At Code.org, we often say that computer science isn’t just a skill for students who want to pursue careers in tech. It’s foundational. As Steve Jobs once said: “computer science is a liberal art.” We recently wondered: is there any data to support this idea? We believe computer science is a core 21st century skill — like reading, writing, or math — that provides a basis for learning other concepts. But how can we measure this?
To answer this, we looked at graduation requirements for all Bachelor of Science degrees across the University of California’s nine campuses with undergraduate programs. These requirements ensure that students gain both breadth, building foundational knowledge and skills, and depth, developing specific familiarity within their field of study.
So what did we find? Throughout the UC system, CS can satisfy a core graduation requirement in 95%* of B.S. degrees.
For some of these degrees computer science units are required, but for many they are not; computer science is instead one of several options that students can take to fulfill more general graduation requirements. In other words, computer science is part of the UC system’s breadth — foundational knowledge that helps students think critically and learn — for degrees from Physics to Cognitive Science to Business Information Management! In some cases (such as UC Irvine), if there’s a requirement for all students to take a quantitative literacy course for graduation, computer science can satisfy this core requirement.
According to the University of California graduation requirements, computer science is truly foundational.
Want a deeper dive into our data? Check out how we tracked this here.
*Note: By core, we mean courses that are required to complete the degree, specifically general education requirements related to quantitative or scientific subjects and degree-specific coursework. We did not count CS as such a requirement if it only counted as an general elective course. Lastly, UCSD was not included in this total; because of UCSD’s unique college structure, we are unable to match college-level general education requirements to majors.