There are many good reasons to pursue an online computer science degree these days, not the least of which is the growing demand for computer science professionals in the workforce, and the generous salaries for those with computer science degrees. More and more people are choosing to pursue a computer science degree online because of the greater flexibility and affordability found in online study. For someone looking to study computer science online, we’ve put together a list of the best online computer science degrees, as well as other computer related degree programs, available in 2017. Our rankings are based on several factors, including reputation, student satisfaction, peer and instructional quality, and overall affordability. Only fully accredited computer science degree online programs were considered.
The computer and information technology field is one of the largest and fastest growing employment sectors in the world. With more routine items being connected to technology each day, the demand for technology experts is projected to increase approximately 12% between now and 2024. That works out to about 500,000 new jobs in the field, a field in which the median annual wage is $83,000, more than double the median wage for all occupations of $37,000. Some of the most promising careers for computer science online degree graduates are explained in more detail below.
|Career Opportunities||Median Salaries||Entry-Level — Experienced Salaries||Career Growth (2104-2024)|
|Computer Systems Analyst||$87,000||$54,000 – $100,000||21%|
|Information Security Analyst||$93,000||$57,000 – $120,000||18%|
|Software Developer||$102,000||$65,000 – $136,000||17%|
|Web Developer||$66,000||$53,000 – $108,000||27%|
Salaries in Computer and Information Technology
- Computer Systems Analyst
Computer systems analysts work with and for organizations, highlighting issues and inefficiencies in computer systems. They also design and implement solutions to improve on the current system. The median salary for this career is $87,000. Entry-level professionals start out at approximately $54,000 but can make more than $100,000 with experience.
- Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts study an organization’s computer system security, designing and implementing measures to ensure that data is stored safely and securely. Information security analysts usually work for computer security firms, though some larger organizations hire professionals full-time. Across the field, the median salary for this career is $93,000. Most entry-level professionals begin at a salary of approximately $57,000, but experienced professionals make upwards of $120,000 annually.
- Software Developer
Software developers are the professionals responsible for designing and creating the software, systems, and services in our computers. The median salary for software developers is $102,000. When just starting out, software developers earn a median salary of $65,000, but the most experienced professionals can earn a median salary of $136,000.
- Web Developer
Web developers are in charge of creating websites online. They design the look of the site, the technical aspects, and much of the content included on it. Overall, the median salary of the profession $66,000. In the beginning of their career, web developers earn a median salary of $53,000, but with time, experience, and additional education, web developers earn approximately $108,000.
Careers for Computer Science Grads
- Computer Systems Analyst
The career outlook for computer systems analysts is one of the strongest of any field in the nation. Due to the growth in cloud computing and mobile networks, the profession of computer systems analysts is projected to grow 21% between now and 2024; that’s three times the national average. Computer science students interested in a career as a computer systems analyst should pursue courses in areas of computer information systems, networking, and systems security. Most companies seek a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field as a minimum requirement.
- Information Security Analyst
The career outlook for information security analysts is at an all-time high and steadily growing. With individuals, organizations, and governments, relying on technology to store and safeguard information, cybersecurity is more important than ever. Between now and 2024, this field is projected to grow at 18%, much higher than the average computer career growth of 12%. Most positions in this field are filled by applicants with a bachelor’s degree in computer science with a well-rounded education in computers. Preference is often given to grads with a specialization in information security systems.
- Software Developer
As computers become more important in our daily lives, the demand for reliable software developers increases. Not only do software developers have some of the highest median wages overall, but the career continues to have a very positive outlook. The 17% projected growth through 2024 is due to an increase in demand for computer software. Students looking to get into the field of software development should pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science, specializing in computer programming, if possible.
- Web Developer
There are few fields that compare with web development in terms of long-term growth. Largely due to the increasing popularity and reliance on mobile devices and ecommerce, the field of web development has a projected growth of 27% between now and 2024. While an associate degree in web design is the minimum requirement, many companies hire students with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Many developers are required to have a background in programming and graphic design, especially if they plan to work on both the application and the appearance of a website.
Advanced Degrees and Certification
Over the last several years, the computer sciences field has become one of the most secure and lucrative for career professionals. While simply acquiring any online computer science degree is often enough to land a well-paying position, there are some incredible benefits to pursuing an advanced computer science online degree. Currently, the computer and information sciences field consists of 71% of professionals with bachelor’s degrees, 26% of professionals with master’s degrees, and 2% with doctorates. Associate degrees are available (5% of students studying computer science are enrolled in an associate program), but almost all appear to use this degree as a stepping stone into the more financially rewarding bachelor’s degree.
The financial growth attributed to each of the online computer science degree levels demonstrates how professionals with more experience and knowledge are compensated accordingly. Whereas professionals with associate degrees in the field start out at a median salary of $40,000 and grow to $78,000 with approximately 20 years of experience, computer science graduates with a bachelor’s degree start with a median salary of $65,000 and grow to $117,000, an increase of 80%. With a master’s degree, the median entry-level salary for computer science professionals is 31% higher than a bachelor’s degree graduate, starting at $85,000 and growing to $134,000 with experience. Finally, the rare Ph.D. in computer sciences earns a median entry-level salary of $118,000, more than the median salary for a professional with bachelor’s degree and more than 20 years’ experience. Over time, a Ph.D. in computer sciences earns a median salary of $150,000, one of the highest salaries of any field.
Computer science students and professionals understand just how valuable information is. While the sheer amount of knowledge and resources in the field of computer and information technology can be daunting, joining a professional association helps to channel that which is most important. Professional associations provide a number of services to their members, depending on what they need, such as networking opportunities, continuing education courses, and access to industry publications for professionals. For students, associations are ideal for mentorships, job opportunities, and information on industry standards, policies, and common practices. Listed below are some of the largest and well-recognized professional associations in the industry.
- ACM (Association for Computing Machinery)
- Association for Information Science and Technology
- Computing Research Association
- IEEE Computer Society
- Association for Women in Computing (AWC)
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
To determine the best online Computer Science programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the 5 best online Computer Science programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.