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Computer Science Overview - Preparation - Specialty Areas - Day In The Life - Earnings - Employment - Career Path Forecast - Professional Organizations

compsciComputer scientists should be creative, inquisitive, analytical, and detail oriented. They must have a strong grasp of mathematics, including calculus, probability, and statistics, and computer systems. Preparation in one or more of the sciences, such as, physics, chemistry, biology, is also a requirement. Abilities to work as part of a team and to communicate well also will be important as computer science jobs frequently require interaction with specialists outside of computer science or engineering. To hone these skills, recommended coursework includes English, writing, social studies, and humanities.

Entry level positions in the field typically require a four year bachelor's degree in computer science, information science, or computer engineering. State-of-the-art high technology research and development positions frequently require the M.S. or Ph.D. degree in either computer science or computer engineering. Tenure track professorial positions in a university require the Ph.D. degree.

Computer Science vs. Computer Engineering vs. Information Science
Typically there is considerable overlap in the computer science and the computer engineering degree programs. The major difference between the two programs is that an engineering design component is required in the accredited computer engineering degree program.

Typically, computer engineering programs reside in the university's College of Engineering. The computer engineering degree program resides in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, or the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, or it may be a stand alone Department of Computer Engineering. In some cases, such as, MIT and University of California at Berkeley, these degrees are offered in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Information science degree programs are tailored to prepare students for careers in the application of computers in business. Therefore these degree programs typically reside in business colleges and are not accredited by ABET. Although there are a few ABET accredited programs offered in engineering colleges. In addition to computer science courses in programming, computer organization and operation, computer networks, databases, these degree programs require courses in business and management, and fewer courses are required in mathematics and the sciences than in computer science and engineering degree programs.

Admission Requirements
Admissions requirements for undergraduate computer science programs include a solid background in mathematics (algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus) and science (biology, chemistry, and physics), and courses in English, social studies, humanities, and computer and information technology. Bachelor's degree programs in computer science typically are designed to last 4 years.

Internships and Coops provide students with a great opportunity to gain real-world experience while still in school. In addition, graduates can enhance their employment opportunities by participating in internship or co-op programs offered through their school. Click here for more information.

Courses of Study
In a typical four year 120 semester hour computer science degree program students studying computer science will complete 40 semester hours of study in computer science topics, along with at least 30 semester hours of study in mathematics (discrete mathematics, differential and integral calculus, and probability and statistics) and science topics, usually including a lab experience. Students will study topics such as algorithms, data structures, software design, concepts of programming languages, and computer organization and architecture.  In addition, theoretical foundations, problem analysis, and solution design will be presented within the program of study. Students will also be exposed to a variety of programming languages and systems and should become proficient in at least one higher-level language.  Good communication skills will be developed along with general studies in humanities, social sciences, and the arts.

Ongoing Study
Technological advances come so rapidly in the computer field that continuous study is necessary to keep one's skills up to date post graduation. Employers, hardware and software vendors, colleges and universities, and private training institutions offer continuing education. Additional training may come from professional development seminars offered by professional computing societies.

Accredited Programs
In the United States, Computer Science programs are accredited by ABET, Inc. Be sure to look for accredited programs, not just accredited universities.

Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 Computer Science
 Information Systems


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