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Computer Science

Overview

The rapid and widespread
use of computers and
information technology has generated a need for highly
trained workers proficient in various job functions. These
computer specialists include
computer scientists, database
administrators, and network systems and data
communication analysts. Job tasks and occupational titles
used to describe these workers evolve rapidly and
continually, reflecting new ar
eas of specialization or
changes in technology, as well as the preferences and
practices of employers.
Computer scientists work as theo
rists, researchers, or inventor
s. Their jobs are distinguished
by the higher level of theoretic
al expertise and innovation they
apply to complex problems and
the creation or application of new technology. T
he areas of computer science research range
from complex theory to hardware design to pr
ogramming-language design. Some researchers
work on multidisciplinary projec
ts, such as developing and advanci
ng uses of virtual reality,
extending human-computer
interaction, or designing robots.
They may work on design teams
with electrical engineers and other specialists.
Computer science researchers employed by academic
institutions have job functions
that are similar in many ways
to those employed by other organizations. In general,
researchers in academic settings have more flexibility to
focus on pure theory, while
those working in other
organizations usually focus on projects that have the
possibility of producing patents
and profits. However, some
researchers in non-academic settings have considerable
latitude in determining the dire
ction of their research.
With the Internet and electr
onic business generating large
volumes of data, there is a gr
owing need to be able to store,
manage, and extract data effectively. Da
tabase administrator
s work with database
management systems software and determine ways to
organize and store data. They identify

"Computer Science Overview"
Prepared as part of the Sloan Career Corn
erstone Center (www.ca
reercornerstone.org)
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by
the US Department of Labor,
Bureau of Labor Statistics.
user needs and set up new computer databases.
In many cases, database administrators
must integrate data from outdat
ed systems into a new system. They also test and coordinate
modifications to the system when needed, and
troubleshoot problems when they occur. An
organization’s database administrator ensures t
he performance of the system, understands the
platform on which the database runs, and adds
new users to the system. Because many
databases are connected to the Internet, dat
abase administrators also must plan and
coordinate security measures with network adm
inistrators. With the growing volume of
sensitive data and the increasi
ng interconnectedness of computer
networks, data integrity,
backup systems, and database security have become
increasingly important aspects of the job
of database administrators.
Network systems and data comm
unications analysts, also
referred to as network archit
ects, design, test, and evaluate
systems such as local area
networks (LANs), wide area
networks (WANs), the Internet
, intranets, and other data
communications systems. System
s are configured in many
ways and can range from a connection between two offices in
the same building to globally di
stributed networks, voice mail,
and e-mail systems of a multinat
ional organization. Network
systems and data communications analysts perform network
modeling, analysis, and plann
ing, often requiring both
hardware and software solutions. For example,
a network may involve the installation of
several pieces of hardware, such as rout
ers and hubs, wireless adapt
ors, and cables, while
also requiring the installation and
configuration of software, such
as network drivers. Analysts
also may research related products and make necessary hardware and software

recommendations

What is a computer science degree?

Laptop, tablet or smartphone, you’re probably reading this guide on a device created using the expertise, theories and skills gained from computer science degrees. But exactly what is a computer science degree?

In a nutshell, computer science degrees deal with the theoretical foundations of information and computation, taking a scientific and practical approach to computation and its applications. Computation is defined as any type of calculation or use of computing technology that follows well-defined models (such as algorithms and protocols) in the practice of information processing (which in turn is defined as the use of these models to transform data in computers).

Computer science is considered by many of its practitioners to be a foundational science - one which makes other knowledge and achievements possible. The study of computer science involves systematically studying methodical processes (such as algorithms) in order to aid the acquisition, representation, processing, storage, communication of, and access to information. This is done by analyzing the feasibility, structure, expression and mechanization of these processes and how they relate to this information. In computer science, the term ‘information’ refers usually to information which is encoded in bits and bytes in computer memory.

Some higher education institutions may use computer science (CS) as an umbrella term to cover various specialist and vocational degrees involving computers and technology. You may also find the term computer science being used to refer to information technology (IT) degrees, although many institutions now distinguish between the two (exactly how and where they draw this line varies). Make sure to check your chosen university’s course details closely.

Top universities for computer science

The QS World University Rankings by Subject includes a ranking of the world’s top universities for computer science. The table can be sorted by location or based on the different criteria used to compile the ranking (including academic reputation, employer reputation and research citations). Below is a regional outline of the top universities for computer science in different world regions, based on the 2013 QS World University Rankings by Subject.

Top universities for computer science in the US & Canada

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) tops the list of the world’s best computer science universities, followed by second-ranked Stanford University. Carnegie Mellon University, Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley all make the global top ten, while Princeton University follows close behind at 11th, the University of California, Los Angeles at 14th, and the University of Toronto (Canada) at 16th. Overall, the US and Canada have a strong showing among the top universities for computer science, with 40 US universities and eight Canadian featured in the top 200.

Top universities for computer science in Europe

The University of Oxford (UK) is Europe’s highest ranking university for computer science, coming in at 3rd in the world. Its historic rival, the University of Cambridge, is ranked 5th while Switzerland’s ETH Zurich makes it into the top ten at 9th. The University of Edinburgh (UK) is ranked 15th and Switzerland features again ranked in 17th place with the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. The UK capital’s Imperial College London at UCL follow at 18th and 23rd respectively. At total of 82 European universities feature among the top 200 computer sciences institutes.

Top universities for computer science in Asia-Pacific

The highest Asian entry in the top universities for computer science is the National University of Singapore (NUS), which is ranked 8th. The University of Hong Kong rounds off the top ten in 10th place, and Hong Kong features again with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) ranked 12th. Australia’s University of Melbourne follows in 13th place, and the Asia-Pacific region dominates the latter half of the top 25: the Chinese University of Hong Kong is ranked 19th, the University of Tokyo 20th, Australian National University 21st, Nanyang Technological University 22nd, the University of Sydney 24th and the University of Queensland 25th. A total of 63 Asia-Pacific universities feature in the top 200.

Entry requirements for computer science degrees

Entry requirements for computer science degrees usually emphasize further mathematics, with some institutions asking for a background in physics. A background in psychology or sociology can provide an added dimension to your studies, as you would have gained an understanding of how humans process information, while other natural sciences may also be helpful.

Undergraduate applicants for computer science degrees will not usually be expected to have formally studied computer science before university. However, it is recommended that you pick up a programming language, to gain an understanding of what is involved. While generally accepted beginner languages include Python and C++, Haskell, Java and Pascal are all languages you may come across during your studies. On the other hand, you may find some institutions discourage students from learning programming beforehand to avoid students learning ‘bad’ programming habits early on.

Some institutions offer joint courses, in which computer science is studied alongside subjects such as mathematics, engineering and computing.

Preparation

Computer scientists should be creat
ive, inquisitive, analytical, a
nd detail oriented. They must
have a strong grasp of mathematics, includi
ng calculus, probability, and statistics, and
computer systems. Preparation in one or more of
the sciences, such as, physics, chemistry,
biology, is also a requirement. Abilities to work
as part of a team and to communicate well also
will be important as computer
science jobs frequently require interaction with specialists
outside of computer science
or engineering. To hone these skills, recommended coursework
includes English, writing,
social studies, and humanities.
Entry level positions in the field typically
require a four year bachelor-of-science degree in
computer science, information science, or
computer engineering. St
ate-of-the-art high
technology research and development positions fr
equently require the M.S. or Ph.D. degree in
either computer science or comp
uter engineering. Tenure track
professorial positions in a
university require the Ph.D. degree.