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Deja vu all over again ...

Hot on the Web

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on April 13, 2001
(Issue 1915, Computer Careers)

For at least the last 35 years, high school guidance counselors have found cruel delight in ominously telling students that "most of you will end up working in career fields that don't exist yet." It's the sort of information that, even if true, can only serve to terrify rather than enlighten.

And yet, I have been in several careers that didn't exist when I was in high school: online editor and web content producer, so far. To be honest, though, both of those relied far more on my traditional skills in writing and editing than any real high-tech know-how, although I did have to learn HTML.

But if you're bound and determined to find yourself a computer career, there are – of course – outstanding resources for furthering that goal to be found online.

Finding a school where you can learn the skills you need for that new high-tech career, for instance. And regardless of which area of computing you want to get into, your best bet for maximizing your career choices begins by earning a degree from a fully accredited four-year university.

University of California, San Diego
Computer Science & Engineering Department
Electrical and Computer Engineering Department

University of California, San Diego has one of the top computer science programs in the nation. And as host to the San Diego Supercomputer Center, UCSD has access to resources most schools don't even let themselves dream about. (UCSD is also a node on the super-fast Internet 2 project.)

With computer-oriented majors strewn across two similarly named departments (above), you'll probably need a Ph.D. in political science to figure out the turf fights between the two – but you'll also be able to get the best of both software and hardware theory and application.

This is one of the very best computer science curricula in the entire world – even if you're long past your college years, the web sites alone are a treasure trove of interesting information.

San Diego State University
Department of Mathematical and Computer Sciences
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

While it pains me as an Aztec alumni to admit this, San Diego State's computer program isn't nearly as good as UCSD's. Like its more illustrious cousin by the sea, the computer program at SDSU is split between two different departments, with a differing emphasis between software and hardware.

If not up to UCSD's other-worldly standards of computer science, SDSU remains a top-notch engineering school – regularly listed in the US News & World Report ranking of universities. And if there is no Supercomputer Center on Montezuma Mesa, there is an intelligent machines lab and an ATM lab.

Don't get accepted to UCSD? You can do far worse than going to SDSU. (And at least you'll get to see real intercollegiate sports at SDSU ...)

Coleman College

When Dr. Coleman Furr founded Coleman College nearly 40 years ago, it was the first college devoted solely to the practical study of computer science. The non-profit school he founded (and still leads) was also the first to offer the inverted curriculum, in which you complete your coursework for your major first, and then come back and finish up your general education courses (meaning you can start working in your chosen field ASAP).

Not only did Furr found a whole industry devoted to midcareer adults seeking an additional degree by attending night classes, he also founded what remains a very good computer sciences college. With bachelor's and master's degrees available in a variety of computer disciplines, Coleman is one of the best alternatives to the public four-year schools.

University of Colorado at Denver
Department of Computer Science & Engineering

The University of Colorado's Denver campus offers both a bachelor's and a master's degree in computer science. From the school's web site, it appears they have a decent graphics labs, a top-flight Unix lab, good Linux support, and an intelligent systems lab. Perhaps not truly state of the art, it nevertheless seems more than capable of providing a well-rounded education in computer science.

University of Denver
Department of Mathematics and Science

If less known than the University of Colorado outside the Rockies, the University of Denver also seems to have a solid computer sciences program. While the University of Colorado's is part of the engineering program, at the University of Denver it's grouped with mathematics. The courses seem geared more toward real-world applications than to theory – neither good nor bad, but that emphasis will provide a different fit depending on whether you want to go into research or active development.

Regis University

Denver's Jesuit university offers three different computer-related bachelor's degrees: computer information systems, computer networking and computer science. They also offer a master's in computer information technology. It's a liberal arts college, and being run by the Jesuits, you're practically assured of getting a truly well-rounded education.

Metropolitan State College of Denver
Department of Computer Information Systems
Department of Mathematical and Computer Sciences

Living in Denver provides an embarrassment of riches when it comes to getting a degree in computing. Metro State offers both a straight-ahead computer sciences program (both a bachelor's degree and a minor) and an information systems program, geared more toward the business world's needs from the computer world.