Bachelor’s programs in computer science (CS) cover the theoretical and mathematical underpinnings of computing. Schools offer various degree titles, including bachelor of arts in computer science, bachelor of applied science in computer science, and bachelor of computing in computer science.
Schools may also offer interdisciplinary bachelor’s degrees that allow CS students to combine interests, such as a bachelor of mathematics in computer science, a bachelor of technology in computer science and engineering, or a bachelor of engineering in computer science.
Bachelor of computer science (BCS) courses vary by school and program, but they typically cover areas like computer programming, software engineering, computer hardware, and artificial intelligence engineering. Students may examine topics such as computability, information, automata, and algorithm design.
The page below discusses bachelor of computer science degrees, including common curricula, potential career paths for graduates, and admission requirements. This degree overview also provides program rankings and describes helpful resources, such as professional organizations and scholarships for computer science students.
What Is a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science?
Most CS bachelor’s programs include core coursework in computer architecture and programming, data structures, algorithms, and logic and computation. However, given the breadth of the CS discipline, bachelor’s programs can differ significantly in terms of focus and available specializations. For example, some programs may heavily emphasize math, requiring courses in areas such as calculus, statistics, probability, and discrete mathematics.
Students often get to choose from a variety of electives and specializations in areas including data communications, software testing, operating systems, and computer networking. Theoretically minded students may opt to investigate computation theory, information theory, or human-computer interaction. Other students might pursue specializations in artificial intelligence, real-time computing, or computer graphics.
A bachelor’s degree in CS is extremely versatile and prepares students for diverse CS and IT careers. Potential roles for graduates include software developer, hardware engineer, computer systems or information security analyst, and network architect.
Graduates may also choose to pursue a relevant master’s degree, which is a common requirement for computer and information research scientists. These professionals address complex problems by inventing innovative computing designs and new applications for technology. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), research scientists earn a median annual salary of $122,840, and jobs in the profession are projected to grow 16% between 2018-2028.
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Common Bachelor’s in Computer Science Courses
- Human-Computer Interaction
- As a discipline, HCI examines the design and use of interactive computing systems, aiming to facilitate intuitive user interfaces. Drawing from disciplines such as cognitive psychology, design, and computer science, this course discusses current theory, methodology, guidelines, and design of interactive computing systems. Students explore the entire timeline of a design process, setting requirements and specifications, designing and prototyping, and evaluating the user interfaces they design. HCI courses typically use case studies to enhance student learning. Prerequisites often include math and computer science or programming courses.
- Data Mining and Machine Learning
- A newer addition to CS course catalogs, machine learning and data mining courses introduce the key terms, concepts, and methods associated with the sorting and analysis of large data sets using machines. The algorithms covered in these courses enable students to build relevant applications for a variety of fields, including biometrics, market segmentation, and industrial automation. Students explore both supervised and unsupervised learning models and gain familiarity with machine learning’s use of neural networks. Concepts might include the histogram, Bayesian classifiers, decision trees, linear machines, k-means clustering, and expectation maximization. Students may create their own programs using pseudocode, and should enter the course with some familiarity with Python.
- Ethics and Digital Technology
- This interdisciplinary course offers a comprehensive framework for evaluating and responding to the ethical dilemmas raised by digital technology. Students learn about general ethics concepts and theories as well as issues specific to digital technology, such as censorship, intellectual property, and privacy. This course also examines emerging challenges associated with autonomous machines, computational genomics, and pervasive computing. Though applicable to all CS students, this course proves particularly essential for those interested in computer forensics, information systems management, and computer security. Enrollment in the class may require a prior digital literacy course.
- Software Engineering
- Focused on the elements of the software development lifecycle, this course covers the structure of a project, including the identification of its stakeholders and requirements. Students develop project specifications, prototypes, and validation techniques. The course may cover the differences between function-oriented programming and object-oriented programming models. Documentation is often a key part of a project, so students can expect to examine documentation practices, including methods for tracking and managing requirements across a product’s lifecycle.
- Data Structures
- This course familiarizes students with key data structure concepts and algorithms. Among other data structures, students can expect to learn stacks, hash tables, graphs, and queues. Students also learn how to write and analyze algorithms, sometimes using recursion. In order to demonstrate the complex and wide-ranging tangible applications of these theoretical concepts, the course may use case studies and examples.
Admission Requirements for a Bachelor’s in Computer Science
Computer science bachelor’s programs look for candidates with strong academic records and standardized test scores. Applicants typically need a high school diploma (or equivalent) and a minimum 2.0-3.0 GPA. Most programs also require freshman applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. Additionally, candidates may need high school prerequisites in English, natural sciences, social sciences, foreign languages, and math.
Computer science bachelor’s programs often look favorably on prospective students with relevant professional experience and/or prior college coursework, and may waive standardized test score requirements for such applicants.
Most programs allow applicants to submit their application online. Materials may include official transcripts, standardized test scores, and a nonrefundable application fee, typically between $30-$75. Many schools also require letters of recommendation and an essay.
Is a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science Worth It?
Graduates with an associate degree can pursue some technology-related roles, such as computer systems analyst, web developer, and computer support specialist. However, many entry-level IT and CS job postings expect or require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree.
Graduates with a bachelor’s degree can work as software developers, database administrators, information security analysts, hardware engineers, or network architects. Some bachelor’s graduates use their degree to qualify for master’s programs, which allow for further advancement in the field.
For professionals already working in the field, earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science can lead to salary advancement or promotion to management-level jobs with more responsibility, such as IT project manager or computer and information systems manager.
According to PayScale, professionals with a bachelor’s in computer science make an average of $85,000 annually, while associate degree graduates in CS make about $65,000 per year. According to the BLS, computer and information systems managers make a median annual salary of $146,360.
Careers in Computer Science
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Professional Organizations for Computer Science
Association for Women in Computing
Established in 1978, AWC supports the professional growth of women in technology careers, including programmers, technical writers, consultants, and system analysts. One of the earliest professional organizations for women in the field, AWC provides education, networking, and mentorship opportunities. Affiliated with the Institute for Certification of Computer Professionals, AWC encourages competence and professionalism and runs programs to develop both technical and professional skills. Networking opportunities take place online and in person at AWC's local chapters across the country. Many colleges and universities boast AWC student chapters for women pursuing computing careers.
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society
IEEE endeavors to foster global community among technical professionals and inspire innovation that improves society. Many members work together on beneficial technologies in fields such as robotics, sustainable energy, healthcare, and communications. IEEE seeks to connect its over 419,000 global members through conferences, online networking and collaboration tools, and networking events. Geared toward students and professionals in engineering, technology, and computing, this organization also publishes technology standards and publications applicable to the field, curated in its digital library.
Computing Research Association
Founded in 1972, the CRA comprises over 200 affiliated professional organizations and computer research organizations in government, industry, and academia. CRA advances computing knowledge and practice by supporting computing research, expanding research's impact, and supporting computing researchers through talent and leadership development initiatives. Federal government officials rely on the CRA for information that guides federal policy on computing research support.
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
Since its founding in 1981, this international organization has advocated for ethical, responsible technology use. With members in 26 countries, CPSR boasts local and international chapters and educates the public and policymakers on various issues related to technology. CPSR incubates significant projects, including the Public Sphere Project, the Civil Society Project, Privaterra, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center. CPSR also produces an activist's handbook, policies and guidelines for responsible technology, and a monthly member newsletter.
Computer Science Scholarships
Banatao Family Filipino American Education Fund Scholarships
Each year, the family of Dado and Maria Banatao awards five $5,000 renewable scholarships to eligible Filipino students. Available to students from specific counties in California, each of the five scholarship recipients must be of at least 50% ethnic Filipino heritage.
Eligibility requires full-time enrollment in an accredited, four-year college and a major in a STEM subject, such as computer science. Scholarship recipients must also demonstrate financial need and hold a minimum 3.0 GPA.
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Generation Google Scholarship
In an effort to increase diversity in the computer science field, this Google scholarship supports aspiring computer science majors, emphasizing underrepresented groups in tech. Applicants must plan to study in the United States or Canada, and awardees receive $10,000 USD or $5,000 CAD. Recipients also receive an invitation to the Google Scholars’ Retreat.
Applicants must hold a high school diploma and demonstrate current or intended enrollment in a relevant bachelor’s or graduate degree program at an accredited college or university. Google chooses recipients based on demonstrated leadership, academic merit, and prospective influence on diversity in the field.
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Google Lime Scholarship
Serving students with disabilities, this scholarship awards $10,000 USD or $5,000 CAD to qualified students in the United States and Canada. Applicants must be full-time students pursuing a computer science degree at an accredited institution. They must also demonstrate leadership potential, academic merit, and a passion for their subject of study.
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CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service
A collaborative offering from the Department of Homeland Security and the National Science Foundation, the CyberCorps program offers full-tuition scholarships to full-time computer science students at participating universities. Each institution stipulates its own application process.
Participants in the program must complete summer internships and pledge to work in government for a duration equivalent to the years of scholarship funding received. If willing to work in the sector longer, some recipients can also collect $20,000-$30,000 stipends.
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Are computer science degrees worth it?
Computer science degrees pave the way for extensive job opportunities, and PayScale data indicates that computer science bachelor’s degree-holders make $20,000 more annually than those with associate degrees in the same field.
Is computer science a hard major?
Computer science courses are difficult, but diligent students with quantitative aptitudes typically find computer science both challenging and rewarding.
What is the best computer science degree?
When choosing the appropriate degree to pursue, students should consider their career aspirations. According to PayScale, professionals with a bachelor of engineering in computer science make an average of about $100,000 annually — about $15,000 more than graduates of some other CS bachelor’s programs.
How long does it take to get a bachelor’s degree in computer science?
Bachelor’s programs typically take four years of full-time study to complete, but some programs offer accelerated and/or part-time options.
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