So you want to be a robot psychologist…
July 19, 2014 9:25 AM   Subscribe

What are some computer science-related/IT jobs that help people or society at large?

I am back in school and taking some computer science courses as well as working as a programming/IT intern over the summer and am finding I actually really enjoy it. (My previous travails with my coursework had a lot to do with being WAY under-prepared). Something about programming really kind of lights my brain on fire and I really enjoy the feeling of “building useful things”. I also enjoy troubleshooting/researching/analyzing problems and trying to find solutions, maybe even more so than the actual coding itself. However, I am still bent on helping people in some way and, ideally, would like to find a job that combines aspects of both.

So I have been thinking of future careers for myself. I am not yet completely certain I want to finish up with a degree in CS, but I am wondering what kinds of jobs/careers exist at the intersection of programming/problem-solving and altruism/helping people. I have read up on careers in Computer Forensics and, if the bar to entry weren't seemingly so high, I would likely set that as my end goal once finishing school, as it combines a lot of my interests. (It seems to be a niche field and the limited number of job postings I’ve seen out there require 3 years of experience in Computer Forensics/IT security first, if not more…).

My additional interests include psychology and law/criminal justice. (If I don’t pursue a CS major, I will very likely be pursuing a psychology major/CS minor instead with the intent of going on to graduate school in psychology.)

So, does anyone have any ideas? Does this kind of thing even exist…?

I appreciate any answers or insight that anyone might be able to provide. Thank you all in advance.

P.S.: I have already sent this question:
posted by sevenofspades to Work & Money (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I have a friend who has a degree in Human-Computer Interaction (from University of Michigan) who is easily one of the most employable people I know. He has done work helping develop hardware and software for individuals with disabilities.
posted by mjcon at 9:40 AM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you want to go the data science/analytics route, there's some folks doing interesting things that have a benefit to humanity, such as the D4D competition, or some of the Kaggle competitions.
posted by chbrooks at 3:02 PM on July 19, 2014

Check out HereHere, from Microsoft Research's social media group:

Lots to be gained by turning public data into actionable information.
posted by batter_my_heart at 3:16 PM on July 19, 2014

Another idea is doing computer work for nonprofits in general.
posted by maurreen at 6:59 PM on July 19, 2014

Computer science grads work in all kinds of organizations. It's not just Google or $RANDOM_MEGACORP.

I work in health care, where our IT and data science teams are working to help develop better population health care models driven and proven by data. Information technology has become a critical component of health care delivery and public health.

Although health care is the sector I know best, this is true across many beneficent fields of endeavor (social/human services, all levels of government, every kind of nonprofit and NGO). With a CompSci degree, you'll just need to figure out in which field you want to work and apply for those jobs.

My sense is that if you can and would enjoy earning a computer science degree, you should absolutely do that.
posted by jeoc at 7:32 PM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Civic hacking events take place in many cities around the country. They may put you in touch with people doing interesting things.
posted by the big lizard at 12:13 PM on July 20, 2014

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