Wondering about computer science...

<p>Hello,</p>

<p>I'm a biochemistry major right now, with the intention of possibly going into something health related (i.e. physician's assistent). I'm not crazy about it, but it's manageable. </p>

<p>However, I've been reading all these articles about how computer science is becoming a more popular major because it leads to A) job security and B) high salary. I'm not sure how strong my university's computer science department is because it is a liberal arts school (strong business/communications programs). I took an introductory course in computer science and enjoyed it. However, I had an easy professor and I'm not sure how much I know compared to students at other colleges. I'm not as strong in math and logic as I am in other subjects - it often takes me longer than most to figure out problems, etc. My school also has a very small computer science department, and a good handful of CSC professors didn't get very good ratings...</p>

<p>So, I don't know what to do. I'm about to start my sophomore year in college and if I'm going to switch majors, now would be a good time...before I take organic chemistry. I'm thinking maybe I should go ahead with the science major and just minor in computer science. If I did minor, is it possible to go to graduate school for computer science with just a minor?</p>

<p>I could transfer, but it would be a messy process and one I might come to regret later on. I'm in a special honors program at my school with a scholarship and an obligation to do a thesis in my major before I graduate. I don't know what to do :(. </p>

<p>Any and all opinions/advice would be greatly appreciated!</p>

<p>Have you taken a single computer science class? If not, you should do that before changing majors. You might prefer to keep your options open and take both computer science and organic chemistry next year.</p>

<p>Re job security, I know a couple of people who left the software engineering field. Many employers seem to prefer recent college graduates over experienced programmers (because they are cheaper and trained on more recent technology). Others left the field because the work environment is too stressful. It seems that in order to have a long-term career in computer science, you either have to be at the top of your game or willing to provide cheap labor.</p>

<p>You might look into computational biology or computational chemistry majors.</p>

<p>Yes, I took an intro course last semester. I loved the professor, but I think that he was a little too easy...the easy A was lovely but still... I didn't have to work at it... all of our exams were open notes.</p>

<p>And yes, that's exactly what pushed me away from engineering in general....the fact that it's cheaper to just hire new undergraduates than to retrain older employees every five years or so. My parents are engineers :s. </p>

<p>I really wish my mind was stronger on the left side sometimes... :(. I wonder how many sudoku puzzles I'd have to do to fix that :p.</p>

<p>That's true, BCEagle. The only problem is I have a feeling those will lead into research, and I'm doing everything I can to not end up in research lol. Although, if there was enough money involved....:) Prob not though.</p>

<p>I was also thinking that I could get certifications in programming perhaps...if that's possible, in addition to a BA degree.</p>

<p>I don't know if you have to be at the "top of your game" to stay in software engineering. Finding a niche/specialty which stays in constant demand (all while keeping up with the current technology) will keep you employed.</p>

<p>"However, I've been reading all these articles about how computer science is becoming a more popular major because it leads to A) job security and B) high salary."
- Generally not the best reason to choose a college major. Not only can the world of work change easily in a few years (dot com bubble, current housing collapse, etc.) but to be good at what you do you need a passion that comes from something besides hope for easy payout.</p>

<p>"I'm not sure how strong my university's computer science department is because it is a liberal arts school (strong business/communications programs). "
- Is it ABET-CAC accredited? Does it require roughly the following coursework:
... calculus I and II (possibly also calculus III, differential equations, and linear algebra)?
... probability and statistics?
... discrete mathematics?
... programming (generally 1 to 3 courses in Java, C/C++, etc)?
... computer organization or architecture?
... algorithms and complexity?
... theory of computation or formal languages?
... applications (graphics, AI, networks, operating systems, languages, etc.)?
If the general consensus is "yes" on these, then the program is probably fine.</p>

<p>"I took an introductory course in computer science and enjoyed it. However, I had an easy professor and I'm not sure how much I know compared to students at other colleges."
- I wouldn't worry about what other people know. Did you learn useful information? Can you write basic programs in the language used in the course? Was there emphasis on computational thinking? If so, the course was probably helpful and useful and the grade you received for it a non-issue. Some of the most useful courses I have taken had some of the easiest grading systems... no correlation there at all. I could teach a course about tying shoes and fail half the class, but that doesn't make it hard or worthwhile.</p>

<p>"I'm not as strong in math and logic as I am in other subjects - it often takes me longer than most to figure out problems, etc."
- More important than ability is interest. If you like working out problems and seeing that you have the right answer, that's better than being able to divine the answer. A lot of hotshot teen coders are gifted in that way and honestly aren't worth their spit compared to people who had to work for it. Trust me.</p>

<p>"My school also has a very small computer science department, and a good handful of CSC professors didn't get very good ratings..."
- How small is very small? You probably don't need more than 5 professors to get a good education in any major subject. And who did the ratings? If students did the ratings, summarily ignore the results.</p>

<p>"So, I don't know what to do. I'm about to start my sophomore year in college and if I'm going to switch majors, now would be a good time...before I take organic chemistry. I'm thinking maybe I should go ahead with the science major and just minor in computer science. If I did minor, is it possible to go to graduate school for computer science with just a minor?"
- It is possible, but you'll need to make sure you take enough CS courses, and the right CS courses, to satisfy prerequisites at the graduate programs to which you want to apply. For instance, you will likely need to have taken around 5 of the courses I mentioned above, including... programming in some C-style language, algorithms/complexity, basic organization/architecture, operating systems, and theory of computation / formal languages. But check with the graduate programs you are interested in. Also, double majoring is possible between CS and many scientific majors, and I doubt yours is an exception. Check your department's rules for double majoring. It will make your life a lot easier if you can call yourself a CS major when applying for jobs / graduate programs.</p>

<p>"I could transfer, but it would be a messy process and one I might come to regret later on. I'm in a special honors program at my school with a scholarship and an obligation to do a thesis in my major before I graduate."
- I'd say stay where you are. You have a good thing going there. If you can swing a double major, it should be easy to do a thesis in some interdisciplinary area (bioinformatics? algorithms for computational biology? etc.) with advisors in both departments. At a LAC this should not be unheard of and the administrative people will likely go for that in a second.</p>

<p>Thank you so much for your input! I'll definitely consider it. Really appreciate it! And I might be able to pull off a double major, that's true. There is some overlap. Sadly my honors classes might pose a semi-problem but that might just work!!! I'll have to play around with my schedule. :)</p>

<p>Yes, the jobs that I've seen in computational biology and computation chemistry have been research-oriented. The large pharma companies would be likely places to work at with these degrees.</p>