Undergraduate Guide

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Computer science is the study of software (programming), hardware, and theoretical aspects of high-speed computing devices, as well as the application of these devices to a broad spectrum of scientific, technological, and business problems.

Both the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) and the College of Science and Engineering (CSE) offer a bachelor's degree in computer science. These degrees not only provide a basic understanding of the field, but also include an upper division emphasis in a student-chosen subarea of computer science. This flexibility allows for concentrations within computer science, or in interdisciplinary areas involving computer applications. This should prepare students for a variety of industrial, governmental, and business positions involving computer use, or for graduate work in the field.

The four-year CLA program leads to the degree of Bachelor of Arts, B.A., with a major sequence in Computer Science. The four-year CSE program leads to the degree of Bachelor of Science, B.S., in Computer Science. A minor sequence in Computer Science, available to all students, is offered through CLA.

The remainder of this guide is organized into sections. Where the information in a section differs for CLA and CSE students, subsections contain specific information for each type of major. The material in this document pertains only to the departmental requirements. Each college may have other requirements not covered here.

Additional information about the computer science Department and the computer science undergraduate program may also be obtained via the following links:

These websites contain some application forms, announcements, advising information, and other useful links.

Advising information for lower division students is available at the following locations:

CS&E degree programs


Students interested in studying computer science have the option of obtaining the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree through the College of Science & Engineering or the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree through the College of Liberal Arts.

Requirements for all computer science degrees

For both degrees, students must complete the following requirements:

  • Liberal education requirement: These university-wide requirements ensure a student has a broad education covering a number of different areas.
  • Required computer science classes: These classes provide a solid foundation in the theory and practice of computer science. Since the field changes so quickly, it is important for students to have a foundation in computer science basics so they can continue to learn as the field evolves.
  • Upper division major electives: The upper division major electives consist of computer science electives. Students interested in interdisciplinary work may be able to take some of these classes from related areas as well. The purpose is to allow students to get greater depth in a computer science area of their choice.
  • Free electives: These allow students to study other topics which interest them, to get a minor, to do interdisciplinary work, or to take additional computer science courses to attain greater depth or breadth.

For both the B.S. and B.A., all required courses must be taken A-F and passed with a grade of C- or better.

Differences in requirements between B.A. and B.S. degrees

Though the B.S. and B.A. degree programs share many requirements, they differ in the following ways:

  • The B.S. requires two lab science courses (one of which is Physics I; the other is chosen from a list of approved lab science courses).
  • The B.S. requires an upper division math oriented requirement.
  • The B.S. includes 23 credits of upper division elective courses (sometimes referred to as “tracks”). These 23 credits include the upper division math-oriented required course, and ask that 11 out of the 23 total credits come from upper division CSCI courses. The other 12 can also be CSCI courses, but could also come from non-CSCI approved track electives. Conversely, the B.A. requires 8 credits of upper division (4XXX-5XXX) computer science courses.
  • The B.A. requires an additional 18 upper division credits outside of CSCI to meet the CLA requirements. STAT 3021 counts for 3 of these 18 credits.
  • The B.A. requires four semesters of second language coursework or demonstrated proficiency. (More information on this requirement can be obtained from the CLA advising office.)

The degree requirements listed here apply to all students who began their education at the University of Minnesota during the Fall of 2013 or after for CSE students and Fall 2014 or after for CLA students. Previous degree requirements can be found in the appendix. Degree requirements between the current program and previous programs cannot be mixed. It is recommended that students who enrolled at the University of Minnesota prior to Fall 2013 contact an undergraduate advisor when planning their degree completion.

Distinction between B.A. and B.S. degrees

When working with colleagues in the CSE and CLA Career Centers and with many U.S.-based employers, we are routinely told that employers do not know or care about the difference between graduates with a B.A. in computer science and graduates with a B.S. in computer science. Students earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science are qualified for an extremely wide range of jobs across many sectors and industries; B.A. and B.S. students take the same required core courses and departmental opportunities such as student groups, research opportunities, and studying abroad are available to students in either degree program.

That said, here are things advisors encourage students to consider:

  1. The B.S. upper division “track” credits can allow for students the opportunity to focus on a particular area of computer science. For students who are more likely to practice in an area that is highly specialized or technical, the B.S. may provide a better background.
  2. The B.A. asks for 8 credits of upper division CSCI coursework and 18 credits of upper division non-CSCI electives. These could include courses in statistics, mathematics, electrical engineering, psychology, or any other 3xxx-level or higher UMN courses. B.A. students may choose to explore another area of study that intersects with computer science, such as psychology, communications, or economics. For applications and future career goals that involve the liberal arts (human-centered computing, big data, and data privacy/public policy, etc.), this broader background may be more appropriate. The B.A. may also be a more efficient option for students pursuing a double major or a large minor.

Transfer students

New student transfers

Students transferring to the University of Minnesota from another school and wishing to select computer science as their major should first consult with the appropriate admissions counselor:

Based on the transfer coursework completed at the time of admission to the University, students will either be admitted as a major or pre-major student.

  • Transfer students admitted as pre-majors will still need to apply to the major. The applications are posted online for CLA (B.A.) and CSE (B.S.).
  • Students admitted as major students do not need to take any additional steps to apply to the major.

All transfer students will meet either a college advisor (pre-major students) or a departmental advisor (major students) during their orientation day organized by either CSE or CLA.

Transferring between CLA and CSE

Students wishing to transfer either from CLA to CSE to obtain a B.S. degree or from CSE to CLA to obtain a B.A. degree must file a Change of College Form online. Please pay particular attention to the application deadlines. Students transferring to CSE should refer to this website for admission criteria and information sessions.


Minor options in the department
Computer science minor

The computer science minor is a great option for students who want to include a basic core of computer science coursework to enhance or supplement their major program.

Learn more about the CS minor

Information technology minor

This interdisciplinary minor provides opportunities for students from non-technical disciplines to supplement their major with a practical set of courses focused on information technology.

Learn more about the IT minor

Minor options for computer science majors

Many students find that pursuing minor degree programs can be a strategic way to explore other interests and gain skills that are helpful for future career goals.

Learn more about minors to pair with your CS degree

Academic and CSCI course policies

Introductory computer science sequences FAQ

There are multiple pathways to completing our introductory course sequence. This often leads to many questions from students, so we developed a webpage to answer frequently asked questions. If your questions is not answered in the FAQ, please email csciug@umn.edu.

View the FAQs now

C- or better policy

Students must complete all classes required by their degree program (B.A. or B.S.) with a grade of C- or better. This includes all classes specifically required for the degree (e.g., STAT 3021, CSCI 2011) as well as classes used for the CSCI electives (B.A.) and CSCI track requirements (B.S.). If a D or D+ grade is earned, students can petition to have that grade count toward completion of a degree requirement.

Learn more about the D grade policy petition option

Common CSCI substitutions

The following are approved substitutions for certain computer science requirements. Keep in mind that while these substitutions are approved, they are not necessarily recommended. We advise against students without other upper division math or statistics coursework taking 4xxx/5xxx level math and statistics courses in place of CSCI 2033 and STAT 3021. If you have already or plan to take advantage of a substitution, know that they are not always automatically updated in APAS reports and may need to be manually added. Please work directly with your computer science major advisor if you have questions.

View the common CSCI course substitutions

Course restrictions for CSCI 3081W and CSCI 4061

Computer Science has put restrictions on two required major courses so only specific majors can register for them. This helps give priority to students needing the course who are officially in a program.

  • CSCI 3081W will only be allowing the following students access: CSCI B.S. declared majors, CSCI B.A. declared majors, CSCI M.S. students, CSCI Ph.D. students
  • CSCI 4061 will only be allowing the following students access: CSCI B.S. declared majors, CSCI B.A. declared majors, CSCI M.S. students, CSCI Ph.D. students, data science M.S. students, computer engineering declared majors, electrical engineering declared majors, electrical engineering M.S. students, electrical engineering Ph.D. students, information technology infrastructure declared majors

Pre-majors in CLA and CSE won’t be able to register for these courses until they are admitted to majors. Permission numbers won’t be given out to pre-major students.

Advisors will consider requests from CSCI minors, other declared majors, and prospective graduate students if there is proof that they need these courses for their program of study. Students in this situation should fill out this form the week before the start of the term.

CSCI classes with undergraduate AND graduate versions

The internet programming (4131/5131), data communication and networks (4211/5211), AI I (4511W/5511), and databases (4707/5707) classes have a 4xxx and 5xxx version. The purpose of this is to allow tailoring of the course to the primary audiences (undergraduate students for the 4xxx version, graduate students for the 5xxx). There is enough overlap between the two versions that students will not be able to get credit for both.

Who should take which version of the courses?
  • Computer science and computer engineering graduate students should take the 5xxx version; they will not receive graduate credit for the 4xxx versions.
  • Graduate students from other programs should check with their programs and see which version will be acceptable.
  • Most undergraduates should take the 4xxx version. There is one exception to this--very skilled or interested undergraduates may take 5131, 5211, 5511, or 5707 with instructor permission.

Students who register for the 5xxx versions should ensure they have the necessary prerequisite knowledge. The expectation is that students in these classes will be better prepared than students in the 4xxx class, as the 5xxx classes will cover more material and require slightly more work.

B.A. degree requirements

Application to program

Students may pursue admission to the Computer Science major in the College of Liberal Arts after completing and enrolling in certain courses in our program. Admission to the major is competitive and is based on an unbracketed technical GPA from University of Minnesota – Twin Cities courses.

We encourage all interested students to apply to the computer science major program of their choice as soon as they have met the eligibility requirements (in other words, do not delay applying to a major).

Students should be careful to follow the steps and deadlines listed on the B.A. program application page.

Sample graduation plan

The sample graduation plan for the major includes all required courses in the order strongly recommended by advisors. While graduation is not guaranteed in four years, these sample plans are an example of how students could finish degree requirements in that amount of time.

This plan is for students admitted as of fall 2014 and for future admitted students.

Students who are pursuing a B.A. degree and were admitted to the major prior to fall 2014 may use the previous graduation plans:

B.S. degree requirements

Application to program

Admission to a major in the College of Science and Engineering is a competitive process based on the successful completion of specific technical courses and a grade point average (GPA) based on technical courses (the technical GPA).

Students who have completed the necessary technical courses and have a 3.2 or above technical GPA at the end of fall semester will be guaranteed admission to that major. All other students who have completed the necessary technical coursework for their intended major (as identified by each department) will be considered for admission to that major on a space-available basis.

The College of Science and Engineering website has more information on applying to your major as a CSE student.

Students should be careful to follow the steps and deadlines listed on the B.S. program application page.

Track electives

Students in the B.S. program need 23 credits of upper-division elective coursework, including at least one course that satisfies the upper division math-oriented requirement. The Department of Computer Science & Engineering has a wide variety of upper-division elective courses that have been grouped into areas of study, commonly referred to as our tracks.

Rather than focusing on “choosing” a track, students are encouraged to view track elective courses as a way to go deeper into one or more specialties within computer science and use those courses as a way to further develop computer science knowledge and skills. A track is not meant to limit your course options; indeed, students are able to mix and match elective courses across tracks if they want to explore more than one area of study. Additionally, students are reminded that tracks are neither declared nor approved, and they do not appear on your transcript or diploma.

See all the tracks and associated courses

Note: The track areas were changed in the summer of 2020. If needed, you can still view the previous groupings.

Upper division math-oriented requirement

Students working towards a B.S. in Computer Science are required to take an upper division math-oriented course as part of their 23 total credits of upper division elective coursework.

See the approved courses for the math-oriented requirement

Approved major (non-CSCI) track electives for B.S. program

Of the 23 total upper division elective credits needed for the B.S. degree, a minimum of 11 out of 23 must come from 4xxx-5xxx level CSCI courses. The other 12 credits can come from non-CSCI approved track electives listed below.

See the classes that are automatically approved as non-CSCI track electives for the B.S. program

Sample graduation plan

The sample graduation plan for the major includes all required courses in the order strongly recommended by advisors. While graduation is not guaranteed in four years, these sample plans are an example of how students could finish degree requirements in that amount of time.

This plan is for students admitted as of fall 2013 and for future admitted students.

Students who are pursuing a B.S. degree and were admitted to the major prior to fall 2013 may use the previous sample graduation plans:

Frequently asked questions

The advising team has put together a list of some of the most frequently asked questions that they receive from undergraduate students.

View the undergraduate FAQs

Nicholas Hopper thumbnail

Nicholas Hopper

Director of Undergraduate Studies
4-211 Keller Hall

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Academic Advisors

Jacquelyn Burt, Dametrius Coleman, Josie Kahlenbeck, and Kelly Thomas
4-192 Keller Hall