Life After Stanford
After Stanford, computer science majors typically have many options in terms of pursuing their interest in the field. Many students get jobs immediately after leaving Stanford, both here in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. Others choose to pursue graduate studies in computer science, specializing in such diverse areas as artificial intelligence, hardware design, numerical analysis, software theory, or graphics. Since the computer science curriculum gives students a strong foundation upon which to build depth within the field, graduates are usually prepared to pursue any subfield in their graduate studies.
For those who want to go on to graduate study, the first decision is whether you want to get a master's or a Ph.D. The master's degree usually consists of additional coursework and gives you a stronger foundation of the same sort you had as an undergraduate. Getting a Ph.D. is a much longer commitment (often five or more years), the core of which is an independent research project leading to a doctoral dissertation.
At Stanford, you can get both your BS and MS degrees together by participating in the Coterminal Master's Program ("coterm" for short). This program is extremely popular in computer science, with students from a variety of undergraduate backgrounds (including CS, EE, Psychology, and more) pursuing an MSCS. You may apply to this program for any quarter of the academic year prior to completing your eleventh quarter of undergraduate study and as early as your eighth quarter (or upon completion of 120 units). Information about application details and deadlines is available from the CS Graduate Admissions Office coterm page. Applications to the coterm differ very little from the regular application to the masters program in computer science. Students accepted to the coterminal program who have completed 180 units or more are officially considered graduate students and are subject to all the rights and responsibilities thereof, such as opportunities to get teaching and research assistantships, graduate tuition rates, and so forth. Please see the coterm page for more information.
Still other graduates choose to pursue other forms of graduate studies, obtaining an MBA, JD, or MD, after receiving their BS in computer science. For those pursuing a career in management with high tech companies, an MBA combined with an undergraduate degree in computer science helps to provide a critical balance between technical and business skills necessary for the job. Students interested in legal aspects of computing such as privacy issues or software piracy laws are well served by obtaining a law degree after first gaining a BS in computer science, so that they have an intimate familiarity with and understand the subtleties of the issues with which they are dealing. There is also a joint MSCS-Law program at Stanford that combines interests in CS and law. Finally, there are a number of exciting new opportunities to combine medical and engineering skills in the constructions of prosthetics and other medical devices which may require complex hardware and software control systems.
It is often assumed that computer science majors are destined for a life of programming. While this is often the case, there are a number of career opportunities available to students with a degree in computer science. Many graduates of the computer science program at Stanford choose to become programmers for companies in Silicon Valley and around the country. Since Stanford has both a very strong reputation in computer science and has graduated many successful engineers, graduates of the program are in demand at leading commercial hardware and software companies. In fact, your eventual boss may be a Stanford grad, too!