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The number of students receiving computer science degrees in the United States has grown over the years in a cyclical manner. In the 1980s there was a surge of students gaining degrees due to the introduction of personal computers. However, universities could not keep up with the rapidly increasing demand and were forced to restrict admission to the major. The second surge occurred with the dot-com bubble at the turn of the century, but that burst in 2003 and interest faded. Now we are in the midst of a third surge that began in 2009 and could prove to be the most impactful. (Eric Roberts, A History of Capacity Challenges in Computer Science). Our world is becoming increasingly dependent on technology, with new products and applications being created everyday. And this time students want to learn computer science because “they are genuinely excited about it” according to Ran Libeskind-Hadas, the computer science chair at Harvey Mudd College. But recently there has been debate over whether college provides the best means to learn computer science.

The ACM guidelines for a computer science program are organized into 18 Knowledge Areas such as algorithms and complexity, human-computer interaction, and programming languages (acm.org). It is an ambitious list of requirements but I believe it can be shortened to allow students to master a smaller range of materials. For example, I believe classes involving topics like system administration and security should be enforced much more heavily than one like graphics and visualization or operating systems. Certain skills are extremely useful in any work environment but oftentimes students are wasting their efforts learning material that may never be useful in their careers. I think Notre Dame does an excellent job in adapting their own curriculum and offering a variety of electives. They place a great emphasis on theory, which is important, but I would have liked to receive more practice in practical skills and design. On the other hand, programming skills and design are the forte of coding bootcamps that are growing rapidly around the country. These bootcamps create proficient developers in usually 3-6 week intensive programs. People sign up for these as either an attempt to reroute their careers or as a substitute for a college education in computer science. I think bootcamps are an excellent introduction to programming for beginners. The more programmers we have in the world the better, as the “Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be 1 million more jobs than students in just six years” (Taylor Soper, Analysis: The exploding demand for computer science education, and why America needs to keep up). Thankfully, companies are beginning to open up to the idea of hiring programmers without a degree. Even though they recognize that a fundamental understanding is only attained through college, they also recognize that many positions don’t require a deep understanding of every computer science principle (Turn On, Code In, Drop Out: Tech Programmers Don’t Need College Diplomas). I value my college education and would not have done a bootcamp instead. The TripleByte study proved that “bootrstrap graduates match or beat college grads on practical skills, and lose on deep knowledge” (Bootcamps vs. College). I believe that I can easily improve upon my practical skills once I join the work force, but cannot do so as easily when it comes to theory and algorithms. The best way to become an elite programmer is through a college education. Nowhere else can you receiver a proper foundation for the complex subject that is computer science. Notre Dame has given me a great education in a variety of topics, as well as the tools necessary to continue my education on my own.

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