Today, computers are used in almost every aspect of our lives: in car engines, microwave ovens, video games, watches, telephones, desktops at home and work, mainframe computers in government and industry, and supercomputers expanding the frontiers of science and technology. The computer industry is one of the fastest growing segments of our economy and that growth promises to continue well into the next century. To maintain a competitive edge, industry and commerce must continue to make creative scientific and engineering advances as well as produce high quality products. More than ever, there is a demand for a prepared work force with the scientific and technical training necessary to perform effectively on the job.

Now is the time to plan your future in computing. Preparing for College Academic Preparation Most professionals in the computing industry have at least an undergraduate degree in mathematics, computer science, computer engineering, software engineering, information systems, or electrical engineering. Many have advanced degrees. They, however, all started preparing for their careers long before they began their undergraduate degrees. You can start investigating a career in computing as early as four years before you enter college, but certainly no later than the year before. The different degrees mentioned in the paragraph above each have different requirements and you could get a head start on them by finding out what they are.

For example, some of the degrees require a lot of math and science; so, it would be to your advantage to take up to four years of math courses (including Calculus) and up to two years of science courses prior to entering college. Taking courses in programming would be helpful as well. In addition, some secondary or prep schools may allow students to take college courses if there is a college located nearby during their last year. You could have some college hours completed before you even graduate!

You should also make a plan for applying to different colleges with computing degrees and locations that interest you. Be sure to check on things like financial aid, how competitive it's to get into that particular college or university, entrance tests and scores required, student housing expense, tuition, degree requirements, and courses available. If you have the money and time, it is always helpful to make a campus visit and meet the professors and students. Enhancing Academics A great way to boost knowledge and understanding of computing careers is by teaming up students with working professionals. Selecting any of the activities below for individual or class development, can prove invaluable for career and technical education. The exposure will provide insight into computing careers, and prove a valuable life experience.

Contact your school's administrators or career education office to see how you can start a program. Classroom Demonstrations and Presentations -- Professionals speak about careers and technical topics. Club Sponsorship -- Start a computer science club, or join the chapter of an existing organization. Field Trips -- Plan field trips to places of employment. Mentor Programs -- Match students with working professionals and plan work site visits, personal and career advice sessions. Internships -- Plan work experiences (paid or volunteer) at places of employment, or observations during summer or spring breaks.

Student Fairs -- Enter computer science categories in local student fairs and other competitions.