Computer Science Degrees and Career Paths

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

25 Most Affordable Online Associate Degrees in Computer Science
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Western Nebraska Community College

Value Score 6.74
Average Tuition $2,196
Students Receiving Financial Aid 93%
Net Price $4,685
Graduation Rate 27%
Student to Faculty Ratio 13:1
Retention Rate 52%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 53%
Number of Online Programs 4

Students enrolled in WNCC's associate of science in computer science program learn the foundations of programming, programming languages, algorithmic design, and operating systems. Learners access course materials and collaborate online via Blackboard Collaborate, and students are taught by faculty who are experts in their field and trained in the latest emerging computer information technologies. Students who choose to pursue a hybrid degree, taking some courses in-person and others online, may be eligible for a NASA fellowship, which offers exclusive opportunities to work with drones, remote control aircraft, and robotics. This online computer science associate degree provides students with a two-year foundation for a bachelor's degree in computer engineering, computer science, programming, or a similar field. WNCC students enjoy free access to practice and certification exams for several industry-standard certifications, including Security+, CompTIA A+, and Microsoft Office Specialist. Online program admission requirements include copies of official high school or GED diploma and completion of the college entrance test eCompass. Students interested in transferring credit to or from WNCC can leverage the statewide transfer evaluation system, which guides students through an on online credit evaluation process.

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Hazard Community and Technical College

Value Score 6.55
Average Tuition $3,528
Students Receiving Financial Aid 98%
Net Price $3,940
Graduation Rate 31%
Student to Faculty Ratio 17:1
Retention Rate 60%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 44%
Number of Online Programs 11

Hazard Community and Technical College's associate degree in computer and information technologies offers tracks that build expertise in network administration, information security, application, programming, or network technologies. The associate in applied science in computer and information technologies with a computer science track provides a general education foundation and features classes covering topics like writing and calculus, paired with technical major courses. The program is designed to set students up for future academic success and lead to a mastery of computer science basics. HCTC trains students in advanced programming and learners take courses in proof techniques, computational complexity, advanced data structures, and other in-depth topics. The school may accept transfer credits that students have earned within the past five years prior to enrollment. Students must earn a grade of "C" or better in all courses in order to graduate from HCTC's associate degree in computer science online program. Delivered via the shared statewide Kentucky Community and Technical College System Online portal, HCTC is one of several Kentucky-based colleges that offer this online degree. Out-of-state online students receive the same affordable tuition rates for HCTC's online computer science associate degree as their on-campus counterparts.

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Northwest Iowa Community College

Value Score 6.27
Average Tuition $4,500
Students Receiving Financial Aid 85%
Net Price $10,046
Graduation Rate 54%
Student to Faculty Ratio 12:1
Retention Rate 75%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 58%
Number of Online Programs 10

NICC's associate of science in computer science offers a choice of three degree concentrations, including programming, networking, or web development and programming. Full-time students begin the program in the fall, while part-time students can start during any term. In addition to computer science courses, NICC requires students to complete a foundation of academic courses in topics including language, science, and mathematics, which prepares students for continuing studies in a four-year bachelor's degree program. Core coursework combines hands-on projects with meaningful lectures that equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to master computer programming basics and major-related topics, allowing graduates to enter directly into the workforce if they choose. The school reduces tuition costs for each semester that a student remains enrolled in the program. Per-semester tuition rates are competitive and provide discounts for Iowa residents. All graduates of NICC's online associate degree in computer science program are eligible for lifetime placement assistance through the NICC Placement Office.

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South Texas College

Value Score 6.17
Average Tuition $2,330
Students Receiving Financial Aid 89%
Net Price $1,497
Graduation Rate 22%
Student to Faculty Ratio 24:1
Retention Rate 61%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 17%
Number of Online Programs 16

Graduates of South Texas College are well-prepared to transfer their online associate degree in computer science to either the continuing bachelor's program at STC or to another four-year college or university. Students who plan to transfer outside the university should consult with a computer science program adviser to determine the best sequence of courses. In addition, graduates with an associate of science in computer science from STC are ready for entry-level jobs in the computer science field. The 62-credit curriculum features a combined focus of general education and computer programming coursework. Students access online courses via the Blackboard LMS, which offers around-the-clock live chat support. Students seeking financial aid may be eligible for one of STC's several merit-based, need-based, or departmental scholarships. To help learners budget their tuition payments, STC offers monthly installment payment plans during the fall and spring semesters. Distance learners have access to online tutoring and on-demand academic success workshops.

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Hawaii Pacific University

Value Score 6.03
Average Tuition $22,160
Students Receiving Financial Aid 95%
Net Price $22,372
Graduation Rate 22%
Student to Faculty Ratio 13:1
Retention Rate 70%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 52%
Number of Online Programs 11

Hawaii Pacific University's associate of science in computer science is available to students enrolled through the college's military campus program and who have completed a minimum of 60 hours of core and elective courses. Through coursework in computer science, data structures, and discrete mathematics for computer science, students learn topics such as how to develop problem-solving algorithms, master programming basics, and apply data structures and other methodologies when creating software. As part of the computer science core, students choose one of three interdisciplinary courses, including data analysis and visualization. HPU offers a flexible enrollment policy, allowing students to officially opt out for one or two semesters if necessary and re-enroll at a later date. HPU accepts up to 36 semesters credit hours earned through credit by examination, such as CLEP, toward the school's online computer science associate degree. Transfer credits must be relevant to program requirements and students must have earned a minimum grade of "C" in all applicable credits.

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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

50 Most Affordable Online Computer Science Bachelor’s Degrees
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University of Florida

Value Score 7.99
Average Tuition $3,358
Students Receiving Financial Aid 88%
Net Price $9,009
Graduation Rate 87%
Student to Faculty Ratio 35:1
Admissions Rate 55.92%
Enrollment Rate 91.88%
Retention Rate 91.88%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 100%
Number of Online Programs 11

The University of Florida -- Online provides engaging and cutting-edge online degree paths for students around the world. The school's affordable online computer science degree serves as an example of its commitment to academic excellence. Combining theoretical foundations of computation with more practical knowledge of career preparation, the program produces graduates who move into roles as business intelligence analysts, computer programmers, database administrators, and information systems developers. Many also go on to graduate studies in computer science to qualify for senior or managerial positions.

Lower-division applicants to UF -- Online's computer science degree must have earned between 12 and 59 credits with at least a 2.5 GPA, while upper-level applicants should have 60 or more credits and meet the same GPA standard. All prospective students should have completed coursework in geometry and calculus.

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Fort Hays State University

Value Score 7.03
Average Tuition $3,574
Students Receiving Financial Aid 70%
Net Price $8,911
Graduation Rate 42%
Student to Faculty Ratio 16:1
Admissions Rate 85.88%
Enrollment Rate 47.93%
Retention Rate 47.93%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 77%
Number of Online Programs 22

Located in Kansas, FHSU has provided quality education since 1902. However, only recently did the school establish a computer science department and begin offering its computer science degree online shortly after. The creation of the new department allowed for the synergizing of professors from numerous fields and the development of innovative and interdisciplinary coursework. Within this 124- to 129-credit program, distance learners can choose from six different concentration areas: business, mathematics, geographic applications, physics, technology studies, and networking. Alumni find professional success at federal agencies such as the National Laboratories or Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and at private companies such as Google, Facebook, Cisco, Cargill, and Boeing. Students on a budget can take advantage of a respected yet cheap education at FHSU; tuition for all distance learners is the same, regardless of their state of residency.

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University of Massachusetts - Lowell

Value Score 6.95
Average Tuition $1,454
Students Receiving Financial Aid 86%
Net Price $10,440
Graduation Rate 56%
Student to Faculty Ratio 17:1
Admissions Rate 56.79%
Enrollment Rate 26.9%
Retention Rate 26.9%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 29%
Number of Online Programs 12

The second largest campus within the UMass system, Lowell serves nearly 20,000 students annually. Many of these students complete individual courses or even full degrees entirely online, including the school's online computer science degree. Depending on the concentration, the program requires 120 to 121 credits. Concentrations available fully online include bio-cheminformatics and data science. The former combines biology and chemistry to help students learn how to use relevant tools for the disciplines, while the latter focuses on big data and how to extract useful findings from large volumes of information. All distance learners in these programs also complete an automatic mathematics minor through required coursework. The department offers a combined BS/MS in computer science that students can complete in five years. UMass Lowell commits itself to providing affordable learning options, requiring all distance learners to pay the same cost per credit.

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University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Value Score 6.53
Average Tuition $4,129
Students Receiving Financial Aid 77%
Net Price $6,915
Graduation Rate 56%
Student to Faculty Ratio 17:1
Admissions Rate 58.6%
Enrollment Rate 44.78%
Retention Rate 44.78%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 38%
Number of Online Programs 7

Earning a computer science degree online should be an enlightening and engaging education for distance learners, and the Greensboro campus of UNC works to ensure that every student enjoys this experience. Consisting of 122 credits, this interactive degree path grew from 131 declared majors in 2008 to 308 by 2013. Courses in the curriculum cover topics like the beauty and joy of computing, elementary data structures and algorithms, and ethics in computer science.

Distance learners can rest assured knowing that they're enrolling in a program that has withstood the rigors: the Computing Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology provides full accreditation for both the campus-based and online programs. Motivated students with high academic marks may elect to complete the Disciplinary Honors Program in Computer Science, which includes enhanced computer science courses and results in a corresponding honors designation on the student's academic transcript.

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University of Illinois at Springfield

Value Score 6.53
Average Tuition $9,405
Students Receiving Financial Aid 77%
Net Price $10,879
Graduation Rate 48%
Student to Faculty Ratio 14:1
Admissions Rate 63.12%
Enrollment Rate 27.86%
Retention Rate 27.86%
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 64%
Number of Online Programs 10

UI -- Springfield boasts dedication to combining cutting-edge technology with rigorous educational programs. This includes the school's online computer science degree. Focusing on both software and hardware, distance learners delve into programming, software testing, design principles, programming languages, UNIX-based computers, and computer architecture as they complete the required 121 credits. In addition to completing a software engineering capstone that requires students to participate in the software life cycle, degree candidates can participate in internships to gain practical work experience.

The department also offers a BS in information systems security for students aspiring to roles in data and information security positions. Online applicants to either program should have completed coursework in Java programming, calculus, and statistics, and must have earned at least 30 undergraduate credits with a GPA of 2.0 or above.

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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

50 Most Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Computer Science
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Kennesaw State University

Value Score 9.14
Average Tuition $4,248
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 80%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $236

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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Georgia Southwestern State University

Value Score 8.89
Average Tuition $3,222
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 95%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $179

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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Texas A & M University-Central Texas

Value Score 8.65
Average Tuition $3,360
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 58%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $187

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, 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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East Carolina University

Value Score 8.63
Average Tuition $4,223
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 59%
Number of Online Programs 2
Part-time cost per credit hour $264

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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University of West Georgia

Value Score 8.53
Average Tuition $3,672
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 70%
Number of Online Programs 1
Part-time cost per credit hour $204

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.
  • 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.
  • 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, 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.