3

There are departments in many schools that offer "hybrid" majors, such as:

  • Computer Science and Engineering
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • Materials Science and Engineering
  • Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • Nutritional Science and Toxicology

etc.

Let us say you earn a degree in the respective area of one of these majors.
For example, let's say you earned an M.S. in Computer Science and Engineering.
Continuing with this example, let's say that down the road, you are asked to certify that you have the degree in one of the majors (say, an M.S. in Computer Engineering).

Are you ethically/legally/etc. (as the case may be) allowed to claim that you have such a degree? Or are you only entitled to claim that you have exactly the degree written on your diploma/transcript and nothing else, even if it seems like a subset of what is written?

Notes:

  1. If the answer differs between the Bachelor's, Master's, or Doctorate degrees, please explain each one.

  2. If the answer is different for different majors, please explain how/why. And if the answer is different in different situations -- e.g. if it is different in different countries -- please explain how and give typical examples for each case, keeping in mind #3 below.

  3. Obviously, in some cases, you may even be technically allowed to falsely claim you have a degree. I am ignoring such cases here; for the purposes of this question, assume I am only talking about cases where it is indeed not okay (either legally or ethically) to falsely claim you have a degree.

  • 2
    In a legal context, you should ask a lawyer. In an informal context, you should either report the name of your degree verbatim, or make a good-faith judgement based on the actual content of your degree program. – JeffE Aug 22 '15 at 16:02
6

My degrees are mostly in the joint subject of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Past undergraduate, however, I pretty much exclusively studied in the computer science side of the department. Thus, I find it appropriate and accurate to describe myself either as having EECS degrees or CS degrees, but would not claim to have EE education past undergraduate. Likewise, my CS education included enough hardware and systems education that I am comfortable saying I received CE education.

I think a similar analysis can be applied to any composite major. Most people and institutions understand that department names vary across institutions, so as long as you do not attempt to deceive about the skills you gave, it should be OK.

2

I'm not sure why you describe most of those as "hybrid" majors; what they seem to have in common is that they have the word "and" in their names. The answer is that it depends both on the degree and the context of the question.

The difficulty is that names of departments vary wildly without a whole lot of meaning. For example, the distinction between "Computer Science" and "Computer Engineering" gets handled different ways---some schools have two separate majors, while some call them both "Computer Science" and have a computer engineering track. A degree called "Computer Science and Engineering" is yet another program covering some piece of the same area. What it's appropriate to represent it as would depend on exactly what was covered by your course work.

Similarly, a degree in "Electrical Engineering and Computer Science" is not simultaneously a degree in "Electrical Engineering" and also a degree in "Computer Science". Depending on the program (and, likely, the specific courses taken), it might be essentially one or the other, or it might involve learning some of both but missing some topics that most electrical engineers would so and also some topics that most computer scientists would see. So if someone is hiring electrical engineers, it's probably not a good idea to just describe an EECS degree as equivalent without some explanation. (Though that explanation might be, "at my school this was an EE degree" or "I took the EE focus, so it's basically an EE degree".)

Put differently: if someone asks what your degree is for a professional purpose, they're probably not deeply interested in the precise name of the program. What they're interested in is what you learned in it, and that's the question you should be trying to answer.

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