Earning an online computer science degree is a fantastic way to gain knowledge and skills for a career in the tech industry. Online college allows you to work at your own pace while learning from experienced faculty and using the latest technologies. The flexible schedules and online format allow taking classes at any time and place. Furthermore, online colleges tend to have cheaper price tags. However, the online format can be challenging, so be ready to push yourself for three to four years while learning some of the world’s most relevant and sought-after skills.
Best Online Colleges for Computer Science
When you’re looking for an online college, you should consider a few key factors. One is the school’s reputation, which can help you predict the quality of your education. The best online computer science degrees all have excellent reputations for student success.
Another factor is the curriculum. Ensure that the program offers up-to-date courses and that the coursework adequately covers computer science fundamentals. Also, look for schools with experienced and knowledgeable professors who can provide guidance and support.
The top online computer science programs include resources such as tutoring, mentorship, and other support services. Many online colleges also offer career services to help you find a job after graduation. Any school you choose should be regionally accredited. You can also try to find a program accredited by organizations such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology or the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. Accreditation is an important indicator of quality and shows that the school meets the highest educational standards.
Finally, consider the cost of the program. While an online degree can be cheaper than an in-person degree, costs vary significantly from school to school. The program’s total price includes tuition, fees, and textbooks. While you might think you’d pay more for a higher-quality education, you can find many outstanding schools in every price range.
Specializations for an Online Computer Science Degree
Whether you specialize in web programming, software engineering, artificial intelligence, data science, or cybersecurity, you’ll have excellent career prospects after graduation. Each focus requires varying skills and knowledge, which you’ll obtain with specialized courses and practicum experiences.
An AI specialization will focus on developing machines to simulate human-like behavior. AI is important in robotics, natural language processing, machine learning, and computer vision. It is critical in self-driving cars, voice recognition software, and many other complex problem-solving tasks. With the possibility of transforming many industries and creating new possibilities for businesses and individuals, AI research has exciting prospects for the future.
Data science is a rapidly growing specialization that could transform how organizations operate. It combines elements of mathematics, statistics, programming, and knowledge to uncover patterns and trends in datasets. As a data scientist, you could use algorithms and statistical techniques to develop models and solve existing problems. Data scientists are on the frontlines of innovation in the digital world, from predicting customer behavior to uncovering hidden relationships in numbers.
A game development specialization will cover many topics, from programming languages to 3D modeling, animation, and game design. In this specialization, you’ll study game theory, game design principles, and the physics and mathematics of game development. It could lead to exciting career opportunities in software development, game design, or game programming.
A cybersecurity specialization will focus on protecting computer data, networks, and systems from malicious attacks and vulnerabilities. With this specialization, you’ll gain skills in network security, computer forensics, cryptography, and software security. After graduation, you could become a cybersecurity expert and work for governments or corporations. You’ll have the opportunity to pursue continuing education and specialize in mobile security, biometrics, and AI.
With a software engineering specialization, you’ll study the concepts required for building complex software applications, including systems design, coding, and unit testing. It will cover subjects such as object-oriented analysis, design and development, database management, operating systems, and system architecture. After graduation, you can design, develop, test, and maintain desktop and mobile applications. This specialization in the constantly evolving tech industry can provide excellent job prospects, including software engineer, system analyst, software developer, and software tester.
If you’re interested in integrating systems and software engineering principles into the development of computer systems, you may want to specialize in systems design. You’ll learn about software and hardware systems design, implementation, and evaluation. A systems designer is responsible for understanding users’ needs and translating them into designs that meet a system’s requirements. This specialization involves working with software engineers to develop, test and deploy systems, so you’ll need a thorough understanding of algorithms, data structures, and software development lifecycles.
Career and Salary Information for an Online Computer Science Degree
An online degree in computer science can open up many career opportunities in various industries. Here are some potential career paths you could pursue with a computer science degree.
|Computer and Information Research Scientist
Overall, software engineers play a critical role in the development of software applications and systems and are responsible for ensuring that they are efficient, reliable, and user-friendly. They often team up with others in development to figure out the requirements for a software application or system and then design a plan to meet those requirements. Software engineers earn a median salary of $109,020 per year.
Computer and Information Research Scientist
This specialist analyzes complex problems and develops solutions to improve existing technology. The median wage is around $131,490. Furthermore, the job outlook for these professionals should grow at 21%, which is four times the average for all occupations.
With an online computer science degree, you’ll also be qualified to become a data scientist. These professionals earn a median salary of $100,910. However, the range of salaries depends on experience and location. Data scientists can find jobs in finance, healthcare, and technology.
Cybersecurity and Information Security professionals are responsible for developing, implementing, and managing security systems to protect sensitive information from system failures and attacks. Salaries can range widely, depending on experience, qualifications, and employer. The average salary for an information specialist is around $102,600 per year, and experienced professionals can command even higher wages.
Curriculum and Courses for an Online Computer Science Degree
With a degree in computer science, you’ll learn the principles of programming and software engineering while gaining an in-depth knowledge of systems design and networking. The curriculum will cover basic computer science, software engineering, programming languages, computer architecture, AI, operating systems, databases, networks, and cybersecurity. You’ll explore computer science’s theoretical and practical aspects and apply your knowledge to real-world problems.
In addition to these core courses, you’ll learn mathematics, statistics, and related quantitative subjects. Courses may include computers and society, introduction to computer systems, data structures and algorithms, software engineering, computer architecture, operating systems, programming languages, and computer networks.
You’ll also choose elective courses such as AI programming, web development, computer graphics, human-computer interaction, and computer security throughout your studies. If you’re specializing in AI, you’ll need to take courses focusing on the fundamentals of AI, machine learning, and deep learning. Your curriculum may include natural language processing, computer vision, and robotics. Additionally, you may take classes on reinforcement learning and knowledge representation.
If you specialize in data science, you’ll take courses on data analytics, modeling, and visualization. Your schedule may include data wrangling and cleaning, data mining, big data processing, text mining, and predictive analytics.
The curriculum will focus on network security, system security, and digital forensics in cybersecurity. Your course schedule will cover cryptography and cryptanalysis, intrusion detection and prevention, network security, computer forensics, and cybercrime investigation.
Admissions Requirements for an Online Computer Science Degree
Admissions requirements vary across schools and programs. However, many of the requirements are consistent between institutions, and you can expect the minimum test scores and grade point averages to apply to almost any school.
In addition to filling out an application, you’ll also need to submit an admissions essay. It should discuss your educational and professional goals and how a computer science degree will help you achieve them. Although a computer science program won’t focus on English writing, this application essay must be well-written.
You will likely also need to submit letters of recommendation from previous professors, employers, or supervisors. These letters should include information about your academic performance, work experience, and potential to succeed in an online college.
Lastly, the application may ask for standardized SAT, GRE, or GMAT test scores. High school and college GPA scores must also typically exceed a C average. In more competitive programs, students must have higher GPA scores, although some top-tier schools place more emphasis on overall academic merit.
Accreditation for an Online Computer Science Degree
Selecting an online computer science degree program should involve considering accreditation, which guarantees that an educational institution or program adheres to specific benchmarks of excellence and thoroughness. Accreditation is a procedure of external quality control that assures this.
Accreditation of the School
Regionally accredited online colleges are highly respected. Here are the six regional accrediting bodies.
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
The two most respected accrediting bodies for computer science programs are the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and the Computing Sciences Accreditation Board (CSAB).
ABET is a nonprofit organization that accredits university programs in natural and applied science, computing, engineering, and technology. According to the organization’s website, ABET provides services to 4,564 programs at 895 institutions in 40 countries.
The Computing Sciences Accreditation Board accredits computer science and information technology programs. CSAB is a joint effort between ABET and the Computing Research Association. CSAB’s goal is to ensure that computer science and IT programs meet the highest standards of quality and rigor. The organization accredits bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.
Both ABET and CSAB are important accreditation sources for the top computer science programs. Accreditation from either of these organizations shows that a program meets the highest standards of quality in the industry. While some online colleges may have accreditation from lesser-known associations, it’s vital to investigate the reputation of these credentials before enrollment.
Financial Aid & Scholarships for an Online Computer Science Degree
Public financial aid can include grants and loans from the U.S. Department of Education. The most common type of federal aid is the Pell Grant, which is based on financial need and doesn’t have to be repaid. Other options include the Perkins Loans, awarded to students with exceptional financial need, and the Direct Loans, available to all students regardless of financial need. Fill out a FAFSA form to see what financial aid options are available.
Private sources of financial aid include scholarships, grants, and loans from private organizations, businesses, and individuals. These awards are often based on academic merit, financial need, or other criteria, such as volunteering or community service.
There are unsubsidized federal loans, private loans, and Parent-Plus loans for students who need additional financial aid. Before signing off on a high-interest loan, consider all available options, as these loans usually have steeper repayment terms than subsidized public loans.
Regarding scholarships, computer science students have plenty of options. For example, the SMART Scholarship for Service is a merit-based program for undergraduate and graduate students interested in pursuing a career in defense research or engineering. This program provides full tuition and stipends of up to $25,000, plus additional funds for research activities, internships, and conferences.
The IEEE Presidents’ Scholarship rewards outstanding students pursuing electrical and computer engineering degrees. This scholarship offers $2,000 to students who demonstrate academic excellence, leadership, and passion for their field.
The Adobe Research Women in Technology Scholarship is an annual program that awards up to $10,000 to female students who are actively pursuing degrees in engineering, CS, or a related STEM field. This program also provides mentorship and community-building opportunities to help students succeed.
Lastly, the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation Scholarships are available to students interested in robotics and engineering. They offer scholarships to high school seniors who demonstrate a commitment to robotics and engineering.
What Can You Do With an Online Computer Science Degree?
Software development is a very common career path for computer science graduates. Software developers are involved in the entire production lifecycle, from creating detailed technical specifications to launching new products. As a developer, you’ll have the chance to engage with cutting-edge technologies, solve complex problems and create full-scale applications.
Another option is user experience design. This field is all about creating products that are easy and enjoyable to use. As a UX designer, you’ll work closely with software developers and engineers to develop user-friendly interfaces and ensure that products are designed for maximum usability and efficiency.
If you’re interested in mobile app development, consider a career in building mobile apps for smartphones and tablets. In this role, you’ll develop user interfaces, create coding logic, and test apps for compatibility across multiple platforms.
Another career option is IT project management. As a project manager, you’ll plan, organize, and manage IT projects to ensure they meet organizational goals and timelines. This job requires the skills to think strategically, manage budgets and coordinate teams of professionals.
An online computer science degree could also lead to a career in information security analysis. In this role, you’ll protect organizational data and systems from cyberattacks. You’ll use your computer science and cybersecurity knowledge to identify and address risks, create and implement security policies, and monitor systems for potential threats.
How Much Does an Online Computer Science Degree Cost?
The average cost of an online college degree is between $20,000 and $40,000, but this cost depends on the institution and the student’s personal circumstances. Some schools charge by the term rather than the credit hour, so tuition rates vary. In general, in-state schools charge less for tuition than out-of-state schools. Most in-state students can expect to pay around $1,000 per course in tuition alone.
Educational expenses can include tuition, fees, books, and lab materials. Some programs require students to purchase a laptop or other computing device. Fortunately, as a student, you’ll be eligible for educational discounts on a wide range of computer equipment. Personal expenses might include rent, food, transportation, and other costs such as entertainment and babysitting. While grants and loans can cover educational and personal expenses, keeping your student debt burden to a minimum is always a good idea.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Computer Science Degree?
Most online computer science programs are designed to accommodate the demands of working professionals and students with existing commitments. Online schools offer flexible scheduling and the ability to complete coursework at your own pace. However, the timeline for completing a degree will depend on the program type and your commitment level.
Some online colleges offer accelerated programs that take two to three years to complete. These programs typically require more intensive coursework and may only suit some students. Additionally, some schools offer dual-degree programs that make it possible to earn two degrees at the same time.
Generally, a bachelor’s degree will take four years to complete, while a master’s degree will take one to two years. While online programs offer scheduling flexibility, they typically follow the same course outlines as traditional programs at the same schools. A motivated student could finish an online bachelor’s degree in three years by taking summer and winter classes or enrolling in an accelerated program. However, remember that it will be challenging to absorb the difficult material in later computer science courses at such a fast pace.
Are There Affordable Online Colleges for a Computer Science Degree?
If you want an affordable program, look for online schools that offer the same quality of education as traditional brick-and-mortar universities but at a lower price point. To get the best value, compare tuition rates and other costs such as fees and books. Additionally, see if the school offers financial aid or scholarships that could help make the program more affordable.
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of potential schools, look into each program’s curriculum and course offerings to ensure that the classes are current and the program is accredited. Also, research the faculty and staff to verify that they’re experienced and knowledgeable.
Next, consider the type of learning environment that works best for you. Many online programs cut down on student expenses with larger class sizes and computerized testing, but these methods may not suit every student. While online schools are generally cheaper than traditional universities, the total cost will ultimately depend on your state of residence, major, and course schedule. Additionally, many brick-and-mortar schools offer affordable online programs for in-state students.
Is Getting a Computer Science Degree From an Online College Worth It?
Online learning is convenient for students too busy or far away to attend a traditional college. Most online programs allow students to specialize in cutting-edge tech industry areas, such as data science or AI research. Employers will recognize the quality of education from an accredited online program, making this option ideal for non-traditional students looking to become software developers, AI engineers, or IT professionals.
Suppose you want to specialize in a particular area of computer science. An online college offers the flexibility to focus on one subject at a time. Many accelerated programs even restrict students to taking one course at a time to ensure good comprehension. Because online programs are designed with flexibility in mind, they enable you to choose courses tailored to your interests and career goals.
Online degrees are increasingly respected in professional settings. Many top universities now offer online degrees with the same academic standards as their traditional programs. Overall, online computer science degrees provide the same quality education as their traditional counterparts but at a lower cost and reduced time commitment.
10 of the Best Schools Offering Online Computer Science Degrees
From top-ranked universities to specialized tech schools, plenty of colleges have excellent online computer science programs. The regionally accredited schools highlighted here offer comprehensive academic programs, faculty with industry experience, and flexible learning options. Whether you want to work in software engineering, data science, or AI, any of the ten programs will be an excellent choice. They are listed in alphabetical order.
1. Auburn University (Auburn, AL)
The online bachelor’s program in computer science offered by Auburn University offers an extensive education on the fundamental aspects of computer science. Enrolled students will gain knowledge on the latest programming languages and technologies, enhance their abilities in problem-solving and critical thinking, and acquire an understanding of computer architecture, computer networks, and software engineering principles.
2. Austin Peay State University (Clarksville, TN)
The online computer science degree at Austin Peay State University focuses on programming, data structures, operating systems, and computer architecture. It also covers more advanced topics such as data science and systems engineering. Students can specialize in network security, robotics, and game development.
3. Baker College (Owosso, MI)
At Baker College, students will gain a deep understanding of computer architecture, algorithms, operating systems, computer networks, and software engineering. Through a combination of lectures, hands-on activities, and learning exercises, students will develop the skills they need to design and develop software for various platforms. The program enables students to pursue unique internships and gain real-world experience.
4. Central Methodist University (Fayette, MO)
CMU’s online computer science program gives students a top-notch computing analysis and software engineering education. Students will learn the latest programming languages, algorithms, data structures, and best practices for software development, project management, and system security. The program covers computer ethics, networks and communications, and computer architecture and design.
5. Charleston Southern University (Charleston, SC)
At Charleston Southern University, online students can gain the knowledge and skills needed to excel in many fields. The computer science curriculum covers the fundamentals of computing and advanced topics such as systems architecture, operating systems, programming languages, databases, and software engineering. Students will learn how to design and implement software systems and solve complex computing problems.
6. Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO)
The online computer science program at Colorado State University Global Campus teaches students the principles of computer programming, software engineering, web development, and the fundamentals of AI, data science, and machine learning. It also offers specializations in cybersecurity, data science, and game development. After graduation, students will be qualified for a career in software design, computer engineering, or a research discipline.
7. Dakota State University (Madison, SD)
The program at Dakota State University delivers a comprehensive education in programming, data structures, algorithms, software design, computer architecture, and operating systems. Areas of specialization include cybersecurity, AI research, and mobile app development, ensuring that graduates have plenty of career opportunities in the tech industry.
8. DePaul University (Chicago, IL)
DePaul University’s online computer science program prepares students for computing, engineering, and IT careers. It combines real-world experience with theoretical knowledge, so graduates will be equally ready to enter the workforce or continue their studies in graduate school. The program covers programming languages, computer architecture, operating systems, software engineering, and human-computer interaction.
9. Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL)
Florida State University offers both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in computer science. These online programs delve deeply into data structures, algorithms, software engineering, and computer architecture. Students will gain experience in web development, database systems, and modern computer technologies such as blockchain and 3D graphics pipelines. While the B.A. is suitable for students who want to enter the workforce after graduation, the B.S. is a better option for those seeking graduate school.
10. University of Florida (Gainesville, FL)
The online computer science program at the University of Florida covers programming languages, data structures, algorithms, operating systems, databases, and networks. Students will gain a mastery of software engineering, research methodologies, and computer architecture. Graduates of the program will have no trouble impressing potential employers with their programming skills and expertise.
Getting Your Online Computer Science Degree
Studying online can help you advance your career and gain an in-depth understanding of technology that is transforming the world. However, it can also be more challenging than in-person learning, so you may want to spend time preparing for the experience.
The first step is to assess your knowledge of computer science. If you’re already familiar with programming, databases, and operating systems, you should be able to complete your degree promptly. Otherwise, you may want to learn the basics before enrolling in a program. Preparation will help you keep up with the accelerated pace of online learning, making it easier to graduate on time.
After enrolling in a program, meet with your counselor to create a study plan. They will help you set goals, create a schedule and find the best methods for your study. Throughout the program, you’ll take web-based exams and complete capstone projects. Therefore, give yourself enough time to plan, develop and build full-scale software applications each semester.
Regular interaction with faculty and professors can help you stay motivated and focused on your studies. One way to keep up the enthusiasm is to take frequent breaks and reward yourself for reaching significant milestones. Strategic self-care will help you stay on track and complete your degree on schedule.