Loyola Introduces New Computer Science Degrees, Including One With A Gaming Track

Dr. Ralph Tucci, Ph.D., professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Loyola University New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS – Loyola University New Orleans’ College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science announced two new degree offerings beginning fall 2017.

         Starting this fall at Loyola, students will be able to pursue computer science majors and earn a bachelor of science degree in computer science or a bachelor of science degree in computer science with a focus on game programming. The Greater New Orleans tech industry has rapidly expanded in recent years with world leaders such as Electronic Arts, Gameloft, High Voltage Software, inXile, iSeatz, and Turbosquid opening studios in the area — and Loyola professors say New Orleans is a great place for aspiring programmers and developers to study, begin networking and start their careers.

         “The new degrees in computer science and computer science with game programming track are designed to prepare students for a dynamic, high-growth field with an ever-increasing presence in New Orleans and around the world,” said Dr. Ralph Tucci, Ph.D., professor of mathematics and computer science. “Moreover, some of these courses are for everyone. A basic understanding of coding and computer science gives students and working professionals a second set of tools for solving problems affecting their industry, and in that way, gives them a leg up on peers and competitors.”

         Students completing either of Loyola’s new computer science degree programs will be well prepared for continuing studies in graduate school or immediate employment in technical industries, Tucci said. The new computer science degree programs both provide a depth and breadth of knowledge relevant to the field of computer science and allow undergraduate students an opportunity to apply their skills before entering graduate studies or the workforce. These degrees complement the existing bachelor of science degree in computer information systems, which is a degree focusing on business applications of computer science.

         Students will start by learning basic through advanced programming skills in commonly used programming languages. In the second year, they will be exposed to advanced core concepts integral to computer science, including: computer architecture, algorithms and data structures, operating systems, programming languages, and more. Students will conclude their studies with internships at local and regional companies utilizing the skills in their discipline.

         “Students will learn all the expected theoretical knowledge and as they progress they will actually be writing code, both in the classroom and beyond,” said Ryan Harvey, ’01, a research associate lecturing in software engineering, pointing to experiential learning and the university’s hands-on approach. “In the classroom, students will build real software with tools used in the industry; they will develop, critique, and use one another’s code. Through internships, students have the opportunity both to build software under the direction of a professional and to write code that organizations use, which provides a different kind of learning experience.”

         Some students majoring in computer science will pursue a specialty in game programming. Designed as a focused version of the computer science degree, the game programming track focuses on programming techniques and skills specific to building game type software, said Dr. Scott McDermott, Ph.D., a professor in Loyola’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. The game programming track further expands students’ knowledge by offering an eclectic set of electives, including: Game as Art, Media Play, Doing Things with Videogames, Videogames and Literature, Artificial Intelligence, Advanced Graphics and many more.

         In addition to working with local gaming companies through an internship, students will compile a portfolio of unique games, research and projects through a senior capstone course, a yearlong course that draws on students’ entire university experience and is designed to allow students an opportunity to reinforce cumulative skills and explore industry trends while entering the workforce as practicing professionals.

         Loyola professors have strong ties to the local computer science community, and through meetups, panel talks, networking events, “Hack Nights,” and other professional and social activities, Loyola students can jump start meaningful careers, Harvey said. In keeping with Ignatian values and Jesuit traditions, the program “will also expose students to questions that might come up in a workplace that may be more philosophical in nature, such as using private data, what uses are acceptable, and how to address concerns. We will expose our students to broad, ethical questions and the idea that they can start thinking about these issues ahead of time.”

         “There’s an incredible demand nationwide for proficient, competent game developers to fill high-paying jobs, and the city’s burgeoning tech industry makes New Orleans a fantastic place for students interested in computer science to study, begin networking, and start their professional careers,” McDermott said.

         The gaming industry generated $91 billion in revenues worldwide in 2016, according to a report from market researcher SuperData Research. The mobile game segment was the largest at $41 billion (up 18 percent), followed by $26 billion for retail games and $19 billion for free-to-play online games. According to Newzoo’s recent Global Games Market Reportup, the Global Games market will reach $108.9 billion in 2017 with mobile taking 42 percent. This represents an increase of $7.8 billion, or 7.8 percent, from the year before. Digital game revenues will account for $94.4 billion or 87 percent of the global market. Mobile is the most lucrative segment, with smartphone and tablet gaming growing 19 percent year on year to $46.1 billion, claiming 42 percent of the market. In 2020, mobile gaming will represent just more than half of the total games market. An understanding and skills in computer science is valuable across every industry and field of work and Loyola’s new computer science degrees provide a strong education for aspiring software engineers, Harvey said.

         According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. These occupations are expected to add about 488,500 new jobs, from about 3.9 million jobs to about 4.4 million jobs from 2014 to 2024, in part due to a greater emphasis on cloud computing, the collection and storage of big data, more everyday items becoming connected to the Internet in what is commonly referred to as the “Internet of things,” and the continued demand for mobile computing. The median annual wage for computer and information technology occupations was $82,860 in May 2016, which was higher than the median annual wage for all occupations of $37,040. In particular, the 2016 median annual salary for software developers was $102,000, with 1.1 Million positions as of 2014 with expected 17 percent growth to 2024.

         An April 2017 study by Smart Asset ranks New Orleans the No. 5 best city for women in tech in the U.S., (up three spots from #8 in 2016), and No. 3 in the country for tech jobs filled by women (in the top 3 for the third year running.)

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