Some of you may recall that we have shared about an article by a lecturer in EECS at the University of California, Berkeley School of Engineering. The article drew attention to the fact that the EECS department at UC Berkeley is essentially “trapped in a campus that underfunds undergraduate education but also demands that the department accommodate a huge growth in [its student population].”
That growth mainly comes from the increase in the number of CS major students at the College of Letters and Sciences at UC Berkeley. In the 2020-21 academic year, the College of Letters and Science awarded nearly 6 times more CS major BA degrees than 10 years ago. Meanwhile, and the number of EECS graduates from the College of Engineering at Berkeley is only 2 times that of 10 years ago, as shown in the chart below.
UC Berkeley is well known for its competitive undergraduate program in Computer Science. But only those familiar with the university and the major know there are two CS majors at UC Berkeley.
The College of Letters & Science has a computer science major, or CS major for short, which confers a BA degree upon completion.
The College of Engineering has an Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences major, or EECS for short, which confers a BS degree upon completion.
UC Berkeley is not the only university with two CS majors. A number of other institutions ranked to have some of the best undergraduate CS programs have a similar arrangement as Berkeley, including Cornell University, Princeton University, the University of Washington, and the University of Michigan, whose computer science program enjoys a high reputation despite not being one of the top 10 on this list.
The two computer majors at Cornell, referred to as “CS Engineering” and “CS Arts & Sciences,” are among the most popular majors at Cornell.
Both are referred to as Computer Science majors, and both are under the School of Engineering. However, one of them confers a BSE degree upon completion, and the other confers an AB degree upon completion. BSE Degrees require 5 more classes and 3 semesters less of independent work than AB degrees.
University of Washington
The CS major at the College of Arts and Sciences is referred to as Computer Science major, and the CS major at the College of Engineering is referred to as Computer Science & Engineering major. Because University of Washington considers its undergraduate CS programs as among the most competitive, it chooses to report its CS and CSE major direct entry application acceptance rates: 27% for in-state students, 3% for out-of-state students, and 4% for international students, all of which are far lower than the overall freshmen application acceptance rate at UW.‘
To make matters even worse, while there are twice as many out-of-state applicants as in-state applicants, out-of-state acceptances are only one fourth of in-state acceptances.
(Data from University of Washington Office of Admissions, usually updated on Nov 1st each year)
University of Michigan
Both majors are referred to as Computer Science majors, the one with the suffix “LSA” is under the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; the one with the suffix “ENG” is under the College of Engineering. In Fall 2021, a total of 2,832 students are enrolled as computer-related majors, of which 25% are CS students at the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.
So, what are some crucial differences between engineering college CS majors and college of arts and science CS majors?
1. Different educational goals
This needs to be taken into account in conjunction with the student’s personal career development, and this consideration needs to be sorted out at the stage of planning and applying.
The CS major under colleges of arts and sciences is more suitable for students who are interested in computer programming, software and applications, or those who intend to double-major in another subject under the College of Arts and Sciences.
The CS major under colleges of engineering, such as CS or CE, are more suitable for students who want to specialize building high-performance hardware and software systems, and study how to make them more cost-efficient.
2. Differences in Coursework
Different colleges have different general graduation requirements, and they may also have different major requirements. Students at the colleges of arts and sciences do not have to complete those courses lay the foundation for studying engineering, such as chemistry and physics. That being said, both have a similar number of credits required to complete the degree.
Take Cornell as an example. The College of Arts and Science CS at Cornell requires students to fulfill 10 categories of liberal arts courses, while the College of Engineering only require students to complete 6 courses in 3 categories. For major requirements, the College of Arts and Science requires 2 programming courses, while the College of Engineering requires completion of courses in science and engineering; for math courses. CS major students at the College of Arts and Science also have more of math course selectives.
Students should take serious consideration when planning to pursue their studies, and ultimately their career, in computer science majors. As the single most popular major at the moment, competition is unquestionably brutal at every stage, from applying for college to job seeking.
Students need an immense amount of information to make important life choices, but the most valuable piece of information comes from within. At Enlighteens, we believe that every student should fully understand themselves and their academic strengths and weaknesses before they decide to embark on a career path, and we are here to help every student make an informed decision about their future.