Why should I major in Computer Science?
Choosing a major in college is one of the most important decisions that you will make in your life. The Computer Science (CS) department trains technical leaders versed in the skill of "computational thinking". This kind of thinking involves taking an ill-defined problem, conceptualizing a precise model of the problem, reasoning about this model, and constructing a computational solution based on this reasoning. How do our majors put this skill to use after they graduate?
- Help solve the major challenges facing the world. The world faces significant problems in the areas of health, energy, and the environment. Bioinformatics, a relatively new CS area, applies computational techniques to problems like designing new drugs or understanding the causes of cancer. Estimating the impact of various new energy technologies like carbon sequestration requires sophisticated computer simulations. "Smart" technologies have the potential to reduce energy consumption and alleviate many environmental problems.
- Work on intellectually stimulating technical problems. While helping solve the world's problems is an exciting goal, careers in CS also provide day-to-day intellectual challenges like understanding the dynamics of social networks or creating realistic special effects for the next Hollywood blockbuster. Using computational thinking to solve complex technical problems is an activity that many people enjoy.
- Make lots of money. Starting salaries for CS majors are excellent. One recent Computing Research Association survey rated CS majors as having one of the highest average starting salaries out of 16 technical and non-technical fields. For those interested in bigger bucks, you could sign on with a start-up company (or even start your own). Also, CS majors often apply their technical training in lucrative fields such as commodities trading or patent law.
Common misconceptions about majoring in CS
When considering a major, many students discount the possibility of majoring in CS for one of several common reasons:
- I already learned how to program in high school. One of the most common misconceptions is that computer science is all about programming. Programming is only part of the training of a CS major (like writing grammatically-correct English is for English majors). Computational thinking involves learning and applying a wide array of mathematical skills well beyond programming.
- All of the jobs in CS have been moved overseas. While it is true that many low-level programming jobs have been outsourced to companies based in Asia, the U.S. job market in information technology (IT) is growing much faster than the rate of outsourcing. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs in IT are expected to grow by 37 percent in the next ten years—much faster than the overall average of other occupations.
- CS is only for geeks. Computational thinking is an integral part of many critical business functions such as strategic planning, market research, finance-to-product design, environmental issues, and human resources. As a result, most CS majors end up working and interacting with coworkers from a wide array of intellectual disciplines.
About the Department
Rice University's Department of Computer Science is a small, high-quality department, focused equally on education and research. Our 16 tenure-track faculty are all active researchers, whose knowledge, insights and perspectives gained in the research keep their undergraduate courses fresh, topical, and timely. The department also has several dedicated lecturers—Ph.D. computer scientists who focus their full-time efforts on undergraduate education. The department has a cadre of dedicated researchers—Ph.D. computer scientists who focus their full-time efforts on research. (These researchers help the department maintain a research program that is more active than it could be with just the teaching faculty. Their work adds to the department's intellectual environment-the environment in which undergraduates work, study, and learn.)
The Department offers two undergraduate degrees—a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and a Bachelor of Science (B.S.). The B.S. degree requires more science courses (two additional semesters of Physics) and more Computer Science courses (a fifteen-hour capstone sequence) than the B.A. degree. Please see the "Sample Degree Plans" links to the left for more details.
Computer Science is an exciting, diverse field that is constantly changing and growing, and the Department changes and grows with it. The Department will be revising its curriculum over the next few years. Please see the updated Degree Requirements in the menu to the left. In addition, below are summaries of several new introductory courses. Click on the thumbnails for more information on the courses.
COMP 140: An Integrated Introduction to Computation and Problem Solving
COMP 160: Introduction to Computer Gaming
If you would like to learn more about the department, the faculty, or our research program, please see “About CS Rice”, “Faculty”, and “Research”.