Five Different Options to Study Computer Science
Computer Science is one of my favorite majors. There are different ways to pursue the degree, depending on how students want to use their skills and combine the major with other interests. Some career paths that begin from an undergraduate Computer Science program require further education, but others do not. From viewing academic programs and visiting colleges, I learned that there are at least X different ways to earn a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, or a related subject. These include:
- A combination of Computer Science and liberal arts coursework within a liberal arts college, or the school of arts and sciences within a larger college or university. These students complete not only the major, but may also use general education requirements, courses in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and physical sciences to add a major or minor. Depending on the college and state, they might also choose this path to add a secondary school certification to teach computer science, usually along with teaching Mathematics. This is also the best option for students who believe that they might prefer to minor in Computer Science as they get further into their education.
- Pursuit of the Computer Science major within a college of engineering. This requires more coursework in the sciences, since every first-year student in an engineering school will take a common set of courses in Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics. If you loved computing, but hated Chemistry and/or Physics in high school, avoid this path. If your interests lead themselves towards computer engineering, where you take more Chemistry, Math and Physics, this might be the best direction. It’s also the best direction for those who want to explore options in Computer Science and Engineering before making a commitment to a major.
- Pursuit of the Computer Science major within a college dedicated to Computer Science or Science at a mid-sized or larger school. While admissions for these programs will depend heavily on demonstration of math (and possibly Physics) and computer skills, each degree program with Computer Science, whether it be a general major, Cyber Security, Data Science or Game Design, among others, may have it own unique degree requirements. The school should allow students who are less sure of their speciality to explore options during the freshman year, and possibly the first semester of the sophomore year.
- Combine an interest in Computer Science with interest in Business. Undergraduate business programs at mid-sized or larger schools offer an Information Systems, or similar degree program where students take business, systems and programming courses. Many will also offer the option to minor in Information Systems while majoring in another business discipline such as Accounting, Finance or Marketing.
- Consider a degree in Computer Engineering Technology. These programs offer a curriculum with advanced courses that are similar to those offered within a computer engineering program at a college of engineering, although there are lighter requirements in math and physics, and possibly no requirement in chemistry. These programs are a good fit for students who like “hands on” courses, but do not wish to take the more theory based classes in an engineering program. However, if a school offers Computer Engineering and Computer Engineering Technology, there is the risk that Computer Engineering Technology graduates will earn lower entry-level salaries, unless their career center has helped to aggressively market the program.
Computer Science is probably the only major that might appear in different forms within different colleges at a mid-sized or larger school. The good news: there’s a fit within the discipline, as a major or minor, for as many students as possible. The bad news: it takes a little research, and sometimes soul searching to find that fit.
Interested in Computer Science? Need help in considering different options within this major? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 609-406-0062.