Earning a computer science degree has long been one of the strongest foundations for a career in tech. Data produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2019 findings show that careers available to graduates of computer science schools can feature yearly salaries, which is up to twice as high as the national average of $ $53,490 calculated for all occupations nationwide.
Computer science students may plan to move onward to a graduate degree after finishing their bachelor's, as employment demand and salary compensation tend to increase alongside the complexity or sensitivity of the work you're capable of doing. Candidates who've earned a master's or Ph.D. are typically best prepared for such advanced positions.
Students hoping for a quicker route to the workforce may also want to consider a degree in information technology, a similar but distinct field. IT degree programs focus on the application of technology in business and private settings, which allows graduates to qualify for a range of specific positions after just two or four years of education.
Scroll on to learn more about computer science careers, find out what to expect from your computer science major and view the featured computer science colleges we compiled using data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and other sources.
What is covered in computer science colleges, exactly? Each online college takes its own specific approach, but most study plans can be sorted into two general categories:
The exact list of courses you'll take can vary from computer science school to school and from one degree level to another.
How long does an online bachelor's degree program in computer science take?
In most cases, it takes about four years of full-time study to earn an online bachelor's in computer science. However, there are certain accelerated programs that can be completed in two or three years. Typically, you'll need about 120 course credits to complete your online bachelor's degree program in computer science.
What are the requirements to start a bachelor's degree program in computer science?
Although admission requirements vary from school to school, most programs require that you hold a high school diploma or GED. You can also transfer from another accredited educational institution as long as you are in good standing and have a minimum GPA of 2.0.
Why earn a bachelor's in computer science?
As with campus-based programs, if you pursue a bachelor's degree program in computer science online you can select a specialization that aligns with your unique strengths, interests and career goals. This degree level is for you if you want to enter the computer science field quickly. It can also be a way to prepare for a higher-level degree program.
Take general education courses:
Most online bachelor's in computer science degree programs begin with general education courses such as English, algebra and psychology.
Choose a specialization and take relevant courses:
Once you have learned more about the field you can select a specialization like algorithms, languages and computability, software systems, networking, computer systems and architecture, artificial intelligence and cognitive modeling that aligns your career path with your interests.
Participate in an internship:
An internship may be required before graduation so that you can gain meaningful work experience before you begin applying for jobs. Check with your intended school to find out how they support computer science internships.
It's not easy to manage the cost of a college education, but financial aid programs are here to help. Read more about computer science financial aid below, and get some additional info in our guide to scholarships.
Applicant must be a Maryland resident and have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above to apply.
Applicant must be attending a UNISEX conference and currently performing research relating to the conference topic. Application with supporting statement is required.
Applicant must be actively pursuing an undergraduate degree, graduate degree, or credential/licensure for the purpose of teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) subjects at a United States middle or secondary school. Applicant must be attending an accredited U.S. college or university. Graduate-level candidates must be currently enrolled in at least two semester equivalent classes; credential/licensure students must have completed a bachelor's degree in a STEM major.
Applicant must be a United States citizen enrolled in an accredited four-year institution in the United States who is active in a ROTC program and nominated by professors of military science, naval science, or aerospace studies. Applicant must be able to demonstrate academic excellence, good moral character, potential to serve as an officer in the U.S. Armed Forces, and financial need.
Applicant must be a member of an American Indian tribe and must have successfully completed a high school summer transition program offered by CERT or a tribal internship program. Applicant must be a full-time undergraduate (12 hours/semester) or graduate (9 hours/semester) student enrolled at an accredited two or four year tribal, private, or public university or college.
PG&E believes in helping students interested in being a part of California?s clean energy future, giving them opportunities to learn and succeed in higher education. PG&E is awarding scholarships to help further STEM studies of students in California. Twenty scholarships of $10,000 each and 20 scholarships of $2,500 each are available to high school seniors, current college students, veterans and adults returning to school who are PG&E customers at the time of application and are pursuing a degree in one of the following STEM disciplines: Engineering (electrical, mechanical, industrial, environmental, power and/or energy), Computer Science/Information Systems, Cyber Security or Environmental Sciences. Applicants must plan to enroll in full-time undergraduate study for the entire 2020-2021 academic year and be pursuing their first undergraduate degree at an accredited 4-year school in California. Scholarships will be awarded based on academic achievement, demonstrated participation and leadership in school and community activities and financial need.
Applicant must be a U.S. citizen who is a full-time student with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Selection is based upon essay, letters of recommendation, resume, standardized test scores, and transcript.
Applicant must complete essay and interview if selected. Selection is based upon SAT Reasoning or ACT scores, GPA, and high school curriculum.
Applicant must be a full-time student in an undergraduate or graduate degree-granting program in a field directly related to the support of United States intelligence or homeland security enterprises, and/or foreign languages. Applicant must be currently enrolled at a two- or four-year accredited college or university in the United States.
Applicant must have a minimum cumulative 2.5 GPA. Preference is given in the following order to applicants majoring in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, accounting, and computer science.
Applicants must be women currently enrolled in an accredited institution working towards a degree in computer science or related field. Students must join the Windows Insider Program and be able to attend two required conferences. Applicants must submit a video and a written statement pertaining to their vision for the future.
Applicant must be a woman with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicant must be in an ABET-accredited engineering program, engineering at SWE-approved institution, or computer science in a CSAB-accredited program or at an ABET-accredited or SWE-approved institution.
Applicant must rank in the top 15% of class and demonstrate leadership skills.
Applicants must be enrolled in a degree-granting program in business, computer science, engineering, mathematics or the natural sciences. Selection is based on the overall strength of the application.
Applicant must have a minimum cumulative 2.5 GPA.
Applicant must be a Wyoming high school graduate, enrolled at a Wyoming university, community college, or approved trade school, planning to pursue a course of study leading to a career in the highway transportation industry.
Applicant must be a high school senior in a Unitil service territory in Maine, New Hampshire, or Massachusetts who plans to major in science, technology, engineering, or math. Selection based upon academic merit, financial need, other scholarships awarded, outside student activities and other relevant factors such as the number of hours worked outside of class during the school year.
Applicant must be a U.S. citizen, a woman, and have a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicant must be in an ABET-accredited engineering program, engineering at SWE-approved institution, or computer science in a CSAB-accredited program or at an ABET-accredited or SWE-approved institution.
Applicants must be undergraduate freshmen, sophomores or juniors. They must be enrolled in an accredited degree program in computer science, chemical engineering, manufacturing engineering, aerospace engineering, electrical engineering, computer engineering, mechanical engineering or industrial engineering. They must have a GPA of 3.5 or higher on a four-point scale. Selection is based on the overall strength of the application.
Applicant must be a United States citizen enrolled at an accredited four-year institution who is enrolled in a degree-granting, graduate-level STEM major (science, technology, engineering, and math) program.
Computer science students typically spend the first two years or so of their bachelor's programs learning about the range of subjects within the discipline. This is a good opportunity to consider how you want to focus your studies going forward. Here's a list of a few of the specialties that may be available at computer science colleges:
Here's some extra detail about a few topics that most computer science degree programs include in their curriculum:
Computer science students may find themselves facing with a dazzling array of job titles and specific positional requirements once they head out into the workforce, but it remains true that an education from the best computer science schools can prepare you for a range of in-demand jobs near the higher end of the salary spectrum.
In the paragraphs below, we'll drill down into the specifics of a few careers that computer science graduates can qualify for and provide some detailed information on how to position yourself well for each one.
Data scientists combine their computer science expertise with a deep knowledge of statistics and data modeling to help solve complex problems. If you can't decide between a career in computer science or one in mathematics, this might be the job for you.
Here's a short list of skills and responsibilities commonly expected of data scientists:
It's possible to get certain entry-level data science positions with a generalized bachelor's degree in computer science, but employers may prefer candidates with a minor in statistics or a dual-degree plan in computer science and statistics or mathematics. Full bachelor's degree plans in data science may be available at some institutions.
A range of professional certifications can help demonstrate your abilities to potential employers, as well. Here's a list of just a few of the certification options currently on the market:
Some advanced positions may require a master's degree or higher. Dedicated data science study plans are fairly common at the graduate level, which can be helpful if you're thinking about changing your career after working in another computing field.
As the name implies, software testers conduct various tests to assess the usability of software apps and systems. Once each round of tests is complete, software testers use analytical software to process the results and prepare reports on their findings. Here are a few on-the-job duties that software testers typically perform:
Many employers of software testers prefer applicants with a four-year degree in computer science — around 70 percent of working software testers hold a bachelor's degree, according to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) — but post-baccalaureate certificates that specifically teach software testing skills may help you stand apart from the pack.
Certification paths can help aspiring software testers prove to potential employers that they have the full suite of skills necessary to test software accurately and effectively. Here are a few of the credentials available:
Communicating with team members and stakeholders is a big part of effective software testing, so augmenting your computer science degree with courses in communications and professional writing can be a good idea.
Web developers use their computer science knowhow to build and maintain applications and sites on the web. Some web developer positions may also include a visual design element, particularly if you're working on a team without a dedicated web designer.
Here are a few of the day-to-day responsibilities that web developers are expected to handle:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists a two-year associate degree as the minimum educational requirement for web developers, but some employers may require that candidates hold a bachelor's degree in computer science or higher, depending on the complexity of the work they have to offer. Undergraduate and non-credit certificates in web development are available as well, for those looking to transition their skills after earning a different degree.
Professional certifications in web development can also enhance your job prospects. Here's a list of a few top credentials:
A portfolio of completed web development work is often requested by potential employers or clients, so it's important to keep an archive of sites and apps you've worked on. Most web development degree programs offer ample opportunity to build your portfolio in specific ways, depending on the courses you take.
If you're hoping to become a big data expert and get a job in analytics or data science, this credential is a strong first step toward mastery.
This credential ensures that you share a common testing vocabulary with other members of a prospective software testing team and opens the door to more advanced certifications in the future.
This certification helps you combine front-end scripting languages with back-end programming languages to produce high-quality sites and applications on the web.
Becoming a member of a professional organization in your field can expose you to opportunities for professional growth and resources that can help you stay on the cutting edge of computing technology. Here are a few organizations you should consider: