BSE vs. AB

Computer Science is the only department at Princeton which offers both A.B. and B.S.E. degrees. Here, we outline some of the key differences between these options. TLDR; don't stress over it; in most cases the differences are minimal.

General Differences

As outlined on the requirements page, there are a few differences between the courses required of A.B. and B.S.E. Computer Science majors. Students seeking an A.B. degree are not required to take the engineering prerequisite such as physics and chemistry, and also have to take one less math course. A.B.'s only need to complete 32 courses rather than 36 over the four years. On the flip side, A.B. majors are required to participate in four semesters of independent work (two junior year and a year-long senior thesis) and these do not count towards the 32 required courses. In this sense, the total course load is relatively similar between the two options. B.S.E. majors are required to perform one semester of independent work.

Relative Benefits

Opinions differ on the relative benefits of optioning a B.S.E. or A.B. degree. On the one hand, very few employers recognize the difference between the two degrees or understand that Princeton offers both. On the other hand, future employers or schools that do understand the two degrees might prefer to hire (or accept) an applicant who has fulfilled the engineering requirements; additionally, for US immigration purposes a B.S.E. degree is usually preferable. In any case, both B.S.E. and A.B. graduates have gone on to have successful, vibrant careers, so don't stress too much about this decision. For students entering the C.S. degree later in their Princeton journey, the A.B. degree will typically be a more attractive option.