From September 2021, Kings Oxford are offering Computer Science as an A- level subject choice. Find out what a Computer Science A-level covers, reasons to study it, and some of the careers that it can lead to.
What is Computer Science?
Computer Science is, at its core, the study of computation and information and brings together disciplines that include Mathematics, Engineering, Sciences, Psychology and Linguistics. It includes both the study of theoretical algorithms and the practical problems involved in implementing them through computer hardware and software. The study of Computer Science has many different branches, including artificial intelligence, software engineering, programming, data science, cyber security and computer graphics.
In today’s digital age, most industries are completely reliant on data, software and IT. Computer science impacts all aspects of our lives — from scientific research to transport, banking, communications, medical equipment, and even our household appliances.
With the reach of technology set to increase exponentially throughout the coming decades, the demand for graduates who are skilled within fields such as Computer Science is likely to continue to grow.
The Computer Science Skills Gap
A ‘skills gap’ is where the number of open job positions within a particular sector outweighs the number of qualified professionals suitable to fill these positions. Computer science represents one of the most extreme examples of an industry with a skills gap globally, with the worldwide shortage of IT professionals estimated to be around 1.8m in 2020.
A recent report by Microsoft, titled ‘Unlocking the UK’s potential with digital skills’, revealed that 80% of UK leaders believe investment in digital skills will be important to the country’s post-Covid-19 economic recovery. According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, there will be a 13% increase in Computer Science jobs by 2026. In the EU, the number of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) specialists grew by 36.1% over 10 years from 2007–2017.
This skills gap represents a unique opportunity for current high school students to carefully plan their subject choices and undergraduate studies to exploit the current skills gaps and make themselves indispensable to future employers.
Computer Science careers
As the demand for qualified IT specialists is so high, careers within the field of Computer Science are often very well-paid. The average starting salaries in the UK for popular computer science careers are:
- Game Developer: £24,000, up to £75,000 with experience
- IT Consultant: £25,000, up to £80,000 with experience
- Web Developer: £23,000, up to £75,000 with experience
- Cyber Security Analyst: £30,000, up to £70,000 with experience
- Data Analyst: £24,000, up to £60,000 with experience
- Machine Learning Engineer: £35,000, up to £170,000 with experience
- Network Engineer: £19,500, up to £70,000 with experience
(data from Prospects.ac.uk)
Qualifications in Computer Science may also open to the door to opportunities such as internships or apprenticeships at some of the world’s most famous tech companies such as Amazon, Apple, HP, Microsoft, Google and Vodafone. These are a great way to get hands-on experience in established companies that will help you to stand-out to future employers and may sometimes lead to permanent job offers with the company with which you intern.
Having a computing degree will provide you with the knowledge, problem-solving skills and logical thinking capabilities that serve as a competitive advantage across a whole range of careers. If some of the more traditional routes mentioned above don’t appeal to you, a background in computer science can also open the door to areas such as:
- IT training
- Business analysis
- Technical writing and journalism
Why study Computer Science A-level?
Studying A-level Computer Science will help you develop strong problem-solving skills, provide opportunities for creativity and innovation and is well regarded by many universities.
Since Computer Science is a relatively new subject to be offered at A-level and is still only taught by a limited number of providers, studying it may give you the ‘edge’ over other applicants and help your profile stand out to universities.
A-level Computer Science helps build the foundational programming and theoretical skills that you will then go on to develop in a Computer Science degree, preparing you for a range of employment opportunities in a fast-growing industry.
Students with Computer Science A-level can progress onto a huge range of undergraduate degrees, including:
- Computer Science
- Artificial Intelligence
- Game Design and Production
- Business and Computing
- Information Systems and Management