
through a problem-solving process
and convert your thoughts into something a computer can follow.
is really a form of applied mathematics.
If you like computers, you like math,
but you just might not know it yet. If
you want to be a professional programmer, you’ll use basic algebra quite frequently. If you’re in certain disciplines
such as security or game development,
you’ll need quite a bit more math (
calculus, statistics, and linear algebra are
all handy). If you don’t like math, stick
with computing anyway. Soon enough,
you’ll see why you need the math, and it
will make more sense when you know
you will be using it.
ideas about how to get started every
month in TOS. Get going! Build web
pages, programs, games, tools, apps, or
Can Homeschoolers Compete?
Computer science is a new and relatively
challenging topic. It’s normal to wonder
if a homeschool family (especially one
without technical parents) can compete
with public and private schools when it
comes to helping kids get prepared for
these promising careers.
As a freshman adviser and teacher,
I can tell you that homeschool students are very welcome in computing
programs. A number of my best students have come from a homeschool
background, and they often perform
The computer brings
the ability to run very
very quickly and solve
problems that were
very well. The truth is, a motivated kid
with supportive parents will generally
be well prepared for college no matter what kind of school she attended.
Homeschooling parents are involved
parents, and this might explain why
homeschool students tend to do so well
in computing programs even if they
didn’t have huge computer labs or expensive software.
If you have any questions, please contact me at this address: andy@aharris
books.net. If you want to know more
about college opportunities or just talk
to a freshman CS teacher, I’m happy to
answer your questions.
Andy Harris is a homeschool dad,
father of four great kids, and husband
to the greatest homeschool teacher ever.
He has taught all ages of students, from
kindergarten to university level. Andy is
the author of a number of well-known
books, including HTML/xHTML/CSS:
All in One for Dummies, Game
Programming—The L Line, PHP6/
MySQL Programming for the Absolute
Beginner, and Beginning Flash Game
Programming for Dummies. For
more information about his books, to
see where he is speaking next, or to just
say hi, please stop by his website: www
1. Data derived from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: