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Online Colleges for Computer Science

From computer programming and software development to opportunities at help desks and support lines, computer science professionals are a mandatory fixture in modern life. Computer science focuses on the theory behind computers and the essential logic statements that make up computer software, and a degree in this field can prepare graduates for creating websites as web developers, applications and mobile apps as software developers, or network protocol technologies as computer scientists. Whether you prefer the technical aspect of developing and maintaining computers and software, or the human interaction of systems support, you can find an aspect of the industry that fits your needs.

Best Online Colleges for Computer Programming

Our list of the top 10 best online colleges for computer science was compiled from data primarily provided through the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). In making this list, we used many different data points to rank the best online programs in computer science from U.S. colleges and universities. You can read more about the methodology we used to create this list at the bottom of this page.

1

South Texas College

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$3,770
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
17.14%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
21
School Type
4-year

South Texas College online offers more than 500 classes and 18 fully online degree paths, including an Associate of Science in computer science that requires 62 credit hours to complete. The program at South Texas College is primarily designed for students who plan on earning a bachelor's degree in computer sciences or computer software engineering. However, it's also a good fit for students seeking entry-level positions in either of these fields. South Texas College also offers a fully online bachelor's degree program in computer information and technologies for students who wish to continue their educational journey through STC online. The college lands our number-one spot based on ranking twelfth for low cost of in-state tuition and third for percentage of computer science degrees awarded in 2015, out of 102 analyzed schools. That the college has an open admissions policy (meaning that it accepts all candidates with a high school diploma or a GED certificate who apply) just makes it look even better.

Accreditation:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Location:

3201 W. Pecan Blvd.
McAllen, TX 78502-9701
2

Hazard Community and Technical College

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$3,624
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
44.44%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
24
School Type
2-year

Hazard Community and Technical College served a total of 3,238 students in the fall of 2015. HCTC offers many different associate degree paths in computer and information technologies, including:

  • Applications
  • Computer science
  • Information security
  • Internet technologies
  • Network administration
  • Computer programming

HCTC's Associate in Applied Science in computer science is structured to provide students with a background in technical concepts such as advanced data structures, computational complexity and proof structures. The degree path requires between 62 and 64 total credit hours to complete, including 29 credit hours in the core requirements and 21 in computer science classes. HCTC ranks second in our list based on favorable rankings for cost of in-state tuition and number of computer science degrees pursued by students at the college in 2015.

Accreditation:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Location:

One Community College Drive
Hazard, KY 41701-2402
3

Hopkinsville Community College

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$3,624
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
49.78%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
25
School Type
2-year

Hopkinsville Community College primarily serves residents of south central Kentucky, although students throughout the state and beyond attend the college through the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. The Associate in Applied Science in computer science requires between 62 and 64 credit hours to complete. Students must complete a total of 29 credit hours in core classes and another 21 credit hours in computer science classwork. The degree aims to prepare students either for entry level work in technical computing positions or to extend their education by transferring to a four-year university. Although the degree can be completed fully online, the college notes that certain instructors may require students to take proctored exams. Hopkinsville Community College ranks third on our list based on its favorable cost of in-state tuition, as well as its rank of fourth out of 102 schools for number of computer science degrees awarded by the college in 2015.

Accreditation:

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Location:

720 North Dr.
Hopkinsville, KY 42240
4

Dakota State University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$7,974
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
57.30%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
25
School Type
4-year

Dakota State University's fully online B.A. in computer science program is taught by professors who all have Ph.D.s in computer science. The program requires a total of 120 credit hours to complete, and can be useful for students pursuing a career in:

  • Software engineers
  • Computer programmers or analysts
  • Software developers
  • Systems administration

Students who wish to further their education past the baccalaureate level can pursue a Master of Science in Applied Computer Science from DSU, which can be completed with just one additional year of study. The university is ranked fourth due to all-around positive scores in all areas of our metric, including tuition, graduation, admissions and more.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission

Location:

820 N. Washington Ave.
Madison, SD 57042-1799
5

Metropolitan Community College

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$2,745
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
29.95%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
21
School Type
2-year

Metropolitan Community College was founded in 1974, when it served a mere 2,430 students. The college has come a long way since then: it served a total of 22,413 students in the 2016-17 school year. MCC's Associate of Science in computer science is a transfer degree designed for students who intend to go on and earn bachelor's degrees in computer science, as well as those seeking entry-level positions in the field of computer programming. Bellevue University in Bellevue and University of Nebraska at Omaha, both member institutions of Transfer Nebraska, accept the transfer degree from Metropolitan Community College. The program emphasizes study in logic C, C++, VB and Java. Students must complete between 103 and 104.5 credit hours of coursework, including 60.5 credit hours in major requirements and between 42.5 and 44 credit hours in general education classes. MCC lands in the fifth spot in our rankings based largely on tuition, where it ranked No.16 out of 102 schools analyzed, although it also scored respectably in terms of the number of computer science degrees it awarded in 2015.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission

Location:

30 & Fort St.
Omaha, NE 68111-1610
6

Weber State University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$5,321
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
32.49%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
12
School Type
4-year

Founded in 1889, Weber State University has served generations of Utah-based students. Although 92 percent of the more than 26,000 annual students at Weber State University reside in Utah, the university serves students from all 50 states through its online college. WSU offers 10 fully online degrees, including an Associate of Applied Science in computer science. It also offers a Bachelor of Integrated Studies with an emphasis in computer science (along with two other concentrations). The A.A. degree path instructs students in math and physics, as well as the engineering and scientific principles of computing, emphasizing the complex relationship between software, hardware and system components. The associate degree requires 63 credit hours to complete, including 40 credit hours of study in computer science courses.

Accreditation:

  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Location:

3848 Harrison Blvd.
Ogden, UT 84408
7

Southern New Hampshire University

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$30,386
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
91.98%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
109
School Type
4-year

Southern New Hampshire University serves about 3,000 students each year from its campus in Manchester. However, the university serves more than 75,000 students each year from its online campus. The university's fully online Bachelor of Science in computer science degree requires 121 total credit hours to complete. Student must complete 45 credits in general education courses, as well as nine credit hours in elective courses. The rest of the curriculum focuses on study of computer sciences, including:

  • Operating environments and system architecture
  • Computing languages
  • Software testing and development platforms
  • Quality assurance

Students who complete the degree should have the educational foundation to design and develop highly detailed computing solutions using algorithmic principles to meet industry-specific goals. SNHU ranked seventh for admissions and 11th for graduations in our analysis, easily explaining its presence in this list.

Accreditation:

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education

Location:

2500 N. River Road
Manchester, NH 03106-1045
8

University of Advancing Technology

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$21,180
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
38.54%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
10
School Type
4-year

UAT is a technology-centric university located in Tempe, Arizona that offers a fully online Bachelor of Science in computer science degree program. The program focuses on developing student's skills in new program languages, software engineering paradigms and computing system architectures. Working collaboratively, students are expected to design, build and identify issues with software engineering systems. The curriculum is meant to build a solid foundation in all cycles of software development processes and life cycles. All told, the program requires 120 total credit hours to complete, including 36 credit hours in the course major. University of Advancing Technology also offers a master's in computer science for students who wish to further their education past the baccalaureate level. UAT is the leader of 102 schools in our evaluation for the number of computer science degrees awarded in 2015.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission

Location:

2625 W. Baseline Road
Tempe, AZ 85283
9

Western Nebraska Community College

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$2,616
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
52.54%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
7
School Type
2-year

Western Nebraska Community College serves residents of the Nebraska Panhandle through campuses in Alliance, Scottsbluff and Sidney. However, the college has students in nearly 30 states and 30 different countries through its online campus. WNCC offers a fully online Associate of Science in computer science degree. Coursework is designed to provide students with a foundation in the principles and practices of algorithmic design, computer operating systems and programming/programming languages. Although not labeled as a transfer degree, Western Nebraska Community College emphasizes that the A.S. degree in computer science can help students pursue a bachelor's degree in cyber security, information technology, computer information systems or related fields. WNCC lands in the ninth spot on our top 10 list of best online colleges for computer science degrees based on highly favorable ranking for cost of in-state tuition: it was 10th out of 102 total institutions.

Accreditation:

  • Higher Learning Commission

Location:

1601 E. 27th St.
Scottsbluff, NE 69361-1899
10

University of Maryland-University College

Tuition & Fees/Year Tuition and fees per year refers to the average in-state tuition and required fees for full-time undergraduates and, if applicable, graduate students as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$7,056
Distance Education Participation Distance Education Participation refers to the percentage of students taking either some or all of the courses via distance education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
96.87%
Number of Programs Offered Number of programs offered refers to the count of degrees and certificates offered via distance education at any level as of 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics
106
School Type
4-year

Students who complete the Bachelor of Science in computer science degree at University of Maryland University College are able to design, plan and optimize hardware and software systems for both private and government entities. The program focuses on algorithm enhancement and optimization, programming, and computer theory and science. Specifically, the degree path prepares students for work in the field using the following programming languages and tools:

  • C++
  • Java
  • MATLAB
  • OpenGL
  • Octave

Coursework also includes study in computer architecture, signal and image processing, and data analysis and structures. The computer science degree from UMUC requires 120 total credit hours to complete. A minimum of 30 credits must be completed at UMUC, including half the credits earned in the student's chosen major and minor. Students who complete their entire degree requirements from University of Maryland University College must complete 34 credits in general education classes, 35 credit hours in the program major, and 26 credits in elective classes.

Accreditation:

  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Location:

3501 University Blvd.
East Adelphi, MD 20783-8010

Degree Overview: Computer Science

The world of technology is moving fast, so people who want to enter the field must be up-to-date on the latest machines and mechanics to keep up. Developing an understanding of these technologies and learning to work with and utilize them is the key component of an online computer science degree program, which is why enrolling in one can be so favorable for one's career. This section explores examples of the courses students may take in such a program, as well as the skills they may want to prioritize developing.

Online Computer Science Courses

As a computer itself is composed of many different parts, the field of computer science is comprised of many different areas of knowledge. Computer science students may find themselves engaging in these areas with varying grades of intensity, depending on the level of degree program they have enrolled in -- an associate degree program will likely focus more on broad concepts rather than intricate details, a bachelor's degree program is likely to delve deeper into specifics, and so on. However, regardless of the degree level you're pursuing, you can be sure that you'll be touching on all of these fields in one context or another throughout your computer science education.

  • Programming languages: In order to program a computer, you'll first need to be able to speak the machine's language. In addition to covering the syntax of programming languages such as C+, Ruby, Python or Java, classes in this subject may cover data structure management, development tools and parsing.
  • Software development: To develop software, it's important to understand the entire life cycle of software product development. From analysis to design, from testing to production, courses in this subject have a lot of ground to cover.
  • Data mining: Data mining involves discovering meaningful patterns in large amounts of data. This subject involves the different aspects of how to classify and cluster data, as well as various methods used for identifying patterns.
  • Database management: These courses emphasize the many different ways that databases are designed, implemented and used. Related topics include integrity enforcement, query optimization, concurrency control and data recovery.
  • Operating systems: A crucial part of a functional computer, the underlying principles of operating systems are just as crucial for computer science students to understand. Courses in this area may cover how multi-process and threaded applications work, the ways different operating systems communicate with each other and strategies for applying synchronization.

Career-Related Skills to Develop

Computer science majors will likely have the opportunity to explore many marketable skills during their time in a computer science program. Some of the most important skills to make sure you focus on during your studies are:

  • Technology: It should come as a surprise to nobody that computer science students will want to have solid technological skills before looking for a career in the field. Particularly relevant skills include programming and database management, as well as the ability to use software, hardware and multimedia products.
  • Creativity: Computer science requires a different way of thinking from many other careers, and the field is filled with innovators who are pushing the boundary of technology every day. People who work in computer science must be able to think outside the box to create new directions for their products and find solutions to the inevitable problems that crop up during the process.
  • Teamwork: The computer science field is not just about working with machines. Technology projects are often completed by teams of professionals, meaning that the career-oriented computer science hopeful must be able to work in a group to design, develop and test products.
  • Learning: Since technology is regularly evolving, workers in the field need to have strong learning skills that can keep up with the pace of new tech, as well as the curiosity to keep abreast of what developments are being made.
  • Communication: Whether it's communicating with your team via email, writing a progress report for your boss, or giving a presentation for a group of uninformed shareholders, strong verbal and written communication skills are relevant to the computer science professional.

Computer Science Specializations

Although information technology professionals are not required to obtain a certification to get hired, earning a credential can go a long way toward standing out in the competitive job market. The computer science field is made up of diverse innovations, and the certifications workers can earn are just as diverse. The following are some examples of these professional designations.

  • The Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC), offered by ISACA, is for those who work in enterprise risk management.
  • Issued by the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners, the Certified Computer Examiner (CCE) credential is available to professionals who conduct digital forensic examinations.
  • Those who work as network engineers or administrators can earn a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) from Cisco Systems, Inc.
  • Certified Information Systems Security Pro (CISSP) certifications from the International Information System Security Certification Consortium are for people who have experience crafting and enforcing an organization's IT security policy.
  • The Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) is for professionals who specialize in data platforms, server infrastructures, private cloud technologies, and enterprise devices.

Computer Science Career Outlook

Computers make the world go 'round, and from writing code to developing software to ensuring computer security, the number of jobs related to them continues to increase. If you're interested in a career pertaining to these incredible machines, a bachelor's degree in computer science can help you get your foot in the door.

Software Developers
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2016 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$104,300
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
238,000
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
18.8
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016
Bachelor's degree

From developing applications that allow a user to perform a particular function on a device to creating the underlying systems that actually make that device work, software developers are the brains behind the computers. They design, test and develop software to meet users' needs; create models or diagrams that help programmers write the code for the software; perform maintenance and testing to ensure the software functions as it should; plan and document upgrades; and work closely with other computer experts to ensure a polished end product.

Software developer careers require a strong background in computer programming. A bachelor's degree is the usual minimum to begin work; though a computer science or software engineering degree is typical, employers might also accept a bachelor's degree in mathematics or a related field.

Computer Programmers
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2016 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$85,180
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
81,000
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
-8
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016
Bachelor's degree

Computer programmers create and test code that allows software and computer applications to function as intended. In other words, they take the software created by software developers and turn it into a set of instructions a computer can understand.

The work includes writing code in a variety of computer programming languages; updating and expanding existing programs; testing programs for errors and fixing the problems; testing code; and simplifying the process through the use of code libraries. They often work closely with software developers and might even have overlapping responsibilities.

An associate degree and a specialization in certain programming languages is sometimes enough for entry-level work in computer programmer careers, but most computer programmers have a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field.

Web Developers
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2016 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$72,150
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
58,600
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
26.6
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016
Associate degree

Web developers handle all aspects of websites: creation, design, maintenance and sometimes even content development. They discuss website needs with their clients, then set about creating them. This includes writing code with popular programming languages; working with other teammates to create an appropriate format and layout; integrating audio, graphics and video into the site; and testing the site as it ages and expands.

Once the website is complete, the web developer monitors website traffic, creates new content and updates the site regularly to keep it running smoothly.

An associate degree is the usual route to web developer careers. A strong grasp of programming languages and graphic design is essential. Those who earn a bachelor's degree might be able to advance to work as project managers.

Information Security Analysts
Average Salary Average salary refers to the 2016 mean salary for all U.S. workers in this job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
$96,040
Projected Job Openings Projected job openings refers to the estimated number of job openings from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
25,500
Projected Job Growth Projected job growth refers to the estimated rate of increase in the number of jobs in this profession from 2014-2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
17.9
Entry-level Education This refers to the typical entry-level education needed to obtain a position in a particular job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016
Bachelor's degree

As hacking and other cyber attacks increase, the work of information security analysts is more important than ever. These professionals work to protect information from a wide variety of potential problems, including natural or man-made disasters, as well as hacking and security breaches from individuals, hostile governments and more.

Information security analyst careers include protecting sensitive information through the use of intense monitoring, installing software designed to maintain security of network systems, conducting penetration testing, compiling reports on security breaches, researching new threats and planning out best security practices for an organization.

A bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field is often preferred, though some employers will be impressed with those who earn the MBA in information systems. As with all other careers in technology, experience helps a person stand out in a sea of applicants.

Sources and Methodologies

Methodology

To be included in these rankings, all colleges had to meet the following criteria for the specific subject being ranked:

  1. Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor's) in that subject online
  2. Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in 2014-15

Once we had our list of schools for each subject, we ranked them on five criteria:

  1. In-state tuition, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
  2. Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
  3. Accessibility, based on the admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2014
  4. Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
  5. Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015

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  33. http://www.tomsitpro.com/articles/computer-forensics-certifications,2-650-2.html
  34. http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/training-events/training-certifications/certifications.html
  35. http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/training-events/training-certifications/certifications.html
X
Sources and Methodologies