Question about majoring in Computer Science

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#1 omglookitsagoat  Icon User is offline

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Question about majoring in Computer Science

Posted 30 September 2011 - 03:23 PM

Hi. I'm new to this forum and I'm a college student. I'm working on an associates degree at a community college right now and trying to decide what college to transfer to for a bachelors and what major I would want. I'm strongly considering computer science, but I have some questions about the major I'd like to take into consideration when deciding what to major in. If I major in computer science, I will most likely go to the University of Texas at Dallas in Richardson, Texas and also minor in marketing.

My concern/question:

I am aware that computer science is considered a very heavy-weight challenging major especially in the areas of math and science. Honestly, math was not my favorite subject in high school, but I'm willing to work hard to be good at it if I need to. However, I am a little worried about going into a major that requires a lot of advanced math. Looking over the computer science curriculum at UTD, I noticed just about ALL the major preparatory classes are math classes or very math intensive. I figured there must be a reason why the preparatory classes are so heavy in math. Is there always a lot of math involved in computer science, or is that a relic of tradition? I've heard contradictory things about the computer science major. I am willing to take all the major preparatory classes to finish the degree, but If everything about computer science is as math-intensive as the preparatory classes, then I'm not sure this is the right major for me. An older computer science degree holder told me not to worry too much about it because Calculus is probably the hardest class I'll need to take and if I can get past that, then I'll be fine. Another person older than me who worked in the technology industry told me that computer science and computer programming themselves do not have nearly as much math in them as the math classes we are required to take. The degree just requires a lot of math classes because it develops analytical thinking skills. Another person said that computer programming used to require more math (for research and development) than most modern computer science-related jobs now. Is that true? Here is the curriculum page if you are interested: Link

Why I'm considering this major:

I'm interested in learning more about technology because there are so many interesting things you can do with technology and I admire the skills it takes to use technology to accomplish amazing things. I'm interested in programming, so I'm taking a few programming classes at my community college first and some math prerequisites to prepare. I'm technically working on 2 associates degrees. One is the general education requirements for a bachelors degree, one is an associates in graphic design with emphasis in web design. Since I like web design, I'm also taking electives in web development. So far, the web programming I've done so far for school is easy and fun. Web development as a career sounds appealing to me, but I do realize there is a lot of competition in that field. I thought hard about my major and decided that I'd like to try to do it anyway, but after lots of research and thought, a degree in computer science sounded like a better investment than a degree in web development. If I develop websites and/or software, graphic design could be a good compliment because I could use my graphic design skills to design user interfaces to go with the applications I code. Also, since computer science is more broad than web development, I could switch into a different field more easily if I ever wanted to.

My chosen minor:

I figured marketing would be a good minor because graphic design and web development are closely related to internet marketing. Also, I've heard that many employers prefer to hire techies with a business sense over someone that doesn't know any skills to compliment their ability to code. I think if I'm going to major in computer science, I should minor in something else as well because I need to be a full-time student for insurance purposes, but I really don't think I could handle more than 2 math classes or math-intensive classes per semester, so I need something to fill up the gaps in my schedule with while I'm taking the major preparatory courses 2 at a time. By the time I complete the major preparatory courses, I will also have just about completed a minor and I will be ready to fill up a full time schedule with major core requirements if they are less math-intensive than the preparatory classes.

Basically, what I'd like to know is this: Do I need to worry that much about the math requirements? Is this a good major for me?

Thanks very much to everyone for reading my post and for any helpful answers you give. I appreciate it.

This post has been edited by omglookitsagoat: 30 September 2011 - 03:26 PM


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Replies To: Question about majoring in Computer Science

#2 blackcompe  Icon User is offline

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Re: Question about majoring in Computer Science

Posted 30 September 2011 - 05:08 PM

I'm sure everyone else agrees that we can't give you a definite answer. It depends on your Math aptitude. I've seen absolutely clueless people make it through calculus. Most programs have you do two years of calc, a discrete math class, and a stats class. Calc is nothing more but tedious symbol manipulation, but you really have to read your book or you'll get lost quickly. Discrete math is fairly easy. Never took stats. The funny thing is you won't use 95% of what you learn in your CS classes. It depends on what you take. AI definitely requires stats knowledge, but you don't have to take AI. Algorithms requires discrete math, but just the basics. I really wouldn't worry about the math. There are tons are people at your school that take calc, who aren't good at it, but have to take it. Your upper-level CS classes will be much harder. :sadlike:

If you want to be a web developer go for that degree, especially if your thinking of front-end design. That doesn't require anything close to what you'll be learning in CS.
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#3 macosxnerd101  Icon User is online

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Re: Question about majoring in Computer Science

Posted 30 September 2011 - 05:38 PM

*Moved to Student Campus*

You use math a lot in Computer Science. Not really much Calculus, depending on what you get into, but a lot of Discrete Math. Topics like Set Theory, Number Theory, Graph Theory, Computational Complexity Theory, Combinatorics, etc. I have a blog entry and resource thread you may find relevant.

Honestly, Computer Science is not as much practical programming. You don't sit in class and crank out business applications or websites so much. You focus on theory like data structures and algorithms, AI, Natural and Formal Languages, Computer Organization, etc. A lot of these are very math heavy. An Information Systems degree (BIS, BIT, CIS, etc.) are generally more practical, along the lines of what you described as your interests. It is usually housed in the Business department.
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#4 omglookitsagoat  Icon User is offline

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Re: Question about majoring in Computer Science

Posted 30 September 2011 - 07:16 PM

Thank you very much. Maybe I should look more into the EMAC program at UTD. That sounds like it might be more relevant to what I'm interested in. Or possibly CIS likemacosxnerd01 suggested.

I know CS isn't that related to web development, but whenever I look at job postings for web development, I see mostly employers looking for someone with a CS degree for some reason. I guess because that sounds more impressive than web development?

This post has been edited by omglookitsagoat: 30 September 2011 - 07:25 PM

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#5 elgose  Icon User is offline

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Re: Question about majoring in Computer Science

Posted 02 October 2011 - 06:28 PM

If math is the only thing keeping you away from jumping into CS, don't fret it. The calc classes are pretty difficult at UTD, but you can always take calc I and calc II (do MATH2413&2415, not 2417&2419) at a community college and transfer the credits. You're lucky, too, that CS doesn't require calc III. Discrete I and II aren't that bad, linear is probably one of the easier ones you'll tackle. The physics classes are calc-based, and the labs are a bit extreme in what they expect vs. the number of credits you'd get, so I may even suggest doing physics at a community college as well. After that, you're in the meat and potatoes. Applying math in your CS classes is a lot simpler than learning the math in the math class.

Now, as you've heard, CS isn't all application, but if you have the right drive you can apply what you learn in your classes to develop your "real world" coding skills on your own. If you rely 100% on your in-class work, then you're going to be left behind. I'm doing CS because I not only love learning about the topic, but I think knowing the theory is making me a better developer. But everyone's different.

EMAC might actually be too far in the opposite direction. It's essentially an ATEC degree, and if you look at the curriculum, notice how it's basically void of any actual programming classes? From the descriptions, it sounds like more of the high-level theory rather than actual development. I could be mistaken, I don't know anyone who is pursuing an EMAC degree.

The advisors at UTD have always given me good advice, you might want to stop in and have a quick chat to see if they can offer some additional insight. You're not the first person to be a little unsure.
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#6 omglookitsagoat  Icon User is offline

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Re: Question about majoring in Computer Science

Posted 03 October 2011 - 07:59 AM

View Postelgose, on 02 October 2011 - 06:28 PM, said:

If math is the only thing keeping you away from jumping into CS, don't fret it. The calc classes are pretty difficult at UTD, but you can always take calc I and calc II (do MATH2413&2415, not 2417&2419) at a community college and transfer the credits. You're lucky, too, that CS doesn't require calc III. Discrete I and II aren't that bad, linear is probably one of the easier ones you'll tackle. The physics classes are calc-based, and the labs are a bit extreme in what they expect vs. the number of credits you'd get, so I may even suggest doing physics at a community college as well. After that, you're in the meat and potatoes. Applying math in your CS classes is a lot simpler than learning the math in the math class.

Now, as you've heard, CS isn't all application, but if you have the right drive you can apply what you learn in your classes to develop your "real world" coding skills on your own. If you rely 100% on your in-class work, then you're going to be left behind. I'm doing CS because I not only love learning about the topic, but I think knowing the theory is making me a better developer. But everyone's different.

EMAC might actually be too far in the opposite direction. It's essentially an ATEC degree, and if you look at the curriculum, notice how it's basically void of any actual programming classes? From the descriptions, it sounds like more of the high-level theory rather than actual development. I could be mistaken, I don't know anyone who is pursuing an EMAC degree.

The advisors at UTD have always given me good advice, you might want to stop in and have a quick chat to see if they can offer some additional insight. You're not the first person to be a little unsure.



Thanks. Your advice is helpful, especially since you seem to know a little about UTD. Do you go there? I just re-planned my class schedule last night for the next few years at the community college I'm attending so I can fit in more math, science, and programming prerequisites that would help me get a CS degree at UTD. If I can follow my plan close enough, then that should help me a lot when I get to UTD. I'm trying to learn more about web programming as I've mentioned before, so that should help with real world programming I think. I decided to stay a little longer and get a degree in web development while I work on transfer credits to UTD. It will take me a while to get my degree, but I'll learn more things that way. I was already planning to take at least half the credits required for the web development associates at my community college as electives anyway, so I might as well finish the degree.
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#7 NeoTifa  Icon User is offline

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Re: Question about majoring in Computer Science

Posted 03 October 2011 - 10:11 AM

Just keep up with your work and you should be good. Trust me.
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#8 omglookitsagoat  Icon User is offline

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Re: Question about majoring in Computer Science

Posted 03 October 2011 - 10:42 AM

ok thanks

View Postmacosxnerd101, on 30 September 2011 - 05:38 PM, said:

*Moved to Student Campus*

You use math a lot in Computer Science. Not really much Calculus, depending on what you get into, but a lot of Discrete Math. Topics like Set Theory, Number Theory, Graph Theory, Computational Complexity Theory, Combinatorics, etc. I have a blog entry and resource thread you may find relevant.

Honestly, Computer Science is not as much practical programming. You don't sit in class and crank out business applications or websites so much. You focus on theory like data structures and algorithms, AI, Natural and Formal Languages, Computer Organization, etc. A lot of these are very math heavy. An Information Systems degree (BIS, BIT, CIS, etc.) are generally more practical, along the lines of what you described as your interests. It is usually housed in the Business department.



Whenever I look at available job postings for web developers online, I see employers looking for someone with a degree in CS a lot of the time. I thought about majoring in CIS instead, but I see more job openings for people with computer science in web development. I've also heard that CS is often more highly esteemed. I'd like to also learn about business, so CIS might be a good major for me, but if I get a CS degree with a business minor, would that prepare me as well?
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#9 xclite  Icon User is offline

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Re: Question about majoring in Computer Science

Posted 03 October 2011 - 11:10 AM

Those looking for web developers would probably do better to hire CIS, BIT (Business Information Technology), or IT majors than CS majors, if a university offers them.

Unfortunately, that doesn't mean they're aware enough to know there's a difference.

This post has been edited by xclite: 03 October 2011 - 11:10 AM

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#10 elgose  Icon User is offline

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Re: Question about majoring in Computer Science

Posted 03 October 2011 - 09:06 PM

Plus, HR usually sticks their collective nose in the hiring process such that job postings are sometimes misrepresented or the first round of interviews involve impressing the wrong people. I also believe that CS has been around as a widely accepted degree program for longer than most other "related" degrees. This doesn't mean it's instantly a better fit for you.

And yes, I'm currently working on my bachelor's at UTD.
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#11 xclite  Icon User is offline

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Re: Question about majoring in Computer Science

Posted 04 October 2011 - 08:36 AM

HR can be pretty clueless. A classic example is when they want 10 years experience in a platform or language that isn't that old. Another is requiring knowledge of pretty much every popular language and paradigm:

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Must be familiar with all of the following: AJAX, MSQL, C#, VB.NET, Java, C/C++, Python, PHP, ASM, Ruby on Rails, HTML, CSS, and Flash

This post has been edited by xclite: 04 October 2011 - 08:36 AM

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#12 ishkabible  Icon User is offline

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Re: Question about majoring in Computer Science

Posted 04 October 2011 - 01:40 PM

Quote

University of Texas at Dallas in Richardson

that's where i grew up! well Richardson anyhow. i lived all over there, i used to drive by UTD when i went to school in 4th grade. The last placed i lived was closer to SMU though.
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#13 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is offline

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Re: Question about majoring in Computer Science

Posted 06 October 2011 - 09:45 PM

From where I'm sitting, CIS and IT type degrees are looked on as "rocks for jocks" classes. The read on those courses is that nothing difficult is done there, so a degree there doesn't demonstrate anything. You hire those people for tech support, not for coding.
If you're hiring coders, you interview on resume and you hire on the interview. The resume grabs you for whatever reason - might be a degree, experience, a recommendation from someone you know, or some combination - but it's the interview that gets you the job. Some people get into programming through tech support, but I don't think that's very common. The two really don't relate very much, except in that they both involve computers. None of the tech support guys where I'm working do any programming, and the programmers call tech support when stuff breaks.

As for the CS/math thing, I look at it this way: I don't really use a lot of math per se in programming. I've seen some pretty cool stuff that relies on weird proofs in graph theory and so forth, so it doesn't hurt, but I don't find that not knowing those things holds me back.

What I do find is that writing good programs requires the same sort of thinking that solving math problems requires - that is, it requires disciplined leaps of insight. You have to be thinking about the problem at several levels at once, and keeping track of multiple abstractions. So in that light, I think it's reasonable to think that if you're going to be good at programming per se - not web design or datamonkey work, but actual programming - then you're going to be able to slog through the math even if it's not really your thing.

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I figured marketing would be a good minor because graphic design and web development are closely related to internet marketing


But graphic design and web development have almost nothing to do with computer science. A good programmer will certainly be familiar with the various web technologies, but I don't know anyone who is good at both graphic design and programming.

You might want to think a little more about what it is you're actually looking at doing. If you want to make web sites, you don't need a CS degree for that.
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#14 ishkabible  Icon User is offline

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Re: Question about majoring in Computer Science

Posted 07 October 2011 - 08:50 AM

kinda thread jacking here, is software engineering(what I'm enrolled to major in in 2012) viewed the same way as CIS/IT?

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I don't know anyone who is good at both graphic design and programming.

staycrisp :P

This post has been edited by ishkabible: 07 October 2011 - 08:50 AM

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#15 Gantz  Icon User is offline

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Re: Question about majoring in Computer Science

Posted 07 October 2011 - 08:17 PM

I highly doubt that anyone would 'look down' upon basically any type of engineering degree.

no offence peeps :)
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