Affordable Online Computer Science Degrees

Computing was once just a job description. Individual employees, usually supervised by a physicist or mathematician, manually performed the calculations necessary to operate businesses, conduct research, or manage governments. Today, nearly every aspect of daily life is automated in some form, and computer science is one of the most popular academic disciplines in the country.

While many experts believe that our understanding of computer science barely scratches the surface of the subject’s capabilities, students in the field still have plenty to learn and do.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job opportunities in the field to skyrocket in the coming years, specifically for software engineers, web developers, database administrators, and computer science researchers.

A computer science degree can help qualify you for a range of employment opportunities across every industry. Aspiring computer scientists can pursue formal training in school, in offerings ranging from an introductory associate degree to an elite doctorate program. If you are interested in pursuing a degree in computer science, read on to learn more about the field and about the professional opportunities available to graduates.

Did You Know?

Computer science leads to the highest-paying jobs in the country, yet the ratio of graduates to job openings in the field is still woefully low. “There are currently over 500,000 open computing jobs, in every sector, from manufacturing to banking, from agriculture to healthcare, but only 50,000 computer science graduates a year,” reports the nonprofit Computer Science Education Coalition. Learn more about how a degree in computer science can help you enter one of the nation’s fastest-growing industries.

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What Can You Do With a Degree in Computer Science?

Software Developer

$98,260 Avg Annual Salary
Bachelor's Degree Required

Software developers use their refined skill set to craft innovative technology. Whether working in software applications or systems design, these professionals build programs that directly impact the user experience. Software developers collaborate with other computer scientists, vendors, and end users to create products ranging from games to productivity tools to complex database infrastructure. Because colleagues and end users are not always trained in technology, the job requires excellent communication skills. Not only must these professionals comprehend the gap between user problems and technical solutions, they must also help users deploy and maintain programs that bridge that gap. In addition to a working knowledge of sophisticated technology, successful software developers must be able to move fluidly between plain-English explanations and technical jargon.

  • Degree Required: BS in Computer Science, BS in Mathematics
  • Licensure Required: Vendor licensure is available from entities like Apple and the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers (IEEE). Licensure is not required, but it is viewed favorably by employers.
  • Time Commitment: 4 years
  • Median Annual Salary (Entry-Level): $62,100
  • Median Annual Salary (Mid-Career): $89,700
  • Median Annual Salary (Late-Career): $200,100

Web Developer

$64,970 Avg Annual Salary
Associate Degree Required

Web developers work on websites, whether on back-end architecture or front-end design and function. Working closely with website owners (who may or may not have technical training), graphic designers, content producers, and developers create the user experience with code. Back-end website developers design a site’s structure according to the site owner’s specifications, often while planning for the site’s eventual expansion. Back-end code can require you to build database access and administration, design multiple servers to manage a business, or enhance technical details like a site’s performance, speed, and capacity. On the front-end, a web developer is concerned with the user interface, graphics, and other visual elements that create look and functionality, like shopping carts or image display.

  • Degree: Associate of science (AS), associate of applied science (AAS), bachelor of science (BS)
  • Licensure Required: Vendor licensure is available from entities like Apple and the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers (IEEE). Licensure is not required, but is viewed favorably by employers.
  • Time Commitment: 2-4 years
  • Median Annual Salary (Entry-Level): $55,000
  • Median Annual Salary (Mid-Career): $77,000
  • Median Annual Salary (Late-Career): $165,000

Database Administrator

$81,710 Avg Annual Salary
Associate Degree Required

Database administrators manage the enormous volume of data collected by businesses across all industries. Often, this data is sensitive, and includes medical information or transactional histories; administrators must ensure that the data is protected and secure. Databases that contain large data stores or feature multiple entry points are likely to become corrupt from user error. Database administrators ensure that the data is kept clean, functional, and that it returns accurate results to meet the company’s needs. Collaboration with IT staff and non-technical management is standard in this position, so these professionals need solid communication skills and IT knowledge to thrive.

  • Degree: AS, AAS, or BS
  • Licensure Required: Public schools in all 50 states require licensure and certification, while teachers at private schools typically do not.
  • Time Commitment: 2-4 years
  • Median Annual Salary (Entry-Level): $60,000
  • Median Annual Salary (Mid-Career): $75,000
  • Median Annual Salary (Late-Career): $88,000

Computer Science Careers by the Numbers

The BLS tracks employment data in computer science, projecting future job growth for the highest-earning positions and the highest-paying employers. While the top two highest-earning positions — computer and information research science and computer network architecture — are projected to experience respectable job growth, the demand for computer programmers is actually expected to decrease. The BLS attributes this decline to a tendency among companies to hire programmers in countries where wages are lower. However, the high cost of managing overseas projects sometimes offsets any savings, which has led many companies to continue employing programmers in the U.S.

Top Computer Science Careers by Income and Growth Rate
Career Salary Job Outlook
Computer and Information Research Scientists $110,620 + 11%
Computer Network Architects $100,240 + 9%
Computer Programmers $79,530 – 8%
BLS employment projections data, 2014-2024

Highest Paying Computer Science Careers by Sector


What Does it Take to Succeed in Computer Science?

There are certain traits that lend themselves well to succeeding in computer science. Attention to detail is necessary when working with finicky code, as is a data-driven mindset. Additionally, the following traits are also considered valuable by employers in the field.

  • Curiosity

    The most successful computer scientists are the ones willing to take apart a process, a page of code, or a piece of equipment in order to fully understand how it works. Besides contributing to a greater understanding of a product’s function, this natural inquisitiveness can unveil previously uncovered inefficiencies or lead to an innovative solution to a problem.

  • Lifelong Learner Mentality

    Some experts say that we’re only in the infancy of understanding software’s capabilities. New technologies, languages, and processes are developed every day, and a successful computer scientist is always abreast of new technology. Because employers don’t always fund formal training or certification processes, it’s up to the professional to stay on top of new developments.

  • Adaptability

    The Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously said that the only thing that is constant is change. This applies to computer science. Because the natural consequence of product development is one of discovery and redirection, job requirements can change quickly. Being able to rapidly change directions as specifications evolve is essential to success.

  • Business Acumen

    For computer scientists in the industrial corporate sphere, it’s essential to understand how the business works. It’s impossible to effectively deploy a web page, software application, or database without a solid grasp of the company’s needs; planning for future technological development is particularly dependent on this skill.

  • Initiative

    The role of a computer scientist is to create tech solutions, but the process does not exist in a vacuum. Management, sales teams, end users, and content providers may all have a say in a product’s specifications. Because your colleagues are presumably less tech-savvy than you, you might need to interpret their needs and independently develop the right product. Confidence in your ability to use technology to solve their problems is essential.


Associate Degree in Computer Science: An Overview

Who should pursue an associate degree in computer science?

An associate degree is sufficient if you are seeking entry-level positions in database administration, network administration, or web development, or if you are preparing to transfer into a four-year bachelor’s degree program.

How long does it take to get a teaching degree at this level?

Two years.

Is a thesis or capstone usually required?

No formal thesis or capstone is required, but students should expect hands-on programming and coding projects.

What can you do with a teaching degree at this level?

Graduates from an associate degree program are prepared for positions as computer support specialists, IT specialists, programmers, web developers, technology coordinators, and information research scientists.

What's the average salary for someone who holds this degree?

The average salary is $43,200.

Core Concepts

Core classes in a two-year associate degree program in computer science cover the advanced mathematics that underpin programming and data structure. Additionally, a typical curriculum covers database administration and programming in applicable languages. Standard core concepts include:

  • Discrete Mathematics: Calculus, analytic geometry, and linear algebra
  • Programming in Assembly Language: C-based, Java, and advanced Java fundamentals
  • Data Structures: Recursive programming, storage allocation, stacks, queues, and linked lists
  • Technical Support Skills: Installations, repair, and troubleshooting

Course Highlights

Database Management Systems

Description Learn how database management systems work and how techniques are used to design and develop modern database management applications.
Job Skill
  • The ability to maintain a database at a high level of efficiency and without errors.
  • Generate new databases depending on user or business needs.
  • Protect and ensure the integrity of data.

Principles of Computer Science

Description Introduction to the fundamentals of all computing science. The class covers computing hardware and physical structure, theory of computation, basic programming, and common applications.
Job Skill
  • Troubleshoot hardware and facilitate repair.
  • Familiarity with typical usage modes.

Introduction to Object-Oriented Programming

Description Explores Java in detail, along with interactive graphics, intuitive user interface design, and data structures and algorithms. Students will become familiar with complex graphics programs including interactive sketching applications.
Job Skill Write programs in Java that are modular, reusable, and easily integrated with the web.

Affordable Schools With Online Associate Programs

Affordable Online Associate Degrees in Computer Science
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1

Cleveland Community College

Value Score 8.22
Average Tuition $2,304 (In State)
Students Receiving Financial Aid 100%
Net Price $145
Graduation Rate 23%
Student to Faculty Ratio 10:1
Number of Programs 77 (Online)
Founded in 1965, CCC serves Shelby, North Carolina and its surrounding areas, offering affordable, accessible educations to students on campus and online. The school offers one of the most affordable online associate degrees in computer science in the state, and 60% of students graduate with zero student loan debt. Focused on both technical training and preparation for further education, the college maintains relationships with several four-year schools in the UNC system, making it easy for students to transfer and earn a bachelor’s degree. In CCC’s online computer science degree, you can focus in data management, information and support, network management, systems security, or web administration and design. The degree prepares students for positions as designers, testers, support technicians, administrators, developers, or programmers, and courses cover the fundamentals of computer science and information technology. Students develop practical skills in courses that stress the competencies necessary for industry certification exams.
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2

South Piedmont Community College

Value Score 7.64
Average Tuition $1,728 (In State)
Students Receiving Financial Aid 76%
Net Price $5,364
Graduation Rate 35%
Student to Faculty Ratio 15:1
Number of Programs 73 (Online)
The newest community college in North Carolina, SPCC has served students since 1999 through three regional campuses and a comprehensive distance education program. The computer information technology program at SPCC Introduces students to the principles of information management systems, preparing them to design, develop, implement, and repair complex computer systems, including software, hardware, and networks. Students can choose from a number of program concentrations, including game and simulation programming, healthcare informatics, information systems, IT business support, network telecommunications, systems security, and web administration and design. Regardless of your specialization, core courses teach students the fundamentals of information technology, including operating systems, computer operations and terminology, databases, security, and technical support.
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3

East Mississippi Community College

Value Score 7.60
Average Tuition $2,200 (In State)
Students Receiving Financial Aid 95%
Net Price $3,490
Graduation Rate 27%
Student to Faculty Ratio 12:1
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 45%
Number of Programs 65 (Online)
Serving over 5,500 students, EMCC has offered quality, affordable education since 1927. The college is part of the Mississippi Virtual Community College, a consortium of schools that share online resources to increase student access to distance education. Students can register at EMCC but take additional courses offered through more than a dozen other community colleges. The school offers associate of applied science degrees in computer networking technology and network security technology. The computer networking degree provides students with an overview of building and maintaining computer networks, while the network security technology degree teaches students how to secure networks and computers. Both programs cover a variety of topics, including protocol evaluation, operating systems, networking devices, hardware components, and software tools. Students can begin either program in the fall or spring semesters.
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4

Madisonville Community College

Value Score 6.91
Average Tuition $3,528 (In State)
Students Receiving Financial Aid 99%
Net Price $4,897
Graduation Rate 30%
Student to Faculty Ratio 14:1
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 38%
Number of Programs 25 (Online)
LMS Blackboard
A member of the Kentucky Community and Technical System, MCC has served Western Kentucky since 1968. MCC is part of the Kentucky Virtual Campus, a network of state colleges that combine resources to offer students a large selection of online classes. Through the virtual campus system, Madisonville offers a range of information technology degrees in different tracks, including computer science, information security, information technology, network administration, and networking technology. Students in all programs receive a foundational education in IT subjects; courses cover information systems, computer applications, program development, system maintenance, database design, and collaborative system development. MCC’s IT programs serves as a technical degree to prepare students for entry-level computing positions or as preliminary credits for a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Students at MCC also have access to the Kentucky Virtual Library, a comprehensive online database of scholarly journal articles, eBooks, and other media.
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5

Western Texas College

Value Score 6.86
Average Tuition $2,598 (In State)
Students Receiving Financial Aid 53%
Net Price $3,527
Graduation Rate 57%
Student to Faculty Ratio 17:1
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 68%
WTC offers a range of technical and academic programs to over 2,000 students. The school offers degrees in information technology business management and medical information technology. The information technology degree focuses on the relationship between IT and modern business practices, offering students additional certification options in web design, server and computer maintenance, or office specialization. The medical information technology program prepares students for entry level positions where you’ll use modern medical technology. Both programs include core courses focusing on information security, database management, and using software programs. Distance learners can also access the school’s learning resource center, which offers a range of academic services to help with research, writing, and other aspects of college level academic work.
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Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science: An Overview

Who should pursue a bachelor's degree in computer science?

A bachelor’s degree in computer science introduces you to the fundamental theories and applied science of the field. If you aspire to become a software engineer, website developer, or want to work in database management and design, systems design, or tech management, you would be well suited for this program. The degree also prepares you for further postgraduate study in the discipline.

What can you do with a teaching degree at this level?

A bachelor’s degree is typically completed within four years of full-time study.

Is a thesis or capstone usually required?

Candidates for the BA or BS in computer science should expect to deliver a senior thesis and capstone project, respectively. Depending on individual programs, this requirement could consist of an internship or other practical experience, a written review of existing research, an original research project, or a lengthy programming project.

What type of jobs does this degree prepare you for?

A four-year bachelor’s program prepares graduates for employment across the field. Graduates often find jobs as software engineers, system managers, database administrators, network engineers, or principal researchers.

What's the average salary for someone who holds this degree?

The average salary is $81,300.

Core Concepts

The core curriculum in a typical bachelor’s program is focused on the foundational mathematical theory behind computer science, along with the practical applications in common programming environments. Beyond general coursework, you may also concentrate your degree in artificial intelligence, biocomputing, systems, graphics, information management, or other computing specialty area. Standard coursework includes the following components:

  • Principles of Systems: Systems from their basic hardware to their source code. Basic assembly languages, standard architecture, processes, networking, memory models, and compilation skills are emphasized.
  • Data Structures and Algorithms: Data structure and algorithms commonly in use, such as search algorithms, divide and conquer strategy, graph algorithms, greedy algorithms, heaps, hashing, and randomized algorithms.
  • Computing Foundations: Essential functions and concepts within the discipline, including logic and proofs, functions, sequences, graphs and trees, Boolean logic, pushdown automata, and computability.
  • Object-Oriented Programming: Algorithms and their implementation in computing languages. Topics of study include debugging, data collections, graphical user interfaces, searching versus sorting, conditionals, the iterative approach, and more.

Course Highlights

Introduction to Software Engineering

Description Classes cover each phase of the software engineering cycle. Special attention is given to requirements analysis, design modeling, project management, module-level design principles, and program validation and verification.
Job Skill Develop a product within accepted business processes.

Ethics in Computing

Description This class delivers a thorough exploration of the legal, social, and ethical issues inherent in computer science. Students become familiar with concepts such as privacy, freedom of speech, copyrights, patents, encryption, and software reliability and safety.
Job Skill Perform within the industry’s acceptable standards of moral and legal conduct.

Systems Programming

Description Students explore multi-layer software systems, including application interfaces, user interfaces, device drivers, common systems software, and interrupt-driven and event-driven software.
Job Skill Mastery of sophisticated programming skills

Organization and Assembly Languages

Description Beginning with micro and ending with mainframe computers, this class examines internal computing system architecture. Courses emphasize computing hardware and implementing complex languages.
Job Skill
  • High-level Programming
  • Computing architecture analysis

Affordable Schools With Online Bachelor’s Programs

Affordable Online Computer Science Bachelor’s Degrees
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1

University of Illinois at Springfield

Value Score 7.16
Average Tuition $9,405 (In State)
Students Receiving Financial Aid 97%
Net Price $7,052
Graduation Rate 47%
Student to Faculty Ratio 14:1
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 63%
Number of Programs 4 (Online)
Founded in 1969 as Sangamon State University, UIS became a campus of the broader University of Illinois in 1995. For the past decade, the school has enjoyed a national ranking among the top 10 public regional universities in the Midwest. The student population of 5,000 is split in half between undergraduates and graduate students, including part-time and full-time students. Students on the school’s campus, 100 miles north of St. Louis, can select from among 29 bachelor’s degrees, 20 master’s, and a single doctoral program. Online, they can choose from among 1,597 options. Computer science is the most popular of them all, at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. To enroll in the online computer science bachelor’s program, students must meet a number of prerequisites: these include at least a 2.0 in their undergrad studies, two semesters of Java programming, and completion of a course in calculus, discrete or finite math, and statistics.
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2

University of South Florida

Value Score 7.14
Average Tuition $4,559 (In State)
Students Receiving Financial Aid 97%
Net Price $6,735
Graduation Rate 57%
Student to Faculty Ratio 25:1
Admissions Rate 53%
Enrollment Rate 17%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 44%
Number of Programs 1 (Online)
The University of South Florida is one of the nation’s largest research universities, with more than 48,000 students and campuses is Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Sarasota. The Bulls also have a strong online campus through USF’s Innovative Education department. The computer science bachelor’s degree online in information technology is offered through the university’s School of Computer Science and Engineering. It can be completed largely online, but does require that students attend a seminar at the end of the program. The IT curriculum includes data structure, database systems, software engineering, operating systems, and other computer science classes alongside traditional business courses. USF is a national leader in research and technology, and the school has a reputation for launching careers — and businesses. It’s in the top 15 of all U.S. universities for winning patents and for startup companies.
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3

University of Massachusetts – Lowell

Value Score 6.91
Average Tuition $1,454 (In State)
Students Receiving Financial Aid 88%
Net Price $10,718
Graduation Rate 54%
Student to Faculty Ratio 18:1
Admissions Rate 62%
Enrollment Rate 18%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 42%
Number of Programs 10 (Online)
The second-largest public university in Massachusetts, UMass Lowell offers more than 40 degrees online, from the undergraduate to graduate levels. The school has become renowned for its focus on hands-on learning, and its academic profile has been on the rise in recent years, garnering national recognition for its online programs and for its quality of education overall. Located 30 miles northwest of Boston, in the old mill town where Jack Kerouac grew up, the mid-sized research school is home to 17,000 students. UMass Lowell has one of the country’s largest virtual campuses for a traditional university, and its online BS computer science in information technology is nationally ranked. The core curriculum includes programming, networking, database management, website design, and multimedia systems, and several specialties are also available. The IT bachelor’s can also include be expanded with a minor in business. UMass Lowell is committed to making its offerings affordable, giving students an opportunity to earn a cheap online bachelor’s degree in computer science.
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4

Peirce College

Value Score 6.72
Average Tuition $13,200
Students Receiving Financial Aid 100%
Net Price $9,716
Graduation Rate 56%
Student to Faculty Ratio 12:1
Admissions Rate Open
Enrollment Rate 38%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 69%
Number of Programs 5 (Online)
Peirce has a unique history: founded in 1865 to educate Civil War veterans, it was one of the first schools in the nation to be coeducational. Set amid of Philadelphia’s Center City, Peirce is a private, nonprofit, four-year school with a mission to provide working adults with affordable, flexible education. The advent of virtual classrooms was a natural extension for the school, and it has a strong online presence. Most of its digital classes are offered in an accelerated, seven-week format, and they are nationally ranked among the best online bachelor’s programs. Peirce’s computer science bachelor’s degree online — information technology focuses on combining cutting-edge, hands-on skills with practical theory and soft skills. Graduates leave the program ready to design, integrate, implement, and administer computer-based systems. Classes are taught by faculty with direct experience at organizations like Hewlett Packard, IBM, and the Computer Sciences Corporation. Pierce partners with CompTIA, an IT trade organization, to help students save money on certification testing in various IT subject areas.
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5

The University of West Florida

Value Score 6.62
Average Tuition $4,319 (In State)
Students Receiving Financial Aid 91%
Net Price $8,387
Graduation Rate 45%
Student to Faculty Ratio 23:1
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 52%
Number of Programs 3 (Online)
UWF is one of the largest public universities in the Sunshine State, with multiple campuses serving its 13,000 students and a $1.4 billion impact on the region’s economy. The age range of the student body is a dramatic 14-90. The main campus is in Pensacola, and has been recognized nationally for its seaside beauty, but students can study at UWF from anywhere in the world thanks to its online campus. Ranked in the top three in the state, UWF’s online school offers more than 50 degree programs or certificate programs and has as many as 10,000 students enrolled at any one time. The online degree in information technology — network systems operations is a professional-level development program, teaching students how to design, put in place, maintain, and administer computer networks. Out-of-state students studying at UWF’s online campus can apply for an out-of-state tuition waiver that dramatically brings down costs.
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Master’s Degree in Computer Science: An Overview

Who should pursue a Master's in computer science?

Candidates for the MS in computer science are looking to build on the foundation of knowledge they gained in their bachelor’s program. Students are charged with mastering the underlying theory of computing, and developing fluency in advanced methodology and programming techniques. You should pursue a master’s if you aspire to upper-level or management roles in computing, or if you plan to pursue academic research or a PhD in computer science.

How many years will it take to complete?

Standard programs can be completed in two years of full-time study, or three to five years of part-time work. Many accelerated programs are also available, which can be completed in one to three years.­

Is a thesis or capstone usually required?

Yes. Under academic supervision, master’s candidates prepare a thesis project by conducting original research in computer science. The thesis is to be prepared for academic publication, and then defended orally.

What type of jobs does this degree prepare you for?

Mid to high-level positions managing computer science employees within the industry. Potential positions include senior software engineer, systems integration engineer, principal animation engineer, researcher, director of network systems, and director of software engineering.

What's the average salary for someone who holds this degree?

The average salary is $103,000.

Core Concepts

By building on the foundation you learned in your bachelor’s program, standard master’s degree core requirements dive deeply into computing and mathematical theory. Once you have developed a comprehensive understanding of fundamental theory, you will explore sophisticated practical applications while learning advanced programming skills. The core curriculum of a typical master’s program contains the following key concepts:

  • Networks: Administration of advanced technique within systems operations, including security, wireless networking, systems analysis, modeling, and simulation.
  • Data Systems: Principles of data mining, covering database systems, advanced database systems, and text information systems.
  • AI and Applications: Cognitive science and machine learning. Includes robotics, computer vision, and NLP.
  • Software Engineering: Programming languages and formal processes in engineering.
  • Graphics and Gaming: The interaction between humans and computers, including interactive graphics, production graphics, CAI, and social visualization.
  • Scientific Computing: Sophisticated research technique, such as numerical analysis, iterative methodology, fluid dynamics, and combinatorics.

Course Highlights

Machine Learning

Description An exploration of core concepts in machine learning. Areas of emphasis include regression, logistic regression, classification, SVM, HMM, ensemble method, nearest-neighbor, clustering, cross-validation, and more.
Job Skill Apply principles of artificial intelligence to programming products.

Advanced Computer Security

Description Cryptography and risk analysis; detailed exploration of high-level policy models, design principles, assurance, and malicious logic.
Job Skill Design and maintain systems that are engineered for safety and security.

Software Development Processes

Description Rigorous study of best practices in software development. Students follow the development process from specifications through quality control and maintenance. Multiple business processes are demonstrated.
Job Skill Design software within discrete business environments.

Concept and Design in Database Systems

Description Real-world example of database application development methodology. Students will explore the database development process from beginning to end, with thorough illustration of available tools and techniques. Metadata management and archival are also included.
Job Skill Design, build, and maintain database systems from scratch.

Affordable Schools With Online Master’s Programs

Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Computer Science
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1

Kennesaw State University

Value Score 9.14
Average Tuition $4,078 (In State)
Students Receiving Financial Aid 90%
Net Price $13,686
Graduation Rate 42%
Student to Faculty Ratio 21:1
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 28%
Number of Programs 33 (Online)
KSU‘s online master’s in information technology degree is offered through the College of Computing and Software Engineering. This program is designed for those who want a career in managing and overseeing information systems planning, development, implementation, and operations. Students can customize their program with focus areas in IT security, health information technology, databases, and networking.

Online courses are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC)
and held to same standards as on-campus. Courses also undergo a review process every three years through the Quality Matters program. Classes are taught by full-time faculty with real-world experience and academic credentials, and students have access to virtual resources like online library resources, online tutoring, and virtual writing center sessions. KSU is one of the 50 largest public universities in the country with over 70 fully online degrees, and over 130 countries represented in its student body. The university was elevated to a research-level institution by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education in 2015.
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2

Georgia Southwestern State University

Value Score 8.89
Average Tuition $3,222 (In State)
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 95%
Located in Americus, Georgia, a small-town community, GSW was founded in 1906. GSW offers an online master’s degree in computer science that is approved by SACSCOC. Elective courses are available in data mining, advanced software engineering, advanced computer graphics, and more. An internship is optional, and the number of required electives is reduced by half with the thesis option.

Online course curriculum is designed based on on-campus courses and optimized for distance learners. About 76% of faculty have a PhD or terminal degree in their field. GSW offers rolling admissions, and all accepted students are provided access to Microsoft Office 365 tools. GSW alumni include former President of the United States and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter.
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3

Texas A&M University – Central Texas

Value Score 8.65
Average Tuition $3,360 (In State)
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 58%
Number of Programs 1
TAMUCT offers a master of science in information systems program (MS-IS). This degree is designed for students with either a bachelor’s in information systems, a degree in another area but with some information systems skills, or those with a degree who are looking to develop a new set of skills. Students can choose from a thesis or non-thesis option. Graduates are prepared to integrate information systems and business processes into a variety of organizations and enter careers in IT project management, application development, programming, and many other fields.

Courses are accessed through Blackboard and taught by the same faculty as on campus. Students have access to Tutor.com, an online tutoring platform that offers students free online tutoring support from their peers in over 40 subjects. For those who want to stay in touch with campus life, Texas A&M’s “WarriorTV” offers live-streaming of many on-campus events. The SACSCOC-accredited TAMUCT currently serves the central Texas region and currently enrolls over 2,500 students.
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4

East Carolina University

Value Score 8.63
Average Tuition $3,959 (In State)
Students Receiving Financial Aid 76%
Net Price $10,257
Graduation Rate 58%
Student to Faculty Ratio 18:1
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 39%
Number of Programs 57 (Online)
ECU offers a computer science master’s degree or a network technology master’s degree to qualifying domestic and international students. The CS program covers the theory and practice of software design and hardware construction. Students also learn programming languages (including C#), operating systems, hardware, database environments and software engineering tools like Rational Rose. The Network Technology program offers four tracks, including an online information security degree, a computer network management degree, a digital communication degree, or a web technologies degree option.

Distance learners can access a self-paced online orientation, along with links to online resources like Blackboard and advisor contact information, an online book store, and the Joyner Library online. ECU recently earned its fifth consecutive Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award from Insight into Diversity magazine. ECU provides reduced tuition rates for in-state and active military students.
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5

University of West Georgia

Value Score 8.53
Average Tuition $3,672 (In State)
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 70%
Number of Programs 1
UWG offers a fully online MS in applied computer science. The SACSCOC-accredited program includes coursework in web technologies, program construction, software development, database systems, system and network administration, and two project experiences that integrate academic study with real-world experience.

Online courses may be asynchronous or synchronous. Distance learners offers Office 365 Pro Plus to all enrolled students, with access to student IT services for help with software and hardware issues. UWG Was founded in 1906 and achieved university status in 1996. Accredited by SACSCOC, the University System of Georgia named UWG its Institution of the Year in 2015.
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PhD in Computer Science: An Overview

Who should pursue a PhD in computer science?

Computing science professionals interested in leadership roles in education and research.

How many years will it take to complete?

Four to six years

Is a thesis or capstone usually required?

Yes. A written dissertation detailing an original research project must be submitted and orally defended prior to graduation.

What type of jobs does this degree prepare you for?

Professor of computing sciences, principal researcher, director of research, vice president of research and development, or senior data scientist.

What's the average salary for someone who holds this degree?

The average salary is $128,325.

PhD in Computer Science Overview

Unlike other programs in this discipline, the PhD in computer science is entirely research-based, and is intended for those seeking careers in education and research. While some PhD programs consider the MS to be part of the PhD curriculum, the practical uses of the degrees are very different. If you are weighing the merits of the PhD versus the master’s, you should carefully consider your long-term goals. A master’s degree delivers an advanced technical education, and those who hold it generally aspire to upper-level management roles in industry. A PhD, on the other hand, prepares you for a life of teaching and research; this research is sometimes conducted within industry or government, but is most often performed in academia.

  • Courses

    Course requirements are somewhat limited in this program, as the focus is on the development and execution of an original research product. Depending on individual programs, as few as six to nine courses may be required. These courses are focused on research across the field’s body of knowledge: theory, intelligent systems, programming systems, computer systems, vision and graphics, and applications.

  • Research

    Generally, PhD programs expect candidates to have a research idea in mind well before the deadline to submit a proposal. A qualified proposal addresses a problem, raises a question, or otherwise aims to expand the field’s body of knowledge. The dissertation project first analyzes other work on the topic, evaluating any existing knowledge and scholarship.

  • Thesis

    As the main thrust of the program, thesis requirements are strict. Within a reasonable time after passing qualifying exams, candidates are expected to form a dissertation guidance committee. Each researcher must submit a thesis proposal to this committee, a written explanation of the proposed project, and its anticipated contribution to the discipline. Research may not begin until the proposal is approved. When research is concluded, the results must be prepared for academic presentation and orally defended before the committee.


Next Steps: Certification

Computer science is ever-changing. Success in this dynamic field requires constant education, and employers want to see that job candidates are up-to-date on the latest skills driving the industry. Outside of academia, there are a number of professional certifications that demonstrate competency in the field. These certifications are instantly recognizable, and allow employers to immediately gauge a job candidate’s potential value in the workplace.

Depending on your career trajectory, some certifications will be more appropriate than others. Cisco, a systems engineering firm well-known for its rigorous certification process, offers the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certificate for entry-level IT support professionals. Similarly, the CompTIA A+ certification is considered a solid ground-level credential for IT professionals.

As you move up the career ladder, other certifications can increase your career mobility. Mid-level engineers can benefit from the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) credential or the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) credential. At any level of your career and in most specialty areas — such as software applications development or security engineering — you can pursue a professional certification. Investing in professional credentialing is a wise choice; it increases your value at your current job and boosts your marketability if you decide to seek a new position.


Sites You May Also be Interested In

Computer Science Job Boards

  • American Academy for Advancement of Science (AAAS): Careers Maintained by the premier professional society for scientists of all stripes, the AAAS job board offers job postings and career advice for aspiring computer science researchers and educators.
  • American Medical Informatics Association: Career Center Jobs This site offers a wealth of resources for information management professionals. Members of this association enjoy access to job postings across a wealth of informatics specialties. Future initiatives include a mentorship program for AMIA members.
  • Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Career & Jobs Center Membership in this professional association offers numerous networking and job-seeking opportunities for computing professionals. Hundreds of positions in academia and industry are posted, along with career tools, interviewing tips, career coaching, and helpful articles.
  • Engineer.info This site aggregates all engineering job postings listed on major sites like Monster, Careerbuilder, Hotjobs, and others. Categories of interest may include network engineering, software engineering, IT engineering, computing engineering, and more.
  • GitHub GitHub is a longstanding hotspot among computing professionals looking for networking opportunities. Developers can collaborate on open-source projects, find support for personal projects, or seek employment on a full-time or contract basis.

Computer Science Blogs

  • Lambda the Ultimate Maintained by a small group of administrators, this site hosts lively discussion on current papers, books, courses, and projects in programming. Participants from both applied and theoretical vantage points are welcomed.
  • Might.net Matt Might, Associate Professor of computing science topics and Presidential Research Scholar, blogs regularly on topics of interest to aspiring academicians and programming buffs. A sample of recent blog subjects includes programming in Racket, the birthday paradox, and how to achieve tenure.
  • Shtetl-Optimized Maintained by Scott Aaronson, noted quantum physicist and author of Quantum Computing Since Democritus, this blog offers an entertaining take on complex subjects. Peppered with funny stories from his personal life, readers can enjoy more than 10 years of his musings about the world of physics.
  • Coding Horror Jeff Atwood is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur known for founding stackoverflow.com, which has grown into the Stack Exchange. The Stack Exchange is a popular, heavily trafficked series of Q&A sites where enthusiasts trade information and ideas on all things programming. His personal blog is a collection of his thoughts on the business in general and software development in particular.
  • Joel on Software Joel Spolsky is a noted software developer, currently partnering with Jeff Atwood on Stack Exchange and owner of Fog Creek Software. His site is packed with information, including articles, code fragments, troubleshooting tips, and career advice.
  • Toptal Toptal is a service that links freelance developers with contracts and projects. Aside from its value for developers seeking work, the company’s blog is attention-worthy on its own. Divided into topics of design or engineering, this site offers coverage of product releases, platforms, software reviews, and tutorials.
  • Scott Hanselman When not working as a web developer at Microsoft or hosting one of three popular podcast channels, Scott Hanselman operates this personal blog where he comments on tech, tech media, the Silicon Valley community, coding, entrepreneurship, open source, and more.

Professional Organizations

  • Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) One of the first professional societies formed in support of artificial intelligence, this organization sponsors conferences, workshops, seminars, and symposia on an international level. Aside from these networking opportunities, members also receive AI Magazine, a quarterly publication.
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) IEEE is a well-known professional society devoted to advancing technology in the lives of humans. IEEE is a force in the industry, offering scholarly publications, conferences, workshops, leadership forums, a job board, and access to useful technical information.
  • Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics By definition, computing science is the application of mathematical principles. SIAM supports mathematical research and discovery in partnership with programming. Member benefits include scholarships and fellowships, a careers board, subscriptions to scholarly publications, conferences, and professional recognition of achievements.
  • Association for Women in Computing (AWC) As one of the first gender-specific professional societies in computing science, AWC seeks to provide professional support to women in an industry largely populated by men. Networking opportunities, technical programs, conferences, and career advice are among AWC’s many offerings.
  • Computing Research Association (CRA) CRA is a professional society with a broad scope, bringing together computing science professionals, researchers, and educators to promote technological advancement. Numerous opportunities for these professionals include talent development assistance, public policy advocacy, and leadership training. Members may access a job board, important data, scholarly publications, and best practices recommendations.