Classes For Computer Science: Exploring What You Will Learn

computer science classes

Computer science classes introduce students to the theories and principles of computer science. These classes cover numerous topics ranging from algorithms to programming. Students learn the fundamentals that prepare them for entry-level jobs and graduate studies.

In this article, we’ll answer many questions about pursuing a computer science degree. What is computer science and its importance? What classes are required for a computer science degree? What are the best occupations for computer science degree holders?

If you’re interested in a computer science career, read on. You will agree that, indeed, information contributes to smart decisions. 

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Introduction to Computer Science

Computer science isn’t only about coding and computer programming, far from it. Now that we’ve agreed on it, let’s consider its generally accepted definition.

Computer science is generally referred to as the study of computers, computer systems, and computing. The topics include:

  • Networks
  • Databases
  • Software development and software engineering
  • Machine learning and artificial intelligence
  • Human-computer interactions
  • Computer graphics and vision
  • Programming

Note, too, that computer science has four subfields :

  • Computer theory
  • Scientific computing
  • Hardware systems
  • Software systems

Computer science is among the most complex disciplines because of its extensive coverage.

For this reason, high school students must prepare for the intellectual challenges ahead. Studying computer science demands strong math skills, particularly in algebra, calculus, and statistics. These classes also produce strong analytical thinkers and problem-solvers.  

The Importance of Education and Its Impact on Your Career Opportunities

Why earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science in the first place? Will you also learn computer science through standalone courses and certificate programs? Will there be significant differences between these two learning paths?

Yes, there are significant differences. Earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science brings many personal and professional benefits.

  • Gain the technical knowledge and skills suitable for entry-level positions. Employers usually prefer applicants with bachelor’s degrees because these show professional entry-level competencies.
  • Develop transferable skills with practical applications in a wide range of settings. Communication, critical thinking, and collaboration skills are vital for career success. Being confident in your competencies is also important.
  • Be more competitive in the job market. Your hard and soft skills gained from earning a bachelor’s degree have that effect. Of course, you must prove your value once employed.
  • Enjoy more job satisfaction and stability. A bachelor’s degree usually results in higher earning potential and lower unemployment risk.
  • Be healthier and happier, too. You’re more likely to make healthier life choices and access healthcare services. These contribute to improved quality of life and longevity.

Suffice it to say that a bachelor’s degree will have a positive impact on your future. So, whenever you feel like your classes are too challenging, think of the rewards.

The Importance of Computer Science in the Modern World

Think also of the positive impact you can have on society. Computer science is among the crucial fields of study in the 21st century and beyond. The main reason is that computers and their related technologies are integrated into everyday life. Every industry that matters in modern society uses computers. Education, healthcare, energy, and transportation are a few examples.

The bottom line: Computer science is here to stay. As such, computer science professionals will always be in high demand.

Here are notable examples where computer science has a profound and positive impact.

  • Creating consumer goods used in daily activities, such as smartphones and GPS. E-commerce is also possible because of it.
  • Ensuring effective, efficient, and profitable business operations. Business professionals use computers to hire people, create products, and deliver services.
  • Promoting technological innovation that benefits society. Computer science professionals are the brains behind new technologies, particularly in startups. Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Jeff Bezos have computer science degrees. 
  • Driving economic growth. Startups and established businesses that use computers hire people. Jobs pump money into the economy through taxes and other means. Computer science occupations are among the highest-paid, too.
  • Developing technological advancements based on machine learning and AI. The Internet of Things, automation, and intelligent systems continue to shape modern life.
  • Improving healthcare services. Computational biology, bioinformatics, and health informatics benefit from computer science advancements. Telemedicine, personalized medicine, and genomics promote better patient outcomes, too.
  • Providing access to resources more fairly. Regardless of race, sex and background, people can access the Internet. Online learning, for example, has removed many financial and geographical barriers to education. 
  • Expanding access to communication. Smartphones and the Internet have opened doors of opportunities for expanded communication.
  • Improving environmental sustainability programs. Climate modeling and smart grids are products of computer science.

Look around and find that, indeed, modern life is better because of computer science. Now, isn’t that an excellent reason to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science?

What Kinds of Computer Science Classes Are There?

But it’s also important to set realistic expectations before plunging into it. Keep in mind that computer science is a STEM discipline. As a challenging field of study, you must be aware of its academic demands.

Start by asking, “What classes are required for computer science degrees?” Note that every computer science program has its specific curriculum and course descriptions. Read the course descriptions and research more information, if necessary. Doing so means being more prepared for the academic rigor ahead.

Here are common classes to take for computer science programs. These are arranged alphabetically, not according to the typical course sequence. The bulleted list refers to the common topics covered in each course.

Computer Architecture

  • History, basic principles, and current trends
  • Instruction set architecture
  • Processor design
  • Memory hierarchy
  • Input/output systems

Computer Game Design

  • Game concepts, settings, and storytelling
  • User experience design
  • Game balancing, play, and genres

As a team, students usually complete an original game.

Computer Graphics

  • Overview and applications
  • Mathematics for computer science
  • Raster graphics
  • 3D graphics and modeling
  • Graphics programming
  • VR and AR

Computer Technology

A computer technology class covers the basics, including:

  • Computer hardware and software
  • Operating systems
  • Data communication
  • Emerging technologies

Computer Networking

  • Overview and applications
  • Network models
  • Physical, data link, network, transport, application layers
  • Network security
  • Mobile and wireless networks

Cybersecurity

  • Risk assessment and threat modeling
  • Types of cyber threats
  • Principles of cryptography
  • Network security measures
  • Penetration testing and ethical hacking

Cryptography

  • Ciphertext principles and techniques
  • Encryption and decryption
  • Public key infrastructure
  • Quantum cryptography
  • Symmetric- and asymmetric-key algorithms

Database Systems

  • Relational databases
  • Data modeling
  • Database normalization and querying
  • Indexing
  • Database security

Data Structures and Algorithm Analysis

  • Trees and graphics
  • Algorithm design techniques
  • Complexity analysis
  • Basic and advanced data structures

Students also learn their practical applications, such as in search engines and game development.

Hardware-oriented Programming

  • Overview and applications
  • Programming languages for hardware
  • Interrupt programming
  • Performance optimization

Machine Learning

  • Introduction with a focus on AI-based systems
  • Neural networks and deep learning
  • Data preprocessing

Object-Oriented Software Development

  • Basic and advanced concepts (e.g., interfaces, inheritance, and polymorphism)
  • Recursion
  • Object-based data structures
  • Space/time efficiency analysis

Operating Systems

  • Definition, role, and types
  • OS architecture
  • OS processes and threads
  • CPU scheduling
  • File concepts and operations

Practical Security

  • Network security
  • Web security
  • OS security
  • Cloud security
  • Security monitoring and incident response

Programming Languages

  • Comparative analysis
  • History and taxonomy
  • Functional programming

Software Engineering

  • Overview of the software development life cycle
  • Software development methodologies and tools
  • Software design, testing, and quality assurance
  • Software project management

Software Development

  • Software development methodologies and tools
  • Software deployment and operations
  • Software development project management
  • Database management
  • Web and mobile development

Systems Programming

  • Low-level programming languages
  • File I/O operations
  • Device drivers and kernel programming
  • System calls and library functions
  • Debugging and error-handling techniques

Students in these classes for computer science learn in a variety of ways, too. First, their professors use lectures and discussions to introduce the principles and practices. These interactive learning methods are best used for the didactic aspect of learning. This means students learn the knowledge, including the theories in each subject.

Second, students enjoy immersive learning experiences, too. Case studies, design projects, and computer laboratory work are common examples. You and your classmates, for example, may build a database management system or create 2D/3D games. These hands-on learning experiences allow effective knowledge-to-skills translation.

Third, the culminating requirement can be an independent study or research project on specific topics. Many degree programs also encourage students to complete capstone projects. Creating an e-commerce platform or a smart home automation system are examples.

As a computer science student, think of these classes as your training ground. Learn as much as you can and share your knowledge. In doing so, you’re setting a strong foundation for lifelong learning.

Choosing a Computer Science Program

Since the field of computer science is a STEM field, it’s important to choose the right program. You don’t want to earn a bachelor’s degree for the sake of it. Instead, you want to enroll in a program that provides a well-rounded, high-quality computer science education.

Here are the crucial considerations when choosing from undergraduate computer science degree programs.

Regional and Programmatic Accreditation

Accreditation means the university and program comply with standards of quality, among other criteria. Plus, regional accreditation means access to federal and state student aid programs.

  • Check with the CHEA for the accreditation status of the college or university.
  • Consider programmatic accreditation by the ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology).

Look beyond accreditation and consider the program’s reputation in the academic community.

Cost of Education and Financial Aid

The cost of a bachelor’s degree can be a challenge. Tuition and fees vary widely, from $13,430 at the University of Florida to $98,055 at Northwestern University.

  • Be cautious about the sticker price. Consider incidental and living expenses as an on-campus or off-campus student.
  • Research the financial aid programs available.
  • File your FAFSA early.

With proper financial planning, cost should be less of a headache.

Curriculum Quality

Check out the classes required for a computer science degree. You can decide if the curriculum meets your academic needs by:

  • Getting information from the academic catalog. Read the course descriptions and outcomes.
  • Ask current students, if possible, about their learning experiences. Get insights that will inform your decision.

The best programs have an interdisciplinary approach in their curriculum. A well-rounded computer science education emphasizes both hard and soft skills. The interdisciplinary approach ensures that students develop both types of skills through didactic coursework and hands-on learning.

The curriculum focus will also vary depending on whether it’s a BA or a BS degree. With a BA degree, the focus is on soft skills development without compromising hard skills acquisition. In a BS degree program, there’s more emphasis on science and hard skills.

Class Size

If you thrive with personalized attention, consider small class sizes. But being another face in a sea of faces has its merits, too. In this case, go for large class sizes.

Most programs have a mix of these two types depending on the course. Students may, for example, be in large lecture halls for lectures. Then, they will switch to small groups during laboratory sessions and design projects. 

Faculty Expertise

The quality of your computer science education will depend on the expertise and experience of your professors. You must then consider their professional credentials.

  • Check their academic attainments, industry experience, and scholarly endeavors. You can check the official website or request more information.
  • Connect with the faculty members you’re interested in. Many colleges allow it.

Don’t be shy, either. If you get accepted, you will learn under their tutelage.

Facilities and Resources

Both on-campus and online students must consider the availability, quality, and accessibility of the campus facilities and resources.

  • Make a campus tour. Check out the classrooms and computer laboratories.
  • Get acquainted with the learning resources, too. Libraries and study spaces should be sufficient.
  • Get a feel for campus life.

Remember that college will be your second home. Look at its facilities and resources as if these will be yours to enjoy.

Student Support Services

Your academic success will also depend on the quality, accessibility, and availability of student support services. Be sure to look for these services:

  • Admission assistance
  • Financial aid assistance
  • Mental health services
  • Writing and math centers
  • Tutoring services
  • Career development services

Your college experience shouldn’t be limited to academics either. Check out the student life opportunities, such as Greek letter societies and sports teams.

Learning Format

You should also consider whether you want to be an on-campus or online student. Many universities offer both on-campus and online formats, such as the University of North Dakota.

Your choice between these learning formats will depend on your learning style, work-life balance, and lifestyle. If you’re a working student, you may prefer the online learning format for its flexibility and convenience.

Avoid making a hasty decision. You should discuss your options with your parents and mentors, if possible. By getting their opinions, you will get another perspective.

What Can You Do with a Computer Science Degree?

You have numerous career paths to choose from with a computer science degree. The most obvious are computer and information technology occupations. Workers in these occupations create, support, and evaluate computer systems, networks, and applications.

These occupations are also in high demand across diverse industries. Their median wage is more than twice the median wage for all occupations – $104,420 against $48,060 per year (May 2023). Work experience, industry, and geographical location affect compensation benefits, too.

Here are the most popular career paths for computer science degree holders.

  • Computer network architects develop and install data communication networks (e.g., intranets, WANs, and LANs).
  • Computer programmers write, change, and test scripts and codes for the proper functioning of computer applications and software.
  • Computer systems analysts study computer systems to identify issues and possible solutions.
  • Database administrators and architects work with organizations in creating, organizing, and managing their databases.
  • Information security analysts develop effective and efficient protection measures for computer systems and networks (i.e., prevention and mitigation of cyber threats).
  • Network and computer systems administrators develop, install, and manage computer systems and networks.
  • Software developers design computer programs and applications.
  • Software engineers oversee the software development cycle, particularly for new software.
  • Web developers create web applications and websites for companies and clients.
  • NET developers design, install, and maintain applications and software for .NET applications.
  • Information technology auditors perform objective assessments of IT systems and provide recommendations.
  • UX designers create seamless user experiences for a variety of digital products.
  • Information technology project managers create, implement, and monitor the progress of project plans.

Most of the job opportunities in this field require a bachelor’s degree among their employment requirements. A few require relevant work experience, such as project managers.

You may also benefit from earning computer science-related professional certifications when job-hunting. Many of these certifications are built into the curriculum, while others can only be earned with a bachelor’s degree. Check out the Certified Information Systems Security Professional, Certified Ethical Hacker, and Cisco Certified Network Associate credentials.

In conclusion, a bachelor’s degree in computer science is a respected credential. But, to maximize its potential in your career, you must pursue further education, such as professional certifications.