Ever wondered what a career in computer science looks like? Are you someone who has a curious mind and wants to solve real-life problems using computers? You’re in the right place!
We spoke to David Parry, Professor of Computer Science at Murdoch University and a fellow of the Australasian Institute of Digital Health, who shared valuable insights into pursuing a career in computer science.
Beginning his career in the field of medical physics, David worked in hospitals running central data systems. This lead him into computing and health IT. In 1998, he became an academic, teaching health IT – the first online course in the world to teach doctors, nurses, and other professionals how to use computers in healthcare settings.
“Because we’ll never have enough health professionals doing all the things in a hospital for patient care, we need to have machines to help them with their jobs and that’s been my main focus,” David says, as he describes his early work in lung physiology.
As demonstrated by David’s experiences, the world of computer science and IT is incredibly diverse. The field has an impact and influence on industries from healthcare and government services to agriculture and education. Let’s delve further into this exciting career of the future!
What is computer science?
David describes computer science as an interesting and practical subject.
“With computer science, you’re trying to understand how to solve problems in the world using computers,” he says.
It’s an experimental science that involves collecting information and data, analysing and presenting data to help people make decisions, and applying computational power/techniques to solve real-world problems. David explains that the core of computer science is solving a problem that has never been done before.
What skills do you need to study computer science?
When scouting for a computer science degree, look for one that offers a diverse range of courses that will maximise your career opportunities across the technology and business sectors. David says students should be curious, interested, and flexible while navigating a computer science degree.
“It’s really important to be inquisitive when studying computer science because you need to wonder how things work and how to solve problems. And when things don’t work out as planned, you need to adapt and remain persistent,” he says.
Developing the right communication skills is also crucial. Murdoch University’s computer science degrees involve working in a team with other students and consulting with real clients to recommend, develop, and implement new technologies to solve business problems.
Who can pursue a career in computer science?
Anyone can pursue a career in computer science, although David recommends that more women and First Nations peoples pursue a career in the field.
“There’s a huge lack of women and Indigenous representation in this profession and that’s, in fact, hurting the profession because of the lack of diversity of talented people. Diversity is important because the more different ways of thinking you apply to a problem, the better results you get,” he says.
As an international student, the diversity of your experiences and perspectives are unique benefits to the computer science industry.
Where can a computer science graduate find work?
There are many job opportunities across various sectors requiring computer science experts. There is a huge requirement within the cybersecurity sector with the government’s $1.67 billion investment announced in Australia’s Cyber Security Strategy 2020.
Mining, financial services, banking, manufacturing, and even agriculture are becoming more computer-focused. There is a big demand for computing teachers in high schools, so education may be an ideal career path for some.
David says students should make professional connections to help them decide on a career path.
“Keep your eyes open and look around to discover where your interests lie and then make a plan towards that. I highly recommend getting out there and talking to people in the industry as early as possible to create a roadmap for the career you want to achieve,” he says.
A promising career outcome
The government sees Australian computer science as a key area for development. Industry and businesses embrace digital technologies and there is increased focus on supporting digital skills education and training.
While there is a huge demand for computer science, keep in mind that the field is so fast-paced that technical knowledge can go out of date in five years. It’s important to take relevant refresher technical courses as you build your career.
You can pursue higher education if you want to specialise in areas such as health IT or data science. With these specialisations, you can reach high earnings quite quickly given the demanding nature of the work. While there is a lot of thinking to do in these fields, it can be very rewarding.
Completing a bachelor’s degree will fetch you a starting salary of $60,000 to $80,000. David says, “It is only a matter of a couple of years after your undergraduate degree and you will reach the $100,000 mark.”
Pay rates will vary depending on the industry you are working in and your role. For instance, if you work your way up to become a senior programmer or architect, you can make upwards of $150,000 annually.