Computer Science Overview

Students entering the University of San Diego and/or declaring a major during 2018-2019, should follow information contained in the printed course catalog (also known as the "catalog of record") published on May 1, 2018. Access the catalog of record at

Computer science is the system of principles and theory which deals with what computers do. It studies the nature of computation. For any given problem, it asks whether the answer can be computed, and, if so, what are the most efficient and practical ways to do the computation. (Often the methods that are best for machines are quite different from those that are practical for human beings.)

Computers are machines that manipulate abstract symbols according to specified rules. Therefore, computer science relies heavily on abstract reasoning and mathematics. The mathematics involved is usually quite different, however, from traditional mathematics. Much of it has been developed recently in response to the development of computers.

As an academic discipline within the liberal arts tradition, computer science has ties with many other disciplines. The natural sciences provide the physical principles upon which computers are built. Computer science serves the sciences, engineering and business in providing the means to perform complex calculations and to analyze large amounts of data. Psychology and philosophy share with computer science the desire to understand the nature of reason, language and intelligence.

The most important skills needed by a prospective computer scientist are an excellent command of one’s native language and the ability to think in a mathematical way.