CS Undergraduate Degree Options FAQ
Undergraduate CS and Blended Degree Programs FAQ
Here are many of the frequently asked questions – and answers! – about the computing-related degree options at Illinois:
How many undergraduate CS, blended CS, or blended Data Science degree programs are there, and what's the difference between them?
The University of Illinois offers 20+ pathways to incorporate computing and data science into undergraduate education and research:
Computer Science (CS) degree from The Grainger College of Engineering, with a rigorous curriculum of computer science and other technical requirements
Mathematics & CS and Statistics & CS, which includes a technical core curriculum in mathematics or statistics blended with a technical computer science core curriculum
14 CS + X* degrees, which include a technical computer science core curriculum blended with the core curriculum of select majors in arts and sciences
4 X* + Data Sciences degrees, which include a data science core curriculum (taught by Computer Science, Mathematics, Statistics, and the iSchool) blended with the core curriculum of other select majors. Note: X + Data Science students are advised by the admitting College/Department.
CS minor, which includes a computer science core curriculum that can be paired with nearly any other major on campus
*"X" represents the major blended with either the core computer science curriculum or the core data science curriculum. Several colleges across campus offer majors – you apply to and graduate from the college that provides the X major.
With so many options, how do you choose which computing-related major to apply for?
The CS major in The Grainger College of Engineering is for students primarily focused on computer science. CS is a very rigorous and technical major. It is also a highly competitive program with an admit rate of 6.7%.
The blended CS majors and X + Data Science majors are for students with a passion for or interest in the partner program. Students in these majors understand that computing technologies influence nearly every field, including the other area blended with CS or Data Science. They want to build computational tools with the potential to innovate, change, and shape the future of that field. As a result, Illinois graduates with a Mathematics & CS, Statistics & CS, CS + X, or X + Data Science degree are uniquely positioned to launch their careers or pursue graduate studies in a wide variety of fields.
For more information, please see the Illinois Admissions blog post: Get to Know Computer Science (And Majors Similar to Computer Science!)
What’s the difference between the Computer Science (CS) major and the Computer Engineering (CE) major from The Grainger College of Engineering?
Computer Engineering resides in a different department, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Generally speaking, Computer Engineering focuses more on designing and developing the physical components used in computing (hardware). In contrast, Computer Science focuses more on computation to solve problems (software).
Note: CE majors are not eligible for the CS minor.
How does the coursework differ between the CS major from The Grainger College of Engineering, the blended CS + X majors, and the X + Data Science majors?
The CS Engineering major and the CS + X majors share a common computer science core curriculum. The X + Data Science degree has a core curriculum that includes courses taught by the Department of Computer Science, the Department of Mathematics, the Department of Statistics, and the iSchool. The Grainger College of Engineering CS majors are also required to take 6-8 technical electives from the 400-level courses in specialized areas of Computer Science. Students majoring in the other blended CS programs or the X + Data Science majors are required to take a substantial concentration of coursework in another department, thus blending CS or Data Science with another discipline.
The college that houses each major may also have varying general education requirements, especially language other than English (LOTE) and science. Therefore, we recommend prospective students consult each program of interest's specific degree requirements and planning forms linked from each program page.
Note: only students enrolled in Computer Science at The Grainger College of Engineering are eligible to pursue the Fifth Year Master’s program offered by The Grainger College of Engineering.
Do the blended programs (Mathematics & CS, Statistics & CS, CS + X or X + Data Science) result in a dual degree?
No, they do not. Each is a single major that leads to a Bachelor of Science degree.
What computer languages are taught in required CS courses at Illinois?
Core courses for CS majors are taught in Java (Kotlin), C++, C programming, Python, and assembly languages. Some elective courses and registered student organizations (RSOs) may teach additional programming languages.
What kinds of employment opportunities do the various CS programs prepare students for?
Experience tells us that students in all computer science programs at the University of Illinois are well-prepared for software design and development positions in almost any field. The 400-level CS electives required for students in CS Engineering add technical breadth and depth to that knowledge. The blended CS majors will be well-qualified for more specialized jobs that require applying computational solutions to problems in the fields joined with their CS degrees. At Illinois, this includes blended degrees in Accountancy, Advertising, Animal Sciences, Anthropology, Astronomy, Chemistry, Crop Sciences, Data Science, Economics, Education, Finance, Geography & Geographic Information Science, Linguistics, Mathematics, Music, Philosophy, and Statistics.
More specific information about career options are available on the Undergraduate Admissions Majors pages.
Visit the Illini Success site to learn about Illinois graduates’ career aspirations and achievements, including employment and starting salary statistics.
What career fields are common for the blended CS majors?
Mathematics & CS: specialized fields of scientific computation, financial engineering, software engineering, and theoretical computer science.
Statistics & CS: focus on data analysis, data visualization, and data mining, and prepares students for business, computer, and medical fields.
CS + Advertising: specialized fields of computational advertising, data analytics, mobile advertising, and application design and development. This degree program prepares students for graduate study in CS and Advertising fields.
CS +Animal Sciences: areas of animal sciences with a technology, data handling, and management focus and a genomics focus, such as precision animal science, bioinformatics, computational biology, and web programming for animal-related companies. This degree program prepares students for advanced study at the graduate level.
CS + Anthropology: specializations in biological anthropology, linguistic anthropology, sociocultural anthropology, computational anthropology, and archeology. This degree program also prepares graduates for CS-related work in social media and online communities.
CS + Astronomy: focuses on astronomically-motivated computational challenges and working with large data sets through data analysis, visualization, mining, design and modeling, astrophysical and numerical simulations, and image processing. The requirements of this degree alone are not adequate preparation for graduate study in Astronomy. Students will need to work with an astronomy advisor for additional coursework recommendations.
CS + Chemistry: career fields related to imaging technologies, drug design, quantum chemical calculations, molecular dynamics simulations, computations & molecular modeling, molecular therapeutics, and visualization. These specializations may include analysis of experimental imaging data to visualization of in vivo chemical reactions.
CS + Crop Sciences: career fields related to crop genetics, agricultural IT, bioinformatics, web programming for agricultural companies, computational biology, data analysis, and precision agriculture. In precision agriculture, graduates can specialize their skills to focus on remote sensors, embedded systems, and satellite imagery. In addition, students can incorporate the degree into the five-year Crop Science BS/MS (non-thesis) degree.
CS + Economics: specialized fields include econometrics, business, financial economics & consulting, industrial organization, and mathematical economics. This degree program prepares students for graduate work in Computer Science, Economics, Statistics, Financial Engineering, and Policy.
CS + Education: has two tracts to choose from - Learning Sciences or Secondary Education. With these degree programs, students can create more effective and equitable educational environments or provide more equitable access to computer science education. In-demand fields include, but are not limited to: algorithm development, online platform design, educational game design and simulations, development of accessible and assistive technologies. These degrees will prepare students for advanced study at the graduate level, as well as immediate entry into the workforce at educational institutions, research centers, non-profits, and technology companies.
CS + Geography & Geographic Information Systems (GGIS): specializations include programmers, analysts, and researchers in roles varying from developing geographic information software and analytic techniques solving spatial problems related to healthcare, transportation, national security, environmental degradation, and natural hazards. Graduates from this degree may also specialize in cartography, computational geography, and geospatial technology.
CS + Linguistics: technical fields related to the computer-natural language relationship, including speech analysis and synthesis, translation, the storage and retrieval of large amounts of data, computational linguistics, artificial intelligence, software design, and user interface design
CS + Music: technical specializations within the music, audio, and digital media industries, including audio processing and computer music. In addition to art-related jobs, graduates with a deep understanding of audio and computation are well-prepared for the specialized fields of speech recognition, audio/speech communication, and audio compression.
CS + Philosophy: computer science specializations focus on ethics, logic, and privacy, especially in fields of artificial intelligence and security in a digital age.
How competitive are admissions to the CS major in The Grainger College of Engineering?
It is highly competitive. For several years, the CS major in The Grainger College of Engineering has broken the record for the most first-year applications received by any program in the university's history. The high school GPA and standardized test profiles are typically on the high end of those listed for The Grainger College of Engineering. Of course, good grades and high test scores, alone, do not guarantee admission to one of our programs. Potential applicants should carefully read the holistic review process and major-specific criteria that admissions officers look for from applicants. The current admit rate to CS in engineering is 6.7%.
While we welcome your interest in and application to CS in engineering, we strongly encourage prospective students to explore Illinois's computing-related degree options. A great place to start is the Illinois Admissions blog post: Get to Know Computer Science (And Majors Similar to Computer Science!)
Note: CS in engineering is not available as a second-choice major and is not open for transfers once students are admitted to Illinois.
Is it easier to be admitted to the blended majors (Mathematics & CS, Statistics & CS, CS + X or X + Data Science) than the CS major in engineering?
All the undergraduate programs with “Computer Science” or “Data Science” in the title are very competitive. The high school GPA and standardized test profiles of students in these majors are very similar. The current admit rate to CS + X majors is 25.4%.
We strongly encourage prospective students to explore Illinois's computing-related degree options. A great place to start is the Illinois Admissions blog post: Get to Know Computer Science (And Majors Similar to Computer Science!)
Note: The blended CS majors are not available as second-choice majors. Majors in the Gies College of Business and The Grainger College of Engineering are closed for transfers once students are admitted to Illinois. However, many other majors are open for transfer, including some of the blended CS majors. Students should consult with their academic advisor to explore the options since each department and college have varying requirements.
If I’m admitted to another department at Illinois, can I transfer into a computing-related major?
CS in engineering is closed for transfers once students are admitted to Illinois.
Majors in the Gies College of Business and The Grainger College of Engineering are closed for transfers once students are admitted to Illinois.
However, many other majors are available for transfers once students are admitted, including some of the blended CS majors. We also encourage students to consider adding the CS minor to their current major. Students should consult with their academic advisor to explore the options since each department and college have varying requirements.
If I’m in another department on campus can I apply for a second bachelor’s degree in a CS program?
For any seats we can provide in our programs, we prioritize students seeking their first and only bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately, that means we take very few second-degree candidates - students who are exceptional and provide a well-considered, compelling justification for needing an entire second major in a CS program.
We would also encourage students to consider adding the CS minor to their current major. Students should consult with their academic advisor to explore the options since each department and college have varying requirements.
What are the benefits of the CS minor, and how do I apply?
Nearly all Illinois undergraduate degrees can be paired with a Computer Science minor.
The CS minor can be a great way to add computer science to the area of study you're most passionate about—from agriculture to the arts, from media to the sciences, or from business to engineering, just to name a few. That said, declaring a CS minor does not provide registration advantages in CS courses. We cannot guarantee that a student can obtain all the courses needed to complete the minor (completion of a minor is not a graduation requirement). Students should begin the minor no later than the first-semester of their Junior year since the program takes a minimum of 4 semesters to complete.
Note: CS, CS + X, and CE majors are not eligible for the CS minor.
If you have questions about undergraduate CS and blended degree programs that this FAQ page has not addressed, please email email@example.com and an academic advisor will respond to your inquiry.