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What are the Different Types of Computer Science Majors?

By Britt Archer
Updated: Jan 28, 2024

For better or worse, computers have become as much a part of daily life as the electric light bulb. As with any advance in technology, there has been a surge in the number of people needed to work on or with computers. Individuals pursuing higher education have increasingly been turning toward fields that involve computers or technology in some way. Computer science, one of the majors many students have chosen, is, by its nature, continually at the forefront of new breakthroughs and ideas. It is an excellent career path for anyone looking to become involved in the technological field.

People who are considering the pursuit of a computer science major may be surprised to learn that, quite often, computer science is not about computers themselves at all. Computer science degrees teach individuals to use the technology at hand, and the ins and outs of that technology, to solve problems. Computer science is a very math-oriented degree, with most students taking courses on algorithms, data analysis and mathematical computing in their first year of study. Computer science majors spend many hours analyzing different forms of computer programming, and using that programming to solve problems or to create new technology.

Computer science majors often spend the majority of their day researching, and this is true of not only those still in the academic setting, but those in the job market as well. Computer scientists may use studies in artificial intelligence to improve the stock market, or they may design programs that help us better understand the world around us. One excellent example of a scientific breakthrough that came about as a result of computer science was the mapping of the Human Genome Project. The calculations needed to obtain a complete picture of the human genome were so advanced that humans would have had to spend years working on the mathematics, but by creating a new program out of familiar technology, computer scientists were able to aid in the discovery.

Computer science majors are increasingly being offered at colleges and universities in many locations. Computer science degrees range in intensity from associate’s degrees to post-graduate degrees, with most computer science programs requiring four years of study, resulting in a bachelor's of science degree. Some institutions offer computer science majors that are coupled with other majors, such as computer science and engineering, known as CSE, or computer science and information science, known as CIS. Most programs of this nature have similar required courses, but different career paths in mind for their students.

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Discussion Comments
By Mammmood — On Dec 19, 2011

@allenJo - I believe that most computer science majors are in software development of one kind or another. Ironically, you don’t have to be a whiz at math to be a good programmer.

However, if you were in the field of research, then I suppose that would be a different story. I wouldn’t mind pursuing the research option, because you can explore theoretical concepts that may not have immediate practical applications but still would be worthwhile to study.

By allenJo — On Dec 18, 2011

@NathanG - I never majored in computer science but I do have a friend who did. When I asked what do computer science majors do in their normal course of study, he said it was all math, math and more math.

He called it “plug and play” math. There weren’t a lot of word problems but plenty of formulas. He told me not to consider a major in computer science if I didn’t like math.

I would assume that perhaps if the CIS degree is diluted to any extent, it may tone down the math portion, that’s just my guess.

By NathanG — On Dec 18, 2011

@Charred - To answer your second question, I don’t think it would keep you from getting any job in computer programming, assuming you had the programming experience under your belt.

As long as your degree is technical (and even if it isn’t in some cases) most companies will allow it so long as you can program in language XYZ or whatever they happen to be using.

As for whether the CIS degree is diluted, I don’t know. I do know that MIS majors are not held in as high esteem (at least where I work) as CS majors. There’s no disputing the fact that the MIS curriculum is not as intensive. It seems to be geared towards network administrators from what I understand. But again, if you’re just trying to program, it doesn’t matter.

By Charred — On Dec 17, 2011

The school my daughter attends used to offer a separate major in computer science in addition to MIS (Management of Information Systems). However last year they combined the two degrees into one major, CIS, as mentioned in the article.

When I asked why, I understood from other students that the enrollment in MIS was very low so that’s why they created the new degree. My question is do you think a CIS degree is as valuable in the job market as someone who has a CS (computer science) degree?

I would think that the CIS degree would be somewhat diluted. Would it keep you from getting the best job in computer programming?

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