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Study Computer Science US

Institutions of Higher Education in the United States range from small private colleges with several hundred students to large public universities with over 40,000 students. Most of them offer one or more degrees in computing, including computer science, computer engineering, software engineering, information systems, management information systems, and information technology. If you want to select a program to study computing in the US, you'll have to have some understanding of the nomenclature that we apply to our programs.

Study Computer Science US

A gross generalisation is that computer science is about software, computer engineering is about hardware, and information systems and management science are about business. A fourth category, information technology, has come into usage recently, and is even more difficult to categorise. Although you might use this generalisation to assist you in choosing a degree program, you should be aware that these programs vary greatly in their content. Local demand for graduates, faculty training and research interests, institutional priorities, and the presence of other programs all influence the content of any degree program. This is particularly true for programs in computing because the field is relatively new and changing rapidly. Professional societies in computing have published model curricula to guide colleges and universities in creating their degree programs, but an institution can follow a model curriculum to the level that it chooses. There is no requirement that the program have specific content.

How might you determine what computing programs an institutions offers? Almost all colleges and universities provide information via the World Wide Web. A good place to start is www.yahoo.com. Their front page has an education link that leads to institutions all over the world. The link for the United States alone shows more than 1,400 institutions. Websites for some schools are extensive, and include degree requirements and course descriptions - which may, as noted above, vary widely in their content.

If a college or university can define a program as it wishes, how can you know what to expect of a program? That's where professional accreditation comes in. In professions such as law, medicine, engineering, and computer science, the people who practice determine standards for graduates. Professional accreditation means that a program has a curriculum, faculty and adequate resources to provide the proper education and training to its students, and that the program uses its resources to ensure that all students who complete it have undergone the required educational experience. Professional accreditation organisations are approaching accreditation with the questions: "Do the faculty know what kind of graduates they want to produce, and how do they know whether they are doing so?"

Computer science, computer engineering and software engineering have a professional accreditation - that is, professionals in computing have defined criteria for those three fields, and a nationally recognised accrediting organisation will, at the invitation of a degree program, determine whether it satisfies those criteria. Approximately 150 computer science and 75 computer engineering programs are accredited. Accreditation criteria for software engineering were defined in 1998, and none of those programs has yet been accredited. At present, there is no professional accreditation for information systems, information technology, management science, or any other computing-related field.

If you intend to study computer science or computer engineering in the US, you should consult a list of accredited programs in those two fields. The Computing Sciences Accreditation Board website (www.csab.org) has a list of all accredited programs in computer science and computer engineering, that have been examined carefully by professionals, and proved to satisfy their criteria. You should keep in mind that these programs are far from identical - many of them go well beyond the minimal criteria for accreditation. What is important is that all of them have been judged by professionals in the computing field to provide the education and training essential to practice as a professional in computer science and computer engineering.

Rapid changes in the field of computing require that you receive a good foundation from your degree program. One that has only taught you skills that you can apply today does not serve you well - you need a foundation that enables you to deal with technological change. Accreditation provides assurance that such a foundation is there, providing the skills needed for today's job market.

Selecting a college or university is difficult; selecting one in the US when you're not there can be even more difficult. There are many reasons why you might choose to attend a particular institution: reputation of its graduate programs, a big athletics program, location in a major city, or proximity to recreation. If you are selecting an institution to study computer science or computer engineering, encourage you to use the list of accredited programs as another factor in your decision.

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