Most Affordable Online Computer Science Degrees 2021

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Students wanting to enter an interdisciplinary and rapidly growing field should consider an online computer science degree. Computer science (CS) draws from fields and disciplines including computing theory, programming, mathematics, and engineering. Since most companies and industries today rely heavily on computers, studying computer science can support an array of high-paying technology jobs. Computer and information technology careers boast a median annual salary of $88,240, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Most CS jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field. CS bachelor’s programs prepare graduates by cultivating theoretical knowledge and technical skills useful in common CS fields such as computer programming and software development. Successful CS students and professionals typically have quantitative aptitude, focus, problem-solving ability, and attention to detail.

Career Paths and Outlook in Computer Science



Online computer science degrees help graduates qualify for lucrative careers in many industries. Common jobs for CS graduates include web developer, computer programmer, and software developer. Web developers make a median annual salary of $73,760 and enjoy an above-average job growth outlook of 8% for 2019-2029. Computer programmers also make a healthy median salary of $86,550 annually. However, the BLS projects a 9% job decline for this career during the next several years.

Software developers earn a median annual salary of $107,510, according to the BLS. The projected 22% growth rate in software development positions during 2019-2029 also bodes well for students and professionals in this field. Industries such as software publishing, computer systems design, and management currently hire the most software developers. Developers may specialize in subfields such as software systems, mobile development, web development stack, or framework.

Career Lowest 10% Median Annual Salary Highest 10%
Web Developers Less than $39,550 $73,760 More than $142,080
Computer Programmers Less than $50,150 $86,550 More than $140,250
Software Developers Less than $64,240 $107,510 More than $164,590

Source: BLS

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Read further to learn more about online computer science degrees, including potential career paths, degree requirements, and scholarship opportunities.

Top 10 Most Affordable Online Computer Science Degrees

Rank School Location
1 Columbus State University Columbus, GA
2 Georgia Southern University Statesboro, GA
3 Old Dominion University Norfolk, VA
4 University of Massachusetts Online Amherst, MA
5 Capitol Technology University Laurel, MD
6 National University La Jolla, CA
7 Franklin University Columbus, OH
8 University of Bridgeport Bridgeport, CT
9 East Carolina University Greenville, NC
10 North Carolina State University at Raleigh Raleigh, NC

FAQ


  • What is computer science?

    Computer science studies computation and related problems and machines. This interdisciplinary science incorporates engineering, math, and logic.


  • Can I study computer science online?

    Many schools offer online computer science programs to serve working professionals pursuing degrees outside of work.


  • How does computer science compare to information technology?

    CS focuses heavily on programming, whereas IT primarily covers systems installation and maintenance. However, these domains frequently overlap.


  • What is the difference between computer science and computer engineering?

    CS emphasizes fixing software-related issues, while computer engineering specializes in hardware and interface design and problem-solving.


Most Affordable Online Computer Science Degrees 2021



  1. Columbus State University
    Location

    Columbus, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The most affordable option for a Masters of Science in Computer Science goes to Columbus State University, a public university located in the city of Columbus and a member of the University System of Georgia.Columbus State University has been regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-Commission on Colleges.

    Features

    Columbus State is also the only school on the list who has its own separate school of computer science, the TSYS School of Computer Science. Like other programs on this list, CSU offers three different specializations:

    Information Assurance Modeling and Simulation Software Development

    Notables

    For students hoping to specialize in Information Assurance, CSUs MSCS has been accredited by the National Security Agency as a Center for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education. Their program also gives students two options for the completion of their degree, a traditional thesis option and a non-thesis option that requires more coursework and examinations.

  2. Georgia Southern University
    Location

    Statesboro, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Georgia Southern University is a public doctoral-research university and member school of the University System of Georgia. It is located in Statesboro in the Southern part of the state. GSUs programs have won a number of awards for affordability and the university was also named in the 2011 U.S. News and World Report as the fourth most popular university in the country.

    Features

    GSUs MS in Computer Science is one of only a handful of computer science degrees in the country that specialize in data and knowledge systems. This is a subfield of computer science that gives students a one-up in the professional world. Some of the skills graduates will acquire include:

    Speech and Visual Recognition Data Mining Data Warehousing

    Notables

    Those applying should know that GSUs online MSCS has the fifth highest rated program in terms of admissions selectivity, so those hoping to apply there would be wise to have a backup school in case they are not accepted into GSUs program. Georgia Southern has been regionally accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges.

  3. Old Dominion University
    Location

    Norfolk, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Old Dominion is a large public research university, one of the largest in the state of Virginia. In the 1990s Old Dominion pioneered an innovative distance learning program that broadcast course content by satellite to partnering community colleges in Virginia, Arizona, and Washington state as well as to large military bases throughout the world.

    Features

    While content is now delivered online, students still have access to these resources, making ODs Masters of Science in Computer Science especially attractive to students in those three states as well as to military service members and their families. This degree consists of a rigorous curriculum with classes like:

    Computers in Society Object-Oriented Programming and Design Principles of Programming Languages Advanced Data Structures Algorithms

    Notables

    Another attractive feature of their MSCS is that it offers three options for completion of the degree: the coursework-only option that ends with a final comprehensive exam, an option for a final project, or a more traditional Masters thesis option. Old Dominion is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-Commission on Colleges.

  4. University of Massachusetts Online
    Location

    Amherst, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The University of Massachusetts is the public university system of the state of Massachusetts with five campuses, the oldest and largest of which is in Amherst. It is recognized in the 2015 Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings as being among the top 100 universities worldwide. It is also one of the countrys best funded universities, which allows it to spend generously on research and development.

    Features

    UMass Onlines MS in Computer Science is an outgrowth of the research of their faculty and its electives focus primarily on software systems and development. It is designed to be completed in four semesters. The program presents students with the best and most current content while also enabling students to be self-learners, an invaluable skill in a field marked by rapid and constant change. Classes include:

    Paradigmatic Software Development Software System Design Database Design Advanced Bioinformatics

    Notables

    UMass online programs are unavailable to people residing in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Maryland, and Minnesota because of legislation particular to those states. The UMass system is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

  5. Capitol Technology University
    Location

    Laurel, MD

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Capitol Technology University is a very small university in Laurel, Maryland. The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning classifies CTU as a special focus institution and their educational scope encompasses the fields of engineering, computer science, information technology, and business. In spite of its small size, CTU has earned recognition for its online degree programs from U.S. News and World Report, ranking #15 for student engagement and #43 in student services and technology.

    Features

    Their online platform combines synchronous learning in which students participate in live lectures and also asynchronous programs that allow students to participate whenever it is convenient. The synchronous content is recorded and stored for students who cannot attend the lectures at the time they are offered. A sampling of classes includes:

    Algorithms Computer Language Design Designing Intelligent Systems Multithreaded and Distributed Programming

    Notables

    Their MS in Computer Science is broken into 10 classes (30 credits in total): 4 required courses, 4 electives, and 2 courses focusing on a capstone project. Capitol Technology University has been regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  6. National University
    Location

    La Jolla, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    National University is a private nonprofit university that was founded in 1971 to serve the needs of people requiring non-traditional educational formats. National University soon spread throughout the state of California and now boasts 28 California campuses and one in Henderson, Nevada.

    Features

    National University began offering online education in 1996 and now offers 70 different completely online degrees, including a Masters of Science in Computer Science. National Universitys MSCS requires 67.5 quarter units spread out over 10 classes. The degree offers three different specializations:

    Advanced Computing Software Engineering Database Engineering

    Notables

    Each student is also required to do two masters project classes in which they will work with an actual client to solve a computer related problem within a set timeline, giving them excellent practical experience that looks attractive to potential employers. National University is regionally accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

  7. Franklin University
    Location

    Columbus, OH

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Franklin University is a small university located in Columbus, Ohio. Since its founding under the auspices of the YMCA, Franklins chief aim has been to expand resources to adults without access to higher education. It is not surprising then that Franklin has embraced online education and now offers 46 different online degree programs, a very generous number for such a small university. Franklins degree programs have been regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    Features

    Franklins Masters in Computer Science requires 40 credit hours to complete, which are broken into five trimesters. The core curriculum emphasizes the fundamentals of computer science while a catalogue of electives allow students to specialize in skills such as the following:

    Artificial Intelligence Computer Security Database Design

    Notables

    Also in line with this aim of expanded access, Franklin has developed a program called the Community College Alliance Program in which Franklin has partnered with 265 community colleges, ensuring the maximum possible credit transfer when students transition from community college to undergraduate or graduate programs at Franklin. This makes Franklin an attractive option for those entering a degree program from a participating community college.

  8. University of Bridgeport
    Location

    Bridgeport, CT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The University of Bridgeport is a small private college located in the South End neighborhood of Bridgeport, Connecticut. UBs online programs have won several awards, including a #13 rating by U.S. News and World Report for its Information Technology program, which includes their Masters of Computer Science degree.

    Features

    Because of the rapid pace of change in the industry, UBs program emphasizes skills that allow for learning and adapting to new systems and problems. The program helps prepare its graduates for positions in fields such as computer and systems analysis, information technology, programming, and web administration. The degree requires a total of 34 credits consisting of six core courses, five electives, and a final project. Heres a sampling:

    Object-Oriented Programming Using C++ Data and Computer Communication Smartphone App Development

    Notables

    The final capstone project in this program requires students to demonstrate their competence by applying what they have learned to creatively solve a practical problem related to computing. The University of Bridgeport has been regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

  9. East Carolina University
    Location

    Greenville, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located in the state of North Carolina, East Carolina University is a public research university and the third largest college in the state after NCSU and UNC at Chapel Hill. The school is noted for its high quality research, which extends to its work in the computer sciences.

    Features

    East Carolinas online Master of Computer Science is designed to appeal both to those hoping to advance within the industry and also those who want to pursue a career in academia as a computer science educator.For those who qualify, ECU offers a degree program that emphasizes some of the following areas:

    Software Design Hardware Construction Programming Languages Design Tools

    Notables

    It should be noted that because of recent changes in higher education regulations, ECUs online programs are not available to students in Alabama, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Maryland, and Ohio.ECU has also been regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  10. North Carolina State University at Raleigh
    Location

    Raleigh, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    North Carolina State University is a large public research university and forms one part of North Carolinas research triangle, which includes Duke and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In addition to its reputation for high quality research, NCSU has also been named among the 50 Best Value Schools by both Kiplingers Personal Finance and U.S. News and World Report.

    Features

    Among the 68 degrees offered through NCSUs Distance Learning is their online Masters in Computer Science. Though this degree program is not offered to students outside the United States, for those residing in the US NCSUs Masters program allows students to access a distinguished computer science faculty who have won several awards from the following organizations:

    IBM National Science Foundation National Academy of Engineering

    Notables

    The degree program is non-thesis, making it an attractive choice for those interested in a program centered on coursework and unencumbered by required thesis hours. NCSU has been regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Accreditation for Computer Science Degrees



The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes various accreditation agencies that evaluate and certify higher education institutions’ academic quality. Accreditation status matters, since only students enrolled in accredited schools can receive federal financial aid.

Accrediting agencies assess factors such as curriculum rigor, institutional performance, faculty credentials, and library resources. Degrees and credits earned at nationally accredited schools typically do not transfer to regionally accredited schools, since the latter meet significantly higher academic standards.

CHEA also approves many accreditation agencies specializing in programmatic accreditation. The best computer science degrees online are available at regionally accredited schools and boast programmatic accreditation through societies belonging to the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

Courses in Computer Science Programs



Computer science bachelor’s program curricula typically include core coursework in precalculus and calculus, computer programming, operating systems, and software development. Additional core topics may include computer architecture, data management, and digital technology ethics. CS programs often require course and capstone projects that build skills in design, programming, and problem-solving.

Many online computer science programs also offer curriculum concentrations in fields such as information security, software engineering and development, and computer networking. Specialized courses may include artificial intelligence, game design, and data mining. The sample courses below appear in many CS curricula, although course offerings vary by program and school.

This core course introduces key computer programming principles and languages such as Java and C++. Computer science programs typically feature several computer programming courses that cover these languages in greater depth. Learning these languages prepares students to write the effective and safe computer code needed for software development, computer programming, and web development.

This more recent addition to many CS curricula explores the tech industry’s shift toward the use of machine learning and big data to solve problems and improve outcomes. This course typically appears as an elective or as a core course within a data science concentration. Participants study machine learning concepts, methods, and relevant applications. Essential topics include classifiers, supervised and unsupervised learning, and neural networks. Learners may need prerequisite coursework in computer programming.

Most CS programs include at least one course in technology ethics. This course surveys ethical concepts, theories, and dilemmas associated with digital technologies. Enrollees discuss ethical challenges concerning privacy, censorship, automation, and computational genomics. This course prepares CS students for careers in information systems security or computer forensics.

This core CS course covers computer systems and operating systems such as Microsoft and UNIX/Linux. Participants study the linkages and communications associated with major commercial systems, platforms, and architectures. Often requiring prior familiarity with computer programming, this course also teaches students methods for software design and problem-solving.

Often available as a course and a curriculum concentration, software engineering examines structural, informational, and behavioral requirements. Enrollees learn requirement elicitation techniques such as interviewing, prototyping, and specification. Participants also learn how to validate requirements, manage nonfunctional requirements, and analyze fundamentals.

Scholarships for Computer Science

Even the most affordable computer science degrees online may leave students with out of pocket costs. To help with this, qualifying undergraduate and graduate students may apply for scholarships. Schools, professional organizations, and private donors offer financial awards to competitive candidates boasting high academic performance and financial need. Many scholarships only consider candidates within relevant fields or underrepresented identity groups. See below for some scholarships available to computer science students.

Out to Innovate Scholarships

Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports LGBTQ+ undergraduate upperclassmen or graduate students in STEM fields. Eligible candidates demonstrate LGBTQ+ community involvement, two years or more of 3.0 minimum GPAs at accredited schools, and declared STEM majors.
Amount: Varies

Upsilon Pi Epsilon Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This award goes to Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) members enrolled full time and active in their school’s ACM student chapter. Application requirements include a professional plans description, personal statement, and a UPE advisor’s recommendation letter.
Amount: $1,000-$2,500

Women Techmakers Scholarship for Computer Science

Who Can Apply: This Google scholarship awards $10,000 to women enrolled in computer science programs. Recipients boast leadership potential, passion for advancing women in tech, and strong academic records.
Amount: $10,000 and an invitation to the Google Scholars’ Retreat

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