A broad and ever-expanding field with applications in nearly every industry, computer science (CS) combines computing theory, programming, and mathematics. Successful computer science professionals typically enjoy problem-solving and possess considerable quantitative aptitude and technical skill. Many CS careers require sustained, focused attention to detail, and upper-level professionals often need creativity, business acumen, and management skills.
Online computer science degrees can open the door to many diverse, secure, and lucrative careers. Increasingly in demand, CS majors work in almost every industry.
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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer and information technology professionals earn salaries often approaching or exceeding six figures. The BLS projects the need for computer and information technology professionals to grow 11% between 2019 and 2029.
Earning your computer science degree online safeguards your education investment even further, as online degrees typically cost less than on-campus programs. Online learners do not incur room-and-board or transportation expenses and can continue working while earning their degree.
This page highlights affordable online computer science degrees, including common courses, funding options, and career outlook. Read on to determine whether an online computer science degree aligns with your interests and aspirations.
Top 10 Most Affordable Online Computer Science Degrees
||Columbus State University
||Georgia Southern University
||Old Dominion University
||University of Massachusetts Online
||Capitol Technology University
||La Jolla, CA
||University of Bridgeport
||East Carolina University
||North Carolina State University at Raleigh
|Can I earn a computer science degree online?
||Yes, many schools offer online computer science programs. Online program curricula resemble that of on-campus programs, but online programs allow flexible, asynchronous participation from the comfort of home.
|How long does it typically take to earn a bachelor’s in computer science?
||Bachelor’s programs usually require at least four years to complete. However, full-time, accelerated programs can cut this timeline in half. Students’ prior coursework also affects time-to-degree.
|What is computer science?
||An interdisciplinary science, CS incorporates mathematics, computing theory, and an array of programming languages and technical skills.
|What is the difference between computer science and information technology?
||These domains and curricula overlap significantly. However, computer science typically emphasizes programming skills, while information technology focuses on computer system installation, maintenance, and improvement.
Career and Salary Outlook for Computer Science Graduates
Given the ever-expanding use of technology across most industries, a computer science education typically pays off. According to the BLS, computer and information technology professionals earned a median annual salary of $88,240 in 2019. Some careers for CS bachelor’s graduates pay six-figure salaries. Lucrative bachelor’s-level careers for CS graduates include database administrator, information security analyst, and software developer.
See below for common careers for professionals who earned a computer science degree online. Note that position titles may differ across various companies and industries.
- Web Developer
- These professionals design and create websites. Many CS graduates work as front-end (user interface) or back-end (technical construction) web developers. They meet with clients, construct and implement computer code and applications, monitor website activity, and sometimes collaborate with other CS professionals. Professionals typically need at least a CS-related associate degree.
- Computer Programmers
- These professionals write the code that operates computer software and applications. Their jobs include testing and adjusting code to create and maintain codes and program functioning. Computer programmers typically need a CS-related bachelor’s degree. This job usually includes software development or collaboration with software developers.
- Software Developers
- This profession entails designing, creating, and upgrading computer-related programs, systems, and applications. Software developers often specialize in a particular development area, such as software or applications. They often provide design diagrams for computer programmers to render operational through code.
- Computer and Information Systems Managers
- CIS managers oversee staff, IT goal-setting and implementation, and information and network security procedures. These professionals also usually explore new technologies and advise executives on IT-related decisions and improvements. These positions typically require at least a bachelor’s degree in a CS or IS management.
Accreditation for Computer Science Programs
The best computer science programs usually hold programmatic accreditation through an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) member society such as CSAB, Inc. However, prospective students can feel relatively confident in most computer science programs offered by regionally accredited schools approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Regional accreditors hold schools to higher standards than national accreditors, so the former typically elicits more respect. Students at either nationally or regionally accredited schools can qualify for federal aid. However, regionally accredited schools do not accept credits or degrees from nationally accredited schools. CS students planning on graduate study should pay attention to accreditation standards.
The Department of Education features a database of accredited schools and programs to help prospective students confirm the accreditation status of schools and programs.
Online Learning for Affordability
Online programs are similar to on-campus programs in terms of academic rigor and results. However, online programs offer greater convenience and lower cost. Many online learners retain their daytime jobs (and paychecks) by pursuing their degrees asynchronously. Since they do not need to attend courses at a set time and place, they can participate when their schedule allows.
Distance learners also save money on transportation and housing. Enrollees completing their computer science degree online often save money by eliminating commuting costs and room-and-board expenses.
Online programs also frequently charge lower tuition rates or fees. Since online students do not use on-campus resources, many schools waive various university fees. Online programs also sometimes allow distance learners to pay discounted tuition rates. Some schools even allow out-of-state distance learners to attend at in-state tuition rates, which can cost just a fraction of out-of-state rates.
Courses in Computer Science Programs
Computer science bachelor’s programs typically require about 60 general education credits and 60 major-related credits. Required courses cover areas including computer programming, software development, systems analysis and design, and data structures and algorithms. Most computer science bachelor’s programs incorporate a capstone internship or project that helps students exercise the research, analysis, and technical skills acquired during coursework.
CS majors also complete elective or concentration credits in specialization areas such as data analysis, software engineering, or information security. While specific courses vary by program, most CS programs feature the courses below.
- Software Security
- This course teaches students to understand and analyze security concepts, to create secure code which complies with security tests, and to apply encryption technologies and techniques. A core course in many computer science programs, software security provides skills useful to careers in information security or web and software development and engineering.
- Focused on algebra, functions, and graphing techniques, this course teaches students to apply functions and problem-solving techniques to real-world problems. Usually a general education requirement for bachelor of science students, precalculus prepares enrollees for core computer science requirements such as calculus, applied linear algebra, discrete mathematics, and algorithms.
- Computer Programming
- Core coursework in all computer science programs, this course teaches enrollees how to use the programming languages needed for web development, computer programming, and software development and engineering. Students produce functional, efficient, and secure computer code that complies with standard regulations and practices.
- Operating Systems
- Introducing commercial operating and computer system concepts, communications, and linkages, this course typically requires participants to have already completed some computer programming coursework. Students learn about platforms and architectures for major operating systems, including UNIX/Linux and Microsoft Windows. Enrollees learn how to use software design templates for problem-solving purposes.
- Digital Technology Ethics
- Using engaging real-world situations to examine ethical dilemmas, this course covers digital technology issues including automation, censorship and privacy, and computational genomics. This core computer science course is particularly important for aspiring information security and computer forensics professionals.
Computer science students should start planning their education funding by completing the FAFSA at the beginning of the calendar year. Students learn their financial aid eligibility and may receive grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study offers.
Recipients should accept grants and scholarships first, as these forms of aid do not require repayment. Next, enrollees may want to consider work-study opportunities, which help them defray education expenses through an on-campus job. Many applicants also accept subsidized loans, which do not begin accruing interest until graduation. When necessary, students also may take on unsubsidized loans, which start to accrue interest immediately.
Online students often spend less earning their degree than their on-campus counterparts since they pay less in tuition, do not incur transportation and residency expenses, and can maintain their jobs throughout their program.
Scholarships for Computer Science Majors
Often funded by governmental or nonprofit organizations, various scholarships exist for eligible undergraduate and graduate students in nearly every field. Scholarships like the ones below can help computer science students reduce education expenses.
CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service
Who Can Apply: Funded by the U.S. government, this scholarship covers tuition expenses for awardees at qualifying participating universities, which determine their own application requirements. Scholarship winners participate in 10-week summer internships and fulfill government employment contracts upon graduation.
Society for Women Engineers Scholarships
Who Can Apply: SWE awards various scholarships to full-time undergraduate and graduate women in ABET-accredited computer science, engineering technology, or engineering programs. Only residents in one of the scholarship’s 20 approved states can win this scholarship.
Out to Innovate Scholarships
Who Can Apply: LGBTQ+ undergraduate juniors and seniors or graduate students in STEM fields may apply. Eligible applicants demonstrate a declared STEM major, active involvement in LGBTQ+ programs or organizations, and successful performance (3.0 minimum GPA) in at least two years of college coursework at an accredited school.
Upsilon Pi Epsilon Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Full-time graduate or undergraduate Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) members active in their school’s ACM student chapter may apply. Applicants submit transcripts, a personal statement, a description of professional plans, and a recommendation letter from a UPE advisor.
Women Techmakers Scholarship for Computer Science
Who Can Apply: In honor of Dr. Anita Borg, this Google scholarship supports women undergraduate or graduate students in computer science-related programs. Recipients must demonstrate high academic performance, leadership potential, and commitment to women in tech.
Amount: $10,000, plus invitation to annual Google Scholars’ Retreat
Most Affordable Online Computer Science Degrees
Prospective CS students can begin their search for computer science programs by reviewing this ranking of the most affordable online computer science degrees. Highlighting the best online computer science degrees for the money, these rankings allow for quick comparison and identification of programs that fit students’ needs and goals.
Columbus State University
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.
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
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.
Georgia Southern University
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
University of Massachusetts Online
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.
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
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.
Capitol Technology University
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
North Carolina State University at Raleigh
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.
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
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.