As part of my job search, I've come into contact with universities that are beginning to offer new majors at their university such as applied mathematics or computer science. A frequent interview question is, "What kind of classes would you require for such a major?"

I usually tell them that I would look at other universities that have established programs and try to use them as a template, together with my own experience. However, I was wondering:

Is there any published research, news articles, or other reliable sources which indicate which mathematical skills are most important/most used in typical computer programmer positions in industry?

While I appreciate colloquial advice, I am specifically looking for published information.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not in computer science nor know too much about the modern needs of some of its subfields, but if I had to venture a guess: Discrete (Intro to proofs and logic), Linear Algebra, and perhaps Numerical Analysis for the basics and perhaps recommended Abstract Algebra (group and ring theory) for the more advanced/specialized majors. I know some PhD CS students here (large US university) also take some Analysis and Probability courses. $\endgroup$
    – Chris C
    Mar 20, 2015 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ Just one further thought. Is this aimed at potential students going on to a PhD, Industry, or potentially both? $\endgroup$
    – Chris C
    Mar 20, 2015 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ @ChrisC Industry. I'll add that to the question. $\endgroup$ Mar 20, 2015 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ Any CS major should have come into school already knowing discrete math, calculus, and stats. Therefore they should only need to take abstract algebra, analysis, and probability courses for a sufficient education. $\endgroup$ Mar 20, 2015 at 21:50
  • $\begingroup$ Late comment: Depends on the level of the school. For example, I can confidently state that 0% of the CS majors at our community college have any of the "come into school already knowing" requirements stipulated by alternative's comment above. Each of those is a terminal course for our 2-year degree. $\endgroup$ Jun 13, 2017 at 17:27

1 Answer 1


These two references might help. Neither is aimed at industry needs specifically, but undergraduate computer science curricula are partially driven by industry job market needs. The first is aimed specifically at liberal arts colleges:

(1) "A 2007 Model Curriculum for a Liberal Arts Degree in Computer Science," Liberal Arts Computer Science Consortium, 2007. (PDF download link.)

Here is an excerpt; more detail in the report:


The second is more recent, and not specific to liberal arts colleges (but agrees with the above):

(2) "Computer Science Curricula 2013: Curriculum Guidelines for Undergraduate Degree Programs in Computer Science." 2013. (PDF download link.)

Here is a snippet (p.467) of topics coverage, all of which are required at "Tier-1" universities:



Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.