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#1 NecroWinter   User is offline

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Computer science competency among undergraduate degree holders

Posted 03 November 2013 - 10:27 AM

do you feel like people who have graduated with their bachelors in Cs are competent at Cs, or do you feel like they're more geared towards general programming in a business environment?

I ask because a colleague of mine and I had a conversation about how tough some of the "real" computer science classes can be, namely algorithms, and I was wondering what people thought about this. do people who graduate with undergrad degrees really understand computer science? I've seen a lot of otherwise great students get really humbled by algorithms and other upper level Cs classes.

often times employers complain about students that graduate are too academic and don't know how to do practical things, I wonder how academic most really are.


I'm not trying to insinuate anything here, I'm genuinely just trying to gauge the opinions of others on this topic.

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Replies To: Computer science competency among undergraduate degree holders

#2 Martyr2   User is offline

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Re: Computer science competency among undergraduate degree holders

Posted 03 November 2013 - 10:38 AM

Well computer science graduates who actually do their work and learn the "methods" behind programming tend to know what they are doing. The problem is, a lot of comp sci students go through the motions, may learn some tools really well but never get the "why" they do what they do. The problem then becomes when the industry changes (which it does a lot) they don't adapt. Yeah they may know Clojure really well but when the company they work for jumps to Spring or something can they still be "functional"?

I guess what I am saying is that they learn the motions, not learn how to adapt. So when they come out of school they are fresh and on top of things, but in little less than a year they can be completely out in left field because industry is moving too fast for them.

So my answer is yes, they are competent but for how long? If they don't learn the right things, they end up becoming very incompetent very quickly. Of course are they going to tell their boss they can't do the job because they lack the skills? Hell no. They may even go into a new task thinking that their degree would save them, but little do they realize that they really don't know anything.

It is one of the reasons that some people who never got a CS degree can run circles around others. If they know how to adapt and loves to experiment and learn, they are the ones that companies should look at hiring.

:)
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#3 NecroWinter   User is offline

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Re: Computer science competency among undergraduate degree holders

Posted 03 November 2013 - 01:54 PM

Well, I mean how competent are they at the academic field of Computer Science. Do they genuinely understand algorithm analysis or data structures, do they really understand theory of computation etc?

Coming out of college, how many of them can analyze an algorithm they've never seen before? Can they explain the merits of a data structure they've never dealt at the time?

The question really has to do with whether or not Computer Science degrees even prepare people for academic computer science. It seems like very few people really like/care to understand upper level CS classes, especially considering a lot of the material isn't very practical for most jobs.

This post has been edited by NecroWinter: 03 November 2013 - 01:55 PM

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#4 jon.kiparsky   User is offline

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Re: Computer science competency among undergraduate degree holders

Posted 03 November 2013 - 02:03 PM

Depends on how much they worked at the theory. This partly depends on the instruction they get, but mostly it's about their motivation. It's like any math - if you just learn the rules and how to apply them to the sorts of problems the professor asks, you can pass the class and work those sorts of problems, but if you just learn that, you'll find it's hard to apply that stuff to the next set of problems. If you dig down and work the proofs, you'll be able to apply the rules to all sorts of problems. If you just memorize the running times of the various algorithms, you'll be able to parrot them back just fine, but if you do the analysis yourself, you'll be able to apply it to new algorithms.

I don't think it's possible to generalize well about CS students generally - some really dig in and get it, and some just don't bother.
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#5 macosxnerd101   User is offline

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Re: Computer science competency among undergraduate degree holders

Posted 03 November 2013 - 02:46 PM

It's also important to point out that theoretical computer science is a subset of academic computer science. Those in academia can and do work in areas such as data mining, graphics (there is a virtual reality lab at my school), low level architecture, AI, and more. It's important to realize that undergraduate CS theory courses are introductory courses. They may be intense; but taking one doesn't make a person an expert in the area. I think jon.kiparsky summed it up quite nicely- it's all about what people put into it.
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#6 jon.kiparsky   User is offline

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Re: Computer science competency among undergraduate degree holders

Posted 03 November 2013 - 02:48 PM

For that matter, taking advanced classes doesn't make you an expert - expertise comes from application, not instruction.
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#7 Dogstopper   User is offline

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Re: Computer science competency among undergraduate degree holders

Posted 03 November 2013 - 04:44 PM

Depends on the school as well. If the school teaches computer programming in certain technologies and languages, they will have difficulty adapting in later years unless they're dedicated to learning. Other schools take a theory approach where they teach you to adapt to ANY language that's present.
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#8 jon.kiparsky   User is offline

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Re: Computer science competency among undergraduate degree holders

Posted 03 November 2013 - 05:08 PM

I'm not sure that it's that simple. A student who learns one language deeply would get some advantages in learning new languages - I know that learning Java down to the compiler (in addition to some C) has made it a lot easier for me to understand and explain what's happening with someone's code in the Java forums, and it's also given me a lot of tools to learn other languages. I think that you can make a reasonable curriculum focussing on a single language, or using multiple languages. The important thing is that the curriculum be designed well to make the best use of that desision.

The real down side to multiple-language training is that you end up losing a lot of time learning syntax for every new class. So rather than expanding on what you've learned you can easily end up turning every class into CS101. So that's a little tough to navigate.
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#9 RozenKristal   User is offline

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Re: Computer science competency among undergraduate degree holders

Posted 05 November 2013 - 08:42 PM

I'm really interested in this topic. Graduating is next year but the prof environment still make me wonder if I am competent enough. The fact that I am unable to do anything under stress really makes me worry. Also, I would like to ask how do you guys cope with change?
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#10 astonecipher   User is offline

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Re: Computer science competency among undergraduate degree holders

Posted 06 November 2013 - 09:22 AM

RozenKristal Change is what keeps me interested, if I didn't have change I would get bored fast! I would try to figure out way to cope with stress, not just in coding, but in everything. You WILL have deadlines to meet. I would come in on days off to workout issues my team was having just to stay ahead of the curve while working on projects so I wouldn't be slammed at crunch time.
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