How to Choose an IT Related University and Major?

If you are a person with engineering mindset or skills, you may find useful some thoughts on how to rationally choose a university and major given to you by the Head of the Department of the best technical university in Ukraine, who at the same time spent most of his lifetime in computer business.

We present the algorithm for choosing the university and major in IT, programming, or related field. The algorithm is given by Oleg Chertov, Head of the Applied Mathematics Department of Igor Sikorsky KPI.

  1. Study in Ukraine or abroad?

Without a doubt, it is better to get undergraduate education in Ukraine. Transition from school to university can be stressful—new kinds of relationships with others, another level of responsibility and load, etc. Handling such stress is easier in a more supportive environment (native language, similar mindset of equals, common everyday life issues, financial support from parents).

When choosing a graduate school, sufficiently different factors come into play, and they must be considered on the individual basis.

  1. Study in Kyiv or not?

Definitely in Kyiv. University studies are not only about learning new things and getting new skills. They also include networking and searching for your first job while still studying at the university. Education, by all means, must be supplemented by working in the field, and where is to find better opportunities than in the capital.

  1. Enter a general purpose university or a specialized one (aviation, transport, etc.)?

If your family has a certain tradition you’d like to sustain, it makes sense to choose a corresponding specialized university. In general, however, it is better to study in a general purpose university, where more general models and cases are covered. Then, you will always be able to switch from the more general to the more specific. The opposite transition is always much more complicated.

  1. If to enter an IT or programming related major, which Kyiv classical university is better?

For the time being, there are only two nice options, Igor Sikorsky KPI and Taras Shevchenko NUK. Just visit any Ukrainian IT company and ask where its employees predominantly studied. Maybe one day (in your children’s lifetime :)) the situation will change, but for the time being simply ignore the flashy ads. Only hardcore, either Kyiv Polytech, or Shevchenko University. :)

  1. So, after all, Igor Sikorsky KPI or Taras Shevchenko NUK?

Just look who these universities are named after, and you’ll immediately see who’s more engineering inclined. :)

Jokes aside, you can safely choose any of those two, and you will not make a mistake. Of course, different professors will teach you, but the general atmosphere, established traditions, professional and innovative environment will provide you with all the opportunities to become a real professional. Will you become one or not, depends solely on yourself.

I would like to mention one little thing, though. Once, there was a discussion at the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine. How should the undergraduate studies end? Representatives from the Taras Shevchenko NUK advocated the state examination, with questions in 3–4 key courses learnt by the student during his or her studies. As a representative of the Kyiv Polytech, I insisted that in the end of his or her studies, the prospective bachelor must complete a Bachelor Thesis, i.e., develop a certain mathematical model, implement it programmatically, and publicly defend it, thus demonstrating that he or she has become a real engineer.

Both approaches are acceptable, so you can choose whatever works best for you.

  1. What major to choose?

Applied mathematics. What else could you hear from the Head of the Applied Mathematics Department? :)

Now, very seriously, since you need to choose the major even as you apply for the university. Maybe, it will not come as a surprise to you, but, really, there is no big difference between software and computer engineering, computer science and information technologies, systems analysis and applied mathematics. There is a number of core mathematical and software courses common for all of these majors. There is also a very substantial part of self-education, i.e., what you will study carefully, and what you will study just to pass a course.

Let me tell you a secret. How good a professional you’ll become after graduation, depends first and foremost on the second part. In a good university, at a nice department, you will get all the basics to become a worthy professional, but only you will in the end define your ultimate level of expertise.

Once again, some small things need to be taken into consideration. In other words, what added value will you get out of your university education? Everyone will in the end learn how to program. What will make you different from some Indian or Chinese software developers, who come in much bigger numbers purely due to demographics?

Applied Mathematics Major proposes a solid mathematical and algorithmic training that may become a strong foundation for your future success in fighting for a worthy job. You know, learning new mathematical approaches and methods is much harder at a more mature age than when you are a student. On the other hand, finding out about purely technical things (new libraries, frameworks, etc.) can be done at a later time without much complications.

Applied Mathematics Department of the Igor Sikorsky KPI has an additional advantage. At the graduate school, we train specialists in “Data Science and Mathematical Modeling” major. I strongly believe that the future of IT belongs to specialists in Data Science, which must combine knowledge in mathematics, computer science, and any specific problem domain, whatever that might be.


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