Computer Science Major Guide for 2011-2012

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.  A good resource is the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook

High School Preparation

Core academic subjects required for admission can be found on the Undergraduate Admissions website

Prospective students who want to major in computer science in the College of Engineering are 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 admission requirements can be found in the Undergraduate Catalog

Students who are unable to meet these admission 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. 

How to Major in Computer Science

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.  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 (EPP) 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


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.

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
Critical Courses: Math 141/147 and 142/148; CS 102 or ECE 206, CS 140  
Sophomore Year Credit Hours
Computer Science 160, 302, 311, 312 14
Mathematics 241 or 247, 251 or 257 7
3 Natural Science Elective 3-4
1 Arts and Humanities Elective* 3
1 Oral Communications Elective 3
TOTAL 30-31
Critical Courses:  CS 160, 302, 311, 312  
Junior Year Credit Hours
Computer Science 360, 361, 365 10
Electrical and Computer Engineering 313 3
3Computer Science Upper Division Elective or Math 231 3
1 Cultures and Civilizations Electives* 6
1 Social Science Elective* 3
1,4 General Elective 3
TOTAL 31-32
Critical Courses:  CS 360, 361, 365  
Senior Year Credit Hours
Computer Science 400(OC)* 5
Computer Science Upper Division Electives 15
English 355* or 360(WC)* 3
1 Arts and Humanities Elective* 3
1 Social Science Elective* 3
 Critical Courses: CS 400  
* Meets University General Education Requirements .
1 Can be taken any time.
2Any courses not already required for the major. Must be approved by advisor.
3The following table lists the acceptable set of electives that may be taken to satisfy the upper division electives for the CS major. The electives have been grouped into 6 suggested tracks. The tracks group related electives that a student may wish to take in order to achieve a level of expertise in the indicated area. However, it is not mandatory to take any track and students are free to mix and match courses from different tracks to fit their specific interests.
                        Theory                  Systems
COSC 440 – Formal Foundations of Software Engineering  COSC 456 – Computer Graphics 
COSC 482 – Theory of Computation  COSC 462 – Parallel Programming 
  ECE 453 – Introduction to Computer Networks 
  ECE 454 – Computer and Network Security 
                      Software                  Hardware
COSC 340 – Software Engineering  ECE 451 – Computer Systems Architecture 
COSC 461 – Compilers  ECE 455 – Embedded Systems Design 
COSC 465 – Databases and Scripting Languages   
              Scientific Computing             Artificial Intelligence
COSC 370 – Introduction to Scientific Computing  COSC 420 – Biologically-Inspired Computation 
COSC 471 – Numerical Analysis  COSC 425 – Machine Learning 
COSC 472 – Numerical Algebra  ECE 471 – Introduction to Pattern Recognition 
MATH 231 – Differential Equations I   


Five-Year BS/MS Program

The department offers a 5 year BS-MS program for qualified students. The primary component of the program is that qualified students may take up to 6 hours of approved graduate courses for their senior undergraduate electives and have them count toward both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Tennessee. This program is designed for students attending the University of Tennessee for their Master of Science degree because other universities may not accept these courses for graduate credit since they were used to satisfy requirements for the Bachelor of Science degree. Significant components of the program are: 

  • Students must have an overall GPA of at least 3.4 to be admitted to the program. Conditional admission may be granted after completing 64 hours of required course work while full admission is granted after completing 96 hours of required course work with a minimum overall GPA of 3.4.
  • Students must at least have conditional admission before taking graduate courses for both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees. All courses taken for graduate credit must be approved by the departmental chair of the program. Students admitted to the program must request permission from the Graduate School to take approved courses for graduate credit. 
  • Students admitted to the program must also follow the normal procedure for admission to the Graduate School. Admission of students into this program must be approved by the department and the Graduate School.
  • Students will not be eligible for graduate assistantships until they are enrolled as graduate-level students in the Graduate School.

Computer Engineering, Computer Science, and Electrical Engineering Honors Concentrations

Students who wish to pursue the honors electrical engineering concentration, honors computer engineering concentration, and honors computer science concentration will normally be part of the Chancellor’s Honors Program.

Candidates for the honors electrical engineering concentration and honors computer engineering concentration must complete the first year courses for honors concentration in the engineering majors. Candidates for the honors computer science concentration must meet the first year requirements for the Chancellor’s Honors Program.

In addition to satisfying the requirements described above, candidates for these three honors concentrations must also satisfy the following requirements.

  • Two upper-division honors courses in computer science or electrical and computer engineering via Honors-by-Contract or Honors Independent study, or equivalent. If participating in only the Chancellor’s Honors Program, the Honors-by-Contract paperwork goes to the Chancellor’s Honors Office on campus during the first 10 days of the semester. If participating in Engineering Honors and not Chancellor’s Honors, the Honors-by-Contract paperwork is submitted the first 10 days of the semester to the engineering major department. If participating in both Chancellor’s and Engineering Honors, the Honors-by-Contract paperwork is submitted to both areas.
  • Complete a 3-credit hour senior project course. This can normally be completed as part of the capstone design course, ECE 400  for computer engineering and electrical engineering majors or COSC 400  for computer science majors.


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