Computer scientists create new theories around technology development, thinking through ideas on how to solve problems and take technology to the next level in sustainable and efficient ways.
Computer Science & Systems (CSS) is the science of design, construction, implementation, and maintenance of both the hardware and software elements of computing systems.
UW Tacoma's CSS program focuses on working with embedded systems -- computer systems with a dedicated function within a larger mechanical or electrical system -- with emphasis on the latest paradigms, languages and techniques of today's computing practitioners. Students are prepared to pursue graduate studies and continuing education for professionals.
Students in the Bachelor of Science in CSS degree complete a rigorous core curriculum in data structures, algorithms, discrete structures, programming languages, computer architecture, operating systems, and contemporary ethical issues. Through project-based courses with industry partners, students apply what they’ve learned in the design, construction, and implementation of complex software systems.
What our Graduates Do
SET students pursue internships and careers at companies like Boeing, Intel, Tacoma Power, Blue Origin, T-Mobile, and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Bremerton. Possible careers include:
Video Game Designer
Bachelor of Arts Option
The Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science & Systems blends a solid foundation in computer science with a minor in another discipline.
Ice axe in hand, Madeline Zent broke new ground in computer science and on the slopes
Being a first-generation student can be arduous and lonely, as can outdoor adventures. But for Madeline Zent (B.S. Computer Science, '21), navigation is a collaborative process. Madeline founded the Outdoor Adventures club with the goal of creating unique outdoor opportunities for both first generation students and members of the BIPOC community. While at the School of Engineering & Technology, Madeline also restarted the Women in Computer Science club and served as UW Tacoma’s STEM Youth Outreach Coordinator.
Please note that the application does not require a personal statement at this time. Letters of recommendation are not accepted.
Notes for transfer students:
You may need one additional approved lab-based science course (Chemistry I -TCHEM 142 or Biology I - TBIOL 120) to meet the total number of lab science credits required (18 minimum) for graduation.
UW Seattle and UW Bothell students seeking to transfer to UW Tacoma also need to have a transfer application on file to be considered for admission.
If you are not admitted to UWT, you cannot be admitted to a SET major, but you may hold off on accepting your offer of admission to UWT until you have your program admissions decision.
Transfer students at Washington State community colleges are encouraged to pursue the Associate in Science - Transfer Track 2 to meet the admission requirements. Use theUW Course Equivalency Guideto determine the equivalent prerequisites at your school.
CSS is a capacity-constrained major, which means we normally have more applicants than space in the program. Competitive applicants typically have grades of 3.0 and higher in prerequisite math, science, and computer science courses, as well as a strong cumulative GPA.
Applicants are evaluated on the following criteria:
Completion of all prerequisite courses
Grades in prerequisite courses -- individually and cumulatively
Overall previous academic performance, consistency in grades, repeats and grade trends are all considered
All prerequisites must be completed before advancing to the next academic level. All courses within the major must be completed with a minimum grade of 2.0 (including TCSS 142 and 143). Courses may only be repeated once. Advanced concentration courses build upon knowledge gained in the core courses.
An additional lab-based science course* OR an additional 300 or 400-level math course, except TMATH 310
*Astronomy courses do not meet the lab-based science requirement.
The CSS Schedule Planning Grid (PDF) shows a sample pathway to complete the B.S. in Computer Science & Systems degree. Work with your advisor to make sure you are completing required courses for the program and electives for your area of interest.
The Learning and Research Commons (LARC) is the hub of support for all members of our campus community for teaching, learning, conducting research, and using technology to support all of these endeavors.
Students must complete 25 additional graded credits of 300-level or 400-level courses chosen from the Computer Science & Systems program (excluding TCSS 390).
For these 25 elective credits, students must complete:
5 credits from the following approved design electives: TCSS 437, 445, 450, 465, or 491
An additional 10 credits of 300- or 400-level TCSS electives, and
An additional 10 credits of 400-level TCSS electives.
More information on TCSS 497, 498, and 499 (Internships, Directed Readings, Undergraduate Research), including required forms and documentation, can be found on our Undergraduate Resources page.
CSS Honors Graduation Requirements
To qualify for CSS honors, you must meet all of the following requirements — in addition to completing all degree requirements for the B.S. in CSS:
Maintain and graduate with a minimum departmental GPA of 3.6 (starting with CSS 321 and 305).
Complete the following as part of your CSS senior elective requirements:
10 credits of graded TCSS 499 research on one project under the supervision of a CSS faculty member.
The faculty advisor must be a full-time CSS faculty member. If you are working on a research project in another unit or with a part-time faculty, you must have a full-time CSS faculty member approve the project and sign off on the thesis and presentation. In the rare instance that your original advisor is not able to work with you through completion of the project, another faculty member within the same research area can become your advisor.
TCSS 440 (Formal Models in Computer Science) or another 5 credit senior elective (400-level only) in the research area of your Honors Thesis, as determined by you and your faculty advisor. Your faculty advisor must approve the course you take to meet this requirement.
Give an oral presentation, arranged by you and your faculty advisor, on the honors project. Attendees must include your faculty advisor, the CSS Program Chair (or chair’s designee), and at least five additional people (e.g., other students, faculty).
Submit a CSS Honors thesis that meets the following criteria:
Demonstrates original and creative thinking, as judged by the faculty advisor and CSS Program Chair (or chair’s designee).
Reflects work done independently under the supervision of a faculty member.
Includes a cover page with approval signatures by your faculty advisor and the CSS program Chair.
A final approved copy, with all required signatures, must be uploaded into the CSS Honors Thesis Submission Form. In order to ensure the honors designation will be marked on your diploma, thesis submission is due no later than the last day of finals during the quarter in which you plan to graduate. Earlier submissions are encouraged.
Application for the honors designation occurs when you file an application for graduation. As stated above, please notify the SET undergraduate advisors as soon as you decide to pursue honors, and double check that honors is included on your graduation application. Your approved thesis must be submitted and all honors requirements must be fulfilled in order for you to graduate with CSS program honors.
Finding a Research Project
There are many ways for SET students to learn about undergraduate research opportunities.
Check out SET Research for information on faculty research areas and ongoing projects. You are welcome to contact faculty directly to express your interest in a project.
Keep an eye out for email announcements on available undergrad research positions.
Email or talk with faculty teaching courses you particularly enjoy. Even if they don't have a project you could work on, they will be familiar with other faculty research and can point you in the right direction.
Seniors in the B.S. program choose from a wide range of CSS Electives, which offer the flexibility to specialize in a particular area of interest or increase overall breadth.
High achieving B.S. students may complete advanced coursework and an in-depth research project as preparation for graduate school or to further strengthen their educational experience for industry.
Develop your ability to understand, analyze, and synthesize scholarly work
Practice the work of scholars
Develop and practice skills as an independent and critical thinker
Improve your written and oral communication skills
CSS honors students write a culminating thesis that clearly demonstrates original and creative thinking, as judged by a faculty advisor and the CSS Program Chair. The thesis should reflect independent work done under the supervision of a faculty member.
If you meet all of the CSS honors requirements, you will graduate "with Honors in Computer Science and Systems" from the University of Washington. Talk with a SET academic advisor as soon as you decide to pursue honors. Your CSS honors requirements will need to be coded into your DARS and included with your graduation application.
The ABET-accredited bachelor of science is the student who wants to become an expert in the methods and programming languages needed to design software systems. It offers a solid core in computer science principles along with a host of intensive project work in specific sub-disciplines of the field. See the B.S. CSS Schedule Planning Grid for classes required.
Changes to BS in Computer Science & Systems
There have been new curriculum changes that will affect all students who have applied and been accepted on or after Autumn 2017. See Curriculum for more information about required classes.
Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science and Systems
The bachelor of arts program builds a strong foundation in computing with an opportunity to experience more breadth in the academic experience, and to apply the fundamental concepts and technologies of computer science to another academic discipline. Students graduate with a rigorous grounding in the principles of computing and computing technology, but are more of an informed consumer of technology than a primary builder. See the B.A. CSS Schedule Planning Grid for classes required.
The mission of the Computer Science and Systems (CSS) program is to offer high-quality undergraduate and graduate education to meet the needs of a diverse population of citizens and employers in Washington, especially in the South Puget Sound region.
Objectives, as defined by accreditation agencies, are the abilities, skills, and accomplishments expected of graduates within a few years of graduation. Programs are expected to assess their graduates' accomplishments to determine if the objectives have been achieved. Since the objectives are typically fairly broad, it is not expected that every graduate will achieve every objective.
The CSS program has set six objectives for its BS and BA graduates. The career path a graduate takes will affect the accomplishments they achieve but within the first few years after graduation they should have accomplished some of the following:
Developed a product or process by applying knowledge of mathematics, computing, systems and development tools.
Participated effectively as a member of a development team and undertaken leadership roles when appropriate.
Taken graduate courses or continuing education classes to improve skills and abilities.
Made positive contributions to community and society by applying skills and abilities learned during undergraduate program in computing.
Made decisions related to work that demonstrate understanding of the importance of being an ethical computing professional.
Applied communication skills to effectively promote ideas, goals, or products.
The Computing Accreditation Commission (CAC) has defined a set of educational outcomes that all graduates of computer science programs must meet. CSS students must demonstrate the following attributes and abilities by the time of graduation:
Analyze a complex computing problem and to apply principles of computing and other relevant disciplines to identify solutions.
Design, implement, and evaluate a computing-based solution to meet a given set of computing requirements in the context of the program’s discipline.
Communicate effectively in a variety of professional contexts.
Recognize professional responsibilities and make informed judgments in computing practice based on legal and ethical principles.
Function effectively as a member or leader of a team engaged in activities appropriate to the program’s discipline.
Apply computer science theory and software development fundamentals to produce computing-based solutions.