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Is a BS or BA better for graduate school and future employment?

24

Replies to: Is a BS or BA better for graduate school and future employment?

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 69,835 Senior Member
    jaychang wrote:
    Do the BS if you want to get into a good graduate school. BS programs are often more rigorous than BA programs. Plus, a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science sounds a little odd versus a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, don't you think?

    Generalizations like this do not apply everywhere; one has to consider the specific school. Graduate schools look at what courses one took and how well one did in them much more than the arts/science title of the degree.

    In the UNC case specifically, it would be a good idea to take most of the extra requirements in CS and math specified by the BS degree -- but if the student chose to get a BA degree because s/he did not want to take one specific peripheral requirement like the second science course, that is unlikely to be of significance if s/he otherwise chose his/her CS and math courses with good depth and breadth in the field.

    Since Berkeley was mentioned, it appears that employers of CS graduates do not seem to make much distinction between BA in CS versus BS in EECS graduates, based on the career survey (of course, those emphasizing EE would want to do the EECS major). Note that math and physics majors at Berkeley graduate with BA degrees (and history majors at MIT graduate with BS degrees).
  • ucsd_ucla_daducsd_ucla_dad Registered User Posts: 8,573 Senior Member
    ^^ But if for CS one pursues the BA but takes all the additional technical/science/math courses required by the BS at that college (and this aspect varies by specific college), then why not just do the BS in the first place? At least then it'll be more obvious to more employers on the surface.

    Regarding the employment rate - from a place like UCB it wouldn't surprise me that the BACS people are quite well employed afterwards but that doesn't mean that generally there isn't a distinction by employers.
  • motherbear332motherbear332 Registered User Posts: 797 Member
    One shouldn't try to generalize about this. If a given school offers mutliple flavors of CS degrees, employers who recruit there will know what the difference is for that particular school. Or if they don't, they are going to look at the courses and grades.
  • TWNealTWNeal Registered User Posts: 72 Junior Member
    I will have almost two years worth of college credit by the time I finish high school (from a local institution at which I get free classes because my dad is a professor). Given that the BA has more general electives and less CS requirements as well as a shorter prerequisite structure, the BS would likely take a semester longer to achieve. Is the difference between these degrees enough that it would be worth the extra semester of time and money to achieve the BS? Or should I just pick up the BA and be on my way?
  • hazelorbhazelorb Registered User Posts: 3,238 Senior Member
    If you are trying to go to graduate school, you should not graduate early at all. You should spend the last 2 years researching intensely with a professor. You can't make those kinds of connections in just 1 year to research the 2nd year; even if you miraculously did, you will be a very strong applicant with 2 years of research instead of one, especially in CS which is such a competitive field with applicants here and abroad; finally, if you are researching your 2nd year and applying your 2nd year your research does not go on your app then... That's less than ideal, as an understatement.

    With that said, it doesn't really matter which one you do as long as you take all of the upper level courses you are allowed. Look into the requirements for grad school at various prestigious CS depts and make sure you are going to take every single one of the recommended and optional classes for admittance. You can also spend time studying for the CS GRE which is notoriously hard but will give you a huge boost in admissions. Finally you can qualify for outstanding fellowships with 4 years worth of CS experience over 3.

    Good luck!
  • polarscribepolarscribe Registered User Posts: 3,232 Senior Member
    jaychang wrote:
    BS programs are often more rigorous than BA programs.

    Again, that's just not true. You cannot make any generalizations about someone's degree program based on whether they earned a BA or BS, because every university has completely different policies as to what is different between the two degrees.

    I'll trot out my example again. I had a choice between a BA or BS - to earn the BA I would have had to complete four semesters in a single foreign language, to earn the BS I had to complete a minor. Which of those is "more rigorous?" There's no answer to that question.
  • TWNealTWNeal Registered User Posts: 72 Junior Member
    Hazelorb, if you do not mind, I'm going to ask you to expand a little more on your statements regarding research. How much research do students typically pursue during their undergraduate years? I was under the impression undergraduate work consists solely of coursework while graduate school is where all the researching commences. Please explain, this is new to me.
  • polarscribepolarscribe Registered User Posts: 3,232 Senior Member
    Pursuing research at the undergraduate level demonstrates your interest and preparation for research as a graduate student.

    Graduate school admission is extraordinarily competitive - acceptance rates of 5-10 percent are the norm, not the exception, in doctoral programs. Applicants who have successful undergraduate experience in research settings are considered to be better prepared for graduate-level research and thus have a significant advantage in the admissions process.

    You should look into REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) programs at your university, and talk to your professors about exploring undergraduate research opportunities.
  • TWNealTWNeal Registered User Posts: 72 Junior Member
    Are you speaking of just doctoral programs or masters programs as well?

    What if I were to pursue an accelerated degree program (offered at both UNC and NCSU)?

    B.S./M.S. Combined Program ? Department of Computer Science
    "The primary benefit of the program is a significantly simplified and expedited admissions process into the M.S. program."

    NC State Computer Science: Accelerated Bachelor's/Master's (ABM) Degree Program

    In these cases, would completing my undergraduate degree in two years after high school graduation still be unwise?
  • ucsd_ucla_daducsd_ucla_dad Registered User Posts: 8,573 Senior Member
    You cannot make any generalizations about someone's degree program based on whether they earned a BA or BS, because every university has completely different policies as to what is different between the two degrees.
    I think it would have been better if the title of the thread was BSCS vs BACS rather than the general BS vs BA and at some universities it can be more difficult to be accepted to the program. When it comes to CS I think generally one can generalize (not to be general or anything) that the BS usually requires more technical/science/math courses than the BA. To confirm it one needs to check with the particular college. If one gets a BA but plans to take all the same technical requirements as the BS then they should consider just doing the BS to begin with. But this is easy enough to check usually on a particular college's website. I haven't checked for the colleges the OP is interested in so the research s/b done by the OP.

    It looks like the whole reason the OP is considering it is because of the abover reason -
    Given that the BA has more general electives and less CS requirements as well as a shorter prerequisite structure, the BS would likely take a semester longer to achieve.

    At the end of the day the person should do what they want and what they have the most interest in.
  • polarscribepolarscribe Registered User Posts: 3,232 Senior Member
    The advantage of undergraduate research applies to master's programs as well, at least if you're applying for a research-based master's - and if you want funding, you will need to pursue a research-based program.
  • polarscribepolarscribe Registered User Posts: 3,232 Senior Member
    You are not going to be able to do a BS/MS program if you want to cram all your undergraduate courses into two years.

    From the UNC Web site you linked: "To give us the ability to assess your work and for you to be comfortable that you want a master's degree, you must have completed at least SEVEN Computer Science courses at the 400-level or higher by the end of your junior year. This can include both required and distribution courses for your major."

    Which means you'd have to do seven senior-level CS classes in your first year as a full-time undergraduate student, with at least a B+ average. There's virtually no way you can do that and have enough time to complete your required general ed/non-CS courses.
  • turbo93turbo93 Registered User Posts: 2,845 Senior Member
    @GeekMom63, I find scientific computing far easier to deal with than business computing... Unless Herren Runge & Kutta came up with new stuff posthumously, if you wrote the stuff in college 20 years ago in Fortran 77 (eek), the algorithm will still work fine today in C++ or what-have-you.

    In contrast, the good ole K&R ANSI C we learned 20 years ago is now roadkill in favor of business computing specials like 'Ruby on Rails', 'Springs' and other assorted obscurities...

    I do application level work for embedded devices using QNX, Linux, or Windows CE (eek) and we change technologies once every few years... All in C++. In contrast, Mrs. Turbo, a high flying business IT coder, juggles more technologies in a year than I see in a decade.

    (the beauty of being 51 or 52 and still coding 8 hours a day :-))
  • turbo93turbo93 Registered User Posts: 2,845 Senior Member
    How much research do students typically pursue during their undergraduate years?

    Lots, as part of senior level independent study, senior seminars, undergrad thesis, and the like. It is about as good an opportunity to meet profs, excel in their classes, and learn what it takes to do research work (instead of being handed yet another "Write a yada yada scheduler that implements the such and such policy" assignment)
  • hazelorbhazelorb Registered User Posts: 3,238 Senior Member
    Hazelorb, if you do not mind, I'm going to ask you to expand a little more on your statements regarding research. How much research do students typically pursue during their undergraduate years? I was under the impression undergraduate work consists solely of coursework while graduate school is where all the researching commences. Please explain, this is new to me.

    Everything polar said is correct. I always assume people who think they can graduate in under 4 years and go to a prestigious graduate school are unaware of what things are required for graduate admissions. Prestigious programs are looking for the best scholars - this is not characterized by how fast you graduate, but rather how well you can research. You can now see how graduating early is actually going to be the antithesis of what a graduate school is looking for? Being smart is a subcharacteristic of being able to be a good researcher, if that makes sense. They would rather you spend another year maturing and learning how to research than graduate early.

    Masters programs are great, especially if they are 4 year combined bachelor-masters programs and you have the ability to do such a program. However the main benefit is research, and just be aware that even with a 4 year bachelors/masters you will be coming in to the eventual goal, your PhD, on the same level as bachelors students probably (you might be exempt from some courses and you might not; typically it is the 2 year masters students who can jump right into research). However know masters students are not given the kind of funding PhD students are, or even undergrads.

    I still hold that the best course is to take 4 years in undergrad. I say this as someone who could have graduated in 2 years myself, and definitely finished by fall of third year even fitting in tons of electives (not trying to finish then). I did a 5 year masters program (split between math and education), so basically the last 2 years all I did was my masters and some random electives (computer science, some graduate electives, an independent research project), and working 10-12 hours per week plus another 4-5 hours tutoring (so much easy money ;) ) and clubs, socializing, volunteering, field work experience, etc. It was fantastic and I do not regret the program (that specific program is why I went to UVa in the first place). Now I never planned on doing a PhD and still don't but college is fantastic. I love the real world, but I feel so old (haha). Take your time and enjoy college, because grad school is NOT the same and you will still feel old if you go back later, so you really do only get to experience college to its fullest once. You can use your free time to take lighter loads, research, and enjoy all of the opportunities you can imagine.
This discussion has been closed.