Earning an associate degree in computer science is often the first educational step for someone exploring a future in computers and technology. Learn how this two-year credential helps students cultivate the background knowledge, skills and formal training required for many entry-level computer science careers.
A bachelor's degree in computer science offers graduates a variety of opportunities for career growth and advancement. Students develop considerable knowledge and skills in the field to enhance marketability and the opportunity to work toward more advanced study.
Master's degrees in computer science offer advanced students a number of education and career growth opportunities. Read more about the basics of computer science at the graduate level, including an overview of the degree and how it works via online learning.
A doctorate degree is the terminal achievement in the study of computer science. It is designed for professionals who wish to make a lasting impact and contribution to both practice and knowledge in the field. A doctorate in computer science can make a bigger impact on the graduate's marketability and also allow the Ph.D. to impact others in the field through instruction at the university level.
Computer science degrees are in high demand, largely due to ample and high-paying job prospects. It’s no surprise, then, that computer science degrees are some of the most popular offerings in the world of online learning. Degree programs, from associate to doctoral, are plentiful. Some programs allow students to combine the coursework of a bachelor’s and a master’s, enabling them to earn both degrees in less time. Others offer fast track options that enable students to earn a degree in as short a time as one year.
As with any discipline, some online computer science degree programs are better than others. When evaluating options, students should consider three key categories:
The computer science industry is constantly in flux. New technologies are introduced practically daily. A good computer science degree program must be able to keep up with the industry by updating its courses regularly. The coding languages and skills students learn must still be relevant when they graduate. Check course offerings to ensure they are up to date.
Many computer science courses can be challenging. It’s important to evaluate the type of student support the online computer science degree program offers. How accessible are the professors? What type of tutoring help is available? Is there an option to come to campus for assistance?
Employers only recognize degrees granted from accredited schools. Any other degree, online or campus-based, is practically worthless in the job market. Colleges that offer online education degree programs are generally accredited by one of six regional accrediting agencies. Regional accreditation applies to all of a school’s programs, including its computer science degrees. Online schools may also be accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). In addition, schools have the option of having their computer science programs accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Students should look for at least regional or DETC accreditation when selecting a program.
Are online computer science degree programs accepted by employers?
Absolutely. Online learning has come a long way and even major universities now offer online degree programs where students earn the exact same diploma as those learning on campus. Often employers can’t tell whether a degree was earned online or on campus. As long as the online degree program is accredited regionally, by DETC or ABET, employers should accept the degree.
How can I tell if an online computer science degree program is reputable?
Only consider schools and programs that are accredited. An accredited college has been assessed by an independent agency and found to meet basic quality standards. Look for regional accreditation, and/or accreditation by DETC or ABET. If a school lists other accreditations, make sure the accrediting agency is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
What types of computer science degrees are available online?
Online computer science degrees are available at every level – associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral.
Is an online computer science degree easier to complete than a classroom-based program?
Accredited online computer science degrees are considered to be of the same quality as classroom-based degrees and are certainly not any easier to complete. In fact, online courses can sometimes be even more rigorous than their classroom- based counterparts. Its important to evaluate the type of student support an online computer science degree program offers.
How much time should I expect to spend earning an online computer science degree?
The length of time it takes to complete an online computer science degree varies greatly and depends on many factors, such as the type of degree, whether you pursue full- or part-time study, the number of credits required, and whether the program offers accelerated study options. Students should expect to devote several hours per week to each course they take. Again, the actual time spent will vary, but schools can help students estimate their time allotment needs.
Some computer science degrees, such as hardware engineering, require hands-on lab work. How do online programs handle these requirements?
Programs that require lab work are sometimes offered in a hybrid format, where students take most of their classes online, but go to campus for their lab-based science and design courses. Others offer their degrees fully online and use various technologies to simulate lab work. Which you choose will be a matter of preference and convenience.
How can I gain practical experience while I’m pursuing an online computer science degree?
All students pursuing a computer science degree, whether online or in the classroom, should consider completing an internship as a way to gain hands-on, real-world experience. While internships are generally not a graduation requirement for online programs, it’s worthwhile to research the options and pursue one as a way to get a leg up in the competitive job market.
Computer science careers are incredibly varied. Computer scientists code software, build components, figure out how to handle massive amounts of data, create websites and even solve crimes. Learn more about specific types of computer science careers below.
Software engineers are tasked with the development and maintenance of the software systems that many companies today depend upon. Beyond software development and programming, the software engineer is able to assess a client's needs and keep these at the forefront as they take a blank canvas and create something immensely useful. With an expected growth of 30 percent by 2020, a software engineering degree can result in an important and enjoyable lifelong career with excellent earning potential.
At minimum, a bachelor's degree is required to become a software engineer; however, many colleges and universities now also offer master's degree programs. Software engineering degree programs require strong math and logic skills, as well as a variety of computer science, information science and engineering courses. Those interested in working for big businesses or in management positions will fare better with a graduate degree. The most sought after graduate degrees for this career path are in systems design, engineering or mathematics.
If you’re interested in becoming a software engineer, you can visit our page on software engineering degrees.
Additional Resources:Association of Software Professionals
A computer hardware engineer researches, designs, develops and tests computer systems and their components in order to further advance computer technology. From computer chips to keyboards, printers and complete computer systems, the hardware engineer is tasked with the design, development and testing of it all. A bachelor's degree in hardware engineering could very well result in a successful career with a remarkably high median pay at a research laboratory or in a large, high-tech manufacturing firm.
At minimum, a bachelor's degree in computer science or computer engineering is required to become a computer hardware engineer, but there are master's degrees available in this field as well. Some of the specializations in this field include robotics, computer architecture and artificial intelligence. Those who are interested in pursuing a degree in hardware engineering should have a strong background in mathematics, science and engineering courses. Coursework includes: algebra, trigonometry, calculus, chemistry, physics, hardware, electromagnetic fields, microcomputers, and electronic devices. Prospective students should also ensure that the bachelor's degree program of interest is accredited. ABET, Inc. is the most common accrediting body in schools of engineering.
If you’re interested in becoming a computer hardware engineer, you can visit our page on computer engineering degrees.
Additional Resources:ABET, Inc.
Computer programmers create code and software programs that successfully direct computers to accomplish specific tasks. By using computer languages and codes, programmers can improve upon products designed by software developers or engineers, enabling computers to better execute desired tasks. The job of computer programmer was recently ranked at number 30 in US News: The 100 Best Jobs of 2014 due to its expected growth and high median salary of roughly $74,000 per year.
Although an associate degree or certification may be adequate for some computer programming positions, the most sought after candidates hold a bachelor's degree or higher in computer science, information systems or mathematics. Employment opportunities are remarkably improved for students who are able to obtain an internship, as many company-based programs are quite intensive in terms of training. The ability to collaborate with others and constantly learn are highly desirable skills of a computer programmer, but knowledge of a variety of programming languages is a necessity. Java, C, C++, Perl, Ruby and Python are a few of the most common languages required.
If you’re interested in becoming a computer programmer, you can visit our page on computer programming degrees.
Additional Resources:How to Become a Computer Programmer
A Cyber Special Agent with the FBI enjoys an exciting career dedicated to the investigation and prevention of advanced crime, attacks on national security, acts of terrorism and other sophisticated threats. Earning a bachelor's degree in one of several computer science or information technology fields can lead to a rewarding career as an FBI Cyber Special Agent. These individuals are tasked with maintaining alliances in the public and private sectors in order to coordinate, facilitate, and supervise investigations that involve federal violations concerning the Internet, networks or computer systems. Job growth is predicted to rise in this field as the world becomes more and more dependent upon computer technology.
In order to become an FBI Cyber Special Agent, one must first obtain a bachelor's degree. The Federal Bureau of Investigation prefers candidates for this position to have a degree in computer science, computer engineering, computer forensics, cyber security, cyber investigations, ethical hacking, electrical engineering, information assurance, information technology, and mathematics or network administration.
If you’re interested in becoming a Cyber Special Agent (FBI), you can visit our page cyber security degrees.
Additional Resources:Federal Bureau of Investigation Jobs: Cyber Careers
Computer Forensics Analysts work with private firms and law enforcement agencies as experts in information retrieval. Even if devices have been damaged or corrupted internally or externally, Computer Forensics Analysts are trained to pull as much information as possible from computers or data storage devices. In addition to information retrieval, these individuals may also test information system security to find vulnerabilities. A bachelor's degree with a specialization in Computer Forensics can result in a rewarding career that is currently in very high.
The minimum degree required to become a Computer Forensics Analyst is a bachelor's degree. Several government agencies and companies now require Forensic Computer Analysts to receive Certified Computer Examiner certification from The International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners. Students pursuing a bachelor's degree in Computer Forensics can expect coursework to include heavy mathematics, forensics and technology courses. As the technological world continues to advance, this profession will experience rapid employment growth.
If you’re interested in becoming a computer forensics analyst, you can visit our page on computer forensics degrees.
Additional Resources:Information Systems Security Association
A Computer Security Architect is responsible for maintaining the security of a computer system. These individuals are employed in both private and public sectors and are tasked with securing government systems as well as corporate networks and websites. With a critical need to fill cyber security jobs now and the employment opportunities expected to rise significantly over the next decade, a bachelor's degree with a specialization in Computer Security Architecture can result in a secure career path with a great earning potential.
A bachelor's degree in computer engineering or computer science, as well as additional training and security architecture certification, are necessary in order to become a Computer Security Architect. Students interested in pursuing a bachelor's degree in this field can expect coursework to be heavy in mathematics, computer languages, computer science, computer software and hardware, logic and computer technology. Computer Security Architect certifications can increase the job seeker's value. The most sought after certifications include CEH, CEPT, CompTIA Network+, CPT, CWAPT and CREA.
If you’re interested in becoming a computer security architect, you can visit our page on information security degrees.
Additional Resources:INFOSEC Institute: Security Architect
Information Systems Managers are responsible for overseeing the day-to-day computing activities of a company or organization. These individuals determine the goals for an organization's information technology and then implement systems that will meet or surpass those goals. With an expected growth of 17 percent in the employment sector by 2018, a bachelor's degree in Information Systems Management can result in a rewarding career with a remarkably high median income.
A bachelor's degree is required for nearly any position as an Information Systems Manager, as well as additional training and certifications. Bachelor's degrees in Computer Science, Management Information Systems and Information Science are most desirable and those holding master's degrees will earn significantly more income than their bachelor's degree counterparts. In addition to a degree, the majority of positions also require several years of work-related experience.
If you’re interested in becoming an information systems manager, you can visit our page on information technology degrees.
Additional Resources:Association of Information Technology Professionals
Computer Systems Analysts are responsible for analyzing a company's computer system and procedures, and then designing and implementing solutions that will assist the company in running more effectively. Individuals who find themselves drawn to information technology and business may find the perfect blend as a Computer Systems Analyst, as this profession requires a strong understanding of both. With very strong employment growth (25%) expected through 2022, this profession will be in high demand for several years to come.
A bachelor's degree is required in most instances to obtain a position as a Computer Systems Analyst. The most desirable degrees are those held in Computer Science, Information Science or Business Administration with a concentration in Information Systems. Graduates in this field can expect to earn a minimum of $50,000 and maximum of around $124,000 annually.
Additional Resources:Bureau of Labor Statistics: Computer Systems Analysts
A Database Administrator is tasked with storing and organizing data for governments, companies and organizations. The type of data varies from financial information to shipping information and beyond. Database Administrators also have to make sure that this information is available to the people authorized to access it. Those who have a strong attention to detail and are interested in obtaining a bachelor's degree in Database Administration can expect to enjoy a rewarding career. In addition, with an expected growth of 15 percent in the employment sector, this profession will remain in high demand for several years to come.
A bachelor's degree is the minimum required to obtain employment as a Database Administrator. Bachelor's degrees in Management Information Systems, Information Technology or Computer Science are the most desirable. The majority of individuals seeking positions first complete several years of work-related experience prior to becoming a Database Administrator. Companies with larger databases tend to lean towards those who hold a master's degree focusing on database management. Certifications, such as MCDBA, can also make a candidate more desirable.
If you’re interested in becoming a database administrator, you can visit our page on database degrees.
Additional Resources:Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Database Administrator
A Software Developer is the creative mind behind every computer program. These individuals are assess the needs of users and then design, test and develop software that will meet or exceed those needs. For those with creative tendencies and a strong interest in programming, a bachelor’s degree in computer science can lead to a financially rewarding career as a Software Developer. This profession is ranked as #1 on US News & World Report’s The 100 Best Jobs of 2014. Not surprisingly, it also made #9 on CNN Money’s Best Jobs in America 2012.
A bachelor's degree is the minimum required to obtain employment as a Software Developer. Many interested in this profession choose to earn degrees in computer science or software engineering; however, those holding mathematics degrees are also desirable. Persons who have strong computer programming and software building backgrounds tend to be the most successful. Those entering this field may initially work as programmers until enough experience is gained to earn a higher degree of responsibility.
Additional Resources:Association of Software Professionals
A Web Developer is the person responsible for creating websites, apps and more. From the technical aspects of a site to its capacity and performance, the Web Developer creates it all. In some instances, these individuals also create the content. For those interested in a rewarding career with a minimum educational commitment, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in web development can open up a great many opportunities. In fact, Web Developer is currently listed as #9 on US News & World Report’s The 100 Best Jobs of 2014 due to the profession’s high demand.
The minimum degree required to obtain employment as a web developer is an associate degree; however, bachelor's degrees in web development are typically more marketable. Degrees obtained in the field of web design, programming or computer science are generally the most desirable, but the ability to showcase work experience in this field can outweigh the need for a formal degree. This is especially true in instances where web developers are considered for more technical positions, such as web architect.
If you’re interested in becoming a web developer, you can visit our page on web developer degrees.
Additional Resources:Bureau of Labor Statistics: Web Developer
Salaries within the field of computer science will depend on the type of job and its geographic location. The chart below illustrates the average salary ranges for several computer careers. Try our salary tool to see how much these particular types of computer scientists make in different areas of the country.
In the field of information technology, employers look for candidates with certifications, because these indicate a person has the knowledge, experience, and skills to perform a specific job. Some certifications are technology-specific, while others focus on measuring skills independent of any specific hardware or software products. Certification candidates generally complete a classroom or online course of study and pass an examination. Some certifications are only valid for a certain period of time and need to be renewed periodically. Here we take a look at three popular types of certifications:
Microsoft, one of the world's leading software corporations, offers certifications that validate the holder's expertise with its technology. Microsoft Certified Professionals also have access to community resources that enable the exchange of ideas, increase knowledge and skills, and broaden career opportunities. Certifications are available in three levels, each requiring increased levels of knowledge and expertise: Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA), Microsoft Solutions Associate (MCSA), and Microsoft Solutions Expert (MCSE). Certifications are offered in the following five categories:
Cisco Systems, a leader in networking equipment, offers five levels of network certification, each indicating increased experience and expertise: Entry, Associate, Professional, Expert and Architect, the highest level of accreditation within the Cisco Career Certification program.
An additional designation, that of Specialist, further certifies those with Cisco Career Certifications at the associate, professional or expert levels. By earning specialist certifications, network professionals can enhance their core networking knowledge in technologies such as security, data center or video.Cisco certifications include:
CompTIA offers vendor-neutral certifications that measure foundational skills. They show employers that a candidate has skills to do a job, regardless of the hardware or software product the company uses. There are four levels of CompTIA certifications:
We've all become familiar with the portrayal of computer geniuses as socially inept individuals working at all hours in dark basement rooms. Movies and television have done a stellar job of propagating this image of computer scientist as nerd. But the reality is quite different. Most computer science professionals work in teams and collaborate on projects on a daily basis. In fact, successful computer science professionals tend to have several core skills and traits in common. Take this quiz and see how you compare.
Many teachers have special skills, knowledge, and talents that help them teach, lead, and inspire. Do you have what it takes to be a teacher? Answer the following 10 questions to find out.
It looks like a career in computer science may not be a great fit. However, you may possess the various attributes necessary to succeed in other technology-related careers.
It looks like you possess some of the skills, traits and interests shared by today's most successful computer science professionals. However, you may need to develop certain areas during your education or training to maximize your effectiveness in the workplace.
It looks like you have many of the attributes found in today's top computer science professionals. A formal degree program can help you hone those skills and launch a lucrative career.
A guide to help minority students make the most of the plentiful opportunities in the field of computer science.
A guide to help young women select, prepare for and succeed in computer science careers.
For many fields, an education is not considered complete without some sort of practical experience. Computer science is no different. Luckily, computer science internships abound. Here we look at eight top internship programs in both the corporate and government realms.
Google offers paid technical internship opportunities to undergraduate students in the U.S. and around the globe. With guidance, interns build new features and improve on existing products. Start dates are flexible and are offered year-round, but interns need to commit to at least three months of full-time work.
Facebook employs interns on a regular basis in a variety of its areas, including analytics, data center design, data warehousing, security, and software engineering. Internships typically last 12 weeks and are well paid.
Microsoft offers two levels of internships for college students. Freshmen and sophomores can participate in Explore Microsoft, a 12-week paid summer internship program designed to expose students to the field of software development through hands-on training and group project experience. More experienced upperclassmen and graduate students can apply for paid internship positions in specific areas such as software development and hardware engineering.
Apple employs hundreds of interns worldwide in a variety of areas, including hardware engineering, information technology, operations, and software. Through this hands-on learning opportunity, interns become part of a vibrant community and enjoy unique exposure to corporate leaders at Apple.
The NASA Pathways Intern Program provides students with the opportunity to explore NASA careers and gain meaningful developmental work experience. The program offers internship in most areas of NASA, including information technology. Interns may help design, develop, implement, and maintain software solutions; gain experience in information security and COMSEC; support web tools; and provide software application support.
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency offers a variety of internships and co-op opportunities for computer science students. Requirements vary, so check the website listings for additional information on positions currently accepting applications. And, plan in advance, because applications are due nine to 12 months before the desired job start date.
The NSA's Computer Science Intern Program (CSIP) is 12-week paid internship open to students majoring in computer science or related disciplines. CSIP interns apply their computer science skills to NSA hardware and software systems on projects that contribute to NSA's mission. Internships culminate in a short presentation and technical paper.
The Washington Internships for Students of Engineering (WISE) selects outstanding junior or senior engineering/ computer science students, or students in engineering/ computer science graduate programs, from a nation-wide pool of applicants. The students spend nine weeks in the summer in Washington, D.C. learning how government officials make decisions on complex technological issues, and how engineers can contribute to legislative and regulatory public policy decisions.