Computer science has become a trending topic in education in recent years.

The field’s rapid growth combined with its educational benefits have caught the attention of parents, educators, school administrators and more. With Computer Science Education Week upon us, let’s shine a light on the importance of computer science and why program leaders should consider incorporating it into their afterschool programs.

First, what is computer science (CS)? Code.org defines it as using the power of computers to solve problems. Computer scientists understand why computers work and create programs or operating systems to perform certain tasks on computers.

Through computer science education, students can learn foundational skills like coding, computational thinking (algorithms and patterns) and digital citizenship. They will put their knowledge into practice by creating their own animations, computer games and interactive projects that foster collaboration, develop problem-solving skills and build resilience.

Fortunately, computer science is more than a trend. Numerous research studies and reports demonstrate the importance of computer science education with concrete evidence. Check out the seven facts below that are sure to convince program leaders to teach computer science after school:

  1. There are more than 500,000 open computing jobs in the United States. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects there will be 546,100 new computing jobs from 2016-2026, and that number is expected to grow. These jobs make up two-thirds of all projected new jobs in STEM fields. Introducing students to computer science in afterschool is a great way to prepare them to fill these positions in the future.
  2. Most parents value computer science education. Nine in 10 parents want their child to learn computer science, and most parents (85%) believe computer science skills are necessary for future jobs. However, many school administrators aren’t aware of this high level of interest and support. In this Google study, some principals and superintendents listed “lack of demand from parents” as one of the reasons their schools don’t offer computer science education. Afterschool programs can act as a catalyst for CS education and demonstrate interest and demand from the community.
  3. Students enjoy learning computer science. In fact, a study by Change the Equation found that 54% of students surveyed like computer science “a lot,” behind the arts. This demonstrates students’ interest in computer science education, and encourages program leaders to find engaging ways to bring the subject to life.
  4. Exposure is key to sparking students’ interest in computer science. A 2010 survey of Google employees found that nearly all (98%) CS majors reported being exposed to the subject prior to college, compared to 45% of non-CS majors. Afterschool programs have a unique opportunity to expose students to computer science through field trips, community partnerships and other hands-on activities.
  5. The diversity gap in CS education starts in K-12. Underrepresented groups face structural and social barriers to learning computer science, according to a Gallup research study. Black and Hispanic students are more likely than White students to learn computer science in afterschool programs due to lack of access at their schools. Similarly, girls are less likely to be interested in CS due to the perception that it’s only for boys. And although more female, black and Latino students took an AP computer science exam this year, these groups are severely underrepresented in the field. Program leaders have an opportunity to close the gap by providing access to computer science education to all students, regardless of gender, race or income level.
  6. Computer science has high success rates among its graduates. Computer science majors report high employment and high salaries upon graduation, according to NACE. Last year, 70% of graduates had full-time employment within six months of graduation and their average salary started at $78,199.
  7. The majority of schools don’t teach computer science. Only 40% of U.S. schools offer computer science classes. However, only a quarter of those schools offer CS courses with programming, which is a critical component in computer science. Again, this is another opportunity for afterschool programs to fill the gap in sparking students’ interest in computer science early on.

Teaching computer science in afterschool is possible. Check out A Guide To Teach Computer Science In Afterschool Programs to learn more. Also, visit Code.org for computer science course for elementary, middle and high school students.