Should I major in computer engineering if I haven't taken calculus or physics in high school?

Hi, I have recently become interested in engineering, and I am a senior in high school. I plan on majoring one engineering at Spelman next school year, but I am very nervous because I have not taken physics or calculus, and I really want to go into computer engineering/computer science. Any suggestions? Should I still go through with it? I have taken pre-calc. I was thinking about trying to take summer classes for both subjects.
posted by London, Detroit on January 26, 2014

Answer by Dr Maja J Mataric

Hi London,

First and foremost, don't worry, computer engineering and computer science are not focused on calculus or physics, but instead on logic and, in some areas, probability and statistics.  Most CS/CE major require calculus but not as a pre-requisite, so you can just take the class in college.  I don't think physics will be of critical importance at all.   (Of course, having math and physics helps to get accepted into engineering programs, but is not required.)  

My advice to you is this: 

1) read up on CS and CE so you can see what might interest you more; the two are actually completely and entirely different fields.  In many universities, CE is part of Electrical Engineering, not Computer Science.

2) If you are interested in CS, it's best to get programming experience (see code.org), as that is what matters most.  Taking math or physics may make college classes easier, but it's not at the core of what either CS or CE is about.

3) I admit I am no expert on CE, so somebody else will help with that.

4) Go visit a local university or two, visit their CS and CE department(s).  Start on the web, seeing what the required and offered classes are and what sounds good.  Then actually go and talk to some students, stop by a class if you can.  Nothing beats an in-person experience :).

And above all: don't worry about any particular class that you may not like or do great in.  I heard a very successful woman CEO of a computing company say: "classes and teachers come and go, you stay."  That's great advice. Focus on the big picture instead: the major and, even more so, the cool stuff that you can once you get your degree.

<>Maja