When I first started high school, I was completely clueless as to what I would end up majoring in once I got to college. My sophomore year of high school I knew I wanted to do something in the realm of engineering but I had next to no idea what specific branch of engineering I would go into. It was not until my senior year of high school that I figured out what exactly it was that I would choose as my college major. I took AP Computer Science as an elective course to fill my schedule up until I could leave early. My expectations for what I would get out of the class were not very high; but after that first day, my expectations were drastically changed. I might not have been the fastest programmer, but I absolutely loved coding and being able to write codes that solved the problems we were presented. Had my high school not offered computer science courses as electives, I don't think I would have ever found out what it was exactly that I wanted to do the rest of my life.
I wish there were more stories of students who fall in love with computer science and programming so much that they decide to pursue it further in college like mine. This is sadly not the normal case due to computer science courses being offered in very few school systems across the country. In recent years there has been a push for STEM resources in schools, but that is not enough. A big focus of these resources should be aimed towards offering computer science and programming to students at an early age.
Studies show that 71% of all new jobs in STEM are in computing, but only 8% of STEM graduates are computer science majors. The “STEM problem” is in computer science- it should not just be offered as a high school elective, it should be integrated into the everyday curriculum. students should have the chance to learn about algorithms, coding and how to make apps just like they learn about photosynthesis, long division, and foreign languages.
The majority of schools do not even teach computer science, in fact only 40% of schools offer computer science classes and nearly half of these courses do not involve programming. To break that down into simpler terms, only about 25% of the students in the United States will get the option to be exposed to the programming aspect of computer science. With the knowledge that 90% of parents in the United States want their children to learn to code, there is a significant problem in what students are really being exposed to in the classroom compared to what parents expect them to be taught.
Due to the small fraction of students being exposed to computer science in school, the number of students who choose to major in computer science in college is even lower. In 2015, there were nearly 600,000 Bachelor’s degrees earned in the STEM fields, and only about 8% of those degrees were in computer science. These numbers should be significantly higher due to the high need for people to be knowledgeable about the aspects of computer science and programming. There are computing job openings in every industry and every state. The rate of students who earn computer science degrees is low, but the rate of job openings in this field are set to increase to more than the current 500,000 openings in computing occupations according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Computing jobs are the #1 source of new wages in our country and the average growth rate of computing occupations is nearly double (12.5% on average) compared to the rate of all other occupations (6.5% on average). Students that show interest in computing and major in it come college are going to not only have a wide range of job opportunities across the nation, but they will also be the highest paid college degree.
The only way to increase the number of college graduates that are skilled in the field of computer science is to integrate it into the curriculum for students in K-12. Computer science is more than just writing codes, it teaches the user to problem solve using logical reasoning and design, which can be used outside of the classroom as well. The skills learned through computer science gives students vital skills in the 21st century where technology is ever changing. If schools not only taught kids how to use computers but how to create the technologies on the computers that pilot us into the future, it will help students be more prepared for the future.
Exposing students at an earlier age to computer science will also help increase the number of college student majoring in it which will, in turn, lead to rewarding careers. Computer-science related jobs are here to stay and will even increase in the years to come- which places a high demand on computer science graduates to begin work immediately after graduation.
In addition to helping not only the students, computer science curriculum can help the teachers as well. The skills learned through computer science can help teachers meet state standards in the areas of computer science components such as critical thinking and problem-solving. This generation has grown up with easy access to technology, so computer science can help feed into their interests in technology by allowing students to design technical solutions to problems in their other classes.
The required integration of computer science into the K-12 curriculum will draw students’ attention to the importance of developing new technology and cybersecurity- which are just two of the problems that this generation will have to face once they are adults. Technology is going to improve, and for that to happen, the world needs young minds who are interested in working with computers and helping to pioneer the advancements in computer technologies. In order for these young minds to find interest in such things, they need to be exposed to it while they are still in school.