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What goes with a Computer Science major?

  1. Apr 13, 2015 #1
    Hi, guys.

    Computer science is hands-down, without-a-doubt in my mind the most interesting and passionate subject that I love. For myself, I feel very lucky that I was capable of finding what I truly love at such an early age in my childhood.

    Computer science is without a doubt going to be my major in college. I'm also intending to pursue a career in academia and hopefully become an established and reputable researcher/professor in the field. This leaves me with a few questions. Also, I would like to state that I live in a very privileged family in which the tuition for a college education won't really damage us financially; however, I want to make my own wealth in the future. My family will provide me the basic essentials for school and living conditions until after I graduate from undergrad. After that, I'll have to pay for grad school.

    I'm interested in artificial intelligence and quantum computing within the computer science field. Since I'm planning to become a researcher, I want to know what branch of science will help me the most. I'm definitely considering of doing a double major. The ideal for myself right now is to get a PhD in computer science & a masters in physics or math. I've taken AP exams in Calculus AB, BC, as well as Physics B & C in which I scored 4s and 5s in all. Also, as a side note, if this even matters, I'm also considering of minoring in philosophy in my undergrad years.

    If I were to not get a research position, my backup career plan would have to be a acutarian, computer programmer, IT manager, etc.


    1) If I were to choose physics/math as my second major, should I minor in physics/math? For example, if I chose math for my second major, should I minor in physics? If yes, should I remove my minor in philosophy?

    2) If I were to choose research on artificial intelligence, should it be in physics or math?

    3) If I were to choose research on quantum computing, should it be in physics or math?

    4) What's the best in terms of transferable skills?

    Last edited: Apr 13, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 13, 2015 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    A comp-sci Colonel ;)
    For your minor or second major - choose physics :) I'm biased that way but quantum computing is physics based. Any serious study of physics has a lot of maths anyway.
    A serious study of philosophy usually gets in the way - but it is usually good to have a paper on philosophy of science.

    But but but but: a lot depends on the college you attend - you should be asking a dean or an admissions councellor or whoever gives guidance in your school.
  4. Apr 13, 2015 #3
    Thank you! I was admitted to the University of Toronto here in Canada a few weeks ago. According to QS World University Rankings, it's #1 in the country for computer science, mathematics, AND philosophy and #3 in Canada for physics. It's arguably the "Harvard & MIT of Canada", so the connections here are generally the best I can get anywhere else in the country.

    Also, thank you for suggesting physics. I've been thinking about this for the past few weeks now, and it never occurred to me that studying physics would make you study a lot of math. Physics it is then!

    Okay, a double major in computer science & physics. Would you recommend minoring in math or philosophy? I'm not sure about minoring in math anymore because physics and computer science already has a lot of complex mathematics within it. On the other hand, minoring in philosophy would be amazing in my perspective. I've read many articles regarding the practical skills received from studying philosophy and their dominance on tests like the LSAT & GMAT.
  5. Apr 14, 2015 #4
    Sorry, bump! Please forgive me. :biggrin:

    My question is what to minor in. As an aspiring computer science and physics double major, I'm intending to minor in philosophy or mathematics.

    The reason why I want to minor in philosophy, to restate, is because of the acquisition of critical thinking skills, their dominance in many tests like the LSAT & GMAT, and so much more. This is University of Toronto's input on the field. Some individuals even claimed to say that philosophy is the most practical major.

    The reason why I want to minor in mathematics; however, is because they complement my two majors. However, then again, like what Simon Bridge said, "any serious study of physics has lots of math..."

    See University of Toronto's input on the field
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2015
  6. Apr 15, 2015 #5
    First lesson in critical thinking: It is unwise to take advice on a product from those who want to sell you the product. Universities like to "lie" about why you choose the degree.
  7. Apr 15, 2015 #6
    Well, it is the university that I am attending to. Great point, nonetheless. What are your thoughts? Math or philosophy? As of right now, I'm siding with philosophy because I'm interested in the topics whereas for math... I'm getting a whole bunch of it with my other majors. Thanks.
  8. Apr 15, 2015 #7
    Philosophy is a good choice if you take it for the right reasons. The right reason is that you like the subjects. Don't take it for any other reason. You seem like you're not really that interested in mathematics, so I would advise against it.
  9. Apr 15, 2015 #8
    You have rather ambitious goals. You will have quite a large workload double-majoring in technical fields and keeping up with philosophical reading and writing assignments. To answer your question, I would pair computer science with either math or electrical engineering. Computer science has its roots in mathematics, and if theoretical computer science appeals to you then math would probably be the appropriate choice. However, if you are more interested in systems or applications of computer science, electrical engineering may prove to be more beneficial. Personally, I minored in electrical engineering and earned a graduate degree in computer science.

    Artificial intelligence is a broad, interdisciplinary field itself. Until you are actually exposed to it, you may not know what you're most interested in. In fact, after exposure to other topics in computer science, you may find that you would rather study those. A research focus isn't that important to consider right now. Save that for the end of your undergraduate studies and the beginning of your graduate studies.

    It would seem physics is most appropriate here.

    I'm not sure what you mean.
  10. Apr 16, 2015 #9
    Yes, I'm very interested in philosophy. In fact, it's the second most appealing concept to me other than computer science. I'm actually very active within my school's debate and Model United Nations club where I've won numerous awards. The reason why I considered philosophy was because I've dedicated many hours trying to research and understand the field in order to help improve my performance in the clubs I've mentioned. And honestly, I wouldn't have gone far if I didn't have that deep-interest in philosophy. It wasn't just the awards I've received, it significantly improved my overall perspective of my life such as to the way I communicate with other individuals in an inter-personal level and to the way I convey my essays.

    Wait...are you referring to philosophy as my second major or my minor?

    Music to my ears. Thank you for your information. Yeah, a lot of my friends say that I'm a very ambitious individual. And thanks for telling me to not consider a research focus. I'll definitely consider electrical engineering. I'll make sure to research it later in the weekend. Also, are you implying to take electrical engineering as my second major or just my minor? Thanks.
  11. Apr 16, 2015 #10
    I wouldn't do a minor if I were you, I would either do one major with outstanding research or go all the way for a double major. Going halfway for a minor seems a little pointless to me, especially since you can still have great research while doing a double major.
  12. Apr 16, 2015 #11
    Yeah, I've been considering to just major in computer science too. Although not in my top priority, I've definitely considered it. Quality over quantity as the saying goes. I'll give that idea more thinking. Here's an article somewhat related to double majoring that I dugged up: Double Majors Can Ruin Your Life. What are your thoughts on this?

    By research, do you mean in my undergrad years or graduate school?

    This now makes me consider...

    Double Major + Minor? Computer Science & Physics + Philosophy
    One Major + Two Minors? Computer Science w/ minor in Physics & Philosophy
    One Major + One Minor? Computer Science & Physics/Philosophy
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2015
  13. Apr 16, 2015 #12
    That isn't true. Double majors + good research (undergrad, just to be clear) are certainly doable. This article is both saying that you need to stick with relevant classes which I support, and it seems trying to say the old cliche of "happiness first, don't overwork yourself" which is true but in this case seems to be more of an excuse not to stand out.

    I definitely would not do a double major and a minor, as it would take up too much of your time to do good research during your undergrad years, which is very important for grad school and helps make you look like a serious, gifted computer scientist to an employer. As for your major(s), I would do CS for sure and either Physics or Philosophy as a double major, though I would recommend doing Physics as it is more employable and Philosophy can take up your required Humanities classes without being boring to you.
  14. Apr 16, 2015 #13
    I don't understand what you mean in bold. 1st bold) Please rephrase 2) Do you mean to not do a double major at all? And to not even take a minor?

    Other than that, I'm agreeing that I should just major in just computer science, so I can spend more of my time doing good research in the field and to really know my stuff.. As this article states, generally speaking, graduate schools primarily care about is if you have good grades and that you can do good research. They don't really care if you double major.

    As I've previously mentioned, philosophy is my second deepest interest other than computer science. However, the job prospects with a philosophy major aren't very good compared to a physics major. Physics is my third deepest interest.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2015
  15. Apr 16, 2015 #14
    I'm recommending electrical engineering as a second major. If you're pursuing two majors, it's probably wise to drop the minor. It's a recipe for burnout.

    Keep in mind that your interests will change over time. Things that seem enticing now may not hold your interest after you've been exposed to them. Before I was exposed to epistemology, I thought it would be the one branch of philosophy that I would enjoy more than any other. As it turned out, I found several other branches more interesting.
  16. Apr 16, 2015 #15
    Thanks. I've never considered that. I've mentioned earlier in the thread How Double Majors Can Ruin Your Life. What are your thoughts on this article?

    I'm definitely not pursuing philosophy as my second major. There's virtually nothing that overlaps with computer science plus the job prospects are horrible.

    As of right now, I'm now narrowing it down to:

    1) Computer Science + Physics Double Major w/o minor in philosophy anymore
    2) Computer Science + Minor in Physics

    Also, how much content does computer science and physics overlap? Plus, what's this thing that you need to take humanities classes to graduate? If I'm dropping my philosphy minor, can I take philosophy related classes to fulfill my humanities requirement?
  17. Apr 16, 2015 #16
    The job prospects associated with a computer science degree trump every field you've mentioned. If you have such a strong interest in philosophy, you should probably choose that as your second major. Or you could just self-study philosophy, which is what I've done.

    That's not quite true. As an example, the concepts behind object-oriented programming are very similar to concepts in metaphysics, like Platonism. Also, symbolic logic is very transferable to theoretical computer science and programming in general.

    Not much.
  18. Apr 16, 2015 #17
    I largely agree with everything the author says. I think it's wise advice. The only slight disagreement I have is in the following quote:

    Number 1 is, by far, the most important. Academics love high GPAs. Number 2 is redundant and somewhat irrelevant. Number 3 was not that important for any undergrad I knew that got into grad school. The focus of an undergraduate education is not research. Graduate schools are aware of this.
  19. Apr 16, 2015 #18
    Yeah, EXCELLENT point I can also, like what someone else said in the thread, I can take philosophy classes to fulfill my humanities/art requirement and just self-study philosophy on my own time like what I'm doing right now in high school.

    And that's disappointing computer science and physics don't really overlap. This will likely take me 5 years. Well, I love what I'm studying + my family can afford it, so I guess that's not much of a big deal.

    Now I'm considering:
    1) Computer Science + Physics Double Major (I'll just take philosophy classes to fulfill my arts/humanities)
    2) Computer Science only since physics doesn't really overlap
  20. Apr 17, 2015 #19
    You misunderstood what I meant. In the first bold I meant that taking tons of completely unrelated classes to make yourself look better is bad as the article says, but the article seems to extend this to be more an excuse not to do a double major, which is completely false. And in the second bold I meant to not do a double major in addition to a minor, since as I said minors don't seem important imo. Reason being a minor isn't going to make any significant difference in grad school and probably not in employability either. That time would be better spent doing research, which as the others have said should not be a focus, at least for your CS major, but I think that having very good research while doing your Physics undergrad would make you all the more exceptional to grad schools. And as you said, you have the time for it; why not take it slow with the physics to get some good publications at the cost of a semester or two?

    Taking into account what you've said since then, I'd say your idea to do double major CS/Physics without a minor but with Philosophy to take up humanities classes and self study is by far the best option.
  21. Apr 19, 2015 #20
    Thank you sooo much. I've been seriously thinking about what you've said and from other people's input across the forums for the past two days now, and I'm coming to the conclusion that I should only major in computer science with a Zen Valedictorian approach.

    As of right now, I have two pathways
    1) Be a computer science researcher (I'll be taking philosophy to fulfill my humanities requirement)
    2) Be a businessmen related in computer science

    During undergrad, I'll use my underscheduled lifestyle of the Zen Valedictorian to explore my interests and launch a business related to what I'm studying. If the business fails, I'll just save up for grad school and become a researcher. The end goal is for myself to be remembered either as a researcher who has contributed a lot in the field of computer science or as a wealthy entrepreneur like Bill Gates and Elon Musk.

    What are your thoughts on this?
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2015
  22. Apr 19, 2015 #21
    It seems simple enough to me.
    You want to be an expert computer scientist, and this can lead to a career either in pure science or in commerce, and there are other fields.
    A pure science path will offer more intellectual satisfaction, but that doesn't mean you spend your time engaged in idle speculation.
    The commerce path offers more prospect of wealth, (although that is not guaranteed,) but it doesn't mean you have to be an uncaring fat slob.
    Neither is a right way or a wrong way to go, just figure out what would be a more interesting life for you.
  23. Apr 20, 2015 #22
    I think you're very ambitious, which is good, and quite frankly that you probably won't quite accomplish those goals. Don't take it personally, but it's getting harder and harder for individuals to make revolutionary, huge advances (not impossible mind you, just harder) and very very few people are capable of doing that. For example in Physics, I talked to my Psychologist cousin and he said that taking into consideration the defects of IQ tests, the upbringing and external factors of an individual, and tons of other factors he estimates people who are as smart as Einstein or Feynman etc are about 1 in 1,000,000, and people who actually end up making full use of their potential and hugely contributing are closer to 1 in 100,000,000.

    So I wouldn't set yourself up to be disappointed if you don't quite live up to your very high expectations, but your ambition and apparent talent is an excellent start, and I wish you luck!
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