As computer technology continues to improve, along with the growth of the U.S. economy, employers are hiring large numbers of computer science graduates. In fact, this is one of the fastest-growing industries in the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment in the computer science field will grow by 18 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the 10.8 percent employment increase across all sectors in that same time period. This means that pursuing a career in computer science is an excellent choice and a particularly smart investment.
If you decide to obtain an online computer science degree, many organizations will be interested in your skills and expertise, from small start-up companies to big corporations. An associate's degree can prepare you for some basic tech support jobs, while a bachelor's degree is the basic requirement for many more advanced computer science careers.
Online Computer Science Degree Programs
Numerous educational institutions in the U.S. offer online computer science programs that lead to various types of degrees and careers in the field of computer science. While the bachelor's degree tends to be a standard in the computer science industry, there are many different avenues to take.
If you enroll in a two-year associate degree program, you will take a variety of computer science classes, including: programming languages and techniques, networking, computer design, animation and computer hardware, and others. When you obtain your associate's degree, you can apply for any number of jobs including:
- Help desk technician
- Computer support specialist
- Computer repairer
- Web developer
- Computer programmer
All companies have different hiring requirements, so keep in mind that some companies may require a bachelor's degree for some of the above computer science positions.
If you decide to continue on with your coursework and study online for your bachelor's degree, as many students do, you can then transfer your credits and enroll in a four-year curriculum. You will most likely study operating systems, programming languages, systems security, software engineering, data networks, computer architecture, and other subjects. Your bachelor's degree will then open up the door to a number of more advanced technical jobs including:
- Systems administrator
- Software developer
- Database administrator
- Computer network architect
- Information security analyst
- Software developer
If you then decide to study for your master's degree online, you will learn about advanced computer science skills and specialize in one or more information systems areas. You'll need an accredited computer science degree to apply for admission; the two-year curriculum typically includes studying database technologies, advanced systems programming and other subjects. Most likely you will be required to write a thesis in order to obtain your master's degree. With your master's degree in hand, you will be able to apply for a job in academia or in research. Typically, graduate degree online computer science programs are more costly than associate or bachelor degree computer science programs.
Career Outlook for Computer Science Graduates
The outlook for a career in the computer science field is very promising. Not only do they have higher salaries than the overall national average, BLS data also shows that there is huge growth potential for most of the jobs in the sector. The table below lists out career options for computer science graduates with their 2014 median annual salary and growth potential for the decade of 2012-22 as per the BLS.
|Career||Median Wage||Projected Growth||Total Employment|
|Computer Information Research Scientists||$113,190||15.3%||24,210|
|Computer Hardware Engineers||$110,650||7.4%||76,360|
|Computer Network Architects||$100,710||14.6%||140,080|
|Computer Systems Analysts||$87,320||24.5%||528,320|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014
Choosing the Right School
You're going to be putting a lot of time, effort and financial resources into your online computer science education, so you should pick the school that's right for you. In deciding what school to choose, you should first determine if the school is accredited or not; you can find this information by going to the website of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education. Either agency can provide you with up-to-date information about various online computer science schools in your area.
When looking at schools that offer computer science programs, you also want to make certain that you consider the following factors:
- Does the school offer technical support that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?
- What is the cost of tuition, and what additional fees, if any, are you expected to pay?
- Do the professors offer any feedback when it comes to assignments? How often are they available to answer any questions that you may have?
- What is the teacher-student ratio?
- What is the style of teaching: Is it completely online, or is there also some traditional classroom instruction as well?
- Can you receive any financial aid from the school?
- Does the school offer career planning assistance and support?
When planning for your future, it's important to pick a school that is best for your needs. Browse through the schools below to get started.
2014-15 Edition of Occupational Outlook Handbook (PDF), News Release: Economic and Employment Predictions, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ecopro.pdf
Long-Term Occupational Projections, http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Computer and Information Technology, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm
Complete Guide to an Online Computer Science Degree, http://www.guidetoonlineschools.com/degrees/information-technology/computer-science