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Is Computer Science even needed?

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Hi, I'm in college currently studying Computing, Maths and Business Studies, I'm considering changing Business Studies to Physics but that's another story. Anyway, if I did get into college I feel I would be more beneficial to a programmers prospects if he took Maths rather than Computer Science as your computing skills can be shown through examples whilst Maths skills are usually shown with exam results. So, what I'm trying to say is, would a Maths course be more beneficial to a programmer, rather than Computer Science? Thanks in Advance TomX

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i believe that Computer Science is complementary to Math and vice versa. CS is nothing but the science of computation and at its most base form deriving new formulas (well from what i've read and expericenced). so i don't think replacing one with the other possible or wise.

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Hrmm, a 'math course' vs a 'computer science course'. My coin says go with computer science. Without further details, I'm going to have to agree with it.

If you're talking about college algebra for math, or boolean algebra for computer science, I say go with computer science. Differential Calculus(math) vs Lambda Calculus(cs)? Again, go with the CS.
...
Hopefully you get my point that 'math course' could mean about 500 different classes and the same goes for 'computer science course'. Without knowing what the classes would cover, choosing one is impossible.

Really though, I have no idea how the UK system works so I probably couldn't offer advice even when the details.

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Well I don't think I expressed my problem correctly.

Also, let me mention how despite being 16, I have no idea what Calculus is :) It's not on any of the syllabus' as far as I'm aware.

Let's imagine I get through college perfectly with AAA in Maths, Computing and Physics. I then take Mathematics in University whilst learning how to program during my free time. During this I make a few applications. I then apply for a job with my maths skill and portfolio of applications, why would an interviewer not employ me?

Thanks in Advance
TomX

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I'm hoping you call Calculus something else over there, because a math or cs program that didn't contain it would be of extremely questionable quality in my opinion.

I'm not sure there is much difference in which program you go through, as long as you complete it and can prove you can do the job in an interview. If you're confident you can learn to program in your own time to a good enough level to be hired, then go for it and take the math program in school.

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I think math and physics are very useful in game programming.

If you are going to work in this area, it may be fine to study math instead of CS, it could work in Mexico.

However, if you study CS as I did, you would learn many other things besides game programming, like compilers, operating systems, artificial intelligence, numerical analisis, graphics, programming languages, and so on...

In my own case, I guess it was better to do it as I did: to study CS, and then just remember some physics and math (like matrixes, coalitions, etc) in order to do games.

I hope this helps.

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If you want to take Math, and then learn how to program computers in your spare time, I say go for it! I took computer science, with a heavy Math slant, but looking back, I wish I'd just taken Math, period. If you pay attention to applied CS topics (reading postmortems, partaking in open source projects, etc) in your spare time, you'll do fine anyway.

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I did the same subjects as you(Maths, Computing and Physics), and did a degree in Physics. I got hired as a programmer for the first job I applied to.

All it takes is a bit of dedication.

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i never studied CS (except self-study and some small bits of computing in high school), and don't really know, but i know that math and physics is very valuable for graphics or even more for game programming. Looks like almost all physicists can code well enough.... and looks like CS-only students on this boards have more problems with math, but i don't sure.
If CS does not include calculus and linear algebra, you certanly will need to learn some additional math.

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"If CS does not include calculus and linear algebra, you certainly will need to learn some additional math."

That's highly unlikely that you will not find calculus and Linear Algebra courses in a CS program in any University or in a college for that matter. All institutions, i believe have basic courses if not advance courses on both calculus and algebra. For me calculus was mandatory course in the first of my CS program.

Now, to answer you question on whether you should go CS or Math and Physics, its all depends on what you want to do in you future. If you love to program and would want to get into IT industry as programmer, analyst or whatever, i would suggest go with CS. Or do what i did, Major in CS and Minor in Math.

Math is essential for CS. You will notice all good universities and colleges require excellent grades in high school Math courses for you to apply to their CS programs.

[Edited by - StrikerNR on October 9, 2004 5:46:56 PM]

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Quote:
Also, let me mention how despite being 16, I have no idea what Calculus is :) It's not on any of the syllabus' as far as I'm aware.


I guess you're just starting your AS-Levels this year in which case calculus will appear in maths pretty soon [smile].

Assuming you are in a 6th form studying for AS-Levels leading on to A2s I've heard that the Computer Science AS/A2-Level isn't really anything like the computer science you'd do at university and I dunno how useful it'd actually be for programming. Doing maths on the other hand is (IMO) pretty essential, dropping it to do computer science instead would probably be a bad move. Find out what exam board you'd be doing it with and take a look at the sylabus, you could even post a link here if you want advice on whether it would actually teach you anything useful.

Oh for you non UK people here college generally refers to post 16 education (i.e. between the ages of 16-18) and not to university.

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In my old school, Computer Science was a program in the department of Mathematical Sciences, which correctly expresses the relationship between CS and Math.

That said, the sort of classes you're talking about have little to no bearing on your being a competent programmer. When you say college, we Americans think "university." In university, I'd recommend computer science if it isn't a hobby for you. Otherwise, I'd recommend math. Why? Math is less demanding (in terms of stupid projects and the like), meaning you can have a robust social life, program games or whatever on the side, and still maintain a perfect grade point average. Since computing is a hobby for you in this hypothetical, you'd read obsessively and learn about operating systems, compilers and so forth on your own.

Best of all, you could take CS classes that interest you. Even though many of those classes have prerequisites, professors have discretion to allow you into the class - or you can simply audit (take it without a letter grade assigned).

If I knew then what I know now, I'd do it something like that. Not that I have any regrets; I just think I could have made it even better.

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As far as I know, if you do a CS degree, there's nothing stopping you form doing maths papers for a lot of your optional ones. I took Elementary Linear Algebra, then Linear Algebra, then Algebra. It was great. Got top marks too, but that's besides the point.

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any good CS program should have you taking upto multivariable calculus (usually the third calc cours), linear algebra, statistics, and something involving formalized proofs. It should also include atleast two levels of physics, as well as chemistry to be well rounded.

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[QUOTE]Let's imagine I get through college perfectly with AAA in Maths, Computing and Physics. I then take Mathematics in University whilst learning how to program during my free time. During this I make a few applications. I then apply for a job with my maths skill and portfolio of applications, why would an interviewer not employ me?[/QUOTE]

Just because you get a 4.0 in college doesn't mean you'll get a job. People like to work with nice people, maybe they don't like your personality, then they won't hire you.

Plus, most employers want to see some sort of specialization. Graphics, AI, sound, etc. You can't just say, "Yeah, I learned how to program" and expect to get a job.

16 and in college? Is this like a running start program?

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Not sure if anyone got this, but in the UK and New Zealand (and other places)

College = University
High School = College

So when we take about college courses, we are talking about High School courses.

I think it is important to do a little cs in High School (to get the feel) but I know I am much better off having done a lot of maths.

In University it seems that the maths in cs degrees are way over the top. I mean mathematically proving an algorithm is nuts - it takes 20 times longer than just getting someone else to just have a look through it. If you are programming a power plant then maybe it is okay, but I'm not going to do that. And how do you 'prove' the use of an api? Most of the programming I do is about the interaction of objects, not optimised C functions.

Just my 2 cents.

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Thanks for all the feedback people :)

I'm sorry for not explaining the UK education system, I hope this is something you will understand:

Age______UK_________US
<16__High School__School?
16-18 _College___High School?
18+_____Uni________College?

Well I'm currently 16 studying Maths, Computing and Business Studies (debating whether or not I want to change to Physics) and I'm already trying to decide what I should study if I get into 18+ education (UK: University; US: College), either Computer Science or Maths.

Computer Science
Pro: Puts me in good position for most computing jobs;
Interesting.
Con: I have no way to express mathematical ability to employers
Will probably have studied much of what I will be learning, such as basics of Java, basic networks etc.

Maths
Pro: Shows I'm mathematically talented;
Very interesting;
Gives me an alternative method for entering programming industry.
Con: Limits me to fewer computing jobs incase programming ends up not being my thing (I'd hopefully get a job in Cryptography or AI)
I wouldn't have a computer science degree to show employees.

I hope that clears it up a bit.

Thanks in Advance
TomX

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Do they have something analogous the major/minor system in the UK? I.e. you get a degree in your primary subject area (major), but you also take a certain number of classes in a secondary subject (minor) that also shows up formally on your degree when you graduate.

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Quote:
Original post by Zipster
Do they have something analogous the major/minor system in the UK? I.e. you get a degree in your primary subject area (major), but you also take a certain number of classes in a secondary subject (minor) that also shows up formally on your degree when you graduate.

Yes, they're called 'with' courses. So you'll see them described in uni prospectuses as "Computer Science with Mathematics". I don't remember the exact split but its something like a 70%/30% split.

Theres also 'and' courses - "Computer Science and Mathematics" which is a 50/50 split.

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There are both of these courses at the colleges I'm interested in:

Computer Science with Mathematics

Mathematics, Computing and Statistics

Out of the two above I'd chose Computer Science with Mathematics as I dislike Statistics. However, wouldn't a Comptuer Science with Mathematics course teach you the basics of each rather than the full course Computer Science would teach.

I'm so undecided still :(

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Quote:
Original post by TomX
Maths
(...)
Con: Limits me to fewer computing jobs incase programming ends up not being my thing (I'd hopefully get a job in Cryptography or AI)
I wouldn't have a computer science degree to show employees.


Yes that´s partly right but a math degree also leaves the possibility to get a job in something completly different than computing.

I'm have been thinking about the same problem a bit now and think I will go for math with CS. That is because it leaves more roads open if I get tired of programming or the computing industry takes an unexpected twist.

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Another possibility is to do something like:

(Computer Science with Mathematics) or (Mathematics)
And
(Advanced Computer Science) or (Mathematical Logic & The Theory of Computation)

Computer Science with Mathematics:
The BSc (Hons) in Computer Science and Mathematics programme allows you to study the role of mathematics in computing and the application of computing in mathematics. As a graduate you will have the ability to design and implement a programming task of significant size, and a knowledge and understanding of the basic ideas of mathematics, including the concepts of rigorous argument, formal proof, and the power of abstract formulation of problems.

Mathematics: The four-year MMath (Hons) in Mathematics will be of particular interest if you hope to become a professional mathematician. It shares the first two years of study with the three-year BSc(Hons) Mathematics degree but has its own third and fourth-year options. A final decision about which degree you do is made at the end of the second year, dependent on your examination results.

Advanced Computer Science: The MSc in Advanced Computer Science is a high quality Masters course. It draws upon the international research reputation and the excellent teaching quality and facilities of the Computer Science Department, and also its industrial links, to provide a broadly based advanced course at a level beyond that of undergraduate degrees. It combines a very wide range of taught modules, with a research project undertaken in one of the many research areas of the Department, or with industrial partners.

Mathematical Logic & The Theory of Computation: Historically mathematical logic arose from a consideration of philosophical questions arising from the foundations of mathematics. More recently however this field has become the branch of mathematics which in broad scope is closest to providing the mathematical requirements of information technology. Wherever fundamental problems present themselves, be it in computational linguistics, in cryptography, in artificial intelligence, or in program verification, such problems can often only be properly understood by using the concepts and methods of mathematical logic.

Sorry, the big amount of text :)

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A level computer science is pretty much useless in the UK if you're planning to go into a programming career - it's very basic stuff and usually outdated and taught by teachers who have no real knowledge of the subject. If you want to get into programming take Maths, Physics and if it's available maybe a 'Further Maths' course (that's what they called it when I was at school, don't know if you have something similar). Take almost anything else rather than Computer Science - pick something completely different that you've enjoyed or are interested in - English, History, Geography, Psychology, Art or something. I'd suggest picking something where you'll meet lots of girls as you won't see any again once you start doing Computer Science [grin]

When it comes to picking a university degree, I think a 50/50 Maths / Computer Science degree is a good choice. You can never know too much maths.

I started out doing Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Computer Science at A level but after a couple of lessons realised that Computer Science was a complete waste of time and switched to English. After a couple of weeks I decided I was too lazy to do 4 A levels and dropped further maths (in retrospect I probably should have stuck with it - it would have made the first term of university easier).

In my first year at university I did a 50 / 50 split of Computer Science and Natural Sciences which meant I spent half my time doing CompSci lectures and the other half split between maths and physics. When it came to choosing subjects for the second year I was getting pretty bored of computer science and despairing at the lack of women so I switched to full time Natural Sciences and took Physics, History and Philosophy of Science and Experimental Psychology. I got pretty interested in the Psychology and took that in my third year so my degree was in Experimental Psychology.

When I started looking for jobs I played up the Computer Science part of the course and demonstrated the knowledge I'd picked up on my own and didn't have much trouble landing a game programming job (though I had a lucky break getting my first job interview).

The moral of the story is not to get too hung up on what subjects you choose. As long as you're doing something scientific / mathematical / technical and build up your programming knowledge in your own time you don't need to do a Computer Science degree to get a programming job. In fact many places now prefer someone with a Maths or Physics degree on the basis that it's easier to 'pick up' programming than it is to pick up a solid mathematical background. That's not to say Computer Science is not a worthwhile degree - a good course will teach you a lot of valuable material - but it's by no means essential to a programming career.

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