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Frequently Asked Questions


 What is the job market like? Do students get internships?

73% of all new STEM jobs are projected to be in Computer Science, so there is a huge demand for our graduates. Nearly all of our students have had at least one internship and we have 100% job placement for students seeking full-time employment after graduating.

Our Alumni careers include

  • Research Scientist at NASA Langley Research Center
  • Distinguished Engineer at Capital One
  • Software and Site Reliability Engineer at Google
  • Junior Java Developer at SWIFT
  • Software Engineer at Facebook
  • CTO WillowTree
  • Cyber Security Technologist at Booz Allen Hamilton 

- CS Department Head, Dr. Sharon Simmons

The CISE career fair has lots of employers that are very eager to speak with CS students. JMU Career resources like Handshake will allow several employers to directly forward employment and internship opportunities to students. Career and Academic Planning also has specialized liasions. Ours is Aimee Stright, and she's available for drop-in meetings about resumes or interviews.

- CS Student, Junior Paul Bailey

The biggest missed opportunity for students is just not applying or searching for an internship early in their college careers. Freshmen and sophomores can get internships, they just need to look and not be afraid to put themselves out there.

- CS Student, Freshman Gabriel Doon

 What programming languages will I learn?

You will learn many languages throughout your education at CS@JMU, including Java, Python and C.  You will learn the foundation of different programming paradigms (object-oriented, procedural, functional, etc.) so that you can learn any language quickly. There are many programming languages and new ones are invented all the time, so learning the different paradigms will enable you to switch among languages.

- CS Department Head, Dr. Sharon Simmons

 How big are the CS classes? Will I take CS classes as a freshman?

All of our CS courses have 30 or less students, with many being less than 25. Our small class sizes ensure that students ask questions and to get to know their classmates and professors and facilitate project-based learning and interactive teaching. Our CS courses are taught by CS faculty and our professors’ number one priority is excellent teaching. 

As a freshman, you will either take CS101 or CS149 Introduction to Programming your first semester.  CS101 is an overview of CS but not a required course. CS101 is suggested if you are undecided about your major.  If you take CS149 your first semester, you then take CS159 and CS227 your second semester. All these courses are taught by CS faculty and have 30 or less students.  In addition to faculty office hours, all these courses have TAs (undergraduate teaching assistants) that help with course material during evenings and weekends.

- CS Department Head, Dr. Sharon Simmons

 What concentration areas can I learn about in the CS curriculum?

While the department doesn't have an official concentrations, students have opportunities to pursue more focused interests through our elective CS courses. Students can take upper-level courses in Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Forensics, Cryptography, Interaction Design, Cyber Defence, and Web-based Information Systems, among others. 

- CS Advisor Paige Normand

 What opportunities do students have to work for the department?

There are plenty of opportunities to give back to the department while boosting your resume as a TA, an Ambassador, or even doing research with a professor during the summer. I felt the TA position was very rewarding because I was helping students learn material that I learned and by doing so, I was getting a review of the core content as well. Also being a TA provided me the opportunity to build friendships with underclassmen in the lab that I wouldn’t have otherwise met. Being an Ambassador is a great opportunity to work with a diverse team of other ambassadors of different class levels. As an Ambassador, I get to provide insight to future Dukes about the CS program that I would have found very useful.

- CS Student, Senior Mandy Pearce 

 Do I need a laptop? Are there labs where I can work?

Most of our students have laptops: they're useful for your college career and being able to transport your CS work around with you. However, laptops are not required. The CS labs provide the necessary resources for students to complete work for any of their CS classes

If you're wondering which laptop is right for you, it's more a question of personal preference than recommended specs. In my opinion, the most important aspect is how large/heavy it will be to carry around all day. 13-inch is popular among students and faculty. 15-inch has a nicer display but costs more

The Macbook Pro is fairly top of the line but overpriced. If you plan to buy a Mac, wait until the next model comes out. They always keep the same prices and upgrade the hardware periodically. Keep an eye on MacRumors to know when to buy. And order via the Apple Store for Education to get the student discount. Or just get yourself a reasonable PC and install Linux Mint as a 2nd OS -- that's what we use in the CS labs.

- CS Professor, Dr. Chris Mayfield

 Will I be able to double major or obtain a minor?

Absolutely! The CS Curriculum is currently 52 credits. Your GenEd requirements include 41 credits, so that gives you 24-27 credits to put toward a second major, a minor, or your own exploration through the Liberal Arts. There probably won't be another time in your life when you'll have such access to explore a wide variety of disciplines: this is the advantage of a Liberal Arts degree. 

Computer Scientists are in such demand in the job market, there isn't the pressure from the work force to have a particular second major or minor, so I encourage you to think about what could round out your ability to apply CS to your future career. The students I've spoken to in the past week have had minors in Finance, Music, and Spanish Translation. 

You can see some sample Plans of Study to get a sense of how you can space out the courses. 

- CS Advisor Paige Normand

 How do I get help outside of class? Are faculty available to help me?

Students have several very useful outlets for help outside of class. All professors typically have multiple office hours sessions during the week and are flexible to work with complex schedules. Student led Teaching Assistance sessions offer several hours of help in the afternoons and evenings most days of the week and parts of the weekend. Professors and other students are also available by email, our departmental Wiki, our departmental Chat Client (Mattermost), and online class discussion board like Piazza.


-CS Student, Junior Paul Bailey

 How does the Honors College work with the CS major?

The honors college has its own curriculum, and students will earn the Honors minor. It has 27 credits, which is more than the average minor; however, this includes Honors GenEds (6 Credits) and Electives (9 Credits), which will all double count for GenEd or CS requirements. Students also take unique honors seminar courses or a seminar abroad (6 credits). The culmination of the honors college experience is the 6-credit capstone research project undertaken in the junior and senior years with a faculty advisor. Some students will join honors later on as either Track II (24 credits) or Track III students (thesis).

Besides the coursework, honors students also get access to the honors advising faculty, honors section housing in Shenandoah Hall for freshman year, and priority class enrollment before all non-honors students. The priority enrollment makes a huge difference since honors students can typically enroll for the classes they want to take without worrying about classes filling up. Lastly, if a student chooses to live on campus after their freshman year, they have the option to select honors housing in Shenandoah Hall or Grace Street Apartments with priority room selection a day before all other students. (I just used this today, and was able to snag a 1 bedroom Grace apartment. They’re mostly all taken now!)

- CS Student, Freshman Gabriel Doon

 What activities outside of classes are CS students involved with?

I am a member of the Marching Band and the Harrisonburg Helpers volunteering club. Throughout college I have been a member of the billiards club, 3D printing club, and an intramural softball team. Outside of organized clubs, I enjoy playing games at UREC and going to all the free JMU sports games.

- CS Student, Junior Paul Bailey

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