Atanasoff Today 2022-23: Bachlor of Arts in CS

Beginning in spring 2023, the Department of Computer Science at Iowa State University will offer a bachelor of arts degree in computer science. The degree program, which has received approval from the Iowa Board of Regents, is expected to lead to more diverse student enrollment.

The degree path aims to accommodate students who want to major in computer science but are interested in taking a wider variety of courses than the bachelor of science program allows. The bachelor of arts would require 32 computer science credits, compared to 50 for the bachelor of science. The curriculum ensures that the new degree path is as rigorous as the bachelor of science but gives flexibility to students.

The proposed program was spearheaded by Soma Chaudhuri, Professor and Associate Chair for Education, and Jack Lutz, Professor in the Department of Computer Science.

“Knowledge of computer science is becoming more and more important in the study of other disciplines,” said Chaudhuri. “With its fewer requirements, the B.A. in computer science allows students to double major in other areas of interest, leading to more career choices.”

Consultation with peer institutions indicated strong student demand for B.A. programs in computer science where they exist side-by-side with B.S. programs. The University of Iowa currently has 265 B.A. students in computer science and 205 B.S. students in computer science. The University of Colorado has 813 B.A. students in computer science and 921 B.S. students in computer science.

The B.A. program in computer science will have a close relationship with the existing B.S. program in computer science. The B.A. students will take their courses along with the B.S. students, not in separate sessions, and be subject to the same prerequisites and grade requirements.

There is an increasing demand for computing professionals in both the U.S. and internationally. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the job outlook for software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers will grow 22% from 2020 to 2030. In Iowa, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 5,652 jobs in computer occupations in 2030. Although U.S. universities graduate about 65,000 computer science students annually, there continues to be unmet demand.

Iowa State University is well positioned to respond to this due to the strong demand for computer scientists and the growing commercial and academic demand for computer scientists who can work in interdisciplinary teams. Iowa State University has a long history in computer science, dating back to Atanasoff’s invention of the first electronic computer in 1939. The department’s faculty collaborates with faculty in many other fields at Iowa State, both in research and in student supervision. B.A. students will thus be comfortable combining their computer science studies with a broader education.

“Enabling such broad-based education while preparing students for the 21st-century workforce is the core mission of LAS,” said Beate Schmittmann, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.