Online Computer Science
Degree Programs & Majors

Anyone interested in attending a computer science school may have questions as they research their options. Prospective students, whether undergraduate or graduate, will need to evaluate options for specialization, learning modes, funding sources and more. This guide helps students find an appropriate computer science degree program with a breakdown of typical course work, scholarship opportunities and some career ideas.

Online Computer Science Colleges

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Studying for Computer Science Degrees

Students who love working with computers and have a knack for manipulating technology programs could be well-served with a traditional or online computer science degree. At the associate level, students prepare to pursue entry-level positions by learning the basics of software development, programming and engineering. A bachelor’s degree builds on this knowledge with a focus on computer architecture, software applications, data and computer systems.

Graduate degrees allow students to explore more specialized fields or to build qualifications for a management role. Advanced degree programs require more research-heavy studies. Prospective students should focus on earning the academic and professional qualifications for their desired career path. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that a bachelor’s degree may suffice for some computer and information research scientists, but a master’s and/or doctorate is common in this occupation.

Earning an Online Computer Science Degree

The study of computer science is well-suited to distance learning programs, which depend on technology to facilitate instruction as well as interaction with peers and professors. Computer scientists can rely more heavily on e-learning options, in contrast to prospective teachers or physician assistants who need in-person training in the field. However, computer science-related occupations do require collaboration among research and development teams.

Advancements in technology enable virtual communications, both in the workforce and in school. When pursuing an online computer science degree, students experience classes through lecture-capture and tools such as Adobe Connect, Blackboard and Skype. They communicate with faculty and other students through email and chat programs, and can submit assignments and take assessments online.

Program Highlight:
Online Computer Science Degree – Bachelor’s

An online bachelor’s degree in computer science will prepare graduates for professional careers in networking and programming. In addition to required general courses such as mathematics, English and liberal arts, students gain technical knowledge and analytical skills to meet modern challenges. Coursework includes foundations in computer science, database systems, online security, operating systems and programming languages.

This online computer science degree generally consists of 110 to 130 credit hours, depending on the college, with about 21 hours of electives that can help students develop specialized skills to make them more marketable. In an online computer science school, classes are delivered 100 percent virtually. Students access course materials and submit assignments via email or through a course management system, such as Blackboard. Distance learners are often required to participate in discussions via online forums, discussion boards or chat sessions.


Name: SCOTT W.



What has been the biggest benefit of distance learning at your college?

I am an older student who went back to school to finish my degree. I already work full-time in my field of study, so this is a degree to round out my prior experience. Because I work full-time, it is important to me to be able to set my school schedule around my work and family schedules. If I was forced to attend a physical class for every course, it would be much more difficult for me to graduate.

What role has technology played in your online computer science degree program?

Since I already work in the field, technology fits well into my current lifestyle. Had this kind of technology been available back when I was in college the first time, I believe I would have finished my degree back then. This technology makes course study fit my personality and my lifestyle.

How does your online program help prepare you for a career after graduation?

Since I already have a career in this field of study, graduation will give me the degree to go along with my experience to move my career forward. The online program simply makes it easier to finish the degree.

Associate’s Degree: Online Computer Science School

A two-year computer science degree can give students a head-start in related fields and allow graduates to transition to a bachelor’s program. In addition to required core courses, such as English and mathematics, students discover the basics of computer science, statistics and related topics. While specific curriculum varies among online computer science degree programs, below is a list of some of the most common courses:

COURSE NAME overview
Introduction to Computer Science Introduces the major areas of computing technology, organization and use. Covers the history of computers and computing, data representation and storage, ethical and social issues and more.
Principles of Computer Science Shows how to develop and test computer programs with a structured, top-down philosophy.
Special Topics in Computer Science Explores timely topics and trends in computer science.
Calculus Studies the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus and related mathematical topics.

Bachelor’s Degree: Online Computer Science School

A four-year bachelor’s degree gives graduates more background and experience in computer technology. This online computer science degree program typically examines emerging trends and technologies. Students often develop solutions for computer systems and infrastructure and analyze various programming languages, among other tasks. Some of the coursework for a bachelor’s program may include the following:

COURSE NAME overview
Concepts and Applications of Information Technology Covers hardware, software, applications, security and ethics, and the Internet.
Introduction to Problem Solving and Algorithm Design Teaches various techniques for solving problems through structured programming. Students design programs using pseudocode and participate in hands-on activities.
Introduction to Discrete Structures Surveys basic math concepts and how they relate to computer science.
Introductory Programming Evaluates structured and object-oriented programming using Java and design. Provides the opportunity to implement, test and document Java programs.
Technology in Contemporary Society Introduces students to the role of technology in today’s society.
Data Structures and Analysis Students research and develop secure programs and study user-defined data structures.
Computer Systems and Architecture Provides an overview of the fundamental concepts of computer architecture and application of practical skills to computer systems.
Current Trends and Projects in Computer Science Capstone course emphasizes the integration of concepts learned throughout the program.

Online Computer Science Degree – Master’s

Most students can complete a master’s degree in computer science in two years. These programs provide more in-depth study of mathematical, scientific and technical processes related to computers and networking. Master’s-level students may pursue more advanced career opportunities or go on to further studies in a doctoral program.

Master’s programs are highly individualized, allowing students to choose a track and specialty. For example, those planning to enter a doctorate program may take a more academic, research-based approach. Students who want to advance their profession generally take classes that do not require extensive research, and may need to take a comprehensive exam.

The curriculum for a master’s program in computer science will vary by school, department and specialization. Students at an online computer science school should work closely with an academic advisor to ensure that their chosen track aligns with their personal and professional goals. The table below lists just one example of a possible program.

Advanced Operating Systems Covers a broad range of topics in operating system design and implementation. Highlights key operating system developments.
Computer Networks Explores topics in computer networking and various tools in everyday networking research.
Software Development Process Studies how to develop software systems and use software processes in development.
Machine Learning Focuses on supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning by machines and programs.
Artificial Intelligence for Robotics Provides an overview of basic artificial intelligence, including probabilistic inference, planning and search, localization and more.
Algorithm Design and Analysis Includes the basic techniques for the design and analysis of algorithms.
Principles of Computer Architecture Explores advanced concepts in computer architecture, including pipeline hazards, superscalar issues, memory-hierarchy design and cache architectures.
Research Seminar Students prepare and present seminars on the subject of their choice.

Online Computer Science Degree – Doctorate

A PhD in computer science is the capstone degree for the field. Whether graduates are looking to pursue career paths in academia or business, this computer science degree program generally takes about four years, unless individuals engage in graduate assistantships or other opportunities. The majority of the program consists of academic research in a very individualized capacity, allowing students to focus on a particular topic of interest. Most PhD candidates write and defend a dissertation in front of a panel of peers and respected professionals before earning the degree.

In addition to a dissertation, students at online computer science schools complete coursework similar to a master’s program, but with a higher emphasis on research. Courses often reflect an area similar to the dissertation topic.

How Can Graduates Use an Online Computer Science Degree?

In a society increasingly dependent on technology, there are a variety of career options for those who have earned an online computer science degree. These professionals are highly in demand for developing and building mobile apps, data centers, networks and information systems.

Computer scientists research, invent and design technological innovations and find new ways to implement existing technology. They work to improve tech tools in diverse industries like education, health care, science, business and others. The specialties below are examples of careers that fit under the broad umbrella of computer science.

Featured Careers

  • Computer/Information Systems Managers

    These professionals focus on all things technical and computer-related at a company. Computer and information systems managers, also known as IT managers, are often responsible for directing and overseeing computer-related activity and network security. They also learn about new technology and keep up to date with their company’s computer and technical needs, whether hardware or software-related, to ensure that systems are effective and efficient.

    Median Salary: $120,950

    Median Hourly: $58.15

    Est. Growth: 15.3%

    No. Employed: 309,740

    Minimum Education: Bachelor’s

  • Computer Network Architects

    Data communication networks are designed and built by computer network architects. They map out all the specifics of the network, whether it’s a small connection or a large one. They must consider everything when building the network, from determining where certain cables will be laid to ensuring the network’s security.

    Median Salary: $91,000

    Median Hourly: $43.75

    Est. Growth: 14.6%

    No. Employed: 137,890

    Minimum Education: Bachelor’s

  • Computer Programmers

    The job duties of a computer programmer include writing code to create software programs, testing code, and identifying and fixing bugs or problems. They use programs to automate code writing and can expand upon or change existing code to meet a business’ goals and needs. They often work with software developers to design programs and software.

    Median Salary: $74,280

    Median Hourly: $35.71

    Est. Growth: 8.3%

    No. Employed: 316,790

    Minimum Education: Bachelor’s

  • Computer Systems Analysts

    The goal of a computer systems analyst is to ensure that a company’s information technology systems and procedures function efficiently and effectively. After talking to managers to determine what is needed, analysts figure out costs, research new technology, and implement and test new systems to ensure everything works correctly. They also write instructions for using the new system and help train users or troubleshoot issues.

    Median Salary: $79,680

    Median Hourly: $38.31

    Est. Growth: 24.5%

    No. Employed: 482,040

    Minimum Education: Bachelor’s

  • Database Administrators

    Database administrators, or DBAs, use specialized technology to store and organize data, and show others how to access it. DBAs work closely with management to create database structures that are reliable and perhaps mostly importantly, secure. Some administrators may have specialized duties. System DBAs, for example, are responsible for the technical and physical aspects of a database, while application DBAs maintain databases for specific applications, such as customer service software.

    Median Salary: $77,080

    Median Hourly: $37.06

    Est. Growth: 15.1%

    No. Employed: 111,590

    Minimum Education: Bachelor’s

  • Information Security Analysts

    These technology professionals plan and implement ways to protect computer networks and systems at a company. This involves watching for and documenting security breaches, as well as keeping up to date on information technology trends. Information security analysts also help colleagues understand security products and best practices to keep their data safe.

    Median Salary: $86,170

    Median Hourly: $41.43

    Est. Growth: 36.5%

    No. Employed: 72,670

    Minimum Education: Bachelor’s

  • Network/Computer Systems Administrators

    Network and computer systems administrators are a crucial part of just about every organization. These professionals are responsible for the daily operation of a company or organization’s IT network, from local area networks (LANS) to intranets. They use their knowledge and expertise to determine the best network and system for an organization and then install and maintain the necessary hardware and software. Day-to-day responsibilities also include troubleshooting any issues that arise and updating or repairing networks when needed.

    Median Salary: $72,560

    Median Hourly: $34.88

    Est. Growth: 11.7%

    No. Employed: 350,320

    Minimum Education: Bachelor’s

  • Software Application Developers

    Software application developers create applications that help users complete or manage tasks on a computer or mobile device. After analyzing a user’s needs, these developers design, create and test applications that meet those needs. They usually work with programmers, who write the code for such applications, but some developers write code themselves.

    Median Salary: $90,060

    Median Hourly: $43.3

    Est. Growth: 22.8%

    No. Employed: 586,340

    Minimum Education: Bachelor’s

  • Systems Software Developers

    Systems software developers create the software that runs computers and other technological systems such as phones or network routers. They may also develop the software drivers and firmware for computer components. Systems software developers should not be confused with software application developers, who create the actual programs, or applications, that run on an operating system.

    Median Salary: $99,000

    Median Hourly: $47.59

    Est. Growth: 20.4%

    No. Employed: 391,700

    Minimum Education: Bachelor’s

  • Web Developers

    A web developer’s main task is to design and create a website. This can include technical aspects such as coding the site using programming languages, as well as non-technical responsibilities such as overseeing the content, graphics, and audio on a site, working with designers and writers to determine the site’s content and layout.

    Median Salary: $62,500

    Median Hourly: $30.05

    Est. Growth: 20.1%

    No. Employed: 102,940

    Minimum Education: Associate’s