What can you expect from a degree program in computer science or IT? Depending on the institution and the length of the program, you can expect a combination of general education classes, core classes in your major, and a final project or internship.
General Education Requirements
If you are enrolled in an associate’s degree program, you will need to take some general education requirements. These are classes that are not directly related to your field of study, but rather are required for all degree-seeking students, regardless of their concentration. Building up a solid foundation of knowledge in many areas can help you to be a better-rounded professional and could help you in unforeseen ways. For example, if you are required to take a psychology class, and then after graduation become a computer support specialist, you might use your knowledge of basic psychology to approach your clients differently and potentially leave them more satisfied and thinking more highly of you after they get off the phone. Or you might take classes in finance or economics, which could help you if you one day choose to start your own IT company, since you will have to know how to keep track of your expenses and manage employees. And most people will be required to take at least one English and/or communication class, which will help you in every aspect of your life, as it is very important, in order to be successful in any industry, that you have a strong command of English and can speak properly and formally when need be. Other classes you might take include history, natural science, or math. In fact, for computer science majors, it is virtually guaranteed that you will have to take some math classes, as these are often prerequisites for electronic communications and circuit analysis.
Of course, a fair amount of your education will be devoted to core classes, or those courses you take in order to specialize in a specific area, such as information technology, computer programming, computer science, database management, information systems, networking technology, computer engineering technology, network operating systems, information systems security, or the like. This will also be the focus of your classes if you are getting less than an associate’s degree, such as a certificate diploma. In shorter programs that are only six months to a year and instruct you in one specific area, “gen. ed.” classes are generally forfeited in favor of more classes in computer-related topics. You might take classes in computer hardware or software, in specific computer languages such as C++ or XHTML, in analyzing circuits, in repairing systems or networks, in computer-aided graphic design, in database concepts and applications, and/or secure communications.
Capstone Project or Internship
Depending on the institution you attend and the length of your program, you may finish your degree with a capstone project and/or internship. In a capstone project, you might need to come up with an area of research or be given a problem to solve that combines many of the elements of your previous classes. Such projects usually involve both a written paper and an oral presentation. An internship consists of students spending a couple weeks up to a semester getting practical, hands-on work experience with a company outside the school to both get practice and build up their resume.