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A computer science bachelor's degree provides a foundation in computing theories and develops essential information technology (IT) skills. Earning a computer science degree can open the door to lucrative career opportunities in the technology and IT sectors.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 13% growth rate for computer and information technology occupations from 2020-30, much faster than the average projected growth for all jobs. As society's need for information security, data storage, and cloud computing continues to grow, demand for these professionals is expected to keep pace.

This guide includes a ranking of the best affordable online bachelor's in computer science degrees. We also explain why you should earn a computer science degree, what to expect from a typical program, and how to choose the right school.

What Is Computer Science?

Computer science is the study of computers, software, and software systems, focused on areas like artificial intelligence, database systems, information security, and programming languages.

The computer science field offers many lucrative and fast-growing career opportunities. Potential jobs that require a bachelor's degree in computer science include computer and information systems manager, software developer, database administrator, and computer systems analyst. Computer science professionals work in computer systems design, software publishing, and research and development.

BLS projections indicate faster-than-average job growth for many computer science careers, due to society's increasing reliance on professionals with expertise in information security, data collection, and cloud computing.

Computer science often appeals to individuals with strong math, analytical, technology, and problem-solving skills. This sector offers room for advancement for those who earn graduate degrees or professional certifications.

Why Get an Affordable Online Computer Science Bachelor's?

Completing a four-year computer science degree requires a significant investment of time, effort, and money, but the investment pays off for many students. Earning an affordable online bachelor's in computer science gives learners the chance to gain new in-demand skills, qualify for more job opportunities, and increase their salaries.

Coding bootcamps typically take less time and money to complete. Many computer science employers require applicants for advanced positions to hold at least a bachelor's degree.

Some benefits of earning a computer science degree include:

  • Job Opportunities: Potential jobs include computer and information systems manager, computer systems analyst, software developer, and database administrator.
  • High Salaries: Specific salaries vary depending on job, employer, and level of experience, but as of March 2022 Payscale reports that individuals with bachelor's degrees in computer science make an average annual salary of $88,000.
  • Gain In-Demand New Skills: Students who complete a computer science degree learn IT, data analysis, software development, and information security skills, which they can apply to many different industries.

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Jobs for Bachelor's in Computer Science Graduates

A computer science degree prepares graduates for lucrative careers in the computer and IT field. The BLS projects faster-than-average job growth from 2019-2029 for all of the potential computer science careers below.

Computer science professionals can advance into better-paying and higher-level management positions by gaining on-the-job experience or earning a graduate degree and industry certifications. Common roles in the field include:

Computer and Information Systems Managers

BLS projections indicate faster-than-average job growth for computer and information systems managers from 2019-2029. This high-earning career typically requires several years of relevant professional experience in information technology. Many of the top computer and information systems managers also hold graduate degrees. Important qualities include analytical, business, communication, and leadership skills.

- Required Education: Bachelor's degree

- Job Outlook (2020-30): +11%

- Median Annual Salary: $151,150

Computer Systems Analysts

Computer systems analysts work in finance and insurance, management, and information industries. Typical job duties include overseeing new computer system installation, researching emerging technologies, analyzing costs and benefits of IT systems, and training end users. Experienced computer systems analysts can advance to lead teams of analysts or managing projects.

- Required Education: Bachelor's degree

- Job Outlook (2020-30): +7%

- Median Annual Salary: $93,730

Database Administrators

Database administrators secure organizational data, prevent data loss, and maintain databases. The BLS projects much-faster-than-average job growth for database administrators from 2020-30. Experienced database administrators can advance into careers as computer and information systems managers.

- Required Education: Bachelor's degree

- Job Outlook (2020-30): +8%

- Median Annual Salary: $98,860

Software Developers

These professionals create applications that run on computers and other devices in one of the fastest-growing IT jobs. Software developers analyze user needs, recommend software upgrades, work with other specialists to create software, and test applications. They typically work in computer systems design, manufacturing, software publishing, and management.

- Required Education: Bachelor's degree

- Job Outlook (2020-30): +22%

- Median Annual Salary: $110,140

What To Expect From Bachelor's in Computer Science Programs

Computer science bachelor's programs focus on the fundamental theories of computing and computer systems. Topics include programming languages, algorithms and data structures, operating systems, and information security. Students gain proficiency in data analysis, software development, and mathematics. They also develop problem-solving, analytical, critical thinking, and communication skills.

Common computer science classes include programming languages, discrete mathematics, software security, and full-stack development. Most computer science degrees take four full-time years to complete and require about 120 credits, with some online programs offering accelerated options.

Computer science programs prepare graduates for entry-level IT roles as software developers, information security analysts, web developers, and computer and information systems managers. Online computer science bachelor's degrees also offer a pathway to graduate programs in computer science and related fields.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for online bachelor's in computer science programs vary among schools. Typical requirements include a high school diploma or GED certificate. Some programs stipulate a minimum 2.5-3.0 GPA or completion of specific college preparatory coursework. Many universities, especially the most competitive ones, also require minimum SAT/ACT scores.

Applicants with computer science associate degrees or certificates may increase their chances of acceptance. Some community colleges partner with four-year institutions to offer guaranteed admission to computer science bachelor's programs for graduates with associate degrees.

The application process typically requires candidates to submit high school transcripts, test scores, letters of recommendation, and essays. Most universities require a $50-$150 application fee. Many colleges accept Common App, which allows students to apply to multiple schools with one general application.

Degree Options

Schools with computer science programs may offer different bachelor's degree options within the subject. Students typically choose a type of degree depending on their career and academic goals. Potential computer science degrees include a bachelor of arts (BA), bachelor of science (BS), and bachelor of business administration (BBA).

BA in Computer Science

A BA in computer science typically features elective courses or available minors in other subject areas. It prepares graduates for entry-level employment in computer and IT jobs or graduate school.

BS in Computer Science

A BS in computer science shares many similarities with a BA in computer science. However, BS students typically use their elective requirements to specialize in an area of computer science.

BBA in Computer Science

A computer science BBA focuses on the business aspects of computer science. Graduates qualify for entry-level jobs combining IT and management skills.

Computer science bachelor's programs often offer concentrations, which allow students to specialize in an area of the field. Common concentrations include big data, cybersecurity, machine learning, and mobile computing.

Popular Computer Science Courses

Specific course availability varies by college, but curricula for online computer science degrees typically focus on programming, software development, and information security. Most computer science degrees require core, elective/concentration, and general education credits. Some universities require an internship or capstone project near the end of the program. Common computer science courses include:

  • Programming Languages: Learners gain proficiency with industry best practices and regulations to develop functional, secure, professional, and efficient code.
  • Discrete Mathematics: This core class develops problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Students learn about relations and digraphs, operations on sets, truth tables, and graph theory.
  • Software Security: Enrollees learn to create secure code that meets security testing protocols. Students also become proficient in using encryption techniques and technologies to promote secure communication.
  • Full-Stack Development: Learners develop and design a full-stack application using programming language frameworks. They also develop databases and code for cloud-based applications.
  • Cybersecurity Foundations: Students learn to differentiate between environmental and adversarial threats, along with appropriate responses. Other topics include human and legal factors that affect security strategies for organizations.

How Much Do Affordable Bachelor's in Computer Science Degrees Cost?

Tuition for affordable bachelor's in computer science degrees varies considerably, but the College Board reports that public, four-year universities charged $10,560 yearly in 2020-2021, for a total cost exceeding $40,000. Private schools typically charge much more for tuition. Students can save money by completing the first two years of their education at a community college before transferring to a four-year university.

Other factors affecting cost include delivery format (online vs. in person), prestige, and residency status (in state vs. out of state).

Prospective computer science students should also consider other costs they may incur while in school, including housing, living expenses, textbooks, and technology upgrades. Most universities offer financial aid opportunities for computer science majors, including scholarships, grants, fellowships, and loans.

Making the Cheapest Computer Science Degrees Even Cheaper

When assessing affordable online bachelor's in computer science programs and their costs, you must decide what matters most to you. Factors influencing program cost include:

  • Online vs. On-Campus Delivery: Online computer science degrees typically offer greater affordability. Distance education makes it easier for students to work while in school, which may allow them to avoid taking on more loan debt to pay for their degrees. Out-of-state learners can often pay in-state or reduced tuition rates to earn fully online degrees from schools in other states.
  • University Prestige: Prestigious universities, particularly private institutions, often charge higher tuition rates. Students must weigh the benefits of attending a highly regarded school (well-known professors, networking opportunities) with the drawback of spending more on their education.
  • Student Resources: More expensive colleges typically offer a greater number, variety, and quality of student resources, such as career development centers, mentoring programs, tutoring, and networking opportunities. When researching potential schools, ask about the available student support services.
  • Quality of Instructors: Universities with high tuition often feature some of the best-known and reputable professors on their faculty. A strong staff can translate into better networking opportunities, job and internship connections, and overall education. However, dedicated and experienced teachers also often call less expensive schools home.
  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio: More expensive schools often have lower student-to-faculty ratios. Smaller classes offer many benefits, including the opportunity for more individualized attention and one-on-one time from the instructor.

Choosing the Right Affordable Computer Science Program

Our ranking of the top cheapest online computer science degrees offers a great place for prospective students to start their research. Other factors these learners should consider include:

  • Accreditation: Make sure to find an accredited university. Accreditation signals that an institution meets rigorous third-party standards and offers a high-quality education. Attending an accredited school makes it easier to qualify for financial aid, transfer credits to another college, and qualify for graduate programs and professional certifications.
  • Student/Teacher Ratio: Many students learn better in smaller classes. Most institutions publish their average student-to-teacher ratios on their websites.
  • Staff Credentials/Diversity: Reputable schools with strong academic programs employ faculty members with terminal degrees in their fields. Many degree-seekers enjoy learning from teachers who bring diverse experiences, viewpoints, and backgrounds to the classroom. You can research staff credentials and diversity on computer science department websites.
  • Cost/Financial Aid: What is the estimated cost of attendance for your program? Research financial aid opportunities, including any special grants or scholarships for computer science majors.

Why You Should Get Your Computer Science Degree Online

Earning an online computer science degree offers additional benefits over on-campus programs. Distance learners often enjoy greater flexibility, convenience, and affordability. Most online computer science programs offer asynchronous instruction, allowing students to view recorded lectures and complete coursework at any time, as long as they meet deadlines. This flexibility allows learners to work, take care of family, or fulfill other personal responsibilities while pursuing their degrees.

Distance education continues growing in popularity in many fields, and computer science students may find online learning particularly compatible with their work.

Computer and information technology professionals need to be very comfortable using computers and digital technology to communicate online. Many computer science professionals also work remotely or are self-employed, so students can gain comfort working independently.

Only you can decide if an online computer science degree would work for your unique learning style and academic and career goals. Read our online class tips for more information about distance learning for computer science majors.

Questions About Affordable Online Computer Science Bachelor's Degrees

Which bachelor's degree is best for computer science?

The best computer science bachelor's degree depends on your career and academic goals. A general computer science BS or BA prepares students for many entry-level computing and IT jobs.

How hard is a computer science degree?

Earning a computer science degree takes hard work and dedication, but most people find it achievable. Program difficulty varies depending on your previous experience and knowledge of computing.

What can you do with a computer science degree?

A computer science degree prepares graduates for lucrative roles in high-growth areas. Potential careers include computer and information systems manager, software developer, database administrator, and computer systems analyst.

Is a computer science degree worth it?

Yes. A computer science degree typically pays off. Graduates qualify for high-paying jobs, with the BLS reporting computer and information technology occupations earning a median annual salary of $88,240 as of 2019.

Top Affordable Online Bachelor's in Computer Science

You can launch your technology career with an online computer science bachelor's program. Explore the following five programs that offer affordable, flexible degree plans.

Review the link below to learn how we ranked these bachelor's programs.

Featured Image: Tom Werner / DigitalVision / Getty Images

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