For students wishing to pursue advanced study in the computer science field, U.S. institutions offer master of science (M.S.) degree programs, which generally take one to two years to complete, as well as doctoral programs that involve three to five years of additional study beyond the M.S. degree level.

Graduate study in computer science involves in-depth study within highly complex specializations. Computer architecture, software engineering, programming languages, database systems, and artificial intelligence are common specializations offered by U.S. universities, though the areas of concentration vary from institution to institution and according to university philosophy, resources, and faculty interests. Students should make sure that the computing curriculum is oriented toward their specialization of interest. (A number of popular specializations are described in the "Computer Science Specializations" definitions provided as part of this handout.)

Like B.S. programs, graduate computer science programs are not uniformly titled from one institution to another. Computer courses may be offered through university computer science, mathematics, engineering, and business departments. Commonly offered computer-related graduate degrees include the following: M.S. and Ph.D. in computer science, M.S. and Ph.D. in mathematics, M.S. and Ph.D. in engineering, and the master of business administration (M.B.A.).
Some universities also offer specialized degrees such as the M.S. and Ph.D. in management information systems, cognitive science, robotics, and computer engineering. It is important to note, however, that the course work leading to a specialized graduate degree may not differ significantly from the course work required for a concentration in the same specialization offered through a graduate computer science department. For example, the curriculum for a degree or concentration in cognitive science might be about the same, whether the program led to an degree in cognitive science or in computer science.

Many universities have also developed multidisciplinary computer programs. Biomedical computing, electronic and computer music, and computer-aided instruction are examples of such programs. Courses in these multidisciplinary programs may be taught by faculty from several university departments.

Applicants for master's degree programs should have excellent mathematical skills and extensive computer experience; however, they need not have an undergraduate degree in computer science. Those with B.S. degrees in engineering and mathematics are regularly accepted into M.S. programs. Those with social science or humanities backgrounds may be accepted into M.S. programs if they can demonstrate exceptional computer knowledge and mathematical ability.

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required for admission to most graduate computing programs, with the quantitative section of the test being of particular importance. International applicants must also have excellent English language skills; TOEFL scores of 550-575 are generally required for admission to an M.S. program.

Financial aid is often available at the graduate level, mainly because computer science programs are often subsidized by research grants. Teaching and research assistants usually receive tuition remission as well as a stipend.

Doctoral programs in computer science (which lead to a Ph.D.) prepare students for university faculty positions and high-level research careers. Ph.D. candidates take advanced computer courses beyond those required in M.S. program and are required to prepare a doctoral dissertation that demonstrates independent research in a specialized subject area.


Professional accreditation in computer science exists at the bachelor's degree level only. Over one hundred computer science B.S. degree programs have applied for and received professional accreditation from the Computer Science Accreditation Commission of the Computing Sciences Accreditation Board (CSAC/CSAB);. Recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and CORPA (formerly COPA) as a professional accrediting body since 1985, the CSAC/CSAB evaluates and accredits four-year bachelor's degree programs in computer science at regionally accredited postsecondary institutions. To qualify for CSAC/CSAB accreditation, programs must be designed to prepare graduates for professional employment and progressive careers in computer science fields. Programs must meet CSAC/CSAB criteria requirements for faculty, curriculum, laboratory and computing resources, number of students, and institutional support.

Many computer science programs may not be accredited by the CSAC/CSAB because professional accreditation of computer science programs has only been in existence since 1985 and because many institutions choose not to pursue professional accreditation for a variety of reasons. However, since some international governments may not recognize degrees earned from programs that are not professionally accredited, prospective international students should check whether any restrictions apply in their case before applying to a non- CSAC/CSAB-accredited computer science program.

The CSAC/CSAB does not evaluate or award professional accreditation to associate- or graduate-level computer science programs. Computer programs offered through university engineering and business departments may be professionally accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), respectively, rather than by the CSAC/CSAB.

To receive a free list of professionally accredited computer science programs or to find out more about CSAC/CSAB's evaluation criteria, contact the Computing Sciences Accreditation Board, Inc., Two Landmark Square, Suite 209, Stamford, CT 06901; Telephone: (203) 975-1117; Fax: (203) 975-1222; E-mail:


Short-term training courses are at present the most common setting for learning to apply the personal computer to specific purposes. Computer science degree programs tend to focus on multiuser, mainframe computer systems; on programming languages; on the logical and engineering theory involved in how computers work. Short-term programs do not ignore such matters (training can easily be found in C++ or artificial intelligence) but they also include options to satisfy other participant needs and interests.

Training is available for all levels of computer experience, from the person who has never used a computer to the experienced computer professional. Many training participants do not plan to become computer professionals but simply want to use a particular type of software or other computer application more effectively. They might study a particular word processing, database, or spreadsheet software package, for example. Or training might focus on the computer in a particular professional environment--using computers in teaching, in a library, or in project monitoring, for instance. Some of these courses are designed especially for international participants.

Training for computer professionals also exists, often intended to update participants on new technology or to continue their education in particular areas. Courses here too are available on a broad range of very specific topics, from local area networks to computer security, and from quality management of software development to programming techniques for building expert systems.

Program descriptions generally indicate appropriate background for taking part in the particular course. Job responsibilities and areas of computer expertise are generally most important. English language proficiency is essential to gain from any short-term program.

Computer-related training is offered by colleges and universities (commonly by continuing education offices, summer session offices, or specific schools and departments), community colleges and technical schools, associations, private training organizations, consultants, government agencies, and other organizations. Individuals seeking to learn to use a particular computer system or type of software should also check with the manufacturer to see if they offer or can recommend training.

Computer training is often scheduled for U.S. participants and may be very short (one to five days) or spread out in once-a-week classes over a university semester. International participants should explore whether they can combine several classes or arrange a custom program to create a suitable schedule.


Several U.S. organizations offer professional certification to those in computer science and related fields. While not generally required by employers, professional certification not only enhances one's professional qualifications, but often provides opportunities to attend continuing education courses and participate in professional seminars.

The Institute for Certification of Computer Professionals (ICCP) is a nonprofit organization that tests and certifies qualified computer science professionals. Currently, ICCP offers two major certification programs: the Certified Computing Professional (CCP) certificate, which is designed to measure the knowledge and experience of senior- level computer professionals, and the Associate Computing Professional (ACP) certificate, which tests entry-level computer skills. To receive certification, individuals must pass the examination and accept the ICCP codes of ethics, conduct, and good practice.

For more information about ICCP professional certification, contact the Institute for the Certification of Computer Professionals, 2200 East Devon Avenue, Suite 268, Des Plaines, IL 60018; Telephone: (708) 299-4227; Fax: (708) 299-4280.

Professional certification is also available in a number of specialized computer-related fields. For example, the EDP Auditors Association awards certification to electronic data processing professionals, and electronics technicians may seek certification from the International Society of Certified Electronics Technicians.


Below are listed some resources that may be useful in gaining more information on U.S. education in computer science and in researching programs. Some of these publications may be available in your local educational advising center's library. Advisers there can also provide more information on study options.

"Career Choices for the 90's for Students of Computer Science" (1990). $8.95. Walker Publishing Company, Inc., New York, NY; Telephone: (212) 727-8300 or (800) 289-2553; Fax: (212) 727-0984. Describes careers in the computer industry, with sections on data processing and information systems, training and teaching, hardware and software design, technical writing, and more.

"Careers for Computer Buffs and Other Technological Types" (1994). $9.95. VGM Career Horizons, NTC Publishing Group, 4255 West Touhy Avenue, Lincolnwood, IL 60646-1975; Telephone: (708) 679-5500 or (800) 323-4900; Fax: (708) 679- 2494. Describes computer-related professions: systems analysis, computer programming, computer design, computer manufacturing, sales and marketing, computer information systems, and others. Lists accredited computer science programs and computing-related organizations.

"Careers in Computers" (1991). $12.95. VGM Career Horizons, NTC Publishing Group. Describes working conditions, education, and job outlook in computer-related areas.

"College Board Guide to 150 Popular College Majors" (annual, revised 1994). $17. College Board Publications, Box 886, New York, NY 10101-0886; Telephone: (212) 713-8165 or (800) 323-7155; Fax: (212) 713-8143. Descriptions of widely offered undergraduate majors, including computer and information science. Discusses typical computer science curriculum.

"Computer Graphics Career Handbook" (1991). $20 plus shipping. Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), Membership Services Department, 1515 Broadway, 17th Floor, New York, NY 10036; Telephone: (212) 626-0500. Send orders to ACM Order Department, P.O. Box 64145, Baltimore, MD 21264; Telephone: (410) 528-4261. Lists colleges and universities with courses in computer graphics applications, from architecture to geology.

"Computer Science Programs Accredited by the Computer Science Accreditation Commission (CSAC) of the Computing Sciences Accreditation Board (CSAB)" (annual). Free. CSAB, Suite 209, Two Landmark Square, Stamford, CT 06901; Telephone: (203) 975-1117; Fax: (203) 975-1222; E-mail: Lists professionally accredited bachelor's degree programs in computer science.

"Graduate Assistantship Directory in Computing" (annual, revised 1994). Free to student members; nonmembers $30 plus shipping. ACM. Lists fellowships and assistantships at U.S. and Canadian institutions. Includes information on school facilities, admission deadlines, and requirements.

"Opportunities in CAD/CAM Careers" (1994). $10.95. VGM Career Horizons, NTC Publishing Group. Contains detailed information on computer-aided design (CAD) and computer- aided manufacturing (CAM) careers. Describes educational and training requirements.

"Opportunities in Robotics Careers" (1993). $10.95. VGM Career Horizons, NTC Publishing Group. Describes the robotics field and provides information on related technologies such as machine vision, simulation, and artificial intelligence.

"Peterson's Graduate Programs in Engineering and Applied Sciences" (annual). $34.95. Contains listings of graduate programs in computer science and related disciplines such as artificial intelligence, robotics, information science, and computer engineering.

"U.S. Computer Science Study" was produced by the staff of "The Advising Quarterly," a publication for professionals in international education worldwide published by AMIDEAST. The handout was last updated in 1994; if you have comments or suggestions on its improvement, please contact "The Advising Quarterly," AMIDEAST, 1100 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; Phone: 202-785-0022; Fax: 202-822- 6563; E-mail:

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