Benefits of Foundational Computer Science Courses

Benefits of Foundational Computer Science Courses
Benefits of Foundational Computer Science Courses

A foundation course provides the essential knowledge and tools necessary for any degree. The foundation course requirements for a computer science degree set a future developer or engineer on the right path. 

U.S. News & World Report placed computer science as the second most in-demand major for undergraduates in 2016 after accounting (source). Graduate school programs build on this marketability as master’s holders know how to manage projects and follow processes. 

Baylor University’s Online Masters in Computer Science uses a foundation course series to bring incoming students up to speed. Foundational courses are intended for graduate students who did not learn necessary skills in previous programs.

In each foundation course, you learn theoretical principles and complete projects that build toward later success. After completing foundation courses, students select from concentrations in cybersecurity, data science, and software engineering. 

You can translate your experiences and skills into a valuable degree starting with your first foundation course. Knowing each foundation course is essential to your professional success and provides a helpful boost. 

The foundation course path for computer science 

Foundation course design is difficult given the changing nature of computer science. Students who learn specific software, hardware, and techniques now need refreshers in a few years. A good foundation course teaches concepts that aren’t reliant on today’s technology. 

Baylor University selected each foundation course for its Online Masters in Computer Science to build durable skill sets. With these courses completed, you possess the skills necessary to address technical issues now and in the future. 

Data communications

Statista estimated 4.5 billion internet users around the world in January 2020, representing 59% of potential users (source). These consumers range from mobile phone users watching videos to office networks transferring files. Every bit of data sent via internet providers relies on sound data communications strategies. 

This foundation course walks through the elements of effective data communications. Each data transfer follows these steps as outlined by Ian Ames of Surevine (source): 

  1. Data from a sender to a receiver are converted into digital signals
  2. The data signals are placed into a medium for transfer
  3. The receiver’s device converts signals into usable data via a protocol 

Experts in data communications know networking diagnostics and understand protocols. Baylor University’s foundation course in data communications also digs into issues like attenuation, noise, and delay that can impact transfer quality. Understanding the essentials of data communications is especially critical to cybersecurity and software engineering professionals. 

Database design

A database is a structure that allows access to immense amounts of data via manual searches or automation. We equate databases with simple tools used to pull up work projects or government information. Baylor University’s foundation course on database design shows how these structures are intertwined with modern life. 

Liquid Web examined how database design impacts our daily activities. We interact with databases when we (source): 

  • Use streaming services that draw from TV, movie, and event libraries 
  • Add and access files from cloud storage
  • Buy and sell financial products on markets around the world
  • Follow social media recommendations 
  • Search ecommerce sites for products around the world

On a fundamental level, every database consists of tables tied to each other by table relationship coding. Microsoft notes that the most important principle in database design is eliminating duplicate data. A lean and accurate database protects against wasted storage as well as erroneous reports (source). 

Baylor University’s foundation course in database design trains students in the latest concepts and techniques. You can build up your Structured Query Language (SQL) knowledge and understand how design contributes to performance through this foundation course. 

Operating systems

Operating systems make it possible for computers and mobile phones to interact with software and applications. The core of an operating system is the kernel, a constantly active component that aligns hardware and software demands. 

Marco Cesati and Daniel P. Bovet wrote the following about operating systems in Understanding the Linux Kernel (source): 

“Some operating systems allow all user programs to directly pay with the hardware components (a typical example is MS-DOS). In contrast, a Unix-like operating system hides all low-level details concerning the physical organization of the computer from applications run by the user.” 

No operating system has a monopoly on the computing market and no two systems are the same. StatCounter details the following market shares for operating systems on all devices in February 2020 (source): 

  • Android: 38.9% (73.3% of mobile phones)
  • Windows: 35.29% (77.26% of desktops)
  • Apple iOS: 14.97% (60.51% of tablets) 
  • macOS X: 8.07%
  • Linux: 0.89% 

Baylor University’s operating systems foundation course teaches students how to develop an effective system. This course explores concepts like memory management and security that are critical to operating system success. Each project involves a component of an operating system, providing a micro-level view of potential flaws and errors. 

Software engineering

The most popular software packages on the market are often taken for granted by users. Video games, productivity suites, and mobile apps look great on the outside because of exquisite design. Successful software projects are the products of the software engineering process. 

Project leads and designers start by imagining how software can solve real-world problems. Following the concept stage, software programs go through analysis, design, coding, testing, and maintenance. 

CAST provides the following list of principles used throughout this software life cycle (source): 

  • Focus on the present - not the future - in coding
  • Reuse your own code where possible 
  • Draw on open-source solutions to avoid wasted time
  • Place a premium on readable code instead of clever design

Software engineering projects work through these principles and steps multiple times before products reach the market. Baylor University’s foundation course in software engineering replicates these steps with realistic design projects. 

Foundation courses keep professionals ahead of changes

A strong knowledge base is essential for any computer science expert to keep pace with tech evolution. Using foundation course lessons, you can anticipate problems and create solutions before trends emerge. 

Challenges to Moore’s Law

Intel founder Gordon Moore posited in 1965 that the number of transistors on a computer chip would double each year. Moore later amended that theory to a two-year interval, revealing the rapid expansion of computer processing (source). 

Moore’s Law was later applied not only to chips but technological development on the whole. This doubling principle is challenged in the 21st century by rapid advancements throughout the computer science realm. 

In 2016, Intel adapted its microchip strategy to recognize what users would value in the future. Innovations like tunneling transistors and spintronics don’t necessarily double processing but improve energy efficiency. Increases in data usage throughout the world require reduced energy consumption to avoid outages (source). 

Intel’s shift in strategy keeps the spirit of Moore’s Law even as it bypasses the specific technological trend. A master’s degree in computer science allows you the flexibility to make similar pivots ahead of industry trends. 

Innovating the product replacement cycle

Skills learned and projects completed in each foundation course can revolutionize the product replacement cycle. This term refers to the time between a product’s purchase and replacement by a comparable product. 

Business Insider found that the replacement cycle for mobile phones was 30 months in 2016. Phone replacements took place on a 20-month cycle in 2007 and a 25-month cycle in 2015 (source). 

PC World reported that the average replacement cycle for a desktop was just under six years in 2016. In previous years, industry experts viewed four years as the typical replacement cycle (source). 

In both cases, replacement cycles were longer than previous years due to financial considerations and tech quality. Hardware manufacturers and software publishers need shorter cycles to encourage further innovation. Your computer science degree can improve user experiences while strengthening bottom lines for clients or employers. 

Breaking through the noise of new products

Computer science professionals know that thousands of developers and startups are competing for user attention. We can use mobile app usage as a stand-in for this competition. 

Mobile phone users completed 178 billion app downloads in 2018. In 2019, this figure increased to 194 billion app downloads (source). Statista detailed how many new apps were added to the Google Play store each day from 2016 to 2018 (source): 

  • 2016 Quarter 3: 3,797
  • 2016 Quarter 4: 3,680
  • 2017 Quarter 1: 4,255
  • 2017 Quarter 2: 5,325
  • 2017 Quarter 3: 5,343
  • 2017 Quarter 4: 5,959
  • 2018 Quarter 1: 6,140

Designers of customer-facing products can add hardware offerings and software packages into the competition for customer attention. Developers and engineers create proprietary products for their companies if available products lack proper functionality. In short, innovators in this space need honed skills and entrepreneurial spirits. 

No matter the context, you need basic computer science skills to access decades of computer science concepts. You’ll draw on skills learned in each foundation course as you break through the noise with new innovations. 

Foundation courses meet social needs and demands

Computers, mobile phones, and networks are not solely designed for productivity and fun. Modern technology has been vital to social movements, scientific advancements, and relief efforts. Computer science students need to keep the importance of their work in mind as they complete work for each foundation course. 

Solving the world’s problems

Software engineers surveyed by job listing site Hired showed that their careers were geared toward change. Eighty-three percent of engineers interviewed by Hired said they got into their profession for new challenges and continuous learning.

The next killer app or millions-selling office suite is not the only way to challenge your skill set. Hired found among the surveyed engineers that (source): 

  • 21% were passionate about using their skills to solve global warming
  • 21% were passionate about using their skills to solve economic inequality 
  • 18% were passionate about using their skills to improve access to education

Graduate students can build skills to help the world one foundation course at a time. 

Creating a tech skill pipeline

Baylor University and other universities are part of the skill pipeline that turns tech-savvy students into in-demand professionals. The Online Masters in Computer Science was designed based on the skills most needed in today’s workplace. 

Students and administrators in middle school and high school now recognize their roles in this pipeline. Gallup conducted surveys of these groups in 2014 and 2016 about their views on computer science. 

Respondents to both surveys viewed computer science as an essential part of education. Gallup found 84% of parents in 2016 viewed computer science as equal or more important than established subjects like math and history. Teachers (71%), principals (66%), and superintendents (65%) were only a bit behind parents on computer science’s importance. 

Gallup’s 2016 survey also found that (source): 

  • 93% of parents viewed computer science courses as good uses of school resources
  • 62% of principals and 60% of teachers wanted a computer science course requirement
  • 94% of parents and 93% of students saw computer science as a way to improve lives

Completing foundation course after foundation course helps build the pipeline sought by parents, teachers, and students. Your work following graduation from Baylor University could inspire the next designer or developer. Every student who completes a graduate degree also proves the degree’s value on the job market. 

Foundation courses improve job prospects

Fundamental knowledge of computer science is in high demand. Burning Glass Technologies published a 2017 list of technical skills most needed by those who don’t work in tech jobs. This list was topped by (sources):

  • Angular JS (339% growth from 2014 to 2016)
  • Tableau (259%)
  • Machine learning (228%)
  • Chef (219%)
  • Data visualization (217%) 

Individual skills are not enough to succeed in computer science careers. A graduate degree in computer science shows a dynamic skill set to potential employers. Each foundation course in the Online Masters in Computer Science points toward the skills desired by employers. 

Demand across different career paths

“Computer scientist” is a job title conferred upon academic professionals who study the field’s theoretical principles. Students completing master’s degrees in computer science are more likely to work under different titles. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) paints a rosy picture of the long-term prospects for computer science graduates. Jobs for information security analysts are expected to grow 32% from 2018 to 2028, far exceeding the 5% average for all careers (source). BLS estimated a 21% growth in available jobs for software developers over the same period (source). 

Reviewing the typical salaries for computer science professionals also shows the most lucrative paths for graduates. BLS data show the 2018 median salaries of the following professions (source): 

  • Computer hardware engineers ($114,600)
  • Computer network architects ($109,020)
  • Software developers ($105,590)
  • Information security analysts ($98,350)
  • Database administrators ($90,070

Data skills in high demand

BLS salary estimates for computer science careers far exceed the $38,640 average for the typical American worker. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) placed the average college graduate salary at $50,516 in 2019 (source). PayScale calculated an average salary of $74,000 for master’s degree holders in 2020 (source). 

Employers are happy to pay well for experts with rare skill sets. LinkedIn studied the most common technical skills requested for more than 20 million jobs in the United States. This 2020 study found that the top five in-demand skills were (source): 

  • Blockchain
  • Cloud computing
  • Analytical reasoning
  • Artificial intelligence
  • User experience (UX) design

Professionals work toward these sought-after skills starting with foundation courses in computer science. Jefferson Frank identified skills like NoSQL databases and data mining built from your first foundation course (source). The key variable in developing these skills is a graduate program that anticipates the future of computer science. 

The value of a Baylor University degree

Your search for the right computer science program involves a calculation of return on investment. The top programs make your tuition dollars and time pay off by opening lucrative career paths.

From your first foundation course at Baylor, you see the return on investment through experienced faculty and challenging assignments. National publications have recognized Baylor University for its value to students. 

U.S. News & World Report ranked the school No. 75 in Best Value Schools for 2020 (source). This ranking took into account Baylor University’s record of academic success along with its tuition rates. The publication’s overall rankings placed Baylor University No. 79 among National Universities (source). 

Niche’s 2020 grades for American universities show why a Baylor University degree is attractive to employers. Baylor University’s No. 120 rank in Colleges with the Best Academics in America prove graduates are ready for the workplace. Niche placed the school No. 105 in Top Private Universities in America, confirming that graduates represent the top students in the country (source). 

Baylor University infuses good return on investment and reputation into its Online Masters in Computer Science. From foundation course to graduation, each student’s interest and knowledge is turned into industry-ready expertise. 

You can learn more about how each foundation course gets you closer to a fulfilling career by contacting an enrollment advisor.