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#1 Guest_Wahoo*


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Some questions about Computer Science

Posted 13 November 2010 - 08:44 PM

Hey there. I'm 19 years old and I'm currently a student at a local community college. I came into college thinking I wanted to be an engineer, but after a few engineering-specific courses (Statics) I decided that engineering is not for me. Now I am looking into computer science and I am really excited about getting involved with it, but before I get in too deep I've got a few questions that you kind folks might be able to answer:

1. Unfortunately there is no computer science program at my current college, so I can't really start my computer science classes until I transfer to a four-year university, which I was planning on doing next Fall (2011) anyway. But now I am considering sticking around here for another year or two to get my Associate's in Applied Science in Information Systems Technology with a specialization in Computer Programming, thinking that getting a little familiarity and experience with various computer programming languages (Visual Basic.NET, Java, C++) will make things easier for me in the future in pursuing my degrees in computer science and later in my career. So my first question(s): How essential is computer programming to computer science? Would it be worth my time to take a year or two to pursue this Associate's Degree?

2. When I think of companies that hire graduates of computer science, I think of IBM, Google, Microsoft, and NASA. Obviously I would be ecstatic if I got an opportunity to work for any of these companies, but I come from a relatively small town and working for one of these companies seems like a bit of a long shot for me. Do only large companies such as these hire computer science graduates? What other kinds of companies hire computer scientists?

3. If you feel like it, explain in your own words what computer science is. I've been doing some reading and I think I know what it is, but different perspectives and explanations are always nice.

Thanks.

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Replies To: Some questions about Computer Science

#2 Martyr2  Icon User is online

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Re: Some questions about Computer Science

Posted 13 November 2010 - 09:02 PM

1. Computer programming will definitely help you in a computer science degree... but do keep in mind that they usually teach you programming in the computer science degree itself. You will be learning programming for sure at some point in the degree since you will be introduced to things like data structures, software development, how systems work in the software world etc. But it is not all programming either... you get networking classes etc. Heck you will even have English classes. In short, learn at least a programming language like C++, Java, or C#/VB.NET. It will do nothing but help you. If you are learning computers in an associate degree, you often can transfer course credits into a four year. So it is not like you are completely wasting your time. See what classes can be transferred to the university you want to go to. Then you have a better idea on what you can take to help with your degree.

2. Oh no no... all kinds of industries need computer science grads. I have worked in the travel industry, appliance retail and now I am in a hot software company. But I have had comp science friends go to small companies, large companies, freelancing, governments, corporations. Computer science grads are everywhere. Just think of how prolific IT technology is these days. Even on this board we have people in all kinds of industries from small startups to the Google type of companies.

3. This is not as clear cut as you would think. Computer Science really has no solid definition. Some schools for instance focus on tons of programming while others are a lot more software engineering and others are more networking. Some focus a lot on practical work while others are more theory. Some even blur the line between computer science and Information technology. Computer science is the science of computing... computers, how they work, how to solve problems with computing, how to apply scientific principles to the world of computing and technology as a whole. This is why it is important that you look at a school by school basis and look at the classes they offer in their comp sci programs. You will often see a lot of differences from school to school. The main focus of picking a comp sci program is WHAT YOU WILL LEARN and how those skills apply to the type of jobs you want to be marketable for.

Hope this advice helps. :)
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Re: Some questions about Computer Science

Posted 13 November 2010 - 09:20 PM

That was incredibly helpful, thanks! I figured I would be learning programming languages while pursuing my CS degree, but I was hoping getting this Associate's would let me get a good background in programming so when I do take those CS classes I can focus more on applying the programming skills rather than trying to learn them and the CS concepts simultaneously, and from what you said I think I'm feeling pretty good about the Associate's degree.
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#4 Wahoo  Icon User is offline

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Re: Some questions about Computer Science

Posted 13 November 2010 - 09:36 PM

Sorry for the double post; I just joined and I can't edit my posts I made as a guest.

Anywho. If there are a few people on these forums that have a degree in CS, it would be cool if they (you) could post what your job is and what you do on a daily basis, etc. just so I (and possibly others) can get a better idea of career opportunities after college.
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#5 xclite  Icon User is offline

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Re: Some questions about Computer Science

Posted 13 November 2010 - 09:46 PM

http://www.dreaminco...1&#entry1143129

Has some information and posts on jobs in the industry.
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#6 Wahoo  Icon User is offline

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Re: Some questions about Computer Science

Posted 13 November 2010 - 09:57 PM

Thanks, that was helpful.

So what's a typical day like for a CS graduate in the workforce? Does getting a CS degree typically mean I am going to be a programmer? What are some examples of some programs that you guys are working on or have worked on for your job (nothing too specific, of course)?
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#7 mojo666  Icon User is offline

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Re: Some questions about Computer Science

Posted 13 November 2010 - 11:17 PM

1. I actually went to community college for two years with the intent on transferring and finishing at a four year university. Thus, I spent the time solely trying to knock out as many transferable credits as possible without trying to earn an associates. If your community college is anything like mine was, then its information technology courses are completely useless for the university. The university considered the most advanced course of the community college equivalent to the first computer science course that all freshmen take. So, I spent my time taking all the general education courses (English, philosophy, all the engineering prereqs, ect), then when I got to the university I could focus solely on the courses related to my major, which was important because I only had one class counting towards my major. Check out some Universities that you want to transfer to. See how the courses transfer. Unless your community college is better than your average community college, I doubt the associates will mean much to the university. It may be better spending your time taking general ed courses so you wont be stuck at the university for four more years.

You will definitely need to learn one of the object oriented languages (c++, java, ect) and it is certainly beneficial to learn more than one. But, it is not imperative that you learn a ton of languages ahead of time or anything. Most classes will introduce you to one of the less popular languages/tools for that course, and chances are you will never use that language again. For example, my university courses used JAVA, C++, MIPS, OCAML, MATLAB, and Powershell (though the last one was my choice) as well as HTML and Latex markup languages. Professionally, I use Powershell, C#/VB, XSLT, and SQL. Most of my personal projects are in C++ and I've also dabbled in LISP Common.

2. Everyone needs IT people, and for some reason they they think they should be looking for computer science degrees. So, your degree will be really attractive to all types of employers, but beyond the resume you gotta be prepared to show that you know your stuff. I find very little overlap between business and academia. Certainly there are exceptions, however most of my acquaintances in IT fields were not computer science majors. "Computer Scientists" tends to refer to the professors that stay in academia. They are valued for their understanding and development of computer theory. Everyone else is valued for the application and proficiency with certain languages and tools. Basically, don't expect the interviewer to be to impressed with your extensive knowledge of graph theory and Recursively Enumerable Languages. They are more concerned in your memorization of the development life cycles and your ability to document with UML.

3. Computer science is the study of computers and computation. Anything about computers falls under computer science: how they are built, the various programming paradigms, how information is represented/transferred/and transformed, what problems computers can solve, how we interact with computers, ect.
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#8 Wahoo  Icon User is offline

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Re: Some questions about Computer Science

Posted 14 November 2010 - 07:21 AM

I probably should have mentioned this before now: I've already taken pretty much all of my gen-ed requirements. I've taken two semesters of chemistry, calculus I and will be taking calculus II this spring, my social science and humanities electives, two semesters of english, linear algebra, and one semester of physics. If I get my Associate's degree in programming it's going to be for me, not hoping that it will lighten my courseload at the university per se, but just making it easier to focus on learning the cs concepts rather than learning the cs concepts AND learning the programming languages. The way I see it, I could get my Associate's in engineering which was my original plan but decided I didn't like and would probably take at least as long as the programming, or the gen ed Associate's which I could probably finish this spring but I don't feel would help me as much in the long run, or the programming Associate's which is something that really interests me and I think would help me greatly down the road.

So, considering all of that, would you still advise against the programming degree?

Also, how much and how high of a level of math is used in computer science professionally? I noticed at the unis I'm looking at both require linear algebra and calc II for their Bachelor's.

All of you guys are really helpful and I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions.

I just typed all of that on a Droid and I'm pretty sure I've got carpal tunnel now so please excuse any typos. Thanks.

This post has been edited by Wahoo: 14 November 2010 - 07:23 AM

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#9 Oler1s  Icon User is offline

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Re: Some questions about Computer Science

Posted 14 November 2010 - 10:02 AM

I advise against the programming degree. Programming is self taught. Particularly at the introductory levels, talking to other people is not helpful. What you need to do is sit down and fiddle with the computer by yourself, building up an understanding. If you want an analogy, it's like working with legos. Initially, it's important you sit down and actually fiddle with the pieces. Not listen to lectures.

Because programming is self taught, a degree in programming is more useful for being a degree than for being in programming. If you want a degree that interests employers, it should be in computer science, or a related technical field (something from engineering or math or science).

Computer science is math, effectively. It's like electrical engineer as opposed to electrician. You want wiring done, you don't call an electrical engineer. Quite likely, they won't know what to do either. By entering CS, you focus on the computational aspects as opposed to art of programming.

In computer science, the relevant math tends to focus primarily on discrete math. You've seen that the degrees require Calculus and Linear Algebra, but what you don't realize is that the Linear Algebra aspect is so much more important, and that you'll pursue more math after that.

If you're trying to cover the programming issue, as I said, it's self taught. Choose a language and start learning, and you are on your way.
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