Regardless of their field of study, students live in the Digital Age. The Elements of Computing certificate is an 18-hour program that offers courses intended to help students understand the sophisticated technologies they use every day and gain the computer skills valued by employers. The goals of the program are to:

  • Provide students with knowledge of computer science that employers find valuable.
  • Support study in other disciplines requiring computational proficiency.

Elements courses are intellectually stimulating and personally rewarding, and they can supplement any undergraduate program. However, these courses require excellent planning and time management. Students are discouraged from beginning the certificate their junior or senior year as these students do not receive priority when registering for courses, and the certificate is not guaranteed under Senior Countdown. Instead, students should consider starting their freshmen or sophomore year and should plan for approximately 1 class per semester. Please consider these factors when applying for the Elements of Computing Certificate. To see what courses are being offered in a given semester, look at the University Course Schedule.

 

How to Apply for the Elements of Computing Certificate

Step 1: Apply for the Elements of Computing certificate: Minor/Certificate Application

Step 2: Select “C S Computer Science” in the dropdown menu, and then “ELEMENTS OF COMPUTING (CTEC S01)"

Step 3: Once you have received a confirmation SAN, please contact your academic advisor and ask that the Elements of Computing certificate be attached to your degree profile 
*** This is an important step in the process! Do not miss this step.***

Step 4: In your graduating semester, fill out the Elements of Computing Certification Survey to receive a digital copy of the certificate. The certification survey and other important certificate information is sent via the Elements listserv. Students are encouraged to join the listserv here
 

For any inquiries related to the Elements certificate and courses, email elements@cs.utexas.edu with your name and EID.

To earn the Elements of Computing Certificate, a student must:

  • Be a current undergraduate student at UT
  • Complete the two introductory courses, C S 303E and C S 313E, in-residence at UT Austin*
  • Apply for and attach the certificate to their degree profile—certificate must be "pursuing"
  • Complete and pass all required coursework (18 hours) with a C- or better letter grade
  • Use no more than two substitutions for the certificate
  • It is also suggested that students have at least 4 semesters left for their degree before beginning the certificate. These courses are very popular, and students should expect approximately 1-2 courses per semester.

*There are three exceptions to students taking C S 303E in-residence. The first two will not count toward the two-course substitute limit.

  • Testing out of C S 303E
  • Having credit for C S 312, whether in-residence, with AP credit, or with transfer credit
  • Having taken one of our C S 303E substitutes before Fall 2021. The link on our Courses tab lists these substitutes (this counts toward substitute limit)

 

How to set the certificate to pursuing:

  1. After you have applied for the Elements of Computing certificate and received a SAN of approval, contact your academic advisor and ask them to attach the certificate to your degree profile
  2. If the certificate shows “Yes” under “Pursuing” for the Elements of Computing certificate, you will have access to register for or waitlist the Elements upper division electives once you meet prerequisites
  3. If the certificate shows “No” under “Pursuing” for the Elements of Computing certificate AND your advisor has already attached the certificate, please email elements@cs.utexas.edu with your name and EID so the effective date can be updated

 

Expectations

The Elements of Computing certificate requires 18 hours of coursework, i.e. 6 courses. The two lower division courses must be in the Department of Computer Science at UT.* Students will choose the remaining 12 hours of coursework from a list of upper division Elements electives. The Elements upper division electives may vary semester to semester. Students will be able to register for two Elements upper division electives during the initial registration period. However, this is very difficult due to demand.

*There are three exceptions to students taking C S 303E in-residence. The first two will not count toward the two-course substitute limit.

  • Testing out of C S 303E
  • Having credit for C S 312, whether in-residence, with AP credit, or with transfer credit
  • Having taken one of our C S 303E substitutes before Fall 2021. The link below lists these substitutes (this counts toward substitute limit)

This certificate is very popular and course capacity is limited. For students to successfully complete the certificate, we recommend that students have at least 4 semesters left for their degree before beginning the certificate—i.e. students should begin no later than the spring semester of their sophomore year and expect to take approximately 1-2 courses per semester. To support their progress, students may want to consider:

  • Testing out of C S 303E or C S 312 (the majors-level equivalent)
  • Taking Elements courses in the summer
  • Reviewing our pre-approved substitutes below

 

Lower Division Courses:

  • C S 303E: Elements of Computers & Programming
  • C S 313E: Elements of Software Design (requires C S 303E)

Upper Division Electives (all require C S 313E):

  • C S 323E: Elements of Scientific Computing 
  • C S 324E: Elements of Graphics & Visualization 
  • C S 326E: Elements of Networking
  • C S 327E: Elements of Databases
  • C S 329E Topic Courses*
    • Elements of Data Integration
    • Elements of Data Visualization
    • Elements of Mobile Computing
    • Elements of Web Programming
    • Elements of Data Analytics
    • Elements of Game Development
  • C S 330E: Elements of Software Engineering I
  • C S 331E: Elements of Software Engineering II (requires C S 330E)

*Students can take more than one of these C S 329E topic courses for different credit but cannot repeat the exact same course

**C S 329E: Elements of Software Engineering has been renamed and renumbered to C S 330E: Elements of Software Engineering I; students may not use both courses to count towards the certificate

 

Substitutes

Two (2) substitutes are allowed for the Elements upper-division electives. Students can choose from a list of automatically approved courses (see below) and/or request a course of their choosing. Courses that are not pre-approved must be reviewed and approved by the Elements faculty advisor, and credit is not guaranteed

If a student would like to petition a non-approved substitution course for the Elements of Computing certificate, they must complete the DocuSign form. Do not email Elements advising directly with this form and do not change the recipient of the DocuSign (the Elements faculty advisor is already the designated recipient).

Before beginning the DocuSign process, please confirm that:​

  • You are actively registered for (or have already completed) the course
  • You are at least halfway through the course and can expect to receive at least a C- letter grade
  • You have applied for the certificate and are shown as pursuing (see the Info tab for full steps on this process)
  • For transfer courses: the course has been successfully transferred to UT and is reflected on your UT record

These petitions are not guaranteed for approval and cannot be appealed. The student will receive a notification via DocuSign once the course is evaluated as well as a separate SAN if the course is approved.

Click here for a list of previously approved course substitutions

NOTE: Some of the substitutes in the above PDF overlap with a specific Elements course. You cannot use both the original Elements course and its substitute for the certificate, even if your audit says otherwise. Students will not receive their certificate if there is overlap in their Elements courses.

Certification occurs in a student’s graduating semester. In the final semester, submit the Online Certification Request Form.* Students will be awarded a digital Elements of Computing certificate and completion letter at the end of the certification process. These items will be sent to the email provided on the certification form within one month of the certification deadline. The Elements of Computing certificate designation will not appear on a student's UT transcript until they have graduated from UT. The deadline for each semester is below.

  • Spring: May 1 by 5 PM
  • Summer: August 1 by 5 PM
  • Fall: Dec 1 by 5 PM

*Students who make their certificate Stand Alone (i.e., graduate with 9 or fewer hours left for the certificate and complete them within 1 year of their graduation) will submit the form in the semester they take their last Elements course.

I am a senior. Can I get help joining a class or moving up the waitlist?

The Elements of Computing Certificate is very popular and space is limited. Our website encourages students to start the certificate their sophomore year and to plan for approximately 1 class per semester. This specific certificate is not guaranteed under Senior Countdown. Therefore, students register independently, and we do not assist students in jumping the waitlist.

I had a late registration time and wasn’t able to join my preferred Elements course. What can I do?

You can:

  • Join a waitlist
  • Be flexible about your preferred course selection. Many semesters have a few courses that close quickly but one or two that remain open for longer
  • Look at our pre-approved substitutes to see if you can get credit for similar courses in other departments (note that the Elements certificate allows only 2 overall substitutes)
  • Participate in the late-add process that begins at 8am on the 5th class day of spring and fall. Information is sent via our listserv during the first few days of class.

Why can’t I register for a particular Elements course?

The Elements of Computing Certificate is very popular and space is limited. If a course is shown as “waitlisted” then all seats are taken and you will only be able to add yourself to the waitlist. If a course is “closed” then the waitlist is full as well. In both cases students are encouraged to be flexible and have backups.

Can I meet with a C S advisor to discuss the Elements of Computing certificate?

Students pursuing the certificate are encouraged to meet with their academic advisor to discuss how the certificate can fit into their current degree plan. Questions may be directed to elements@cs.utexas.edu.

I am pursuing a different certificate and it has Elements courses listed. Can I still take the Elements courses for my other certificate?

Priority for the Elements upper division electives goes to students who are pursuing the Elements of Computing certificate. Students pursuing other certificates should find alternate coursework.

Can I substitute the lower division courses?

Students must take C S 303E and C S 313E at UT Austin. The only exception is C S 312 (equivalent to C S 303E). Credit-by-exam is available for both C S 303E and C S 312 through Testing Services. Alternatively, students can use C S 312 credit received through the AP Exam in Computer Science A or attempt to register for C S 312 in a spring semester (when it is open to non-majors).

*If a student took MIS 304, EE 312, BME 303, SDS 322 prior to Fall 2021 then they can receive credit for C S 303E. This will count toward the substitute limit (2).

When should I start taking courses for the Elements of Computing certificate?

To have the best chance to finish the certificate by graduation, students should take at least one Elements course each semester beginning their sophomore year. The Elements upper division electives have limited seating and students will not be given priority when registering. The certificate requires at least four semesters for students to complete with the current prerequisites in place.

Can the certificate be made Stand Alone instead of being attached?

The Elements of Computing certificate will not be made Stand Alone unless a student is graduating. Otherwise, students will need to have the certificate attached to their degree profile and marked as "pursuing" to access the Elements upper division electives. 

Can I finish the certificate after I graduate?

Yes, student have up to one year to finish certificate requirements. Students need to have at least half of the certificate completed upon graduation because only nine (9) hours of certificate coursework can be taken after graduation. This information can be found with the UT catalog information.

I am a graduate student. Can I earn the certificate?

The certificate is only available to current undergraduates at UT. Graduate students will not be able to independently register for the Elements courses; they can participate in our late-add process on the 5th class day of fall and spring to see if there is space in the course. Graduate students can also contact the instructors about auditing the courses.

Can Elements courses be taken pass/fail?

To count toward the certificate, all Elements courses and any approved substitutions will need to be taken for a letter grade. Students will need to receive a C- or better for the course(s) to count for the certificate

*Spring 2020, Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters are the exception since students were able to use pass/fail and COVID pass/fail exceptions for their courses

What is the maximum number of Elements upper division elective I can take in a semester?

Students will be limited to two Elements upper division electives during the initial registration period, with the opportunity to join waitlists once they become available. The maximum number of Elements upper division electives a student can take is three, though this is highly unlikely due to demand.

Can I take courses at another institution and have them count towards the certificate?

If a student has already taken a course and would like to the faculty advisor to review it, they can submit a course substitution request. It should be noted that community colleges do not usually offer courses that will substitute for any of the Elements upper division electives. Study Abroad courses can be reviewed prior to taking them to ensure that they will count, but these courses will count as substitutions.

How do I go about getting a transfer course evaluated as a course substitution?

If the transfer course in question does not transfer directly as an approved substitution, students will need to submit a course substitution request after the course has already been transferred to UT. The course must be on the student's academic record and student needs to have a C- or better in the course. Please read through and fill out the course substitution request, and follow the instructions on the form. The course will be reviewed by the Elements faculty advisor and the student will be sent a SAN with the results. There is not an estimated time for when students will receive this SAN, and the decision cannot be appealed if denied.

Can I get a course reviewed prior to taking it at UT?

No. Students can submit course substitution requests for courses that they have already taken and passed, or courses that they are currently enrolled in. Our faculty advisor will not review courses that a student has not yet taken.

Can all C S courses count towards the Elements of Computing certificate?

No. The Elements courses (C S courses that end in E) are the courses they have been created for the certificate. Other C S courses do not automatically apply to the Elements of Computing certificate and are reserved for C S majors (with the exception of C S 312, equivalent to C S 303E). 

I am no longer pursuing the Elements of Computing certificate. Can you remove it from my degree profile?

Yes, but first you will need to contact your major advisor to have the certificate “detached” from your degree profile.