Overview of Computer Science Bachelor's Degrees
Computer science is a common subject area for online study, so candidates can choose from a wide range of bachelor's degree options. Undergraduates typically learn how to design, develop, and test computer software, hardware, and networks through hands-on programming projects. Many programs offer concentrations allowing students to specialize in disciplines that include cybersecurity, information technology, and web design.
Most online programs feature asynchronous courses, meaning that students log in to a learning management system whenever they want in order to view lectures, submit assignments, and interact with classmates. Computer science bachelor's degrees generally require 120 credit hours, which is designed to take four years to complete with a full-time schedule. Students take general education courses alongside their computer science credits, which include both required courses and electives. Many programs culminate in a capstone course that challenges students to demonstrate their knowledge and abilities. Some degrees feature an internship that lets students gain practical experience in the field.
Many computer science programs culminate in a capstone course that challenges students to demonstrate their knowledge and abilities.
Bachelor's degree applicants need to submit high school or GED transcripts, usually showing a minimum 2.5 GPA. More selective schools might require a 3.0. Many schools also require standardized college entrance exam scores, though this is becoming less common. Prospective students also generally submit letters of recommendation and a personal essay written from a prompt.
To graduate, students must complete all required credit hours. Most colleges have a minimum GPA requirement for major courses because administrators want to ensure that they're graduating knowledgeable alumni who are prepared for the workforce.
Common Courses in a Computer Science Program
Computer science faculty design bachelor's degrees to cover mathematics, programming, data science, and networks. Students ideally gain working knowledge of these topics, along with useful skills in organization, ethics, and professional communication.
Many computer science programs offer students the opportunity to specialize and include various concentration options, but here we list courses that are common to the core curriculum.
Introduction to Programming
Students typically take this class first in a sequence on software programming. As an introduction, it might survey the most common programming languages and include lessons in input and output, iteration, branching, looping, method, and object constructs.
Computer Architecture and Design
In this class, students are introduced to the physical components that comprise computer systems. Topics may include hardware-software interfaces, instruction codes and representation, and machine representation of data.
Professors seek to expose students to ethics theories so they can understand the social effects of their work. Lessons might include data use and privacy, government regulation of technology, implications of artificial intelligence, and accessible design.
This course generally covers the algorithmic underpinnings of data structures, along with how computers use data to solve user problems. The syllabus often covers queues, trees, objects, and searching and sorting algorithms.
This course aims to teach some of the most important mathematical concepts relating to computer science. Students might learn about vector spaces, linear equation systems, matrices, and complex concepts such as eigenvectors and eigenvalues.
Accreditation for Online Computer Science Degrees
Institutional accreditation means that an independent agency attests to the overall quality of a college's educational experience. Prospective students might want to give preference to regionally accredited institutions over nationally accredited schools because regional standards are more academically rigorous. Both types of accreditation allow schools to accept federal financial aid, but attending a regionally accredited college also helps students to more easily transfer credits to another school.
Most technology employers don't require candidates to hold ABET-accredited degrees, but this credential may nonetheless be a useful sign of a high-quality program.
Beyond institutional accreditation, individual degree programs can also earn accreditation. The accrediting agency for computer science is the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), which reviews both online and on-campus programs. Most technology employers don't require candidates to hold ABET-accredited degrees, but this credential may nonetheless be a useful sign of a high-quality program.
Careers With a Computer Science Degree
Computer science graduates can often demonstrate problem-solving and deductive-reasoning skills that they've developed during undergraduate studies. With these skills and their technical knowledge, alumni might qualify for jobs designing software for a corporation, setting up an intranet for a non-profit, or running security tests on government servers.
Students can choose to pursue a master's degree in computer science if they think an additional credential will improve their job security and salary potential. However, graduates are usually eligible for the technology jobs below with only their bachelor's diploma.
Computer and Information Systems Managers
Median Annual Salary: $151,150
Job Growth Rate: 11%
Computer and information systems managers direct teams of technology and IT professionals. Although many of these professionals hold bachelor's degrees, they often start their careers in related jobs and move into management after several years of experience. Interested undergraduates might improve their chances of securing a management role by taking business management electives.
Computer Systems Analysts
Median Annual Salary: $93,730
Job Growth Rate: 7%
Computer systems analysts work to improve the quality and efficiency of an entity's computer infrastructure. The largest portion of these professionals work for IT consulting firms and spend time onsite at client offices. Because of this, students interested in this career may want to take some classes in business communication to develop skills required for interacting effectively with clients.
Median Annual Salary: $98,860
Job Growth Rate: 8%
Database administrators manage collections of their employers' data using specialized software. They seek to ensure that data is secure and resilient to avoid security breaches and data loss. Prospective administrators might improve their job prospects by taking electives in database design and management.
Information Security Analysts
Median Annual Salary: $103,590
Job Growth Rate: 33%
Information security analysts are responsible for safeguarding their employers' computer systems and networks. They stay current on cybersecurity threats, recommend security enhancements, and develop and codify the organization's best practices and security standards. Students may be able to improve their employment opportunities in this field by taking extra cybersecurity courses as undergraduates.
Network and Computer Systems Administrators
Median Annual Salary: $84,810
Job Growth Rate: 5%
Network and computer systems administrators monitor their employers' computer networks for performance and security issues. They plan hardware and software upgrades, stay in touch with cloud service vendors, and grant permissions to new employees. Students interested in these jobs might want to take electives in networks and cybersecurity.
Is an Online Computer Science Degree Worth It?
There's no right answer to this question, because your financial, familial, and work circumstances are different from everyone else's. But as you weigh the decision to study computer science online, you can consider the pros and cons listed below.
Computer science majors tend to enter high-paying jobs. Graduates with computer science and IT degrees earn median wages of $85,000 per year, which is higher than the $60,000 median pay for all bachelor's degree alumni combined.
Computer science translates well to online learning. Students complete all of their major coursework on their computers, with less emphasis on class discussion than liberal arts disciplines.
A computer science bachelor's is typically all that's required to start a career in the field. On average, fewer computer science graduates hold advanced degrees than graduates of other majors, implying that work experience is more important to career growth than further education in tech.
The skills taught in today's computer science courses may become obsolete relatively quickly. Computer professionals must constantly update their skills and may need to adopt new specialties to avoid the kind of job declines that certain tech professionals are experiencing, such as front-end web developers and single-language coders.
Some computer science specialties are experiencing low rates of job growth. Computer programmers in the U.S. have the most dismal job outlook, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a 10% decline in the field because of outsourcing to other countries. Even network and computer systems administration is growing at a slower rate than the nationwide average of 8%, so students interested in these jobs should keep their eyes on industry trends.
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