There exists a range of 4-year computing and computing-related degrees a student can pursue. It can be daunting to determine differences and commonalities.
4-year Liberal Arts Colleges will typically offer one degree, most likely in Computer Science. The simplicity may have a drawback: the number of courses offered may be small and few opportunities for specialization may exist. On the other hand, many liberal arts colleges provide a strong computer science education that is often combined with flexibility, allowing students to take diverse courses in other areas.
Large, research-oriented schools tend to offer multiple computing degrees. The types of degrees and specializations offered are often influenced by whether Computer Science is in a College of Science, a College of Engineering, or in its own College (e.g., College of Computing, School of Information).
Most schools provide information and guidance for incoming students. For example,
- Purdue University summarizes its computing degrees
- The University of Washington summarizes computing-related degrees at both its main campus and its branch campuses
- Indiana University Computing and Informatics Degrees
- Georgia Tech’s undergraduate degree programs
Many rankings of computer science programs exist. No ranking is perfect and many schools not ranked or not ranked highly can provide an excellent undergraduate education. The US News and World Report rankings have a good reputation and are respected by universities and colleges. They rank different types of institutions, different research areas, different geographical regions, and more.
- US News Best Colleges for Computer Science gives a ranking for the research oriented computer science programs.
- Best Colleges for Computer Science by Value considers the education provided by the university compared with the cost of the tuition. This ranking does not consider the in-state tuition reduction for residents.
For-profit universities/colleges tend to offer many computing-related degrees. Look carefully; the differences may appear minor, but the content/level may quite different. For example, offering majors in areas like Word Processing and Data Entry should make one suspicious. Some specializations offered by for-profits may not lead to the desired employment.
Students majoring in a STEM field often consider getting a minor in Computer Science. Having a CS minor will give them additional and often attractive job opportunities after graduation. A minor typically consists of 5-6 CS courses (the student is expected to have the appropriate math courses). Students majoring in math or physics can often double count courses and may be able to complete a minor with less effort. Guidelines and expectations differ and a student needs to find out the details for the particular program.