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What can you do with a computer science degree?

Computer science degrees can lead to a wide range of fulfilling and rewarding jobs. This guide outlines course structure, entry requirements and career paths for computer science students.

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May 17 2024
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Your tech path: expectations from a computer science degree 

This article will outline the possible majors that can be studied during a computer science degree and the career paths available to computer science graduates. 

It will cover: 

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  • What computer science is

  • Computer science majors and modules

  • What you will learn in a computer science degree

  • How long it takes to get a computer science degree

  • Entry requirements to study computer science

  • Career opportunities for computer science graduates

  • Scholarships for computer science

  • Famous people who have studied computer science

What is computer science? 

Computers are a part of every aspect of modern life. From shopping to playing games and exercising, there is now an app for pretty much everything. All those systems were created by computer science graduates. Whether you want to work for a big corporation managing networks and design software or become the next billionaire tech entrepreneur, a computer science degree will open up a world of possibilities. 

Computer scientists understand programming and algorithms and use them to design software, systems and networks to meet the needs of clients and the public. It is a fast-moving, highly specialised field and talented computer science graduates are always in high demand. Job satisfaction in the field is high, as are starting salaries, so if you like solving problems and have a talent for mathematics and logical thinking, a degree in computer science could be the start of a rewarding career. 

The highest degree in computer science is typically a doctoral degree (PhD), which is a research-focused qualification that allows individuals to contribute original research to the field. 

Computer science degree subjects and majors

On a computer science degree, students will study a mix of subjects covering different areas and skills. Throughout the programme, you may find that some topics overlap. 



Computer engineering 

Digital logic design 
Microprocessors and microcontrollers 
Embedded systems 
Circuit analysis 
Computer architecture 

Computer forensics 

Cybersecurity principles 
Digital forensics tools and techniques 
Network security
Legal issues in cybersecurity 

Computer programming 

Programming fundamentals (in languages such as Java, C++, Python)
Data structures and algorithms 
Object-oriented design
Software development life cycle 
Web programming and design 

Data science 

Statistics and probability 
Machine learning algorithms 
Data mining and prediction models 
Database management systems 
Data visualisation 

Information technology 

Information systems management 
Network security 
Database administration 
Systems analysis and design 
Cloud computing 

Network administration 

Computer networks 
Network security 
Operating systems 
Wireless technologies 
Network troubleshooting 

Software engineering 

Software requirements and specifications 
Software design and architecture 
Software quality assurance 
Project management 
Human-computer interaction 

Web development 

Backend programming (eg, PHP, Ruby, Python) 
Web frameworks (eg, Django, Ruby on Rails, Angular) 
User experience design 

Artificial intelligence and machine learning 

Algorithms for AI 
Neural networks 
Deep learning 
Cognitive computing 
Robotic learning

Best universities for computer science degrees
Best universities in the UK for computer science degrees 
Best universities in the US for computer science degrees 
Best universities in Australia for computer science degrees
Best universities in Canada for computer science degrees

What do you learn in a computer science degree? 

Computer science degrees begin with an introduction to foundational principles. In your first year, you are likely to delve into modules covering computational theory, pattern recognition, systems and network theory, or machine learning. Additionally, there may be teachings on the historical context or business applications of computer science, often involving collaborative projects with industry partners to solve real-world problems. 

As the course advances, you’ll acquire a blend of specialised and transferable skills. Advanced modules may include data structures, patterns and signals, complexity theory, or software product engineering. 

In the last year of your degree, many universities integrate a final project where you can apply your accumulated knowledge. This often coincides with specialised learning and opportunities for internships or mentorships within the industry. 

Placement years 

Many undergraduate computer science programmes offer the option of a placement year, allowing students to gain valuable industry experience. During this year, students typically work in professional settings, applying their knowledge and skills in real-world scenarios.


Assessment methods for computer science programmes commonly include a blend of coursework, examinations, practical projects and presentations. Coursework may encompass programming assignments, laboratory exercises, essays and group projects, allowing students to showcase their understanding of theoretical concepts and their ability to apply them practically. 

How long does it take to get a computer science degree?   

In the UK, most undergraduate computer science degrees last three years but some programmes, especially those with a placement year or additional modules, may be four years. Part-time study options are also available, allowing students to spread their coursework over a longer period, often between four to six years, depending on the institution and individual pace of study. 

In the US, students are able to explore a wide range of subjects in their first year and can then choose a major in their second and third years. Usually most US undergraduate degrees also take three to four years to complete. However, this can vary depending on the school’s schedule, credit requirements and the inclusion of internships. 

Associate degrees, obtained after spending two years at university, typically span two years of full-time study in both the UK and the US for computer science. These programmes offer a mix of core and elective modules, allowing students to tailor their education to their interests and career goals within the standard timeframe. 

Entry requirements for computer science

Students with high marks in subjects such as IT, computing, physics or further maths will be good candidates for computer science degrees. Prior experience in programming, such as creating BASIC programs or game mods, can greatly strengthen your application. Admissions boards also value skills such as problem-solving, logical thinking, attention to detail, meeting deadlines and teamwork. 

UK entry requirements 

Entry requirements for a computer science degree in the UK typically include A levels or equivalent qualifications. The specific requirements can vary depending on the university and the competitiveness of the programme. Average A-level grades for entry into computer science programmes might range from BBC to A*AA, with mathematics often being a required subject.  

Additionally, some universities may consider other qualifications such as Scottish Highers, BTEC or the International Baccalaureate. 

US Entry Requirements 

In the US, entry requirements for a computer science degree vary by institution. While GPA requirements differ, a strong academic record, particularly in mathematics and science subjects, is generally preferred. Competitive programmes may expect GPAs around 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale for admission, but this can vary significantly depending on the institution and the competitiveness of the programme. 

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What can you do with a computer science degree?

Graduates of computer science degrees have a wide range of skills applicable to various fields. These skills enable individuals to pursue diverse job roles such as:  



Computer engineering 

Hardware engineer
Embedded systems engineer
Systems architect 

Computer forensics 

Forensic computer analyst 
Information security analyst 

Computer programming 

Software developer 
Applications developer 
Web developer 

Data science 

Data scientist 
Data analyst 
Machine learning engineer 

Information technology 

IT consultant
Systems administrator 
IoT security specialist 

Network administration 

Network administrator 
Network engineer 
IoT solutions architect 

Software engineering 

Software engineer 
Systems architect 
Quality assurance engineer
IoT developer 

Web development 

Web developer 
Front-end developer 
Back-end developer 

Artificial intelligence and machine learning 

AI research scientist 
Machine learning engineer 
Robotics engineer 

Computer science professionals are integral to almost all businesses, from major financial services to healthcare, manufacturing, aerospace, defence and governmental organisations. Many graduates set up their own businesses, ranging from software development firms to games studios. They may also work with IT consultancy firms or IT service providers, with top graduates securing positions at prestigious companies such as Google, Cisco and IBM. 

Additionally, computer science graduates are highly sought after in sectors such as finance and national security. Top banks and financial services companies offer lucrative salaries for computing experts to develop cutting-edge trading systems. National intelligence agencies recruit talented graduates to counter cybercrime and terrorism threats. 

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Computer science scholarships

Most universities will offer scholarships for students wishing to study computer science. Here are just a selection of scholarships available. 

University of Edinburgh John Fisher High Performance Scholarships - The University of Edinburgh offers three scholarships of up to £15,000 to students studying high-performance computing (with or without data science). 

UCL computer science scholarships - UCL offers several scholarships directly through their computer science faculty. The awards include the UCL Engineering Dean’s Prize, the PGIM Scholarship Programme – Computer Science MSc Scholarships, the UCL Computer Science Aspire Award Undergraduate Scholarship and the UCL Friends and Alumni Association Machine Learning Scholarship.

AFB Paul and Ellen Ruckes Scholarship - This scholarship programme provides financial assistance of up to USD$7,500 (£5,926) to full-time undergraduate and graduate students who are visually impaired or blind and are studying engineering or computer science in the US. 

The AWC Scholarship Fund for Women in Computing - The AWC Scholarship Fund for Women in Computing offers scholarships specifically for women pursuing computer science and technology programmes at institutions in Washtenaw County, Michigan.

Women in Technology Scholarship - This awards women pursuing careers in technology grants of $7,000 to undergraduate and master’s students majoring in computer science, software engineering, or related fields in accredited US, Canadian or Mexican universities, along with professional development workshops and internship/full-time job interview opportunities.

Google scholarships for STEM students - Google offers scholarships for computer science students globally, with specific programmes targeting women in the Asia-Pacific region, students with disabilities in North America and Europe, student veterans in the US, and female students in Ireland. Each scholarship provides financial support ranging from USD$2,500 to $10,000 or equivalent. Application requirements vary but generally include enrolment in a recognised university programme and completion of essay questions. 

Which famous people studied computer science? 

Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg or Google CEO Larry Page might immediately spring to mind but you may be surprised at the other famous names that have studied computer science degrees.

Jimmy Fallon – US comedian and former cast member of the TV show Saturday Night Live – studied computer science in New York before switching majors in his final year (he couldn’t do the maths). Actor Liam Neeson, famous for his roles in Taken and Star Wars, also studied computer science in Belfast before becoming the world’s toughest action hero. 

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