How to Double-Major in Computer Science and Computing Security at RIT

How to Double-Major in Computer Science and Computing Security at RIT

Table of Contents

  1. Know Thyself: Why do you want to dual major? Is it worth it?
  2. Financial aid, scholarships, and GPA warnings
  3. Ideal course load
  4. Stress levels
  5. Freedom: What about liberal arts classes?
    • Immersions and minors (i.e., Free and Open Source Software and Free Culture)
    • Free electives and random classes
  6. Graduation date: How much extra time will it take you to graduate?
  7. Traveling and studying abroad
  8. Accelerated dual-degree programs
  9. Applying to the Double Major Committee 

Know Thyself: Why do you want to dual major? Is it worth it?

This is the first question anyone considering double-majoring needs to ask themselves. 

I knew I wanted to work with computers after switching high schools in tenth grade. I actually remember the moment where I was like, “wow, I know what to do for the rest of my life,” and I wrote about it in my Common Application essay.

In short, I took a robotics course and fell in love with computers. Then, I turned to the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) community to learn more challenging skills. The FOSS community taught me how to program, understand operating systems, and experiment with malware. Eventually, I was able to narrow down my love for computing: programming and Linux. I found that I could work with both things in secure coding, which is a combination of Computing Security (CSEC) and Computer Science (CS).  

RIT Tiger Logo - Glitter styling done by Olivia Gallucci

Since Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) has one of the best undergraduate CSEC programs in the United States, RIT was already on my radar. RIT has a great CS program too. Additionally, RIT has the only FOSS program in the United States

Thus, I knew coming into RIT that I wanted to double-major. RIT was the perfect fit for me. I could accomplish everything I wanted—double-major and learn about FOSS—at RIT. 

Read more: The College Search: How I Used Time and Spreadsheets to Assess Colleges

However, a lot of students want to specialize in CSEC and CS. Why don’t all students double-major? I think double-majoring makes sense in most scenarios; you learn more, you are guaranteed a higher salary, and it sets you up for graduate programs.

Learning more 

RIT’s CSEC program offers a software security specialization. Students specializing in software security take a few advanced electives (approximately <= 6) before graduation. However, I did not think this would prepare me for a career in secure coding. 

Both of my mentors—who have jobs in secure coding—deeply regret single-majoring. One majored in Information Technology and feels like he lacks the coding skills that CS majors in his department have. My other mentor majored in CS and feels like he lacks a good understanding of cybersecurity. In other words, both of my mentors feel like they lack the skills they did not major in. As a result, I want to learn from their mistakes and double-major.

Higher salaries

I researched double-major salary statistics before I decided to double-major. Research shows that double-majoring pairs—STEM/Humanities, STEM/STEM and STEM/Business—increase salaries on average (Makridisat). However, the average increase is only a few thousand dollars.

Does it pay to get a double major in college? by Christos A. Makridisat, The Conversation. Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau. You can download and view the data if you go to the article.

Sources and further reading

Graduate school

I also researched how double-majoring affects graduate school admissions and performance. From an admissions standpoint, double-majoring can indicate that a person is good at planning or has multiple interests and skills (Deresiewicz). 

However, graduate schools do not necessarily prefer candidates that double-majored because they double-majored. The quality of their work, transcripts, test scores, recommendation letters, etc. need to be on par too (Mumby). 

Another thing to consider is the field of the graduate school program. For example, most Spanish Master’s programs will not be wow-ed by my CSEC/CS double-major. Additionally, some programs—like M.D.s—often require certain undergraduate coursework; so, you could be a triple major (CS/CSEC/Mathematics) from Stanford, but still not be qualified for an M.D. program.

Since double-majoring in CSEC/CS gives students more experience in the classroom, graduate CSEC/CS courses are easier for double-majors to handle in comparison to students who did not take as many classes. In other words, students who take more CSEC/CS classes will be more prepared for CSEC/CS Master’s programs (Harper). 

Thus, Computer Science and Cybersecurity Master’s programs may be impressed with CSEC/CS double-major applicants.

I do not know how business schools and law schools view STEM double majors. However, I recently ordered a few books on Master’s of Business (MBA) admissions, so I will update this post once I read them.

Lastly, it is good to consider what type of graduate program it is (i.e., Ph.D., Master’s, J.D., M.D., etc.). This is because researched-focused programs like Ph.D.s will care more about your prior education. For example, Ph.D.s want candidates with the most educational experience in their field, so students already have a research background; that is, assuming they did research in school. However, research unaffiliated with institutions may come into consideration too (Mumby). Here, double-majors usually have preference over single-majors. Again, they still need to have good transcripts, recommendations, etc. (Mumby).

M.D. programs, on the other hand, cannot guarantee that all of their candidates have working experience in their desired field (i.e., OB-GYN or brain surgeon). This is because OB-GYNs and brain surgeons need to have an M.D. in order to practice. As a result, students should try to do specialized internships and research (Mumby).



Financial aid, scholarships and GPA warnings

I was most worried about how double-majoring could affect my financial aid. If my financial aid from RIT were to decrease, I would not be able to attend the school. Additionally, I apply to a lot of outside scholarships, and I need a good GPA in order to win them.

While I was applying to RIT’s CSEC/CS double-major program, my advisors stressed that taking more than three CSEC/CS classes a semester was not recommended. Apparently, GPAs tank when students take more than three CSEC/CS classes in one semester. This information worried me, so I consulted some students double-majoring in STEM. They reinforced the idea of GPAs tanking. Two of the people I consulted almost got their financial aid revoked.

However, this did not stop me from double-majoring. I asked about students’ GPAs before and after double-majoring. I found that students who maintained a high GPA before double-majoring were able to maintain a relatively high GPA even after double-majoring, especially if they managed their STEM course load.

Ideal course load 

According to my anecdotal research, the magic course load formula is to take fifteen credits per semester where twelve credits are CSEC/CS and three credits are liberal arts electives. For reference, most classes are three credits, so the ideal schedule has a total of five classes per semester. 

Although this schedule does not fit my advisors’ guidelines of three CSEC/CS classes per semester, it ensures reasonable stress levels, freedom, and a normal graduation time.

After students finish their general education requirements, many double-majors will only need to take twelve credits per semester. All of which would be CSEC/CS. However, I am choosing not to because RIT offers a lot of interesting electives. 

Stress levels  

Given all of the STEM double-major horror stories, I understand why students are scared of double-majors. I also understand that there are statistics demonstrating that students struggle when taking three+ CSEC/CS classes. 

Thus, I want to explain why I am not scared of double-majoring.

Example 1: Fall Semester Freshman Year 

I did not have much programming experience entering RIT. As a result, my programming classes were very challenging for me. I spent around eighteen hours per week on homework for the CSEC introductory programming sequence. I am not joking; I timed myself and made a spreadsheet.

I had a great professor and attended almost all of the office hours, yet I struggled on every assignment. I also had five other classes to deal with. However, I still earned a 4.0 GPA that semester, which shows students can handle the double-major curriculum as beginner programmers. My course load Fall semester freshman year:

NameAbbreviationCreditsGrade
Software Development and Problem Solving ICSEC 1234A
Introduction to CybersecurityCSEC 1403A
Calculus IMATH 181A4A
Introduction to PhilosophyPHIL 1013A
Honors Explorations of Place & SpaceITDL 151H3A
Functional YogaWFIT 980S
Totals174.0

Example 2: Spring Semester Freshman Year

I took twenty credits and two zero-credit courses. I also had a part-time job and was involved in extracurriculars. Again, I earned a 4.0 GPA, which shows I could handle my course load. I also was elected to two executive board positions (WiCyS and RITSEC), which shows I was able to regularly and meaningfully participate in extracurriculars. My course load Spring semester freshman year:

NameAbbreviationCreditsGrade
Software Development and Problem Solving IICSEC 1244A
Honors Humanitarian Free & Open Source Software DevelopmentIGME 5823A
Honors Introduction to Routing and SwitchingNSSA 2413A
Calculus IIMATH 182A4A
Discrete Mathematics for ComputingMATH 1903SE
Foundations of Moral PhilosophyPHIL 2023A
Cooperative Education SeminarCSEC 990S
Sunrise YogaWFIT 930S
Totals204.0

Overall, these experiences showed me that students can handle the double major curriculum if they are motivated and use their time wisely. As a result, I believe that students willing to put in the effort will succeed in their classes—even if they are taking three+ CSEC/CS classes.

Free time and extracurriculars: Will you have time? 

Yes. You will have plenty of free time and time to do extracurriculars, but scheduling is key. In my case, I am active in WiCyS, RITSEC, and Sailing. I have a part time job, regularly attend a local philosophy and politics group, and volunteer around thirty hours per semester.

Women in Cybersecurity Logo, RIT Sailing Team Logo, and RITSEC logo - Glitter styling done by Olivia A. Gallucci

Freedom: What about liberal arts classes?

If you are not interested in liberal arts, feel free to skip this section.

Read Why STEM Majors Take Liberal Arts at RIT, which covers common misconceptions about the liberal arts, and how I am using the magic course load formula (along with immersions, minors, and random courses) to expand my horizons.

Graduation date: How much extra time will it take you to graduate? 

Despite many people associating CS with CSEC, they are two different fields that require a unique skill set. As a result, RIT’s CS and CSEC programs do not overlap much. 

As a CSEC/CS double-major, I need to take sixteen additional classes—48 credits—which is a little more than three semesters. I also need to complete two additional co-ops. However, it will only take me five years total to graduate (2020 to 2025). I can do this because of splitting co-ops, transfer credits, and free course overloads through RIT’s Honors Program.

Co-ops

CSEC Co-ops

At RIT, most students majoring in CSEC will graduate in four years. RIT’s CSEC program requires two summer co-ops. One co-op can be in general computing (i.e., information technology or computer science), and one has to be cybersecurity focused (i.e., penetration testing, incident response and secure coding).

CS Co-ops

Most students majoring in CS will graduate in five years. CS requires two semester co-ops and one summer co-op.

One CSEC co-op and the CS summer co-op can be double-counted. In other words, one co-op can fulfill one of the CSEC co-ops, and the CS summer co-op. Additionally, one of the CS semester co-ops can be split into two summer co-ops.

CS semester co-op = two CS summer co-ops.

I decreased my graduation time by over a year by combining a CSEC and CS co-op and by splitting a semester-long co-op into two summer co-ops. Here is my co-op schedule:

YearCo-op classification
Freshman summerCSEC general co-op
Sophomore summerCSEC/CS co-op (secure coding)
Junior summer(½) of a CS semester co-op
Junior FallCS semester co-op
Senior summer(½) of a CS semester co-op
Fifth year summerextra co-op, full-time employment and or Masters classes.

For clarification, “freshman summer” means the summer after freshman year.

Transfer credits and course overloads

Read How to Transfer Credits at RIT, which is about how transfer credits work at RIT, and how I used them to cut my graduation time by two semesters.

Read Transfer Credits Versus Course Overloads: Which one should you use? to learn about my experience with course overloads at RIT’s, and whether students should favor course over loads or transfer credits.

Lastly, read How Do Enrollment Dates Work at RIT to learn about how you can use credits, RIT’s Honors Program, and varsity athletics to increase your enrollment date.

Traveling and studying abroad

Studying abroad is difficult for double-majors. For example, my coursework is not offered at any of RIT’s foreign campuses. This is because many of RIT’s foreign campuses do not offer as many majors as the U.S. campus. 

However, double-majors can do faculty lead trips over break or co-ops abroad.


RIT’s Study Abroad Programs

Global Campus Programs

Global Campus Programs allow you to directly enroll in one of RIT’s international campuses located in Dubrovnik & Zagreb, Croatia; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Pristina, Kosovo; Beijing & Weihei, China. Learn more about RIT’s global campuses.

Faculty-Led Programs

Faculty-Led Programs are designed and developed by RIT faculty members, who lead a group of students on a short-term program abroad. Programs vary in length (between one to five weeks) and may take place over winter break, spring break or summer. More about faculty-led programs.

Exchanges

Exchanges are culturally immersive programs that allow you to directly enroll in a local university. View RIT study abroad programs.

Affiliate Programs

Affiliate Programs are facilitated by partner universities and organizations to enhance the variety of locations and course offerings available to students. Visit The Compass to search and apply for Affiliate and RIT Study Abroad programs.

International Research

International Research opportunities allow you to conduct research abroad at one of RIT’s approved overseas partners with the guidance of an RIT faculty member.

Learn more

You can learn more at RIT’s study abroad website.


I want to do a three-week faculty led trip during the summer of 2022. This trip is to study Global Trade & Finance, and it does not interfere with my co-op. Unlike most faculty-led trips, this class is taught while we are abroad. Most faculty-led trips require a class to be taken during the semester. Then, the trip is taken during the summer, over winter break, or over spring break. 

If RIT offers more abroad classes formatted like Global Trade & Finance, I would love to take one of my CS science electives abroad. If they do not offer one, I will transfer that class in from another university, which is what I am currently planning on doing.


International Experiences through RIT’s Career Services and Co-op Office

prauge clock

“International Experience allows RIT students to work abroad in different countries, cities, and cultures. Our students grow personally and professionally as they experience work in their field of study, adapt to a different work environment, and gain perspective on living in an unfamiliar city.” – RIT’s Career Services and Co-op Office


I would like to do one co-op in Switzerland or Sweden. However, I am not sure when or how I am going to do that. I will write another post on co-oping abroad once I figure out what I am doing. 

Accelerated dual-degree programs

RIT offers undergraduate students the ability to take Master’s classes by enrolling into RIT’s Combined Accelerated Pathways Program. Additionally, the program allows students to double-count six to nine credit hours in both the bachelor’s and master’s degrees, which allows students to graduate faster.

I am applying for RIT’s accelerated Computer Science Master’s degree at the end of my sophomore year. If I get into the program, I can complete my masters by extending my graduation for one summer. My total graduation time would be five years plus one summer. 

This is because I can take one more summer or winter course and make room in my undergraduate schedule for a Master’s class. Alternatively, I could take five courses in the fall semester during my fifth year. I originally planned on taking four classes that semester, so I could spend more time applying to 2+2 Master’s of Business Administration programs as a 4+2 applicant. 

Once I figure out what I am doing and what my course load looks like, I will write a blog post about this process.

What is 2+2?

“A way for current students, either in college or a full-time master’s degree program, to apply to Harvard Business School on a deferred basis.

The 2+2 program is comprised of at least two years of professional work experience followed by two years in the regular HBS MBA Program. We’re looking for innovative thinkers who have demonstrated leadership and analytical skills and want to develop their knowledge and passion to make a difference in the world. After being admitted through 2+2, students spend a minimum of two years (maximum of four years) working in a professional position in the public, private, or nonprofit sector before enrolling at HBS.” – Harvard Business School 

Other business schools offer 2+2 programs too, but Harvard Business School was how I learned about these programs.

Applying to the Double Major Committee 

Five-year course load

RIT’s double-major application requires “a rough outline of how you plan to complete the requirements for both degrees.”

I did this in a color-coded spreadsheet. Here is a remake of that spreadsheet:


Note: This is an expected track. I have already taken the classes listed in the Freshman column, but the rest of the columns are subject to change.

* During summer or winterMath
** Transferred from high schoolFree electives
CSEC / CSCI classesH = Honors
Science electives and sequenceWellness
General education perspectives /
FOSS immersion / FOSS minor
Co-ops
+ = summer
++ = semester

FreshmanSophomoreJuniorSenior5th year
CHMG 111 * BIOL 101 *A CS science elective *CSCI 462CSCI 251
CPET 121 *BIOL 102 *COMM 201CSCI 471CSCI 320
CSEC 99BIOL 103 *CSCI 250CSCI 499 (1/2 of Fall co-op) +CSEC 490
CSEC 123 == CSCI 141BIOL 104 *CSCI 261 / 264CSCI 499 ++CSCI 499 (1/2 of Fall co-op) +
CSEC 124 == CSCI 142CSCI 243 CSCI 262 / 263CSCI 531CSCI 622
CSEC 140CSEC 201CSCI 331IGME 585CSCI 642
ECON 201 *CSEC 202CSCI 334SWEN 331CSCI 759
ENGL 210 **CSEC 499 + CSCI 488 == CSEC 499 +ENGL 316
HIST 102 **ENGL 450CSCI 532ENGL 215 / 351
ITDL 151H HIGME 583CSEC 380ITDL 450H H
IGME 582 HISTE 230CSEC 472
MATH 181AMATH 241
MATH 182ANSSA 221
MATH 190NSSA 245
NSSA 241 H
PHIL 101
PHIL 202
SOCI 102 *
UWRT 150 *
WFIT 93
WFIT 98

Personal statement