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Computer science is a rapidly growing field.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer and information technology occupations are projected to grow much faster than other occupations between 2022-2032, with a large demand for professionals in cloud computing, big data, and information security.
Working in computer science can be lucrative. The BLS reports a median income of $126,900 for computer network architect, which is a career obtainable with a bachelor's degree and several years of related work experience. Software developers, information security analysts, and network systems administratorscan also earn six-figure salaries.
While many entry-level computer science careers require a bachelor's degree, prospective students should not ignore the value of a transferable associate degree. Associate degrees provide affordable access to general education and lower-level core requirements, making it easier to pursue a bachelor's later.
For more details, view our ranked list of the best online associate degrees in computer science below.
The Best Online Computer Science Associate
We use datasets from sources like the National Center for Education Statistics to inform the data for these schools.
#1 The Best Online Associate in Computer Science
Seminole State College of Florida
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
Seminole State College of Florida, a public, four-year college, supports 20 online associate degree programs available to distance learners worldwide. The computer science program equips students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in a computer science-specific career. Graduates seeking to advance their education can apply their credits toward a bachelor's degree.
Students receive guidance throughout the duration of their program and can access career services and academic advising. Distance learners can receive one-on-one support through virtual library services and can academic tutoring resources.
Students can expect to receive an average of $4,949 in financial aid. Approximately 66% of all incoming students receive financial aid, with 18% using student loans.
Seminole State College of Florida at a Glance:
Type of School: Public, four-year
Location: Sanford, Florida
Student-Faculty Ratio: 27-to-1
Undergrad Tuition In State: $2,393
Undergrad Tuition Out of State: $9,494
#2 The Best Online Associate in Computer Science
South Texas College
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
Distance learners looking for a flexible online associate degree program in computer science should consider South Texas College. Students in the computer science program gain industry-relevant knowledge and skills, preparing them for the demands of a computer science career. Students seeking further education can apply their computer science credits toward a bachelor's degree.
Computer science degree-seekers can access comprehensive college resources, including career counseling, academic advising, and financial aid assistance. Other institutional resources include virtual library services and academic tutoring.
The average financial aid award, the college reports, is $5,562. Eligible enrollees can access internal and external funding opportunities, along with student loans.
South Texas College at a Glance:
Type of School: Public, four-year
Location: McAllen, Texas
Student-Faculty Ratio: 23-to-1
Undergrad Tuition In State: $2,610
Undergrad Tuition Out of State: $6,000
#3 The Best Online Associate in Computer Science
Lincoln Land Community College
- 2 years
- Online + Campus
Lincoln Land Community College, located in Springfield, Illinois, boasts four online associate degree programs, including its highly ranked associate of arts in computer science. The program prepares students for the demands of the computer science field through foundational and advanced coursework. Upon graduating, students can apply their course credits toward a bachelor's degree.
While enrolled, students benefit from institutional resources, such as career services and academic advising. Other institutional resources include virtual library services and academic tutoring.
On average, students are awarded $5,377 in financial aid. Approximately 74% of all incoming students receive financial aid, with 22% receiving student loans.
Lincoln Land Community College at a Glance:
Type of School: Public, two-year
Location: Springfield, Illinois
Student-Faculty Ratio: 20-to-1
Undergrad Tuition In State: $6,312
Undergrad Tuition Out of State: $9,468
Online Computer Science Associate Ranking Guidelines
We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.
Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.
Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.
While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.
The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.
The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.
Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.
Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology
About Our Ranking Factors
Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.
Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.
We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.
Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%
In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.
If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.
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Featured Online Computer Science Associate
Choosing an Online Associate in Computer Science Program
All students have unique needs and goals, which means they have different considerations for their college searches. When deciding which online computer science degree is the best fit, consider how the following factors might impact and shape your online learning experience.
What Is Computer Science?
Computer science is the systematic study of computing processes, which are a series of encoded actions used to achieve a desired result, like totaling a bank account balance, generating digital graphics, or running an application.
Students can learn many of the skills needed to succeed in computer science in a classroom. Individuals who naturally excel at problem-solving, organization, collaboration, and creativity often thrive in the field.
Professionals in the computer science field typically specialize in an area like artificial intelligence, software development, human-computer interface, networking, or information security. Programming language experts, for example, may use their knowledge to code mobile applications, video games, or webpages.
Although many professionals covet careers with top tech firms in Silicon Valley, computer science majors can find work across the nation in many different industries, as most companies rely on software infrastructure. Graduates can find work as full-stack developers, database administrators, information security analysts, and cloud computing engineers.
Computer Science vs. Computer Engineering
Computer science focuses on how data is processed, stored, and communicated between devices. Computer engineering has a broader focus, including the electrical components of computing systems and the design, function, and interaction of software and hardware.
College students pursuing degrees in computer science and computer engineering take many of the same courses, including computer architecture, data structures, programming, and networking. Each program also requires courses unique to the discipline, such as database systems for computer science students and product design for computer engineering students.
After graduation, students in both fields can begin careers with similar employers in similar locations with comparable salaries, but their specialized roles require different skills. For example, Apple hires both computer science and computer engineering professionals to design new iPhones. While computer scientists focus on operating systems, memory, and data encryption, computer engineers design the circuits, chips, and components that allow the devices to function.
What Is a Computer Science Associate Degree?
An associate in computer science provides students with the foundation needed for entry-level employment or to transfer to a four-year bachelor's program. Associate programs require a minimum of 60 credits and take two years of full-time study to complete. Part-time students typically graduate in three years.
Colleges may be selective or use open enrollment policies. Open enrollment colleges accept any applicant who has completed a high school education, although placement testing may be required in English and math. Selective admission schools require additional criteria, such as a minimum GPA and ACT or SAT scores.
A computer science associate degree provides students with foundational skills in mathematics, programming, and database management. Students receive an introduction to terminology and topics that enable further study in areas like information security, network technology, and mobile applications.
What Will I Learn in an Online Associate in Computer Science Program?
At the undergraduate level, an online computer science degree consists of three major components: general education, major core courses, and electives. Students can expect to complete a minimum of 60 credits. Core courses like those listed below provide a solid foundation in computer science concepts and techniques.
- Programming Fundamentals: Often presented in 2-3 consecutive courses, studies in programming fundamentals introduce learners to the major concepts of structured programming and the techniques used to develop software applications. Topics include object interaction, algorithms, data structures, and the mechanics of running, testing, and debugging.
- Computer Organization: A course in computer organization examines the components, structure, and function of contemporary computer systems. Using assembly language to strengthen and reinforce course concepts, students learn about computer arithmetic, data types, memory hierarchy, performance metrics, and other fundamental topics. This course may include a lab component.
- Discrete Mathematics: Often required or recommended for computer science majors, a course in discrete mathematics provides a background in abstraction, notation, and critical thinking. Covered topics include sets, logic, the nature of proof, recurrence relations, and Boolean algebra.
Educational Paths for Online Computer Science Associate Programs
Associate degrees are an affordable way to complete the lower-level requirements needed for a bachelor's degree. After completing an associate, many graduates transfer to a four-year school to complete additional major core courses and electives. A computer science associate degree can qualify students for bachelor's programs in computer programming, health informatics, and digital marketing.
After earning an associate in computer science, many graduates transfer to a four-year computer programming degree. Programming majors study major programming languages like C++, Java, and Python, which they use to write code for software applications. Students also learn to test programs, troubleshoot errors, and debug systems.
Health informatics is an evolving field that combines elements of information technology, communications, and healthcare to improve patient care quality. A bachelor's program in health informatics provides training in the acquisition, storage, retrieval, and use of healthcare data and information. Transfer students with an associate in computer science enter healthcare informatics programs with a foundational knowledge of database systems, software development, and programming.
A digital marketing curriculum develops fundamental skills in market research, project management, communication, and e-marketing strategy. These skills, combined with a foundation in computer science, allow graduates to create digital marketing campaigns from the ground up.
Computer Science Jobs
Earning an online computer science associate degree can provide you with the foundation needed to pursue various careers, though many employers prefer bachelor's degrees.
Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts plan and implement security measures to protect an organization's network and computer systems. These IT professionals monitor networks, investigate issues, evaluate and report damage caused by breaches, and discover solutions to mitigate system weaknesses.
Entry-level information security analysts typically hold a bachelor's degree in cybersecurity, computer science, information science, or a related field. Professional certification is voluntary but preferred by many employers. Relevant experience in information technology or network systems administration can be beneficial. Information security analysts must be detail-oriented, analytical problem-solvers who can anticipate risks and develop new protection methods.
Database administrators store and organize data like financial information and shipping records for businesses, employees, and customers. Using specialized software, database administrators ensure this data remains available to intended users and secure from unauthorized access. These professionals ensure error-free database operation, design and test modifications, and perform other maintenance duties as needed.
Most database administrators hold a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field and several years of work experience as database developers or data analysts. Software-specific certification may be required by some employers. Database administrators must possess excellent analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills.
Computer Network Architect
Computer network architects design and build local area networks, wide area networks, and intranets, including both small connections and major infrastructures serving multiple customers. Responsibilities include creating plans and layouts, presenting plans to management, upgrading hardware, and researching new technologies.
Most computer network architects hold a bachelor's degree in a relevant field like computer science or engineering, plus 5-10 years of relevant information technology experience. Employers may require certain product- or software-specific certifications. Network architects must have a strong understanding of an organization's business plan to design networks that reflect and achieve its overall goals.
Web developers design and create websites according to client needs. Web developers are responsible for all aspects of the site, including its visual appearance, speed and performance, traffic capacity, and functionality. To create websites, developers may write code using programming languages, create and test applications, and work with other professionals, such as graphic designers.
Web developers may specialize in front-end development, which focuses on how a site appears on screen, or back-end development, which focuses on how a site performs and behaves. While educational requirements vary, many web developers hold an associate degree in web design or a related field. This job requires creativity, customer service skills, and attention to detail.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Computer Science?
Computer science is all about software and hardware, whether you focus on theory, design, development, or application. Practitioners can build careers in fields like database systems, programming, security, and artificial intelligence.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Computer Science?
Students can complete an associate degree in computer science in two years of full-time study. Bachelor's degrees typically require four years of full-time study.
What Are the Highest Paying Jobs in Computer Science?
Although pay varies by employer and geographic location, it's common for computer science salary rates to be six figures, especially for computer network architects and software developers.
What School Has the Best Computer Science Program?
=Many schools offer excellent computer science programs. Our ranked list of the top online programs in the country is a great place to start the search.
What Can You Do With a Computer Science Degree?
After earning an associate in computer science, graduates may pursue entry-level employment or professional certifications, or they can transfer to a bachelor's program.
What Kinds of Jobs Can You Get With a Computer Science Degree?
The skills learned during a computer science degree apply to careers like information technology, cybersecurity, software development, and database administration.
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