Best Online Computer Science Degrees
Updated September 14, 2022
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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.
Featured Online Bachelor's in Computer Science
Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Computer Science Degree Programs
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.
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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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