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Undergraduate Admissions

Prospective Students FAQ

What languages will I learn?

Most programming in lower level computer science courses is done in C++. In other courses, you might learn Java, Assembler, Scheme, Perl, or PHP. However, the study of Computer Science is a lot more than just learning languages. In most of your courses, learning a new programming language will be incidental to the content of the course.

How does Computer Science differ from Computer Engineering?

Computer Science is primarily the study of what can be accomplished by computers and how to accomplish it efficiently. In addition to learning good programming practices, students are exposed to applied areas such as robotics, databases, programming language design, and operating systems. Computer Engineering is more concerned with the design of computer hardware and circuit design. Computer Engineers also take traditional engineering courses such as Chemistry of Materials and Engineering Design. Regardless of your choice of major, you can take courses in either program; engineering students can take Computer Science courses, and Computer Science majors can take engineering courses.

How does computer science differ from Information Technology (IT)?

The IT major is an interdisciplinary degree that focusues on the use of computers and computing to solve problems and the broader environment in which this is done. IT majors take some of the same courses as CS majors (e.g., Computer Science I and Data Structures), along with courses from HASS and Management. IT majors also elect a concentration in which to focus their study of IT. All of Rensselaer's academic schools offer concentration choices for the IT major.

I have taken the equivalent of CS-I at another college. Can I transfer the credits?

Yes. You need to complete a credit transfer form that you can get from the registrar. A course will be considered to be equivalent to CS-I if it is an introductory programming course using C, C++, or Java.

I have a lot of programming background. Can I skip Computer Science I?

Yes. Students may go directly into Data Structures. In place of CS I, they must take any other four credits in Computer Science.

I have no programming background at all. Will I be behind?

No. Our first course, Computer Science I, assumes no prior programming experience.

What do I need to get AP credit in Computer Science?

If you get a score of 5, you get credit for CSCI-1100 Computer Science I.

Can I have a dual major?

Yes, you are permitted to have a dual major between any two majors at Rensselaer. Dual majors with Management, Mathematics, Philosophy, Computer Engineering, Electronic Media Arts & Communication, or Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences are particularly popular. You need to meet all of the requirements of both degrees, but you can double count courses. The large number of free electives in the Computer Science program means that it is possible to complete dual majors with most departments other than engineering in 128 credits. The dual major with Computer Engineering can be done in 134 credits.

Can students get involved in research?

Most Rensselaer faculty have an active research program, and participation in research by undergraduates is encouraged. Rensselaer has a program to support undergraduate research for either credit or salary. Among the research areas available to Computer Science majors are computer graphics, computer vision, robotics, database systems, distributed systems including grid and cloud computing, sensor networks, scientific computation, machine learning, social networks, semantic web, artificial intelligence, large-scale data visualization, software development and verification, and software projects with the Rensselaer Center for Open Source Software.

Are there certification programs?

In general, our courses do not involve certification. However, we offer several courses on networking which use Cisco routers and can lead to Cisco CCNA, CCDA, CCNP, CCDP, and Security certifications.

Are there part time jobs available to undergraduates?

Yes, many departments on campus need part time computer help. Some students work in the computer center as consultants. There is an incubator center on campus which provides office space and other support for small companies started by RPI faculty, staff and students, and these companies always have lots of positions for good software development people.

Are there co-op opportunities for Computer Science majors?

There are many positions available for Computer Science majors in the co-op program. Students typically work for a semester and a summer with a large firm such as IBM, GE, Microsoft, Google, or Cisco assisting in their software development. This is a popular program because, in addition to earning money, it allows students to apply the knowledge that they have acquired in the classroom to "real world" problems. Students can get assistance in finding co-op positions through the Co-op Office of the Career Development Center.

What is the job market like for Computer Science majors?

At the moment, the job market is strong for computer science majors. The average starting salary for Rensselaer computer science majors graduating in 2011 was more than $74,000.

Where do Computer Science majors go after they graduate?

Computer Science majors work for a wide variety of companies. Some work for the traditional large high tech companies that you would expect, like Microsoft, IBM, Google, Cisco, or GE. Others work for the large consulting, aerospace, and finance companies. Other graduates work for smaller firms, such as Vicarious Visions, a game development firm co-founded by one of our alumni. Most graduates work in some sort of software development, but some become system administrators or network managers. Many of the best students go on to graduate school in Computer Science.

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