Majoring in Computer Science: FAQ

  • What is the difference between a BS and a BA degree?

    Bachelor of Science degree programs tend to have more required courses than Bachelor of Arts degree programs. The purpose of the additional requirements is to give graduates with a BS a focus or concentration that graduates with a BA do not usually get. The Computer Science BS degree programs provide a focus on industry needs (the Software Engineering Track), security (the Cyber Security Track), or graduate school preparation (the Languages and Systems Track). The BA provides a solid foundation on which the student may build in many directions.

    Is the BS or the BA the better degree?

    Employers may have a small preference for graduates with BS degrees because of the understanding that the student has taken more computer science courses. However, some employers may be looking for graduates who have combined their degree with things other than computer science. For some of these job opportunities, the graduate with a BA degree may have an edge, depending on what other things the student has studied. 

    How many students are in the Computer Science programs?

    The number varies, but at the beginning of 2005, there were about 250 students in all Computer Science programs.

    I don't know which track to choose; how can I decide?

    Actually, it makes almost no difference which track a student is in for his/her freshman year. All Computer Science students take virtually the same courses as freshmen. If you have no specific preference among the tracks, choose either the BS Software Engineering Track or the BA. This recommendation is based on the fact that historically 60 to 65 percent of graduates are in the BS Software Engineering Track at the time of graduation. If you have interests in addition to computer science, perhaps in areas such as music, art, history, Asian culture, or other areas not usually associated with computer science, choose the BA, because the BA can be combined with such other interests.

    Do graduates from IUP Computer Science programs get jobs?

    Yes. Graduates of our programs have had excellent success in being hired in a wide variety of industry positions. In past years, many graduates have had their choice from multiple offers. Even with the downturn in technology in recent years, graduates are still getting jobs. Does that mean all of them? No. Not every student graduates with a stellar academic record; not every student is willing to relocate to where the job prospects are better. For many examples of success stories from our more than 1,300 graduates, see the Debugger.

    Can I graduate in four years?

    Yes. The suggested schedules show how a student can complete all requirements in any of the degree tracks in eight semesters. You can see that even if a student chooses to do an internship, he or she can complete the degree in four years. Naturally, a student may make class choices other than those advised, have a weak background that may require additional courses, or fail classes. Any of those things can lead to staying more than eight semesters. However, the suggested schedules do not assume that a student has every possible advantage in his/her background.

    What are the job prospects for the future?

    Excellent. The last published study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts annual growth in information technology (IT) jobs of 3.6 percent through 2012. Some technology areas, such as network administration and security, are expected to grow considerably faster, 5.5 percent annually. These percentages translate into more than a million new IT jobs. In addition, 600,000 IT professionals will need to be replaced by 2012 because of retirement.

    Do you teach how to use product “X”?

    What product “X” is varies from question to question. Of course, the answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no. We are constantly updating our curriculum to address changing industry needs and evolving pedagogical practices. Much of what we teach follows from the recommendations of the Association for Computing Machinery, the largest and most influential organization of computer and information science professionals in the world. We regard the development of problem-solving skills, the understanding and application of key concepts, and the adoption of lifelong learning techniques as far more important than the development of skill with some particular piece of software that is in vogue. Employers agree.

    Should I have my own computer?

    There are a number of advantages to having your own computer. It doesn't matter whether you choose a desktop or a laptop computer, although if you intend to take notes on your own computer in class, you obviously need a laptop. Most computer science classes are based on Windows XP systems. Some are based on Linux systems; we do not use Apple systems. Development software used in classes is available to students free of charge. However, having your own computer is not a necessity; there are many open computer labs on campus. Several labs have most of the software that we use; one open lab will always have all the software we use.

    Do you have a graduate program?

    Not at the moment. We are currently developing a Master of Science in Cyber Security.

    What is the faculty/student ratio?

    Average class sizes are as follows:

    • Twenty-two students for introductory courses
    • Seventeen students for intermediate courses
    • Fifteen students for advanced courses