Prospective Undergraduate Students

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Why Learn Computer Science?


Thinking about choosing Computer Science as your major? Good idea! Computer Science majors look forward to careers as Software Developers, Computer & Information Systems Managers, Computer Programmers, Computer Systems Analysts, Database Administrators, Information Security Analysts, Web Developers, and Computer Network Architects, just to name a few. The Computer Science major offers students a broad base of knowledge in computing, which is perfect for students who are not sure which area of computing they are most interested in. Once you find that area you like, your choice of computing electives will help you to establish a strong knowledge base. Or, you can choose a variety of elective courses in the major to strengthen your overall knowledge of computing.


What are the differences between the computing fields?


Computer Science: Includes a variety of areas including programming, programming languages, databases, networking, operating systems, software development, algorithms, data mining, robotics, Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, and computing theory.

Software Engineering: Focuses on the software development process. Software engineers specialize in designing and managing large scale software systems, and may specialize in areas including requirements engineering, software testing, software safety, software security and software evolution. Visit the Software Engineering program website for more information.

Computer Engineering: Focuses on computer hardware and the interaction of hardware and computer software. Visit the ECpE website for more information about computer engineering. 

Management Information Systems (MIS): MIS focuses on databases and systems administration with an emphasis on business applications. The MIS degree is major in the College of Business. 


Photo of Dr. Weiss teaching Software DevelopmentHere at Iowa State, the difference between these majors at the 4 year degree level is in the courses you take to achieve your degree. For example, all engineers at ISU take physics as a required course. In the LAS College, which is the home of the Computer Science department, you may choose between physics, chemistry, or biology as your science base. Engineers also take calculus-based math courses up to and sometimes beyond differential equations. Computer science students take discrete mathematics and courses in logic rather than upper-level calculus-based math courses. Most companies who hire in the computing fields are less concerned with your degree title, and more concerned with the skills you have developed that apply to the job they need to fill. Some computer scientists have notable experience working with computer hardware. Some computer engineers may be excellent programmers. Differences in these fields become more important when you are interested in pursuing advanced study and research in a graduate program.


What Can You Expect with a B.S. in Computer Science?


With a B.S. from our accredited degree program in Computer Science, you can look forward to:


  • A starting salary ranging from $55K all the way up to $90K, with strong growth outlook for jobs. Check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook for Software Developers. What are the factors in netting a top salary? Programming experience, grade point average, communication skills, and leadership experience. You can acheive all of these in your time at ISU!

  • Paid internships: CS students start internships as soon as they are finished with their freshman year. Companies recruit our students for internships at the ISU Career Fair, at Computer Science/Software Engineering Student Club meetings, and through LAS Career Services. Students do internships in the summer across the country and in a wide variety of industry settings. Many internships lead to full time employment after graduation.

  • Paid employment on campus: Many undergraduate students take part time jobs with the department as a teaching assistant for Computer Science classes! Once you have passed a CS class with at least a B, you are qualified to help other students be successful as they take the class. For non-major courses such as CS 103, 104, 107, and 207, working knowledge of course material is required, but previous enrollment is not. In addition to teaching assistant positions, Computer Science students are in demand as programmers, web designers, and IT specialists for other departments and units on campus. Qualified undergraduate students who are interested in computing research may also find positions in laboratories working on research projects with graduate students and professors.

  • Classroom instruction from top faculty who are leaders in their research areas. Our faculty are committed to providing students with an excellent education in a research-rich environment. Our dual committment to teaching and research excellence has been recognized by the NSF for the past 10 years, as they have awarded NSF CAREER Awards to 9 of our faculty members. Education in a research environment means that students are exposed to not only the fundamentals of the computing discipline, but also to state-of-the-art concepts for building the future of computing.

  • A beautiful campus in a great city! Besides being an award-winning campus environment, in 2011, Iowa State's hometown of Ames, Iowa was named the 13th of America's Top 20 Geekiest Cities by Forbes magazine (2010). (Forbes Magazine). This means that the city of Ames fosters a culture of technological progress in science and engineering, and values the contributions we techies bring to the community. As we like to say, All Science is Computer Science...no area of science can truly advance in our technological age without advances in computing. The CS department is committed to supporting the efforts of science and technology to advance our future, both here in Ames and across the globe.