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
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
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
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
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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)
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
"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
"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:
email@example.com. 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
"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
"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
"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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Computer Science *** Academic
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