Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Computer Science
| TBS Staff
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Technology powers many modern industries and it continues to change the ways that companies conduct business. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 13% increase in computer and information technology employment between 2016 and 2026. Additionally, this field had a median wage of $86,320 in May 2018. Earning an online computer science degree prepares graduates for lucrative careers, ensuring students possess the analytical, problem–solving, and creative skills required to solve technical problems.
Your online bachelor's degree in computer science prepares you for a variety of exciting and dynamic careers. As computer science encompasses so many specialties and professions, students can tailor their degrees to match their interests and goals. For example, enrollees can use their creativity and problem–solving abilities to design new mobile apps and software applications. Alternatively, students may pursue work in the banking and medical industries, protecting sensitive consumer and patient data from malicious attacks.
Virtually every industry tracks their sales and consumer data, and information managers ensure that analysts can put those data to use. You can also help develop the next generation of biometric computing or artificial intelligence. If you enjoy the logical and mathematical foundations of computer science, you can find a career that fits your interests.
Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Computer Science Degree Programs
A member of the University of Michigan system since 1959, University of Michigan– Dearborn serves the state’s southeast corner and beyond with affordable, practical degrees. The school’s growing online program catalog includes an online computer science bachelor’s degree that prepares graduates for work in systems programming, graphics and visualization, and networks and web technology.
The 120–credit bachelor of science in computer and information science takes 2–4 years to complete, with learners choosing among concentrations in computer science, information science, or game design. Core course topics include software engineering, operating systems, and data structures and algorithm analysis. The computer science concentration encompasses additional requirements in mathematics, natural sciences, and programming languages.
The program culminates with a capstone project in which students design and implement a major software project. Students can also pursue internships for credit while completing core requirements. Many learners also take advantage of the networking and professional development opportunities offered by the UM–Dearborn chapters of organizations, such as Upsilon Pi Epsilon and the Society of Women Engineers.
Online coursework is typically offered asynchronously and uses the Canvas learning management system. Freshmen applicants with a four or higher on the International Baccalaureate program can earn college credit.
Founded in Portales in 1927, Eastern New Mexico University is a member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. The school serves over 6,000 students with pragmatic undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, many offered fully online. These offerings include an online computer science bachelor’s degree that both tailors strongly to returning learners with a math background and features innovative topics in computer science.
The 120–credit bachelor of science in computer science typically takes 2–4 years to complete. Core course topics include discrete mathematics for computer science, programming language concepts, and database design and programming. Major–specific curriculum encompasses required coursework in writing, computer architecture, and calculus. ENMU strongly encourages computer science majors interested in graduate school to pursue a double major or minor in a math–related field.
Learners with fewer than 30 credits complete an integral freshman seminar in their first semester. The seminar explores issues including critical thinking, community building, and research and writing skills. The online computer science degree allows learners to pursue a practical education experience at a cooperating institution or independent study for credit.
Online coursework is offered asynchronously through the Mediasite and Blackboard learning management systems, and it emphasizes recorded lectures. Students can access ENMU’s online writing center free of charge and take advantage of the Golden Success Student Center’s database of articles, journals, and e–books. The school does not currently award credit for previous developmental or for technical or vocational coursework related to computer science.
A private university established in Fayette, Missouri in 1853, Central Methodist University serves the unique needs of returning and out–of–state learners through its College of Graduate and Extended Studies (CGES). CGES’ online degrees includes a fully online bachelor’s degree in computer science that prepares graduates for positions in business and industry.
The 120–credit bachelor of science in computer science typically takes 2–4 years to complete. Major course topics include concepts of MIS, computer architecture and operating systems, and computer and information security. Learners can choose between a survey of programming languages or an in–depth course on Java or Visual Basic to satisfy the programming languages requirement. The school recommends that learners complete upper–division coursework in statistics and symbolic logic to supplement requirements.
The learning experience concludes with either a senior thesis project or capstone seminar in which learners complete a project or research paper on a contemporary issue in computer science. Pursuing an internship requires submitting the appropriate internship information, agreement, and memorandum of understanding forms to the registrar before the academic term. CMU’s Office of Technology Services frequently offers internship opportunities.
Online learners access coursework through the MyCMU online portal, which mostly uses asynchronous learning tools. They also access free online paper review and asynchronous and synchronous tutoring through CMU’s NetTutor service. Applicants must present a 2.0 minimum GPA for consideration.
A public university based in Ogden, Utah, Weber State University offers a variety of affordable online degrees tailored to working professionals. WSU’s many STEM–related undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs include an online bachelor’s degree in computer science. The degree’s elective options cater to learners interested in building a specialized degree track.
Students typically take 2–4 years to complete this 126–credit bachelor of science in computer science. Major course topics include advanced database programming, Java application development, and software engineering. Diverse elective options allow learners to customize their degree track for web development, network security, mobile development, or continuing to earn a master’s in computer science. Required support coursework can emphasize either math or writing skills, depending on student needs.
The learning experience concludes with several exit exams administered through the Chi Tester online portal, covering at least three content areas in computer science. Post–graduation, WSU’s online catalog includes graduate–level certificates in mobile application and game development. Many students take advantage of networking and professional development opportunities offered by campus clubs and organizations such as the Association of Computing Machinery or Cyber Security Club.
Online coursework utilizes the Canvas learning management system, typically in an asynchronous format. Applicants must hold an associate degree in computer science or a related field for consideration.
A member of the California State University system since 1994, California State University– Monterey Bay has embraced online learning technology, and it now features a variety of fully online undergraduate and graduate level degree programs. Working professionals already holding an associate degree should consider finishing their online bachelor’s degree in computer science through CSUMB’s innovative, hands–on program.
The 90–credit degree completion program follows a cohort model and takes 24 months to complete. Required course topics include operating systems, introduction to data science, and internet programming. The learning experience culminates with a capstone project, with students working in groups to solve a real–world problem related to computer science. Graduates leave prepared for work as a mobile developer, software engineer, or technology project manager.
Students access courses through the iLearn learning management system, in a mixture of asynchronous and synchronous elements. CSUMB’s online cohort model follows a unique structure based around weekly collaboration. Eight–week courses begin with a video conference orientation, splitting students into groups where they collaborate for hands–on assignments and projects.
Applicants need 90 quarter units with a 2.0 minimum GPA for consideration. The program requires completion of prerequisite coursework in programming, data structures, and precalculus prior to admission. All learners can access CSUMB’s free online writing lab service.
A public university based in Beaumont, Texas, Lamar University serves a student body of over 15,000 with diverse degrees and certificates at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral level. In keeping with its commitment to quality distance education, LU offers many online undergraduate and graduate STEM–related degrees, including an online bachelor’s degree in computer science.
The 120–credit bachelor of science in computer science takes four years to complete. Major course topics include introduction to computer architecture, design programming languages, and computer law and ethics. The program allows students to pursue specialized topics in computer science and programming languages for credit. Graduates leave the program prepared for a career as a computer scientist or for advanced graduate study.
The curriculum includes a four–course career development sequence that develops a portfolio from students’ off–campus computer science work. The learning experience culminates with a senior assessment consisting of a standardized exit exam and an exit survey and discussion with the department on future plans, job opportunities, and contemporary issues in computer science.
Online coursework uses the Blackboard learning management system, usually in an asynchronous format. All undergraduate learners can access free online tutoring through the Smarthinking service. The school also hosts an annual STEM conference, among other events, as an opportunity for undergraduates and graduates to present research.
Established in 1972 in Trenton, New Jersey, Thomas Edison State University stands out for its generous credit transfer policies and low tuition. The public university’s fully online programs include an online bachelor’s degree in computer science.
The 120–credit bachelor of arts in computer science takes 2–4 four years to complete and caters to learners interested in receiving a solid liberal arts foundation. General education requirements include an information literacy course. Required major coursework includes operating systems, calculus, and discrete math. Diverse elective options allow learners to pursue specialized areas of interest such as programming languages, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence.
The learning experience concludes with a liberal arts capstone where students craft a research paper, creative project, or applied project on a subject relevant to computer science. TESU allows learners transferring from a regionally accredited, four–year school to transfer all previous credit with the exception of this capstone and the living in the information age information literacy course. Some learners at TESU start their bachelor’s in computer science degree through a 12–credit, undergraduate computer science certificate.
Online coursework is typically offered asynchronously and utilizes the Moodle learning management system. All learners at TESU can both access free online tutoring through the Smarthinking service and use the Virtual Academic Library Environment portal to access journals, articles, newspapers, and databases.
Founded in 1969 as Sangamon State University, the University of Illinois at Springfield took on its current name and location in the University of Illinois system in 1995. Since then, it has forged a strong reputation for its distance education programs, including a fully online bachelor’s degree in computer science.
This 120–credit bachelor of science in computer science takes 2–4 years to complete. The program requires all learners take 10 credits of mid– to upper–level coursework in the Engaged Citizenship Common Experience sequence, which discusses issues including global awareness and community outreach. Major courses include foundations of computer science, computer organization, and data structures and algorithms. Advisors help learners customize their course of study through multiple electives.
The program culminates with a software engineering capstone project in which learners work in groups to demonstrate their knowledge of the design, documentation, and implementation behind software development. Students must also complete an entrance and exit exam within their first and last semesters to compare and contrast their knowledge of computer science before and after completing their course of study.
Online coursework is typically offered asynchronously and uses the Blackboard learning management system. Applicants must present a 2.0 minimum GPA for consideration and may need to complete prerequisites in Java programming, calculus, discrete math, and statistics through UIS.
Founded in 1887, Troy University began as a teacher training school, gradually evolving into one of Alabama’s largest public universities. The school has enthusiastically adopted online learning and now offers an online bachelor’s in computer science tailored to returning and working students. Troy offers large tuition discounts for military and military family students.
The completion time for this 129–credit bachelor of science in applied computer science degree is typically 2–4 years. Major course topics include web–based software development, introduction to database systems, and systems analysis and design. Other coursework includes calculus and discrete mathematics, along with a brief university orientation taken in the first semester. The program allows learners to pursue specialized topics in computer science with department approval.
All learners must complete at least 18 credits in a minor area. Another 18 credits of free electives allow learners to customize their course of study to their area of interest. The school encourages students to double major in a field related to mathematics or engineering. Degree candidates must earn a 2.0 minimum GPA in all coursework to graduate.
The asynchronous online coursework utilizes the Canvas learning management system. The online portal also offers all learners free access to live tutoring and paper submission feedback from the NetTutor tutoring service. Applicants must present a 2.0 minimum GPA for consideration.
One of Kansas’ largest state universities, Fort Hays State University serves a student body of over 15,000 with practical, on–campus and online degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral level. Among its many fully online degrees, its online bachelor’s degree in computer science deserves attention for its academic rigor and affordable tuition.
The 120–credit bachelor of science in computer science consists of 65 major and 55 general education credits and typically takes 2–4 years to complete. Required general education coursework covers topics in mathematics and computer information systems. Learners must complete a sequence of support coursework in networking and web–development topics. Major courses include object–oriented programming, foundations of computing, and assembly language.
The program typically culminates with a software engineering seminar, with students exploring specialized contemporary issues in software development. FHSU alternatively allows learners to opt for an internship relating to computer science in place of the seminar. The Office of Career Services regularly posts internship opportunities in a variety of relevant industries on its website. Many students take advantage of networking opportunities offered by the Math and Computer Science Club and FHSU’s chapter of Kappa Mu Epsilon.
Online coursework uses the Blackboard learning management system, typically in an asynchronous format. Online learners can access free tutoring through the Smarthinking service. Applicants must present a 2.0 minimum GPA for consideration.
Based in Gainesville since 1905, the University of Florida has distinguished itself as one of the most well–regarded schools in the nation for rigorous, affordable online degrees. UF’s online catalog includes a well–rounded online bachelor’s degree in computer science tailored to returning and working learners.
The 120–credit bachelor of science in computer science takes 4–4 years to complete, and it features a liberal arts emphasis. The program expects candidates transferring with 12–59 previous credits to have completed introductory coursework in analytical geometry and calculus, while candidates transferring over 60 credits should have also completed an introductory physics course. UF also requires support coursework in business communication or technical writing.
Major coursework topics include software engineering, applications of discrete structures, and operating systems. In their senior year, degree candidates complete a significant computer science–related project (with departmental guidance) consisting of a technical report, followed by an oral presentation. The learning experience culminates with either a one–term internship or an independent engineering research project. Learners complete an exit survey in their final semester.
Online, asynchronous coursework uses the Canvas learning management system. Applicants must present a 2.5 minimum GPA for consideration. The program monitors learner progress through its critical–tracking GPA requirements for support coursework.
A private college founded in 1911, Baker College serves the lower peninsula of Michigan and beyond with pragmatic degrees and certificates designed for working students. The accredited career college’s online catalog features a fully online bachelor’s degree in computer science with a well–rounded mixture of STEM and liberal arts coursework.
The 120–credit bachelor of science in computer science takes 2–4 years to complete, and it allows students to choose between a concentration in computer programming and database technology. Both concentrations explore programming languages such as Java, C++, and C#. Core topics include emerging programming languages, trends in computer science, and microprocessor electronics. Graduates leave prepared to pursue an online master’s in information science or a career in computer science.
The database technology concentration culminates with a capstone project on a specialized topic, such as data mining or warehousing. The computer programming concentration capstone focuses on a group project in systems development methodologies. Both programs conclude with a 150–hour work experience over a minimum of 10 weeks. To pass the course, students must earn a minimum score of 73% on all supervisor assignments and the final evaluation.
Online courses use the Canvas learning management system, typically in an asynchronous format. The school does not require applicants who have recently graduated high school to present SAT or ACT scores.
A public university established in Clarksville, Tennessee in 1927, Austin Peay State University stands out for its commitment to quality distance education and for accommodating the needs of working and returning learners. APSU’s online catalog includes an online bachelor’s degree in computer science with general education requirements that emphasize practical business skills.
The 120–credit bachelor of science in computer science with a concentration in information systems typically takes four years to complete. The curriculum focuses mainly on computer applications in business. Freshman students complete an interdisciplinary seminar addressing topics including student engagement, library literacy, and career planning. Major courses include advanced web development, systems analysis and design, and operating systems and architecture.
The program culminates with an information systems seminar, with learners preparing a research paper and oral presentation on an assigned topic, followed by a job opportunity review. All learners complete an exit exam in their final semester. Graduates leave prepared for diverse careers working as applications programmers, systems analysts, or network managers. The program offers fully online concentration options in database administration, information assurance, and internet and web technology.
Online coursework utilizes the Canvas learning management system, usually in an asynchronous format. Many learners take advantage of the networking opportunities offered by the APSU chapter of Upsilon Pi Epsilon. Military students can satisfy up to 23 credits through military credits. Applicants must present either a 2.85 minimum GPA for unconditional admission or a 2.75–2.84 for conditional admission.
Founded in 1930 in Norfolk, Old Dominion University has grown into one of the largest universities in Virginia. The public university provides quality education to distance and working learners through multiple fully online degrees, including an online bachelor’s degree in computer science.
The 120–credit bachelor of science in computer science typically takes 2–4 years to complete, depending on part– or full–time enrollment. The curriculum blends theoretical aspects of computer science with a strong virtual lab component for hands–on learning. The degree entails a technical elective requirement meant to strengthen learners’ proficiency in qualitative methods in physics, chemistry, and biology. Major coursework includes principles of programming languages, introduction to discrete structures, and introduction to theoretical computer science.
All learners complete a workforce development sequence that takes place in a department–approved job setting. The two course sequence combines on–the–job training and professional development with in–class laboratory exercises and group projects. Graduates leave prepared for a professional career or to earn a master’s in computer science. Many transition in to quickly earn a graduate certificate in a subject such as cybersecurity or modeling and simulation engineering.
The typically asynchronous coursework utilizes the Canvas learning management system. Applicants need a 2.5 minimum GPA for guaranteed admission. Learners can access free online tutoring through Tutor.com.
Established in 1947 as a division of the University of Maryland’s College of Education, Adelphi’s University of Maryland–University College has developed into a respected public university that offers affordable, practical online degrees. The school’s growing online catalog includes several online computer science degrees, including a bachelor’s that allows learners to easily transition to a master’s program.
The 120–credit bachelor of science in computer science takes 2–4 years to complete. The program recommends that degree candidates have professional or hobby–level programing experience. Major coursework topics include building secure web applications, computer graphics, and compiler theory and design. Students complete support coursework in calculus, discrete structures, and algorithm design. Advisors help learners navigate diverse elective options to craft a customized degree track.
The program culminates with a capstone project on emerging issues in computer science. Learners work in groups on a collaborative, computer–related project, with periodic peer reviews guiding the experience. UMUC encourages degree candidates take advantage of networking and professional development opportunities offered by the Computing Club and UMUC chapter of Upsilon Pi Epsilon.
Online coursework utilizes the Canvas learning management system, usually in an asynchronous format. Many transfer students start the program through the Maryland Transfer Advantage program, which allows learners to earn credit at UMUC while studying at a participating Maryland community college. Students can access free online tutoring offered through the WiseGuy service.
We selected the following online computer science programs based on the quality of the program, the types of online classes offered, the faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation — including the school’s reputation for effectively providing quality online degree programs.
The motto of TheBestSchools.org is Finding the best school for you. Here is how we do it:
The value of any ranking list of schools and/or degree programs depends on having a methodologically sound assessment of each school’s/program’s characteristics, especially insofar as these can be objectively measured. A college or university is a complex entity, with numerous factors to consider, and distilling these down to the place where meaningful comparisons can be made to form a defensible ranking list becomes part science and part art.
To meet this challenge—and thereby provide you with the most useful and insightful educational rankings on the Internet — TheBestSchools.org formulates our rankings based on five informational categories (six, when considering online schools). The major metrics and qualities for which we rank are these (with expanded, detailed considerations and weights listed):
1. Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline [weight = 25%]
- Weighs school against known leading schools in that discipline
- Weighs number of core curricula listed as advanced courses within that discipline and compares against introductory courses
- Weighs school’s curriculum against known knowledge needs of major employers in that discipline
- Considers number and types of specializations offered within that discipline
- Considers faculty expertise in that discipline
- Considers range of electives within that discipline
- Considers quality of online environment offered to students (if applicable), particularly within that discipline
2. Strength of faculty scholarship [weight = 25%]
- Considers education background of the faculty
- Considers years of faculty experience both inside and outside of academia.
- Considers faculty membership and leadership within relevant, prominent associations
- Considers academic papers published by faculty in relevant, prominent periodicals
- Considers awards and recognitions given to faculty members from prominent organizations and from other sources
3. Reputation [weight = 20%]
- Considers a school’s reputation among academic peers and employers regarding the following:
- “Freshness” of academic knowledge
- Adaptability to changes in employment sectors
- Suitability of graduates for the workplace
4. Financial aid [weight = 10%]
- Mandatory: Requires full accreditation from an agency endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and listed on the federal register to accept student federal financial aid
- Considers range of school-sponsored financial aid such as scholarships and grants
5. Range of degree programs [weight = 20%]
- Considers range of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral and professional
- Considers range of degree subjects offered, such as art & design, computers & technology, education & teaching, criminal justice, and business
6. Strength of online instruction methodology (if applicable) [weight = 25%; subtract 5% from each of the above for online schools/programs]
Considers the following of the online classes:
- Types of online technology used to deliver content
- Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both (depending on the degree)
- Extent and quality of the online, community learning environment, including options for communication, interactivity, and collaboration between students and also between students and instructors
- Variety, breadth, and depth of coursework, and its support, including project options and online tutoring
Considers the following of instructors:
- Extent of training for teaching within an online learning environment
- Amount of timely, consistent feedback to students
- Extent of collaboration with prospective employers to ensure suitability of instructional materials for achieving desired skills
- Ratio to number of students in a class
- Number and quality of internships in a student’s geographical area for applicable degrees
Because students tend to review a variety of information when choosing a school, the weight a student gives any one criterion will vary. For instance, it’s not enough to offer a carefully constructed ranking of great schools if many are too expensive or too difficult to get into.
To better serve the needs of prospective students, we are therefore increasingly offering filters that help you better use our rankings to find the schools that match your specific needs. These supplement our ranking criteria and include:
- Public or private status
- Acceptance rate
- Retention rate
- Graduation rate
- ACT/SAT requirements
- Cost in-state / out of state
- Undergrad, grad, or both offered
Get the best rankings here AND get them to suit your personal needs. That’s TheBestSchools.org advantage!
If you have any questions about our ranking methodology, please contact us.
Citations: For a broader account of our ranking methodology, especially as it relates to TheBestSchools.org's underlying educational philosophy and, in other ranking articles, looks beyond academic excellence (as here) to such factors as return on investment or incidental benefit, see our article "Ranking Methodology: How We Rank Schools at TBS." Reputation of schools and degree programs can at least in part be gauged through the school or department's publishing activity, citations, and desirability. At TheBestSchools.org, we keep track of such social and peer validation: "Making Sense of College Rankings." For nuts-and-bolts information about colleges and universities, we look to the National Center for Education Statistics and especially its College Navigator. Insofar as salary and inflation data are relevant to a ranking, we look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, nothing beats contacting schools and degree programs directly, which our researchers often do, with the result that all the entries in this article should be considered as belonging to this citation!
The Advantages of a Computer Science Education
Students can enter the computer science field after earning an associate degree, often working in areas of technical support or web development. However, many individuals find their career prospects limited without additional education. Some companies reserve promotions and salary increases for individuals with bachelor’s degrees. Earning an online computer science degree prepares graduates to take on more complex programming, networking, and cybersecurity challenges.
Some careers, such as research scientists or executive team members, require a graduate–level education. A master’s degree offers the opportunity for greater specialization in a subfield of computer science, such as biometric computing, information security, or artificial intelligence. Students who earn an undergraduate degree in computer science can often bypass prerequisite courses and graduate with a master’s degree faster.
Some schools embed industry certifications within their coursework, adding to a graduate’s resume. Advanced coursework also helps to develop the leadership and decision–making skills necessary to assume upper–level roles within an organization. The chart below demonstrates the additional earning potential for graduates with a bachelor’s degree; however, salaries can vary significantly depending on the computer science career you choose.
Average Salary by Degree Level
|Degree Level||Average Salary|
|Associate Degree in Computer Science||$65,000|
|Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science||$83,000|
Computer Science Degree Salary Information
Professionals in computer and information science careers possess strong analytical abilities and understand the mathematical principles at the heart of computing. However, the field allows for specializations that use other talents, such as creative problem–solving to diagnose and resolve networking issues, interpersonal communication skills to train workers about new software and security protocols, and business acumen to analyze data to make critical decisions. Many careers also offer flexible work environments, with professionals telecommuting from their home office.
- Information Security Analyst:
- These analysts implement security protocols, collect data, and research strategies to ensure data security. They must identify possible threats, develop prevention strategies, and form mitigation plans. Information security analysts often research new technologies that can improve computer efficiency and security. These workers commonly possess an in–depth understanding of software development and hardware infrastructure.
- Salary based on experience:
- Entry Level: $59,000
- Mid–Career: $66,000
- Experienced: $81,000
- Late Career: $92,000
- Computer Programmer:
- Programmers use a variety of computer languages to develop and maintain software applications and customize third–party applications. They document their programs through written forms, diagrams, and code comments. These programmers can work in a variety of industries, including financial and medical industries, though most find employment in computer systems services.
- Salary based on experience:
- Entry Level: $51,000
- Mid–Career: $56,000
- Experienced: $69,000
- Late Career: $77,000
- Database Administrator:
- Database administrators make it possible for companies to store, search for, and analyze information through custom software and information networks. Administrators must also maintain network security. In addition to a degree in computer science, many companies seek candidates with information technology experience. Most work in computer service industries, though retail business, medical corporations, and educational institutions also hire database administrators.
- Salary based on experience:
- Entry Level: $53,000
- Mid–Career: $62,000
- Experienced: $78,000
- Late Career: $90,000
- Software Developer:
- Software developers create new applications or improve on existing software to meet specific tasks. Software developers also make operating systems that allow devices to work. They may need to work with clients to establish the scope of a project and manage the development, testing, and implementation of a finished application. Most developers work as part of a team, which makes interpersonal and communication skills important.
- Salary based on experience:
- Entry Level: $60,800
- Mid–Career: $80,300
- Experienced: $90,000
- Late Career: $97,000
- Information System Manager:
- Professionals in this leadership role often manage the information technology department within an organization. They evaluate technology assets, including devices, network infrastructure, and software. They also plan for maintenance and upgrades to ensure technology operates correctly. These managers coordinate appropriate staff training, communicate technology needs to company leadership, and stay current on changes within the industry that impact technology needs.
- Salary based on experience:
- Entry Level: $55,500
- Mid–Career: $78,300
- Experienced: $91,000
- Late Career: $95,900
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale
Choosing an Online Computer Science Degree Program
Finding the right school means digging deep into the details of each program’s curriculum, instructional model, and support services. Your target school should fit your budget and align with your career goals.
Carefully review the major requirements and elective offerings of a program, along with any capstone experiences (e.g., internships and professional projects). Flexibility may also be important, allowing you to more easily balance your education with other responsibilities. Finally, ensure that online students have access to academic and student support services, such as tutoring and career search assistance.
- Program Cost
- The overall cost of a program includes tuition and fees, the cost of textbooks and equipment, and travel costs required to complete any on–campus sessions. Check to see if your school offers tuition discounts, such as online–only tuition rates or reduced fees for military members.
- Transfer Policies
- If you have already earned college credits, work with your admissions counselor to apply those credits toward your degree. Your credits may satisfy general education and elective requirements. Many schools require students to have earned at least a
Cin a course and to have taken the class at a regionally accredited school.
- School Size and Type
- Some students prefer schools with smaller classes and more student–instructor interaction. Public universities often serve a larger number of students than private colleges; however, bigger institutions may still offer a relatively small student–to–teacher ratio in their online computer science programs.
- Program Length
- Full–time students usually need four years to complete their bachelor’s degrees, while part–time students may require six or more years to graduate. Programs offering accelerated online computer science degrees may use shorter terms and self–paced courses, allowing students to graduate more quickly.
- On–Campus Requirements
- While computer science lends itself to online learning models, some programs feature on–campus or hybrid components. These may include required orientation sessions or the option to take some classes in person. Students may need to travel to campus for exams or arrange for proctoring services near their homes. Online students may also gain access to specialized computer labs or research facilities.
Accreditation for Online Computer Science Degrees
Accreditation ensures that schools meet standards of academic quality and ongoing improvement. Schools may pursue institutional accreditation, which certifies an overall institution, and programmatic accreditation, which confirms that a degree track offers a relevant curriculum to meet industry needs.
Accreditation is voluntary for schools, but the U.S. Department of Education (ED) requires each school to maintain recognized accreditation status to participate in federal student financial aid programs. While the ED does not accredit schools directly, it maintains a list of recognized accrediting agencies and member institutions. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation also maintains a database of recognized accrediting agencies for degree–granting institutions and specialized programs.
Institutional accreditation may come from regional or national organizations. Regional accreditation agencies, such as the Higher Learning Commission, are more prestigious. Many schools only recognize transfer credits and degrees earned from regionally accredited institutions — if you plan to transfer to another school or seek a graduate degree, make sure your school holds regional accreditation.
Many computer science programs seek specialized accreditation from the ABET Computing Accreditation Commission. This accreditation process includes self–study, peer review, and a site visit. The commission observes the curriculum, faculty, facilities, and student outcomes before awarding accreditation. Some professional organizations require that individuals hold a degree from an ABET–accredited program to apply for professional certifications.
Computer Science Degree Concentrations
Concentrations allow a student to focus on a area of computer science and take advanced courses in that field. Programs may offer 3–5 additional courses covering topics such as ethical hacking or mobile app development. Additionally, students may study other programming languages to complement the primary languages covered in introductory courses. Enrollees typically complete projects and research that enhance their resumes, helping them gain valuable hands–on experience in their chosen specialty.
- Data Science
- Data science focuses on the collection, storage, and analysis of large amounts of data. Students learn to build and maintain databases for a variety of needs. Classes in statistics and algorithms teach students to retrieve relevant data and interpret information as part of the business decision–making process.
- Careers Data Science Concentration Prepares For Market analyst, database administrator
- Much of the data collected and kept by businesses contain sensitive information, such as customer data, business forecasts, or internal communications. Security professionals develop protocols to identify and prevent data breaches. They train staff how to avoid common security threats, such as malware or phishing scams. Specialists in this field also test existing systems to ensure that outside actors cannot access data.
- Careers The Security Concentration Prepares For Information security analyst, chief information officer, forensic analyst
- Software Engineering
- Students learn to evaluate business needs and develop practical, efficient software applications to meet those needs. In addition to programming, students can study principles of project management, software design and testing, technical documentation, and user experience. This specialization builds communication and teamwork skills and allows students to demonstrate their creative and problem–solving abilities.
- Careers the Software Engineering Concentration Prepares For App developer, software developer
- Artificial Intelligence
- Artificial intelligence focuses on algorithms and programs that allow machines to learn from earlier actions and adapt. These adaptations allow for greater efficiency to complete routine tasks. Courses in this concentration may include human language technology, algorithm design, and simulation.
- Careers the Artificial Intelligence Concentration Prepares For Data scientist, machine learning engineer, software developer
- High–Performance Systems
- In this concentration, students study computer systems, advanced system software, data communication, and network architecture. Practitioners learn to apply new methods of parallel and distributed computing to design new software applications and networks. The specialization focuses on cloud computing and software as a service.
- Careers the High–Performance Systems Concentration Prepares For Network architect, network administrator, chief information officer
How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Computer Science?
Most online computer science degrees require four years and 120 credits to complete. Full–time students usually take 30–33 credits per year. However, many schools charge full–time students a flat tuition rate, allowing learners to take a few extra credits each semester for the same price and potentially reduce the overall time needed to graduate. Most schools offer a recommended course sequence, which ensures students take foundational and prerequisite courses before moving on to advanced classes.
Part–time students should allow for additional time to graduate. These students often take 2–3 classes each semester, and they may attend school year round. Select schools have also developed accelerated and self–paced programs that allow students to graduate faster. Shorter terms allow students to focus on one or two classes at a time and take more courses over the course of a year.
Additionally, competency–based programs allow students to move on to their next class as soon as they have mastered the learning objectives in a session. These programs may charge a flat rate for a term and allow students to complete as many courses as they can during that time.
Courses in an Online Bachelor’s in Computer Science Program
- Introduction to Computer Systems
- Students learn the basic concepts of computer systems that allow programs to function. Enrollees can learn about assembly languages, system memory allocation, and how to evaluate and improve system performance. These concepts form the basis for more advanced study related to computer languages, coding, and programming, ensuring students can solve performance problems when they arise.
- Data Structures
- Students learn about the data structures and algorithms used in object–oriented programming. Learners can build basic data structures, such as lists, stacks, and arrays, and study more complex constructions, such as trees and graphs. They can use this knowledge to analyze and design algorithms to solve practical challenges.
- Participants explore the basic components of intranets, as well as local–area and wide–area networks. They study network architectures to design, install, and configure computer networks and learn about troubleshooting network issues and security protocols to ensure data integrity. The course may also offer test preparation for industry certification.
- Internet Security
- While the internet enables the robust exchange of information, it also poses numerous risks to proprietary data. In this course, students evaluate security issues related to computer networks and common security breaches. They explore how firewalls can protect data and learn to identify intrusions and encrypt data during transmission.
- Software Development
- This course covers the initial planning, prototype development and testing, user experience, and documentation of the software development cycle. Students may use advanced Java programming and gain experience in areas of web development, mobile app development, database programming, and networking. The course often includes hands–on assignments consisting of individual and group work.
Computer Science Membership Associations
Successful computer science professionals must commit to lifelong learning and professional development. The industry changes quickly with each new technological advance, and computer and information technology workers need to adapt to these changes. Professional organizations can help graduates connect with mentors, network to find new employment opportunities, access professional certifications, and take part in ongoing professional development.
- IEEE Computer Society
- This subgroup of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers focuses on connecting professionals within the computer science and engineering fields. Members may attend conferences, submit their work to peer–reviewed publications, access a digital library of resources, and take part in ongoing educational opportunities. The organization welcomes practitioners, students, faculty, and industry members.
- Computing Research Association
- CRA focuses on developing leadership abilities, fostering talent development, and advocating for policy and federal funding to support technological research. Its members include organizations actively engaged with computing research. The association also shares information related to research developments, data, and best practices.
- Association for Computing Machinery
- ACM includes more than 100,000 members around the globe sharing resources and ideas. Its 37 subgroups offer networking opportunities within computer science subfields, with annual conferences and workshops. Over 850 professional and student chapters also provide networking and collaborative opportunities. Members enjoy access to the organization’s digital library and publications offering original research.
- Information Systems Security Association
- ISSA brings together information security professionals to provide ongoing professional development, develop leadership skills, and share vital security information. Members may attend conferences, chapter meetings, and seminars. The group also hosts subgroups related to security awareness, healthcare, finance, and women in the field.
- Association of Information Technology Professionals
- AITP advocates for the tech industry through networking and education programs. It formed in the 1950s and continues to share knowledge with computer science professionals around the world. Students can join for free and connect with other learners and mentors. They can also use the TechTalent job board to build their resumes.
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