They say that everything in life is math. If by "they" you think we mean mathematicians, well, yes, of course, they say it. But it happens to be true, and it is especially true of many aspects of computer science (CS).
Perhaps you perked up at the mention of computers. After all, this is an article fundamentally about computer science, and if we were to ask people to name things that are ever-present in life, wouldn't a lot of people be more likely to name computers than mathematics? Can't we just stick to the former and forget about the latter?
Unless you are completely computer illiterate (in which case, you wouldn't be reading this), you know that isn't possible. Computer science is suffused with mathematics, from algorithms to computer programming languages to data structures and data analytics. Almost every area of computer science utilizes mathematical concepts such as logic, abstract reasoning, and critical thought.
In fact, if you are thinking of pursuing a CS degree, chances are that you have already taken at least one of the prerequisite courses, such as Introduction to Programming, Coding, Software Engineering or Database Management, and you already have a sense of how mathematics is linked to computer science. For example, it is hard to delve into a subject as popular as 3D graphics without understanding the role that linear algebra plays in their production.
But maybe you've found yourself wandering down this path for another reason: perhaps you've been complimented on your creativity and considered that there may be ways for you to exercise that within the field of software development. Perhaps you've always been known for your critical thinking skills and thought that problem-solving within the context of artificial intelligence could make for a rewarding avenue of professional study.
In other words, an interest in computers doesn't automatically translate into an interest in math. So, the question must be asked: Do I have to be good at math for computer science? We'll explore this topic, as well as:
The short answer is yes. The longer, more helpful answer is yes, but how good you need to be in a certain kind of math depends on the area in which you plan to specialize. In general, some believe that knowledge of math enhances the ability to think abstractly, which is a valuable tool tech-related fields like computer engineering. Others think of it in terms of math enabling the ability to apply logical thinking, a highly useful skill in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Beyond that, there are fields within computer science that require less math than others, such as HCI/UX, software engineering, systems engineering, and computer architecture.
Those hoping to become computer scientists with whatever basic math skills they may have picked up in high school or through a mere understanding of binary code (the famous ones and zeroes) are going to be disappointed. You are going to need at least some understanding of discrete math to chart a career path anywhere in this field.
If you are disappointed by the previous paragraph but not discouraged, there are avenues available that can help you in your math courses if the discipline doesn't come easily to you:
In the simplest terms, a computer science master's degree is for those seeking the sort of greater knowledge and understanding of computers that allows them to pursue careers as programmers (average base salary (US): $65,307), software developers (average base salary (US): $73,441), web developers (average base salary (US): $60,611) or systems managers (average base salary (US): $87, 761).
This depends on whether you choose a full-time (one to two years) or part-time (three to four years) course of study.
CS admissions officers expect that most applicants for a CS master's degree program will have a bachelor's in either computer science or one of its adjacent fields. You will be expected to have studied such subjects as programming, coding languages, calculus, discrete mathematics, and data structures. Experience in other related subjects such as algorithms, software engineering, and database management certainly helps.
CS master's programs include computer science courses designed to broaden computer science students' knowledge of several subjects, including:
Most courses also require a capstone project.
Your interest in computer science may be spurred by a desire to work in a specialized area. Below is a list of some of the specializations within computer science that you may want to investigate:
US News & World Report features a list on their website of great CS master's programs around the country, including the following programs:
Depending on what works best for you and your schedule, you may not want to spend all of your time—or any of your time—in an actual classroom. That's where online programs come in. The following schools offer online options for earning your master's in computer science:
So, do you need to be good at math to pursue a master's in computer science? Well, at the very least, you need to be willing to engage with it. But, as we've seen, some tools can help you to overcome any deficiencies you may have in that department. Math competency is not such a high hurdle to clear when you know a career in computer science awaits on the other side.
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