Algorithms are the recipes that make efficient programming possible. They explain how to sort records, search for items, calculate numeric values such as prime factors, find the shortest path between two points in a street network, and determine the maximum flow of information possible through a communications network. The difference between using a good algorithm and a bad one can mean the difference between solving a problem in seconds, hours, or never.
Studying algorithms lets you build a useful toolkit of methods for solving specific problems. It lets you understand which algorithms are most effective under different circumstances so that you can pick the one best suited for a particular program. An algorithm that provides excellent performance with one set of data may perform terribly with other data, so it is important that you know how to pick the algorithm that is the best match for your scenario.
Even more important, by studying algorithms you can learn general problem-solving techniques that you can apply to other problems even if none of the algorithms you already know is a perfect fit for your current situation. These techniques let you look at new problems in different ways so that you can create and analyze your own algorithms to solve your problems and meet unanticipated needs.
In addition to helping you solve problems while on the job, these techniques may even help you land the job where you can use them! Many large technology companies, such as Microsoft, ...