Computer science is one of the most popular areas of study worldwide. Those who complete the course are equipped with highly valuable skills in areas including website development, cybersecurity, games programming, artificial intelligence, data analytics and machine learning.
As there is a skills shortage in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) area, these skills are in high-demand internationally resulting in extensive employment opportunities for computer science graduates. Along with this, ICT graduates receive the highest weekly earnings five years after graduating compared to other sectors based on the analysis of the destinations of students who graduates between 2020 and 2016 according to a recent Higher Education Outcomes Report released by the CSO.
Joshua Cassidy is a final year BSc (Honours) in Computing student at National College of Ireland. In this blog post, he shares his reasons for choosing the course, what he has learned and his key advice for anyone thinking about adding the course to their CAO form.
Read Joshua’s story below to get an insight into studying this course.
Why did you choose to study the BSc (Honours) in Computing at NCI?
My main hobby as a teenager was gaming, which seems to be quite a common trend for computing students. My interest in this area encouraged me to become curious about the technology around me that I was using regularly such as Facebook and the real-time function for public transport for example. I found that I wanted to understand how the technology worked and this lead to me becoming interested in pursuing a technology-related course as a potential career path.
After this realisation, I began by researching colleges and courses which might suit me. When I came across NCI’s BSc (Hons) in Computing degree, I read the module descriptors which outlines the key areas of study and felt it was the course for me so I put it down as my first preference on my CAO form.
What course topics/subjects did you enjoy most and why?
There are so many which makes it hard to choose! I owe a lot of the programming skills I have today to the introductory classes to Programming and Problem-Solving I had in my first year which broke everything down in such a clear and concise way. This involved weekly lab classes which allowed us to practice our programming and problem-solving skills to develop a strong base and understanding of the concepts from early on in the course.
The Introductory Mathematics classes also had a big impact on me as a learner. This module really made me love maths and respect the field a lot more as prior to this, I wasn’t a fan of the subject at all. I also studied Advanced Internet Technologies in my third year which I particularly enjoyed as it was an interactive class. We covered enterprise-level software which allowed us, as learners, to add C# and the .NET framework to our toolset.
I’ve been studying Introduction to Artificial Intelligence in my final year which is challenging yet significant as it brings together many aspects from the previous 3 years of the course, building upon these elements to provide an amazing introduction to the world of artificial intelligence. Finally, Business Data Analytics gave me an excellent view into the world of data science, machine learning and many other statistical tests through interactive graded laboratories.
Was there a particular project or experience that stands out to you?
One thing that stands out to me is the chess engine I built during the Artificial Intelligence module. This posed a significant challenge as it involved using multiple different agents to build the end product; a fully functioning chess engine. Although it was a challenging project, I enjoyed it and learned a lot from the experience.
The Introduction to Programming module in my first year was beneficial as it really showed me how to actively programme by constantly testing my new skills every week.
Now in my final year, I’ve been working on my thesis project. This stands out to me the most as with the supervisor system, it’s helpful to have time assigned with an expert in my specialisation which is data analytics.
However, the moment I knew this course was for me was during the Problem-Solving and Programming Concepts module in my first year which was simply outstanding.
What skills and abilities have you developed as a result of studying this course?
I have developed a wealth of skills in my time here at NCI. To start with, I learned how to program which is clearly important for computing professionals. I also developed a number of important skills including:
- Database design
- Object-oriented programming
- Exploratory data analysis
- Frontend and backend web development
- Project management
- Machine learning
- Version control
I’ve really taken a huge amount from this course from building small scale to enterprise-level applications, building desktop and web application to creating cutting edge machine learning models. This course truly provides students with a huge amount of computing knowledge and skills.
Tell us about the work placement you completed in your third year of the degree.
I completed my work placement with Ellucian, a software company who provides technology solutions for higher education institutions. Having previously completed an internship with Ellucian, I returned as an Associate Software Developer in the third year of my degree on work placement as part of the course curriculum.
I worked on the Marvel scrum team at Ellucian where I developed new features, performed code reviews for other team members, reviewed, created and executed tests on newly developed features for the Quercus and Elevate products. I also developed a logging system during my time at Ellucian, replacing the legacy system which was causing performance issues for the products I worked on. In addition to this, I also developed an automated code review system that preformed a code review when a developer attempted to commit new or change code to the Bitbucket repository.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my work placement with Ellucian and I feel that my time at NCI prepared me well for the workplace. Also, I was delighted that this opportunity was offered as part of my degree which helped me prepare for employment while still working towards my undergraduate degree.
What are your future career plans?
The Careers Team in NCI have already helped me prepare for job hunting by reviewing my CV, giving me advice on how to improve my LinkedIn profile and sharing their tips for interviews. I plan to work in software development with a focus on AI, data science and machine learning when I graduate.
However, I am considering applying for a master’s programme before I enter the workforce as studying at NCI has taught me the value of education. I would also consider starting my own company in the future as NCI has given me the technical and business skills I need to do so.
What advice would you give to other students thinking about studying computing at NCI?
If you’re undecided about adding a computing course to your CAO list, start off by reviewing the course information to make sure you’re clear about what you will be studying, what types of jobs you could get after you graduate and the entry requirements. If you know someone who is currently or has studied the course, get in touch with them to chat about their experience and see what they have to say about it. Feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll try my best to answer your questions!
Once you begin the course, keep an open mind in terms of the modules you are studying. Don’t focus on one particular subject or field at the expense of others, every module has something unique and fresh to offer so make sure that you take advantage of that.
Try to actively program as much as you can and always ask questions. If you’re struggling with a particular module, go to your lecturer and ask for their advice. Remember that the library has loads of amazing resources you should make full use of during your time at college.
Best of luck to everyone starting this course in September, you’re going to love it!
Joshua Cassidy studied the BSc (Honours) in Computing degree at National College of Ireland after applying through the CAO. He won the Overall Best Project Award at the annual Project Showcase event with his work in the area of artificial intelligence and machine learning.