Yes, many schools offer online computer science degrees. See below for a ranking of top online computer science programs.
Accelerated Online Computer Science Degrees
A diverse, interdisciplinary field, computer science (CS) focuses on the theories, mathematics, and applications that underlie computing. CS programs cover automation, algorithm design, and computability. Students pursuing an online computer science degree also develop in-demand core skills in computer hardware, programming, and software engineering.
Some programs emphasize business acumen, while others prioritize technical skills. However, all good CS degrees move enrollees closer to lucrative, in-demand careers in rapidly growing fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that computer and information technology professionals earned a median annual salary of $88,240 in 2019. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow 11% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than average for other occupations.
The following page highlights the timelines, curricula, and financing options for top accelerated online computer science programs. Compressing course content into eight-week intensive terms, accelerated programs move at a demanding pace. However, many accelerated online programs accommodate working students by allowing them to take fewer courses while still finishing their degrees in a reasonable timeframe.
Can I earn a computer science degree online?
Yes, many schools offer online computer science degrees. See below for a ranking of top online computer science programs.
How long does it typically take to earn a bachelor's in computer science?
Traditional bachelor’s programs take about four years. However, accelerated programs can potentially cut this timeline in half by running several accelerated terms per year.
What is the fastest I can earn a bachelor's degree in computer science?
Full-time students with a related, transferable associate degree can complete some accelerated bachelor’s programs in just one year. To reduce time-to-degree, enrollees attend full time, taking intensive courses across 5-6 accelerated terms per year.
What is the difference between an accelerated program and a bootcamp?
Bootcamps usually serve bachelor’s degree-holders seeking an efficient, cost-effective route toward a CS-related career. Accelerated programs usually serve students who do not yet possess a bachelor’s degree.
Accelerated Online Computer Science Degrees 2020
The following ranking highlights top computer science programs and summarizes key program details. Prospective students can quickly compare schools’ concentration options, program requirements, and degree timelines to make educated decisions.
Accelerated programs typically feature intensive courses that last 7-8 weeks and cover the same content as traditional, 15-week semester courses. By offering two terms per semester, usually including the summer, accelerated programs often run up to six short terms per year.
Online accelerated computer science programs typically cater to working students seeking continuing education in the evening. Students in part-time accelerated bachelor’s programs often take 1-2 courses per term and take four years to complete their degree. However, part-time accelerated programs can save learners time and money by allowing them to keep their day jobs.
Some accelerated computer science programs allow enrollees to take a full course load. However, intensive courses require roughly twice the weekly time commitment of regular courses. Working students may struggle to manage a full load of accelerated courses. Prospective students should consider their schedules to ensure that intensive courses fit into their lives.
Learners enrolled in accelerated programs at schools with flat annual or semester tuition rates may save money by completing more courses per semester. Talking to alumni can provide insight into the accelerated program experience.
Career and Salary Outlook for Computer Science Graduates
Computer science graduates benefit from the ongoing technology boom. The BLS indicates that computer and information technology professionals earned a median annual salary of $88,240 in 2019 — more than double the median for all occupations.
The BLS projects jobs for other professionals, such as software developers and information security analysts, to grow 22% and 31%, respectively, between 2019 and 2029. The industries employing the most software developers include computer systems design and related services, manufacturing, software publishing, and management. Most entry-level positions in computer hardware engineering, database administration, information security analysis, and software development require a CS-related bachelor’s degree.
These website designers and creators usually specialize in front-end or back-end development. Common tasks include determining clients’ preferences and needs, collaborating with other designers, creating applications and code, and monitoring site traffic. Entry-level web developer positions often require an associate degree.
Median Annual Salary: $73,760Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029): 8%
These professionals compose code for running computer applications and software. Computer programmers also test, correct, and update codes and programs. These professionals may design programs and develop software themselves or work closely with software developers. Computer programmers usually need a related bachelor’s degree and earn a median annual salary of $86,550, according to the BLS.
Median Annual Salary: $86,550Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029): -9%
These professionals design, maintain, and upgrade computer systems, applications, and programs. Most developers specialize in either systems software development or applications development. They assess user needs, create diagrams, perform upgrades, and document developments. The BLS projects jobs for software developers to grow 22% between 2019 and 2029.
Median Annual Salary: $107,510Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029): 22%
Tasked with directing IT goal assessment, planning, and implementation, these managers monitor network and information security (IS), consult with executives, and supervise CIS personnel. Daily activities also may include researching new technologies and communicating with vendors.
Median Annual Salary: $146,360Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029): 10%
Accreditation for Computer Science Programs
Schools and programs often undergo a voluntary evaluation process used to verify the quality of their academic programs, faculty, and resources. Accreditation status can affect financial aid and credit transfer, so most schools seek accreditation from national or regional accrediting agencies approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
Good-quality accelerated online computer science programs typically only reside in regionally accredited institutions. These are colleges and universities that meet academic standards set by the designated CHEA-approved accreditor in the school’s geographical region. These schools meet higher standards than nationally accredited schools and therefore only recognize credits and degrees from other regionally accredited schools.
Top computer science programs also usually feature programmatic accreditation from one of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology’s member societies, such as CSAB, Inc. The Department of Education database of accredited schools and programs can help prospective students determine accreditation status.
Courses in Computer Science Programs
Online computer science programs usually entail 48-60 credits of major-related coursework, which enrollees earn through core courses, specialization courses or electives, and capstone projects or internships. Core coursework introduces students to the computer science discipline, builds technical skills, and examines digital technology ethics. Capstone projects or internships build skills in research, analysis, and application of technical knowledge to real-world settings. Students may graduate with a project portfolio to share with potential employers.
To fulfill electives or concentration requirements, students often take specialized courses clustered in a field such as data science, security, artificial intelligence, or software engineering. See below for descriptions of common computer science courses, but keep in mind that course offerings and concentration options vary by program.
- Software Engineering Often offered as part of a software engineering track or concentration, this advanced course starts with stakeholder-identification and requirement-elicitation tools including prototypes, interviews, specifications, and validation techniques. The curriculum also covers diverse model and requirement types befitting various representational purposes. Enrollees also learn about methods for storing non-functional requirements.
- Introduction to Computer Science This core course provides a useful overview of the discipline, featuring topics including computer architecture, data organization, networking, and information security. Enrollees also learn computational theory and foundational computing concepts such as abstractions, algorithms, programming, and computational problem-solving.
- Data Structures and Algorithms Focused on data structures including graphs, stacks, and queues, this core computer science course teaches students related algorithm design, analysis, and recursion techniques. Enrollees also gain familiarity with animating software for data structures and algorithms. Algorithm design techniques covered may include dynamic programming, pattern matching, graph computations, and divide-and-conquer.
- Machine Learning and Big Data Core coursework for students concentrating in data science, this course focuses on the organization and analysis of big data sets. Course content covers algorithms employed by industrial automation and biometrics applications. Learners explore key tools and topics such as histograms, classifier design and application, k-means clustering, and neural networks. This course typically requires learners to build their own programs using Python and pseudocode.
- Digital Technology Ethics This course discusses ethical dilemmas related to digital technology issues such as intellectual property, censorship, privacy, and autonomous machines. Other possible topics include computational genomics, computer forensics, and pervasive computing. Relevant for aspiring computer forensics and IT or IS managers, this course often appears in core curricula or in information security-related concentrations.
Computer science students seeking financial aid should begin by completing the FAFSA. The government uses this data to connect students with aid options including federal grants and scholarships, which students do not repay. Students may also explore federal loans and work-study options. Since the government offers aid on a first-come, first-serve basis, applicants should submit the FAFSA by January 1 or soon thereafter to improve their financial aid prospects.
Prospective students should consider loan options carefully. Subsidized loans do not require interest payments while students are in school. Unsubsidized loans begin accruing interest immediately.
Students in online programs can often save money by paying lower tuition rates, avoiding commuting or on-campus housing costs, and retaining their jobs while pursuing their degrees.
Scholarships for Computer Science Majors
Many college students qualify for scholarships from private funders, companies, or nonprofits. Eligible applicants usually demonstrate academic merit, financial need, and special group membership. See below for some scholarships that can support computer science degree-seekers.
Benatao Family Fillipino American Education Fund
Who Can Apply: Filipino-heritage college freshmen studying the sciences at accredited schools in designated California counties may apply. Eligible candidates attend full time at four-year schools, maintain a 3.0 minimum GPA, and have at least 50% Filipino heritage.
Amount: $5,000, renewable annually
Scholarships for Women Studying Information Security
Who Can Apply: Women students enrolled in accredited bachelor’s or master’s in computer science programs may apply. Eligible applicants are members in an information security-related club or work in a related job.
Amount: Up to $10,000. Includes optional career mentoring program participation and all-expenses paid security conference invitations.
Google Lime Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Students with disabilities studying computer science full time at accredited schools may apply. Applicants must demonstrate passion for CS, academic accomplishment, and leadership potential. Application materials include four short essays, transcripts, a resume, and a recommendation letter.
Generation Google Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Bachelor’s or graduate computer science students at accredited schools in the United States or Canada who demonstrate academic merit, leadership, and commitment to increasing diversity in computer science may apply. Applicants submit academic transcripts, reference letters, a resume, and four short essays.
CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service
Who Can Apply: This government-funded program pays full tuition costs to recipients at participating universities. Each school specificies its own application requirements. Recipients complete 10-week summer internships and work for the government after graduation. Work obligation years match the number of years the student collected the scholarship.
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