In today’s tech-savvy society, every industry is impacted by computers and digital technology. Employers demand highly qualified, innovative professionals who are ready to meet contemporary computer science demands and address emerging dilemmas. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that computer-related job opportunities will increase by 13% through 2026, while computer science professionals should anticipate a 19% growth rate.
An online computer science degree focuses on the theory and application of software design and computer programming. Students learn to analyze algorithms and data structures that assist with solving communication or technological problems. Additionally, most computer science bachelor’s students graduate with a professional portfolio due to the hands-on nature of the program. This guide covers vetted programs, strategies for choosing the most suitable program, potential occupations, earning potential, funding options, and strategies for offsetting tuition through scholarships.
Below is a current list of the best online computer science degrees offered. Similar to on-campus schools, online universities vary in both quality and accreditation. A good computer science program contains coursework that develops the professional skills needed to gain employment upon graduation. Important factors for selecting a school include information such as graduation rate data, cost of tuition, student services, and program-specific resources. With these factors in mind, the listed programs have been vetted through the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.
According to the BLS, through 2026 computer-related occupational opportunities are expanding much faster than average, and often carry considerable median salaries. This suggests that earning an online computer science degree is the first step toward qualifying for an array of lucrative careers. In order to accurately project earning potential, students should examine which field or specialty interests them. While no degree can guarantee job placement or a specific salary, this degree does ensure students possess the pertinent skills needed for common computer science-related positions. Below is a list of common computer science careers.
Computer and information research scientists are hands-on with all computer-related functions. These professionals are subject matter experts who influence the IT goals of their organization and are responsible for executing the goals they set. Graduates holding this degree could eventually be on track to become chief information officers or chief technology officers.
These engineers are expert researchers who also design and develop computer systems. Typical responsibilities include developing computer equipment schematics, testing designs, analyzing results, and keeping equipment up to date. In some roles, professionals may oversee computer hardware manufacturing. This role requires effective communication and collaboration with other engineers to ensure hardware components are compatible with the latest software.
Computer network architects focus on the design of LAN and WAN communication networks. These networks range in both size and capability, which means that professionals may be hired directly into large organizations or may work for a company that services many small organizations. Duties include presenting communication network plans to upper management, upgrading hardware, and researching new technologies that support the organization or clients.
In this role, analysts create a bridge between business and information technology. Professionals also examine current computer systems to identify ways they could be improved. Analysts are responsible for calculating the cost and benefit analyses for all upgrades. Other job roles include customizing new systems and overseeing their installation. Management responsibilities often require professionals to monitor projects and personnel working on the project to ensure its success.
Computer and information systems managers, also known as IT managers, plan and execute computer-related initiatives. Organizations rely on their expert knowledge to determine computer system goals. Other duties include staying abreast of recent technological developments, ensuring network security, conducting cost-benefit analyses, and negotiating services with vendors. Because most managers do not perform all of these duties, professionals must have good communication and collaborative skills to work with other managers.
Sources: BLS 2018
Job outlook and salary projections for professionals who graduate with an online bachelor’s degree in computer science certainly vary by education level, but students should also consider geographic location. According to the BLS, the top paying states include New York, Washington, and New Mexico, and the highest employment levels include California, Virginia, and Maryland. Still, job roles make a difference. Scientific research and development services, software publishers, and federal executive branch roles hold the highest concentration of employment.
A bachelor’s degree in computer science satisfies general education requirements in addition to foundational knowledge and theories. However, coursework offered tends to differ because universities have their own standards for developing curricula. Some computer science programs are more developed than others, allowing them to offer more elective options than other, more limited programs. Students should consider the expectation of accrediting agencies in this field, as they set the minimum standards for what programs should offer.
Students examine current problems associated with operation system designs and implementation processes. This course provides historical perspectives and focuses on process management, memory management, and file systems.
This course begins with computer organization principles and basic programming concepts. Students explore issues including embedded systems and parallelism. By the end of the course, students should be able to write basic computer programs using iterative and conditional structures.
This course familiarizes students with the design and implementation processes of database management systems. Through case studies and commercial database systems, students explore topics including storage models, data models, and query language.
This introductory course exposes students to the analysis and design methods of computer algorithms. By the end of this course, students should be able to analyze asymptotic performances, apply design paradigms of analysis, and synthesize efficient algorithms.
This course examines challenges associated with developing computer systems that can handle cognitive tasks, including natural language processing, reasoning, representation, and learning. Students develop valuable problem-solving, planning, and decision-making skills through hands-on projects.
There are multiple factors to consider when choosing a computer science bachelor’s degree online. For instance, reputable accrediting agencies help to ensure programs meet pertinent academic standards. Additionally, students should consider what fees may be incurred by the program outside of tuition costs, such as internship or clinical fees. Students who want an advanced degree might consider what other programs their school offers. This section addresses common questions about a bachelor’s in computer science.
There are multiple factors that can influence the cost of a bachelor’s degree in computer science. For instance, online programs through prestigious universities or brick-and-mortar schools in general may cost more than programs that are 100% online. Students should also consider residency requirements. Many online programs still charge out-of-state tuition. Generally speaking, students should expect to pay at least $30,000.
Online programs are commonly offered asynchronously, which means students are provided a syllabus in the beginning of the semester that outlines all due dates. Each week, students have a combination of assignments, exams, projects, or discussion board prompts to complete on a certain day. Students are typically able to engage with professors and classmates for help or collaboration. Some courses may require additional programs or field experience.
While there is no guarantee that concentration areas lead to higher pay or secure job placement, students should review the job outlook for potential career paths and identify what additional skills could increase their marketability. However, many schools do offer degree concentrations for computer science, which include data mining, embedded systems, bioengineering, genomics, and game animation.
Over 85% of schools in the U.S. are regionally accredited. Therefore, students should look for one of the six regional accrediting agencies for overall school quality. However, computer science students should also consider programs vetted by the Computing Accreditation Commission, which is a branch of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
While there are multiple professional computer science organizations that offer student-level memberships, students may want to consider the IEEE Computer Society, which has existed since 1946 and has over 60,000 members across the globe. Also, the Computing Research Association (CRA) focuses on intellectual and ethical integrity of the computer science field. The CRA also offers awards to undergraduate students.
Paying for tuition is a primary concern for students considering an online computer science degree. Students typically regard FAFSA grants and loans as the primary source for funding their education. Federal grants are a great option since they do not have to be repaid. However, loans must be repaid and collect interest, meaning you can ultimately pay significantly more than what you borrowed. In addition to grants, students should consider applying for scholarships. There are multiple foundations and professional organizations that set aside funds to help students pay for their tuition.
The Richard E. Merwin Scholarship sets aside $40,000 each year for students who are active volunteer leaders. Students must have a minimum 2.5 GPA and be in the last two years of their undergraduate program in a computer-related program to qualify. Application deadlines are the end of April and September each year. Additionally, students must be enrolled full-time and be in good academic standing. Awards are $1,000 or more.
The Lance Stafford Larson Student Award encourages students to develop exceptional communication skills in the field of computer science. Students must submit a 20-page paper that examines a computer related subject and can apply each year before October 31. The first place award is $500.
This honor society encourages students in the computing discipline to reach academic excellence. This award is offered through Upsilon Pi Epsilon and the IEEE Computer Society. Each year, a maximum of $1,000 is awarded to four students who have at least a 3.0 GPA. Recipients also receive a free one-year periodical subscription. Applicants should be completing their bachelor’s degree and must be enrolled full-time at an accredited university.
Formerly known as the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship Program, the Women Techmakers Scholars Program strives to promote gender equality in computer science. This award is given to candidates who display academic excellence and leadership qualities. The best candidates should have created some level of impact in the female tech community. Students should be enrolled full-time at an accredited university. Awards range from $5,000 to $10,000, and winners are invited to the annual Google Scholars’ Retreat.
Each year, the Energy Telecommunications and Electrical Association awards the Wayne Black Scholarship Award to a student pursuing a degree in a computer science-related field. Desirable candidates should display an affinity for technology, academic excellence, and leadership qualities. Applicants must be undergraduate students enrolled full time at an accredited university, and must submit a one-page biography and a five-page essay. This award is $5,000.