What to expect in a computer science degree program


When exploring a career in computer science (CS), consider the time, investment, and complexity of the course. Expectations of a computer science degree program include analytical thinking, the assessment of complex problems, and the study of algorithm design.

If you are ready to learn what you can Expect a computer science degree, this CS degree program guide can help. It offers information on degrees, specializations, course length, required projects, internships, tuition and fees.

What is a computer science degree?

Students in a computer science program – sometimes called CS – learn computer theory, development, application, and design. The courses cover the theoretical foundations of the development of computer and web applications.

CS students can earn an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree. They often also earn specializations. With a CS specialization, students can acquire niche roles, such as computer security or software engineer.

After earning a degree in traditional or online computer science, students can pursue work in roles such as a web developer, software engineer, or database administrator.

What to expect from computer lessons

For a two-year associate’s degree, students typically complete a 64-credit program that covers the basics. In a four-year bachelor’s degree program, students take both general education courses and basic computer science courses.

Students who pursue a master’s degree typically earn around 33 credits in 2-3 years. Those who become doctoral students. students spend approximately 4 to 5 years and earn 90 credits in addition to completing a thesis.

You will take basic and elective courses that interest you.

Students at the Introductory CS level take courses in Calculus I, Introductory Linear Algebra, Probability and Statistics, Programming, Ethics and Technology.

These courses focus on application, differential equations, and vector spaces, as well as problem solving, algorithm development, debugging, and testing.

As the program progresses, students choose elective courses in topics such as graphical user interface, systems programming, ethical hacking, artificial intelligence, and compiler theory.

The courses are a mixture of theoretical and practical courses.

CS programs integrate both theory and practical application. First, students learn about the history and evolution of state machines, computational complexity, program accuracy, and cryptography.

Theoretical computer science courses provide a better understanding of the construction of computers, the efficiency of information systems and commonly used encryption tools. In theory classes, computer science students can work directly on implementation, verification, and programming challenges.

Expect to take math classes.

While earning a computer science degree, you are required to complete several math and statistics courses. Mathematics is essential for understanding many programming languages.

You also need a solid understanding of abstract language, differential equations, algorithms, and data structures.

Beginner-level students should expect to take Calculus I and II, Introduction to Linear Algebra, Probability, and Statistics.

Expect to spend time on IT projects.

CS students tend to have heavy course loads, so they should expect to need more study time to complete courses than most degrees. Organizational skills, time management and planning are especially important.

Computer science students often learn through projects that introduce them to topics such as computer security, scientific computing, and computer efficiency.

Along with group discussions, students complete open source software projects, presentations, independent studies, and group work.

Students can focus on areas such as IT architecture and organization, database management systems, and computer networks.

You may want to consider a computer science concentration as you progress through your degree.

After completing the core CS courses, students choose electives to customize their CS credentials. Specializations prepare students for employment opportunities in specialized areas of industry.

Students typically choose specializations that match their professional interests and help them acquire the skills required for the workforce. Here are some of the most common CS specializations.

  • Artificial intelligence

  • Computer and network security

  • Game design

  • Human-machine interaction

  • Information management and analysis

  • Networks

  • Programming languages

  • Real world computing

  • Software theory

  • Systems

You may want to learn and practice skills outside of your curriculum.

Although this is not a requirement, CS students can benefit from practical experience outside of their study programs.

By learning to code, students improve their skills in logical and mathematical reasoning. With the additional knowledge, students increase their analytical and problem-solving skills.

Hands-on experience can also help students practice the simpler programming languages, such as Python, Java, and Ruby.

The internships will allow you to put into practice what you have learned and gain practical experience.

CS internships offer a real world experience. They can come from public or private organizations, such as commercial banks or credit unions, technology companies, or small businesses in need of IT support.

Interns learn about a company’s culture and work environment, engage in team events and projects, and advance their career development.

These opportunities can help improve the technical skills, professional networks and employment opportunities of students.

How difficult is a computer science degree?

While CS programs are stimulating, dedicated and passionate students can be successful.

To be successful with a computer science degree, students must be able to problem solve and think critically, as well as demonstrate a joy in learning and taking on difficult design tasks. Successful students spend hours practicing coding, applying theory, and learning the basics of computer networking. It is also helpful to have previous experience with basic computer skills.

CS programs have rigorous curricula and challenging courses. As you progress, the math becomes more intense.

However, with the support of the faculty, good organization, good time management and resilience, you can be successful.

How much will I spend as a computer science student?

When looking for CS programs, consider both online programs and traditional programs. For CS degrees, tuition and fees range from $ 15,000 to $ 85,000. State students often pay significantly less than out-of-state students, and online students sometimes pay state rates regardless of location.

Computer science students should also consider bootcamps. The average cost for a coding bootcamp program is $ 13,500, which equates to three semesters at some four-year colleges.

When looking for programs, be sure to look at the benefits as well as the costs. There are several online schools that provide computers for free or at a reduced rate. Others rent iPads and laptops.

Common questions about computer science degrees

What is the difference between IT and IT?

Information technology (IT) specializes in network security, database management and IT support. CS focuses on coding, programming and algorithms. If you are interested in computing, check out the information technology guide.

What is the difference between computer engineering and computer science?

Computer scientists are skilled in the construction and repair of computers. Computer scientists have a more in-depth knowledge of programming languages ​​and the management of operating systems and networks.

Is a BA or BS in Computer Science Important?

Most CS programs focus on science and math, so they offer a BS. If you are interested in a broader education, especially if you want to take business courses, consider getting a BA.

Is It Possible To Get A Computer Science Degree Online?

Yes. An accredited online program can provide the same technical and critical thinking skills as a traditional program. The program is generally just as rigorous.

This article has been reviewed by Brian Nichols

A head and shoulders photo of a bearded white man in a gray suit with a blue tie.

Born and raised in upstate New York, Brian Nichols attended vocational high school where he focused on computing, computing fundamentals, and networking. He received his AS in Computer Science from the local community college, then a BS in Applied Networking and System Administration from a private college. He now lives in Kansas City, where he works full-time as a DevOps Engineer and is a part-time cybersecurity instructor. He is passionate about cybersecurity and helps students succeed.

Brian Nichols is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Independent Review Network.

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