Computer Software Majors and Undergraduate Degree Programs

Computer software as an academic major may actually refer to two different kinds of degree programs. Read on to find out how a bachelor's degree in software engineering or a degree in computer science can prepare you for a career in the field.

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Essential Information

In a software engineering degree program, students learn to develop, operate and maintain computer software, while students in a computer science degree program learn how to maintain and troubleshoot both hardware and software. Both disciplines can be pursued at the bachelor's level, as well as at the master's level.

Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering

Software engineering bachelor's degree programs provide students with a broad base knowledge of computer engineering, computer science and information systems. Four-year programs in software engineering emphasize technical and team management skills. Software engineering skills learned will include control structures, data types, top-down design programming and procedural abstraction. Advanced coursework will find students designing, implementing and testing large software systems. Graduates of this program will understand large-scale systems development and have the business and people skills to transition into technical team environments for employment.

Education requirements for an undergraduate software engineering program may include admissions essays, SAT or ACT scores, high school transcripts or equivalent, interviews and sufficient funds to attend. Most schools only accept students with at least basic computer proficiencies.

Software engineering coursework includes a majority of software development courses and electives. Courses may include the following:

  • Information management
  • Computer applications, organization and graphics
  • Unix
  • Numerical engineering
  • Software construction
  • Algorithms and computation

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science

A four-year bachelor's degree program in computer science familiarizes students with both hardware and software, allowing the student to focus on almost any specificity within the computer industry. The program covers operating systems, databases, networking, programming, telecommunication, information systems, robotics, micro-programming and performance analysis. Because computer technology has become an everyday part of the American life and world enterprise, graduates of a computer science program can use their discipline toward almost any other discipline imaginable, including finance, biology, aviation, communications and defense.

Applicants are required to have taken and understood elementary algebra and geometry during their high school or equivalent careers. They are also highly recommended to take trigonometry, calculus, physics and chemistry. Advanced placement computer and technology courses are also recommended. In addition to these requirements and recommendations, candidates will likely have to submit, along with their college applications, ACT or SAT scores, education transcripts and admissions essays.

There are several options for students majoring in computer science. The basic track includes a majority of computer science-related and technology electives. However, students will also take humanities and business courses. Curriculum courses may include the following:

  • Calculus
  • Social sciences
  • Computer systems
  • Discrete structures
  • Linear algebra
  • Programming languages

Popular Career Options

Those with an undergraduate degree in software engineering are ready to enter the software development and testing workforce. Some career options include the following:

  • Computer applications software engineer
  • System engineer
  • Software designer
  • Software engineer
  • Software tester
  • Test engineer
  • Validation test engineer

Graduates with a degree in computer science can work in a variety of technical occupations in almost any business of any size. Some career options include:

  • Computer systems analyst
  • Computer software engineer
  • Network systems and data communications analyst
  • Network and computer systems administrator
  • Computer programmer
  • Database administrator
  • Computer specialist

Continuing Education Information

Many students with bachelor's degrees in software engineering go onto earn their master's and doctoral degrees to either advance their careers or work in academic settings. Those working in computer engineering will face several hurdles along the way, because technology is continually advancing. Computer engineers will likely earn several certifications during their careers, not just to move up in their fields but also to keep up.

There are several graduate degree options related to computer science. These include the Master of Science in Computer Science, the Master of Engineering in Computer Science and doctoral degrees. Students with graduate degrees are considered to be at the top of their field and eligible for university jobs or leadership positions in technical departments.

Studying computer software at the undergraduate level generally involves majoring in either software engineering or computer science. Completion of one of these degree programs will help prepare students to pursue careers in the field or to further their education at the graduate level.

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