Undergraduate FAQs

Undergraduate FAQs

Here you will find answers to frequently asked questions covering our Computer science and Information Systems program, Computer Science Major requirements and procedures.


  1. What is Computer Science?

    Computer Science is a field that takes a broad approach to computing. It covers all aspects of modern computer systems, and their ever-increasing role in contemporary society. Students majoring in CS will acquire deep theoretical and technical understanding, as well as practical knowledge of computer software and hardware development.

  2. What kind of jobs do CS majors graduating from Stony Brook get?

    Some traditional job titles include Computer Programmer, Software Engineer, Systems/Network/Database Administrator, Computer Architect and Designer. However, computer scientists hold positions as diverse as the applications of computer technology -- ranging from Computer Animators to Engineering Managers, Team Supervisors and more. Some of our graduates work for top companies located on Long Island such as Computer Associates and Symbol Technologies, while the rest pursue opportunities around the country or even the world at large. We have our graduates at Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, and the current president of Stanford University is an alumnus of Stony Brook CS! Our graduates also find positions in the financial industry - top Wall Street companies such as Citigroup and Lehman Brothers have hired dozens of our graduating undergraduates over the past few years. There are many positions in the Government sector as well, including those related to National security. Northrop Grumman Corporation, one of of the largest defense companies, has a significant presence on Long Island and employs many of our graduates. Our top undergraduate students often choose to continue their education on graduate level.

  3. Why should I study Computer Science at all? I've heard some people who do not have a CS degree and were still able to make big money as programmers.

    People who learn a given computer technology can often find entry-level positions without formal training, but everything related to computers changes very fast. Indeed, many of the technologies you will learn during your stay in school will likely be obsolete within five-to-ten years. However, the principles you learn here will enable you to keep understand and master the new technologies as they come out. People who have learned specific technologies instead of the fundamental principles will not be able to make that jump.

  4. So, is Computer Science just coding?

    Not at all. Of course, computer scientists do often write code. However, you might think of CS as taking real life problems, and reducing their complexity to a level that even machines can "understand". Solving larger-scale real problems is both difficult and fun. This requires extensive higher-level system design and problem solving skills. With the proper design, actually coding the program often becomes a relatively straightforward part of the job.

  5. What about that dot-com crash? Will I be able to find a job with a CS degree?

    As any other discipline and the Economy as a whole, Computer Science is subject to cycles of higher and lower labor demand. The very publicized nature of the dot-com crash led to an impression of a particularly severe lack of opportunities for graduating computer scientists. However, according to recently released long-term government projections by the US Department of Labor, three of the top 10 fastest growing occupations through the year 2012 are expected to be those requiring CS Bachelor s degree. These fields all have a projected overall growth rate above 40%.

  6. But wait! Aren't all CS jobs currently being outsourced to India and other countries?

    Empirical evidence suggests that many of jobs being outsourced are those which do not require CS degree in the first place, such as software quality assurance and routine programming tasks. On the contrary, there are many types of CS jobs which are unlikely to go overseas, for example those requiring direct interaction with US customers or those related to national security. Still, students should prepare themselves to the changing environment. It is more important than ever to develop problem solving, team management and other relevant skills rather than concentrate just on learning how to program. As long as the US is at the forefront of economic, technical, and scientific activity, new challenges in computing and its applications will be formulated here, so people who can understand such problems and convert them into code will remain in demand. The well-publicized fears of outsourcing have recently excessively reduced the number of students majoring in computer science. The law of supply and demand implies that Computer Science presents an excellent career opportunity for those brave enough to go against the crowd.

  7. What are typical income levels for a CS graduate?

    According to the fall survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the following are the top ten in-demand majors for students graduating in 2009 with starting salaries:

    Top ten in-demand majors from the Class of 2009 Major Average Salary Offer

    Computer Science $61,110
    Computer Engineering $60,280
    Electrical Engineering $57,603
    Mechanical Engineering $57,024
    Information Sciences & Systems $52,322
    Management Information Systems $51,489
    Economics/Finance $51,062
    Accounting $48,020
    Business Administration/Management $46,171
    Marketing/Marketing Mgmt. $41,506

  8. I am very interested in computers and was wondering which major to choose: Computer Science or Computer Engineering. What is the difference between the two programs, anyway?

    This is a very common question. Although there is considerable overlap between the two fields, Computer Science focuses primarily on software systems, while Computer Engineering on hardware systems. Software application development, Internet programming, and database/information management systems are more the province of Computer Science, while Computer Engineers often work in embedded system development and low level hardware design. It is fair to say that the amount of software development performed in the US greatly exceeds that of hardware development, and that nationally far more students study Computer Science than Computer Engineering.

    Both majors will teach you basic programming, fundamentals of computer hardware and will give you the skills necessary for creating software and hardware systems to solve problems in the real world. However, CS deals more with the "science" of computers, putting more emphasis on algorithm development/analysis and efficient ways of storing/processing information, while the CE track stresses more the engineering aspects of hardware systems. To put it another way, CE studies ways to build good computer systems while CS tries to figure out what to do with them.

  9. What undergraduate programs does your department offer?

    We offer Bachelor of Science programs in Computer Science (CSE) and in Information Systems (ISE). Computer science majors may participate in a concentration in Human-Computer Interaction, Information Assurance and Game programming. Qualified computer science majors may apply to the departmental honors program and/or the joint BS/MS program.

  10. What is the difference between computer science and information systems?

    Our information systems program is structured as an applied computer program, the application area being business information systems. Computer science majors may choose a variety of different electives (e.g., programming languages, databases, computer graphics) and take more natural science and mathematics courses, whereas information systems majors follow a more focused computing curriculum and take additional business or economics courses.

  11. What is the typical class size in your courses?

    First-year courses (100 level) have about 100-150 students; second-year courses (200 level), about 80-100 students. The lectures for these courses are taught by professors and are complemented by recitations and/or laboratories, taught by teaching assistants to smaller groups of about 25 students. Upper-division (300 and 400 level) class size ranges from 20-30 students for special topics courses to 60-90 students in the most popular courses.

  12. Do graduate students teach courses?

    All core courses (first and second year) are taught by faculty. Upper-level courses are occasionally taught by advanced graduate students.

  13. Do computer science students need to buy their own computer?

    Students need not buy their own computing equipment. Our first-year courses are supported by facilities maintained by the University Computing Center. Later courses are supported by our own instructional laboratories. Students with their own computer have access to the campus network from campus residences. Departmental research laboratories are available to undergraduates working on research projects supervised by our faculty.

  14. What programming languages do you teach?

    In the introductory courses we use primarily Java and cover C to a modest extent. Upper-level courses typically use Java, C, or C++.

  15. Do you accept advance placement credits?

    Students get credit depending on the computer science exam taken and the score achieved:

    AP Exam


    USB Equivalent


    Computer Science A


    CSE 110


    Computer Science A

    4 or 5

    CSE 114


    Computer Science A/B


    CSE 110


    Computer Science A/B


    CSE 114


    Computer Science A/B


    CSE 114 and 214


  16. Does the department have scholarships for undergraduates?

    The College of Engineering and Applied Sciences administers a number of scholarships, including scholarships for incoming freshmen who have been admitted to the CSE or ISE major.

  17. Do you have an internship program?

    Students doing an approved computer-related project for a private enterprise, a public agency, or a non-profit organization may register for credit in CSE 488 Internship in Computer Science or ISE 488 Information Systems Internship.

  18. Do you offer research opportunities for undergraduates?

    CSE and ISE majors may participate in research projects supervised by our faculty and register for credit in CSE 487 Research in Computer Science or ISE 487 Research in Information Systems. The university, through a program on Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URECA), awards summer research fellowships, and small grants and travel grants to many students participating in supervised research.

  19. I would like to learn more about the CS department and its undergraduate programs. What should I do?

    The best place to start is the Department web page which has a special section with detailed information about our programs, including degrees offered, graduation requirements, course descriptions, and contact information. Answers to several questions often asked by people interested in our programs are given above. Another, more detailed list intended for current CS majors is provided here. Please also feel free to call the undergraduate Computer Science office at 631-632-8470 if you need additional help. We look forward to having you join us!


  1. I came to Stony Brook in Fall 2007, but was admitted to the computer science major in Fall 2008. Which graduation requirements should I follow?

    Your matriculation date determines which requirements apply, in your case, Fall 2007. CSE graduation requirements checklists for the last few academic years are available at the CSE Program page.

  2. How many upper-division CSE courses per semester should I take?

    Most CSE majors carry a semester load of 2-3 upper-level CSE courses, plus 2-3 courses in mathematics, natural sciences, or DEC. Four upper-level CSE courses in one semester represents a heavy load.

  3. I have taken computer science courses at another school. Can I get transfer credit for these?

    To get transfer credit for a course, please submit a completed Transfer Course Evaluation Form, along with detailed course information such as syllabus or project descriptions, and a transcript to the Computer Science Undergraduate Office so that we can determine whether the courses are equivalent to any of the courses we teach.

  4. I am not doing well in one of my CSE courses. Can I P/NC the course and repeat it next semester?

    The P/NC option is not available in courses required for the CSE major. You may withdraw from the course, though.

  5. I am not doing well in one of my CSE electives. Can I P/NC the course and take a different course next semester?

    You may take a different course next semester, but the P/NC option is not available in courses required for the CSE major, regardless of whether or not you need the course for graduation purposes.

  6. I have completed the natural science sequence in physics. Which additional natural science courses do I need for CSE major requirements?

    You need to take 4.0 credits in addition to the Natural Science sequence. You may choose courses that are part of another sequence, i.e., BIO, CHE, or GEO, or courses from the following list:

    • AST 203, 205, 341, 346, 347;
      BIO 310, 314, 315, 316, 317, 320, 325, 328, 334, 339,
      340, 341, 343, 344, 346, 354, 359, 361, 362, 380;
      CHE 198, 301, 302, 321, 322;
      GEO 101, 103, 305, 306, 309, 310, 315, 316, 318;
      PHY 251, 300, 301, 302, 303, 306, 308.


    If you had completed a sequence other than physics, you could also take PHY 121 and/or 122 as additional natural science courses.

  7. Can I get transfer credit for natural science courses I took at another school?

    We can only evaluate only computer science courses, other courses are evaluated by the departments offering them. Some courses, mostly from schools in the New York metropolitan area, have been pre-approved for transfer credit; check with the Stony Brook Transfer Office for detailed information. If your courses have not been preapproved, submit Transfer Course Evaluation Forms to the department(s) offering them.

  8. Can I count the same course towards both the core CSE / ISE requirements and towards Specialization or Honors program requirements?

    Yes. For example, CSE 408 can simultaneously be used to fulfill the CSE elective requirements, the Honors class requirements, and the Information assurance class requirement.