Computer Science Degrees & Schools Guide

Associate, Bachelor's & Master's Degree in Computer Science Options & Salary

What Does a Career in Computer Science Entail?


Before you enter school and declare your Computer Science major, you need to know what this field requires of its graduates.

Once you graduate as a Computer Science major, you’ll work in the Information Technology (IT) field. Everything you do will be related to computers, technology, and figuring out what’s gone wrong when a “glitch” slows everything down or makes it come to a dead halt.

Computer Science Degrees & Career Paths


components-of-a-successful-career-In-business

Components of a Successful Career in Computer Science

You’ll have a wide menu of choices when it comes to an IT career: you’ll be able to work as an IT consultant, computer forensic investigator, cloud architect, health IT specialist (in a healthcare setting), web developer, mobile application developer, vendor manager, software engineer, data modeler, or a geospatial professional.

Each specialization requires that you know everything that is currently known about information technology, plus everything you need to know about your chosen specialty.

How to Earn a Degree in Computer Science


First, understand what “computer science” is. You won’t just be doing programming work. Instead, you’ll need to learn about design techniques, the analysis and design of algorithms, how to design program languages, artificial intelligence, software engineering, and many other specialties.

In your major, turn your attention to information science and how to structure, represent, manage, store, retrieve, and transfer information electronically. Explore each specialty, especially if you’re not sure where you want to work.

Typical Computer Science Degree Requirements

As a computer science major, your math requirements will be heavy (calculus). You’ll also take programming classes, as well as courses in discrete structures and computer systems.

Because so many of your classes rely on math prerequisites, you’ll need to take each semester’s classes in a particular order or you’ll be lost.

Listen carefully to your advisor, because some classes will count for other areas and you won’t be allowed to take more than a specified number of classes in a certain area.

Typical Computer Science Certifications Needed/Available

A specific certification in a procedure or software lets potential employers know you have the skills they are seeking. Some of the ones that are most in demand include:

  • Cisco Certified Network Associate or CCNA
  • Network+
  • CompTIA A+ Technician
  • Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer or MCSE
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional or CISSP

Look through the lists of certifications available and decide which ones most interest you.

Academic Standards for Computer Science Professionals

The academic standards for a computer science degree is especially high in the math department. If you are going to become a successful computer science professional, you need to take all the required math classes and demonstrate proficiency in them. You’ll develop a strong reasoning ability, as well as the analytical skills that will allow you to approach questions and problems in your daily work.

If you choose to, you can go on to graduate school, work in government, or teach at the secondary level.

Exam/Experience Needed for Computer Science Majors

science_majors_exam Even as a new graduate, you should be able to find employment in the field of your choice, as long as you pass your courses consistently. This is one of those degrees where each class builds on a previous course, and if you don’t understand one of them, you will not do well in those that follow. Once you graduate, you’ll be able to help create and help to improve computer hardware and software or design new computer architecture to improve the efficiency of hardware—this may eventually result in technological efficiencies and advances.

Depending on the specialization you choose, seek certifications for these specialties. Having a certification tells employers that you know what you are doing.

Important Questions to Ask


How Long Does It Take to Earn a Computer Science Bachelor’s Degree Online?


Your path to graduate is personal and individual. While someone else may graduate later even though they started school when you did, they may have had other academic commitments to satisfy. Others may be able to finish their programs sooner than you because they don’t have to deal with Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) or work during their college years.

Look at how many credits are required. This is usually 120. If you take 30 credits per year, you’ll graduate in about four years. If you can take more classes, this will shorten the time you’re in school. Don’t forget to seek information from your assigned advisor. Doing so means you’re less likely to miss a required class, which could delay your graduation.

How Much Does a Computer Science Bachelor’s Degree Cost?


english_bachelor’s_degree_cost Colleges and universities generally charge per credit hour. Multiply the cost by the number of credits you’re taking for your total semester’s financial commitment. Program fees may not be included in the stated tuition rate. If a university charges $331 per credit hour, multiply this by 12 or 15 (the number of credits you’re taking per semester). For 12 credit hours, this is $3,972; for 15 credit hours, it’s $4,965.

The College Board’s Trends in Higher Education Series reported that the average cost of a four-year public program was $9,970 if taken in-state. It was as much as #35,260 if taken at a private university or college. And be aware that, even if you are comfortable with the per credit hour cost of the program you are looking at, there will be other costs for fees, textbooks, and room and board if you live on campus.

Computer Science Degree Coursework

computer_science_degree_coursework Before you declare a major in computer science, you should have an idea of what kind of timeframe you’re looking at. If you are trying to achieve an associate degree, you will only need to finish about 60 credit hours over 2 years. However, if you are going for you bachelors you will need to complete 120 credit hours over four years. And, if you want to attain a master’s degree as well, you will have to finish your bachelors first and then spend around 2 years completing 60 more credit hours.

Some of the courses you’ll take throughout our college career will include:

  • Chemistry, 101
  • Introduction to Computing Environments
  • Calculus, I
  • Introduction to Computing (Java)
  • Physics for Engineers and Scientists, I-Lab
  • Fundamentals of Economics
  • Discrete Mathematics for CSC
  • Calculus, III
  • Physics for Scientists and Engineers
  • C and Software Tools
  • Elementary Linear Algebra
  • Basic Science Elective
  • Automata, Grammars, and Computability
  • Probability & Statistics for Engineers
  • Ethics in Computing
  • Communication for Engineers and Tech
  • Senior Design Project

Does the School have the Major You’re Considering?


Before you choose which school to enroll in, you need to determine if they have the major you are interested in. Since you’re interested in computer science, you can call the school’s admission office, where staff can answer your questions. If the schools do have computer science majors, find out if there are any specializations available. Request an undergraduate catalog, which contains all the information you’ll need.

How Many Students Graduated “On Time,” in Four Years?


students_graduated_time If you’re concerned about the specific graduation rate at each school you’re most interested in, the Office of Institutional Research at each university should have that information. Nationwide, only 41% of university students finish within the four year timetable. The remaining 59% tend to stay in school for five years or more.

This can get very expensive. Students have to pay for additional terms of tuition. Universities and colleges may also penalize students who are taking too long to graduate. So, you need to have a plan that enables you to graduate within four years. See an advisor for your major every semester. Take the classes that they tell you are required. Try to take more than just the 12 minimum full-time credits per semester—instead, take 15; if you don’t have to work more than 10 to 15 hours a week, try to take 18 credits.

Take summer classes to get ahead (or catch up if you fail a class).

Don’t change majors too often. If you’re not sure of your major, take just your general education credits and try a few majors you’re interested in—take an introductory class for each major and find the one that fits you best.

What Kind of Accreditation Does the Program Hold? How is it Regarded in the Field?


computer_science_accreditation “Accreditation” simply means that an outside agency has reviewed a university or its computer science major in painstaking detail. As a result, the program and/or university have been found to be of the highest quality. Faculty will be assessed as well.

Computer science programs are accredited by the Computing Accrediting Commission (CAC). CAC is overseen by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). When you see either accreditation given to a university’s computer science program, you know you’ll get the highest quality education available. If neither of these types of accreditation exist in any of the schools you are looking to attend, at least try to find somewhere with regional accreditation. This is not program specific but means that the whole school has been accredited by agencies approved by the US Department of Education.

Software, Technology & Skills Needed


software-technology

As a computer science major, you need computer interest and skills to work in this field. You’ll also be required to own the technology and software needed to complete course assignments (this may be included in textbook costs).

The skills you need include business strategy and organizational leadership. You’ll also need the ability and aptitude to help you develop several technical skills: Project management, communication, problem solving and critical thinking, and analysis.

You’ll need to learn about distributed systems and data integration. Your skills should allow you to understand and learn operating systems management and graphic applications. Networking can also be vital in computer science, so you’ll need the know-how to meet-and-greet when you get the chance to meet others in your field. Security, mobile technology, and operating systems management are also vital for computer science professionals. If you have a background in programming languages and technology, this will help as you begin your educational work.

Associate Degree


At the associate level, the classes you’ll take are more basic. You’ll take your general education courses, as students seeking their undergrad degrees will do and you’ll take a few of the computer systems and programming classes you will need to gain an entry level position in the CS field.

Associate degree sample courses


  • English Composition
  • Calculus, I
  • Introduction to Programming
  • Logic
  • English Composition, II
  • Calculus, II
  • Approved elective
  • Computer Science, I (or approved elective)
  • Principles of Macroeconomics
  • Public Speaking
  • Interpersonal Speaking
  • Computer Science, I
  • Approved elective
  • Physics: Calculus-Based, I - with Lab
  • Art Appreciation
  • General Psychology
  • Western Civilization, and additional classes

Bachelors, with Concentration


At the bachelor’s level, you’ll take similar classes—with the option of progressing toward a masters. Though the classes are similar, they will be more numerous and will lean more heavily into the math arena. Once you graduate with a bachelors, you’ll have a wider range of jobs you’ll be able to walk into than you would have with just an associate’s.

General Education:


  • Interpersonal Communication or Speech Communications
  • Introductory Written Communication
  • Professional Written Communication
  • Modern American History: 1950-21st Century
  • College Algebra for Technical Programs
  • Introduction to Ethics
  • Introductory Psychology

Core Courses:


  • Computer Architecture
  • Problem Solving in Computer Science
  • Principles of Programming Languages
  • Introduction to Programming
  • Python Programming
  • SQL Programming
  • Java Programming
  • C++ Programming
  • Fundamentals of Data Structures
  • Introduction to Database Systems
  • Computer Algorithms
  • Mobile Programming
  • Introduction to Parallel Computing
  • Principles of Operating Systems
  • Software Engineering
  • Foundations of Big Data Analysis
  • Computer Science Team Project, I
  • Computer Science Team Project, II
  • Introduction to Computer Security
  • Fundamentals of Networking
  • Applications of Discrete Mathematics for Computer Systems and IT
  • Data Driven Statistics for Computer Systems and IT
  • Concentration:44 credits from Computer Science Credits (Also as electives)

Masters, with Concentrations


1st Master’s Plan:


  • 32 credit hours of approved graduate courses
  • At least two credit hours of CS Colloquium
  • At least 26 of the 32 hours must be in courses offered by Computer Science Department at 500 level or higher
  • Complete minimum of two courses from following categories with a grade of B- or higher:
    • Mathematical Methods
    • Empirical Methods
    • Engineering/System Building Methods
  • Completion of 6-9 credit hours of Thesis credit, with a maximum of 9 credit hours of thesis and independent research, combined
  • Defense of the Thesis

2nd Master’s Plan:


  • 32 credit hours of approved graduate courses
  • At least 2 credit hours of Colloquium
  • In addition to Colloquium, at least 24 of the 32 credit hours must be in courses offered by Computer Science Department at the 500 level or higher
  • Completion of a minimum of two courses from each category below, with a grade of B- or higher:
    • Mathematical Methods
    • Empirical Methods
    • Engineering/System Building Methods
  • No final exam will be required.

Concentrations: Entrepreneurship and Technology Management

Associates, Bachelors, Masters Cost Range for Each


Associate of Science in Computer Science$265/credit hour (less for members of the military, veterans or family members of the military.)
Bachelor’s degrees$215.55/credit hour, in-state $721.10/credit hour, out-of-state (both main campus)
Graduate Degrees, Engineering and Computer Science$2,101 (12 hours or more); $1,401 (6-11 hours); $700 ($1-5 hours); $350 (0 hours)

Earning Potential for Computer Science Degree Fields and Occupations


At any level (associate’s, bachelor’s, or masters), a computer science degree is lucrative. This career field is much in demand as companies all across the U.S. continue embracing technology and moving more and more of their operations to computers, servers, and the cloud.

At the associate’s level, you can easily earn more than $36,000; at the bachelor’s level, close to $54,999; and at the master’s level, a little more than $96,000.

Computer Science Fields of Study Median Salaries


Fields of StudyEntry-LevelMid-Career
Computer and Information Research Scientists$65,540$114,520
Computer Hardware Engineering$66,290$115,120
Software Engineering$77,897$89,866
Game Development$57,134$72,910
Big Data$78,245$93,316
Cybersecurity$70,350$85,935
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence$106,874Up to $140,000
Mobile Computing$61,705$74,054

Add Computer Science Fields of Study


  • As a computer hardware engineer, you are responsible for researching, designing, developing and testing new computer systems and their components (processors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks, and routers). You create the schematics for the system to be built, then test the hardware. You also analyze the test results and make any needed modifications.
  • Computer engineers also solve problems using spreadsheets and databases. Working for a large company, you’ll target any problems that are slowing or stopping the functions of the computer system. You’ll also handle data effectively, perform computational analysis, and assist with decision support.
  • Digital Storytelling allows people to tell stories by using computer-based tools. These are also called computer-based narratives, digital documentaries, digital essays, interactive storytelling, and electronic memoirs. If this is your field, you’ll work within community centers, libraries, schools, and businesses. You’ll assist teachers, students, and educators to create and tell the stories.
  • In web application development, you will be responsible for creating technologies that allow people to learn, carry out business, and keep control over their daily lives. Electronic calendars and alarm apps come to mind. With all of this, the Internet has become the basis for businesses.
  • Artificial Intelligence is a relatively new and still highly experimental field. Businesses and individuals use AI in their daily lives, where various systems aid us in learning, finding needed information, and using what we find to make educated decisions. Apps such as Siri and Alexa are considered to be AI.
  • Data mining helps professionals to find relationships and patterns embedded in data. Computer science professionals who specialize in data mining principles assist other professionals in finding the data, analyzing it, then converting it into usable information for the company.
  • Software engineering powers all our electronic devices, such as music players, microwave ovens, cellphones, personal computers, tablets, e-readers and even huge mainframe computers that government organizations rely on. Software engineering relies on algorithms that inform the device about all the various procedures they should perform.

Computer Science Salaries by Occupation


Computer support specialists are becoming more and more important with every year that passes. They provide support to businesses and governments and aid organizations and users. For governments and worldwide companies, they provide computer network support and give technical assistance.

Computer science professionals in different occupations earn salaries at differing rates. For instance, computer support specialists earn $52,810 as a median annual salary while computer and information research analysts earn much more at $114,520.

The difference in annual pay comes from the computer science concentrations each professional chose while in college. Computer support specialists provide technical help and advice for individuals and organizations. Computer and information research scientists go much deeper in their knowledge and the work they do. They invent and design new types of computing technology. In addition, they develop new and innovative uses for technology that already exists. They also solve complex problems in computing for several areas, such as medicine, business, government, and science.

Computer Science Occupations


  • Computer Network Architects help design and build data communication networks (local area networks and wide area networks). The connections may be small or large, such as cloud infrastructure to aid multiple customers. They are expected to hold bachelor’s degrees before they are hired for these positions.
  • Computer Programmers write the code that helps to interpret what we want to do, such as research or logging into social media and interacting with others. When software developers and engineers send them program designs for specific apps or software, programmers take those designs and convert them into instructions a computer will reliably follow.
  • Computer Systems Analysts (or architects) carefully examine a company’s current computer systems so they can recommend and design solutions to aid the company in becoming more efficient. They are required to bring IT and business together. This means they have to communicate closely with and understand the needs of the company and understand the limitations the company and IT bring to the equation.
  • Information Systems Analysts are tasked with planning security measures, then carrying them out so that an organization’s networks and systems are protected. As the number of networks and cyberattacks increase, the work of the systems analyst grows, keeping them constantly busy. Cyberattacks may originate from foreign countries, compromising a company’s secrets or the electric grid.
  • Web Developers can do their work once they have earned an associate degree. They help to design and create new websites, monitoring the look of the new sites they have created. Developers monitor the technical performance of websites, such as load speed and capacity. They may also create site content.

Salary by Occupation


Entry-Level Median Annual SalaryMid-Career Median Annual SalaryLate-Career Median Annual Salary
Computer Network Architects$58,160$104,650$162,390
Computer Programmers$47,090$82,240$132,530
Computer Systems Analysts$53,750$88,270$139,850
Data Engineer$84,691$102,942$118,288
Data Architect$83,591$102,698$125,780
Information Security Analyst$64,700$80,045$94,448
Security Engineer$77,930$95,760$107,815
Information Systems Analysts$53,750$88,270$139,850
Game Designer$56,249$70,821$87,540
Web Developers$36,830$67,990$122.320
Data Scientist, IT$88,006$102,065$139,882
Mobile Applications Developer$68,948$86,204$105,066
Systems Administrator$54,463$61,904$73,228

Computer Science Scholarships


  • School of Engineering Scholarships
    Covers several scholarships for students in the School of Engineering—including computer science students. These are internal scholarships for the School of Engineering and include SOE Summer Undergraduate Scholarships and National Science Foundation scholarships. (Funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation.)

  • S-STEM Scholarships (formerly CSEMS)
    This National Science Foundation-funded scholarship supports students identified as Appalachian High Achievers in STEM. This scholarship is aimed at those students with financial need and academic talent who plan to major in computer science, chemistry, geology, physics, or applied mathematics. This program works to provide a safe, nurturing environment that encourages scholastic excellence.

  • Computer Science Scholarship
    This scholarship was designed to encourage academic interest in computer science. The selected applicant must be enrolled full-time as a rising junior or senior majoring in computer science. Students must maintain an overall GPA of at least 2.5; cumulative GPA must be a minimum of 3.0 for all courses in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. A letter of application is required from a Mathematical Sciences faculty member.

  • Mark Nesiba Memorial Endowed Scholarship for Women in Computing
    This scholarship is open to women only. Students who are applying for this scholarship must be majoring in computer science with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Although it isn’t mandatory, the scholarship department prefers that students be Hispanic. Women who apply should qualify for financial aid after filling out and submitting their FAFSA.

Professional Computer Science Organizations


  • ACM
  • IEEE
  • IET
ACM-logo

Association for Computing Machinery

Association for Computing Machinery

ACM is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society. It works to deliver resources that help to advance computing as a science and profession to incoming students and professionals. Members have access to its premier Digital Library.

IEEE-logo

IEEE Computer Society (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is the parent corporation)

IEEE Computer Society (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers is the parent corporation)

One of the world’s largest and most advanced membership organizations for computer science and technology professionals. Members receive vetted information, career development sources and networking opportunities. IEEE Computer Society sponsors more than 200 technical conferences each year (including an industry-oriented “Rock Stars” series of events worldwide).

ET-logo

Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET)

Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET)

Billed as an engineering institution with more than 168,000 members in 150 countries, IET can boast that it is the most multi-disciplinary organization created. This organization has realized that engineering has become a highly diversified field in this century. It works to create a better world by informing, influencing, and inspiring its members, who are technicians and engineers.

Choosing an Accredited College


Accredited universities, whether you’re studying on campus, online, or in a hybrid program, seek accreditation so they can ensure the faculty they hire to teach their students will be of the highest quality. They also want to be sure that the programs are as well-created as possible, so that students will benefit from the latest and most reliable information as they learn about their chosen field.

As you weigh your options, speak to the admissions offices of each university you’re considering. Include a question about the school’s accreditation status, who has accredited it and whether the computer science program you’re considering is accredited.

The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredits computer science, engineering, and engineering technology programs. When you find that the program is ABET-accredited, you’ll know you’re entering a high-quality program. If this accreditation is not available, consider looking for regional accreditation provided by a Department of Education -approved accrediting agency.

Online vs. On-Campus vs. Hybrid


As a computer science major, you may want to be able to take classes online. Before you make your final decision on this topic, understand that each format will give you different experiences, even though you’ll still be expected to meet all deadlines.

Traditional learning makes it easier for you to interact with professors and fellow students. You’ll learn through lectures, discussions, and labs. You’ll know when assignments are due and tests are scheduled. You’ll receive immediate feedback from your instructors and fellow students.

Online, you’ll be working alone joined to everyone only by your internet connection. You can log in at any time you want, either to listen to a lecture or complete an assignment or quiz; ditto with forum participation. However, you will still have deadlines, usually weekly.

With hybrid courses, you’ll get a mix of both worlds. That is why this option is known as “blended.” While your on-campus class sessions may only occur once or twice in the term, you’ll still meet other students and your instructors.

Additional Questions


Does the College Have Post-Graduate Job Placement Help and Assistance?

If your university offers career and/or placement services, you’ll be able to take advantage of both as a student or graduate. You can receive career counseling, career assessments, and resume reviews, where you’ll learn how to spruce your resume up.

Why You Need to Consider How the Rating/Accreditation Can Affect Your Future Salary

College rankings are only as important as the criteria they evaluate. These evaluations can’t be quantified because the value of a school is so individual to each student.

Choosing an accredited university can have good or bad implications for your future. If you take the time to learn about the university’s accreditation, you’ll learn more about whether you’re attending a true educational institution or a “diploma mill.”

Financial aid won’t be provided if your school isn’t accredited. Your future salary also relies on this status. Future employers will ask for your official transcripts. They do so as they are checking out your background. If you did attend an accredited institution, you may be offered a higher salary.

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