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Computer Science Major Guide for 2010-2011

What is Computer Science

Computer Science is the systematic study of algorithmic processes that describe and transform information: their theory, analysis, design,  efficiency, implementation, and application.  The fundamental question underlying all of computing is: What can efficiently be automated?

Computer Science is far more than programming. It incorporates the paradigms of theory (mathematical), abstraction (experimental), and design (engineering) within many topic areas, including:

  • algorithms, data structures
  • architecture
  • artificial intelligence (AI) & robotics
  • bioinformatics and systems biology
  • computer systems
  • computational science
  • databases and data mining
  • high-performance computing
  • human-computer communication
  • programming languages
  • software engineering

Career Opportunities in Computer Science

Career opportunities exist in many fields for our graduates.  These include, for example, financial systems, communication, scientific research facilities, transportation systems, medical information systems, computer system administration, national security, and electronic commerce.

Salary Trends in Computer Science

According to the U.S. Department of Labor's 2006 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median annual earnings of computer programmers were $65,510 and the median annual earnings of computer scientists and database administrators were $93,950.  The median annual earnings of software engineers were $79,780 and the median annual earnings of computer system analysts were $69,760.

High School Preparation

Core academic subjects required for admission:

  • 4 units of English
  • 2 units of algebra
  • 1 unit of geometry, trigonometry, advanced math or calculus
  • 2 units of natural science, including at least 1 unit of biology, chemistry or physics
  • 1 unit of American history
  • 1 unit of European history, world history or world geography
  • 2 units of a single foreign language
  • 1 unit of visual or performing arts

Physics and four years of mathematics are strongly recommended.
It is not necessary to have high school computer science courses.
Prospective students who want to major in computer science in the College of Engineering are also required to meet the criteria of the "Success Prediction Index" (SPI).
The formula for SPI is 10 X high school core GPA + math ACT score.  The College of Engineering is gradually increasing the required SPI score.
See to determine the current SPI required.  Students who are unable to meet this requirement may register as "university undecided" students and complete appropriate computer science, mathematics, science, and other courses before applying for admission to the College of Engineering.  These students are encouraged to meet with a computer science advisor each semester to discuss their  progress.

How to Major in Computer Science

If you entered The University of Tennessee before Fall, 2008, you may opt for a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science from either the College of Arts and Sciences or from the College of Engineering.  Students entering Fall, 2008, or later must be admitted to the College of Engineering.  Please contact for more information about the Arts and Sciences version of the degree.
As of Fall, 2008, the computer science degree is administered by the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS). Students applying to the university should specify computer science as their chosen major when completing the admission form.
Students in other colleges or majors at The University of Tennessee must apply to the College of Engineering at the earliest possible date, but ideally prior to completing 75 hours.  As a minimum, all students must be admitted to the college for the last 30 hours of coursework.
Transfers from other institutions are generally handled the same as transfers from other UT programs.  However, a prospective transfer student should consult with an advisor in computer science to determine which courses can be accepted toward the major.  It should not be assumed that courses with similar names to UT courses will be accepted as part of the major.

Requirements for Computer Science

The EECS Department currently does not have any special requirements for admission to the computer science program, other than the general admission requirements for the university and the college.  Students at the sophomore level and above are required to have a desktop or laptop computer for class work.

Double Major or Minor in Mathematics
Students are encouraged to either double major in computer science and mathematics or to minor in mathematics.  With early planning and wise choices, the double major requires only two additional courses, and the minor no additional courses.  Consult with a computer science advisor to construct an individual plan of course work.

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

Collaborative research projects between EECS faculty and colleagues at Oak Ridge National Laboratory along with summer internship programs provide undergraduate computer science majors excellent opportunities to engage scientific problems of national importance.

The College of Engineering's Office of Professional Practice (OPP) provides income-generation opportunities for students to experience real-world challenges through cooperative education (co-op) and internship programs.  Both programs offer structured learning environments where students develop increasing responsibilities by holding full-time paid positions in a professional environment related to their academic and career goals:

In addition to financial and scholarship programs available to all students, the college also provides special programs to minority students, including:

The College of Engineering also participates in the University Honors Program, which is designed to give academically outstanding students a unique undergraduate experience consisting of special courses, seminars, mentoring and research projects:

The UT Center for International Education collaborates with the COE to create opportunities for students to study in other countries:

Highlights of Computer Science

The EECS department is constructing a new 150,000 square foot facility, projected for completion in 2010, which will provide students and faculty with state-of-the-art classrooms, laboratories, and research facilities.  This facility is funded, in part, by a substantial endowment by Dr. Min Kao, Chairman and CEO of Garmin International Inc.  Both the new building and the EECS Department bear Dr. Kao's name in honor of his generosity.  Specific areas of computer science research by EECS faculty include: bioinformatics and systems biology, high-performance computing, computational science, data mining and machine learning, artificial intelligence, image analysis, visualization, scientific computing, and parallel and distributed computation.

Ready for the World logoReady for the World

Engineering students can take part in UT Study Abroad programs throughout the world. There are programs in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, South America, and North America. You can take classes during one semester, mini-term, summer, or the whole academic year.  There are also opportunities for international internships and other work experiences.  See the websites at the Engineering Outreach Office and Programs Abroad Office for more information.

Learn more about UT's Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today's world.

Sample Curriculum

Freshman Year Credit Hours
Computer Science 102 or ECE 206 4
Computer Science 140 4
Mathematics 141* or 147*, 142* or 148* 8
Physics 135* or 137*, 136* or 138* 8-10
English 101* or 118*, 102* 6
TOTAL 30-32
Sophomore Year Credit Hours
Computer Science 160, 311, 302 11
Mathematics 241 or 247, 251 or 257, 300 or 307 10
3 Natural Science Elective 3-4
1 Philosophy 241*, 242*, 243*, or 244* 3
1 Oral Communications Elective 3
(Note: Philosophy 242 and 244 each fulfill a humanities requirement and the oral communications requirement.)
TOTAL 30-31
Junior Year Credit Hours
Computer Science 360, 365, 380 11
Computer Science 340 or 370 or Mathematics 371 3-4
Electrical and Computer Engineering 313 or Mathematics 323 3
2 Computer Science Upper Division Elective or Math 231 3
1 Cultures and Civilizations Electives* 6
1 Social Science Elective* 3
1,4 General Elective 2
TOTAL 31-32
Senior Year Credit Hours
Computer Science 400  5
Computer Science Upper Division Electives 15
English 355* or 360* 3
1 Arts and Humanities Elective* 3
1 Social Science Elective* 3

Please notice that timely graduation requires that students take Mathematics 141, Calculus I, the first semester of the first year since the physics courses are calculus-based.  If necessary, students should go to summer school to take pre-calculus to stay on track.

* Meets University General Education Requirements.
 1 Can be taken anytime.
 2 Math 231 can be substituted for three hours of upper division Computer Science electives.
 3 Choose from Biology 101 or 130, Chemistry 100 or 120, or Physics 231.
 4 If necessary to bring total hours to a minimum of 120.

 Requirements for a Minor in Computer Science
The College of Engineering offers a minor in computer science to those undergraduate students whose academic history provides the prerequisites for the courses required by the minor.  The minor requires the completion of a minimum of 24 credits in computer science courses.  Some of the courses used in the minor may also satisfy requirements for the student's major.  A grade of C or better is required in all computer science courses applied to the minor.  The last 12 hours must be taken at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  The minor is not open to computer engineering majors.

Required Courses Hours Credit
1 Computer Science 102, 140, 160 12
Upper division computer science courses 12
Total 24
1 Electrical Engineering majors may substitute Electrical and Computer Engineering 206 for 102 and Electrical and Computer Engineering 255 for 160.

For More Information

Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
203 Philander P. Claxton Education Building  Knoxville, TN 37996-3450
Phone: (865)974-5067
Fax: (865)974-4404



The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.