Coding Conundrum

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I want to get a job with an online company after graduation. Do I have to major in computers?

Written by Suzanne Hite, former publications editor serving the technology services sector.

In the digital age of today, nearly everything is done online. Your choice to work with an internet company is shared by many of your fellow classmates. You will need a skill set that is not necessarily developed through your degree. Working online is less specific than other career choices which demand a clear-cut set of educational requirements. Computer skills are essential, but you need to supplement them with knowledge of social media, brand marketing and loads of creativity.

The majority of students heading for the internet and technology field have a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) major. While this is a solid background, it does not really prepare you for online marketing, where you find many of the top internet jobs. By following traditional education and shunning the arts, you are not developing creative skills or innovative thinking. These play a major role in online marketing and problem solving that web developers need to engage an audience.

Internet companies seek ‘out-of-the-box’ thinkers who can design creative solutions. They do not specify a computer science degree or a diploma in marketing. A STEM major will not teach you creative thinking. If you can bring a new perspective to current technology issues, you will be recognized.

Every company needs brand promotion and some of the in-demand jobs are for social media and search engine optimization. Dominating competitors for search terms and social media audiences are the top goals for online companies. Skills at these positions require journalism rather than computer science, as you need to promote the company or products. Psychology and sociology also play a role in determining what website visitors to a click and why.

Also, do not make the mistake of thinking only in English. With 41 million Spanish-speaking people in the US, there is a distinct market that wants unique and culturally relevant website content. Major companies do not translate their websites, they transcreate to appeal to a whole new audience.

Having a passion for your subject does help. A degree in computer science will provide the foundation in the field. You will not be able to do your job by only applying what you studied, this is what students rapidly discover when they leave college.

Many online jobs did not exist a few years ago, so your major does not directly dictate your career path, especially an internet-based one. Concentrating on the skills you are developing at college rather than the subject material will help you in the workplace. You need to demonstrate problem solving, teamwork, and creative thinking. There are no majors for these skills, so you must independently develop them to advance your career.

Man is a slow, sloppy and brilliant thinker; computers are fast, accurate and stupid… John Pfeiffer.

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