How "hard" are computer science courses?


I left school a few years ago and since then I haven’t done any higher education due to just wanting to take some time out, and while I’ve been out of full time education I have realised that computers is my career, but now I’m wondering, am I up to standard for general computer development courses?

I’ve mainly been doing web development (php), and have got a very good understanding now of it all, and if I need a job doing, I can do it. My general computer skills are also, IMO, way above average, but what is average for computer science students?

Any advice on what I would be letting myself into if I signed up for general computer science courses, and what they usally require so I can develop the skills in that area so not a total newbie if they wish me to use python or something…

Thanks in advance! :wink:

Depends on the course you choose but I would expect you to be looking at the general structure of a computer (architecture, components, etc) for a basic understanding of how they work. You would also do something similar concerning networking, programming. After the first year you would then start to put some of these into practice by getting some small projects to do. These projects would be stuff like design and build a network or implement a program that … Some courses inculde a web development element so it could also be build a site for … Specific languages will vary from course to course but I would bet that you come across either Java or c++ at least.

If you are interested in the subject matter and have the basic computer skills you should do well in such a course. My advice would be to try and keep some web work going if you do this to supplement your income.

Why don’t you look at the courses on offer at universities near you? They often put the first years syllabus up online for prospective students to look at. My advice would be to brush up on your math skills, as nearly all computer science degrees are quite math heavy. :slight_smile:

Here’s the Wikipedia category Theoretical Computer Science. It will give you an idea of all of the things that you can learn in a 4 year program.

In the top, I can see most of the things that were mandatory.
Analysis of algorithms & Computational complexity theory
Compiler theory
Theory of computation (Combinatorics, Discreet math, Numerical methods)
Logic in computer science
Database theory
Programming Languages

There is more to a CS degree than just learning how to program (a lot of proofs), but it is all very useful, and pretty fun, once you get into it. :slight_smile:

As for how ‘hard’ the program is, it depends on the school, and your professors. Some classes were very hard for me, but also very fun. Other classes were hard because the prof had an incomprehensible accent or some other small reason. If you have an aptitude for logical, analytical, and creative thinking, and like to learn, you should be fine.

You can tell if this is for you if, when you were programming PHP, you did a lot of research into how to make your code faster, and were naturally drawn to looking under the hood - going into the source of PHP, mySQL, and various frameworks, trying to understand ‘why’ when people told you things like ‘quicksort is the better than bubble sort’.

As a CS student I can provide you these harsh truths.

  1. CS is a very competitive degree to take, but I wouldn’t say it’s hard at all. If you have the drive and at least some interest in the course content then you’ll cope easily.
  2. Despite what others say, if you want to really learn CS you’ll need to go to a reputable university. I attend a lesser-known university and much of what is said to be basic material isn’t even covered!
  3. The state of education in Computer Science throughout the western world is awful, absolutely awful. If you want to do well at Computer Science you’ll either need to attend a good university with a challenging curriculum or study the material in your own time.

As a recommendation I would say that you get a couple of books on the subject. Search for Computer Science reading lists on university websites and Google and you’ll come across the basic books that will provide you with the necessary knowledge to excel at CS.

Good luck!

Pick your school carefully. I go to Iowa State, which is the birthplace of the computer, so it’s a good school. I’ve heard Neumont is very good as well as that is all they do and it is very project based. Just make sure you are learning on your own as well. Finally, the most important thing you can do is build stuff. Have working projects that you can show to employers. They make a CS degree that much sweeter on an application.

How do you measure best?

If you do electrical engineering be prepared for a lot more maths and obviously low level material. A compromise would be computer engineering.

If you want to set yourself apart from a commodity IT graduate then pick a course which goes into more theory / includes more maths and covers more then just Java. A lot of colleges try to pump out IT grads because the economy needs it. The course may not be up to scratch. As other posters mentioned goto a college with a good reputation.

Also if you have time check out how big their research centers are and how much funding they get. A good department will participate in a lot of research

Do a search for any of the professors on this will list their publications. Publications are not the be all and end all but if they have less then 10 it may be a sign.

For every CS major program, there are 2 or 3 weed out courses. These courses will never be used in real world… These courses usually have less than 40~50% passing rate and you will definitely lose many nights of sleep. I know a friend who was 1 course short from graduating… after taking that course for the 4th time, she quit the program.

Definitely, I recommend getting the degree because many big company “requires” it, no matter how talented you are. Also, you’ll generally earn a higher salary w/ better benefits. Still, if you’re serious then prepared for these BS courses… they will test you to the limit! G’luck!

A side note. CS in Graduate school is all 100% related to work so I would not miss out on this one.

It’s not so much a question of how hard but rather how interested and motivated you are in the program. Most computer science degrees demand a certain level of proficiency in math. If you consider math one of your strengths, you have an edge immediately. As someone else mentioned in this thread, another important factor is the school you choose. Look for a computer degree program from a college that is well established with a strong faculty and a reputation for focus on theory as well as practical learning. As a graduate from California College San Diego (CCSD), I would definitely recommend the Bachelor of Computer Science for you.

CS is as difficult as engineering, and as useless as liberal arts.

Hope that clears it up.

Yes you can do computer science course from a reputable University. Since you are good with computer and want to persue a career in computer, this course wont be tough for you. A graduate degree in computer science followed by post graduation has a lot of scope nowadays.

There are numerous IT courses around. If you are in the UK then once such company is: computeach (IT Courses) Otherwise do a google search. It also depends on what subject you want to study.


Hi All,

which language do members prefer and why?

Nothing is considered “hard” if you have passion and interest in that subject.

It’s all about your interest. But keep thing always in your mind that learn from the base. And always ask the question like why I am learning this and how it work?
This technique will help you in learning technical theory.

I agree-if you want to do it you will spend time doing it-during the evening if need be.