Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

Development jobs often list a bachelor’s degree (BS) in computer science as a requirement. Many developers recommend higher education before starting a career in information technology, and many hiring managers consider applicants with a BS in computer science before other applicants.

However, many other developers share that this (or any) degree is not necessary to start a career in computer science. In this article, we will consider the cost, job prospects, salaries, and local degree programs. This information will arm you to make an informed decision on whether pursuing a bachelor’s is the right move for your career.

A bachelor degree in computer science is the next step up from an associate degree. A four-year university course in computer science is enough to satisfy most job requirements and transform you into a technology professional. 

During university programs, students cover everything from programming to network administration and learn the ins-and-outs of computing. Computer science students can branch into virtually any technology field with their degrees.

Here on Computer Science Hero, we’ll cover everything you need to know about bachelor’s degrees in computer science. We’ll also cover top job options, tuition and fees, and more about these increasingly important programs.

Let’s start with a few key points about undergraduate CS programs at public and private universities:

Bachelor degree programs run for four years at private and public universities.

University students qualify for scholarships and student loans including FAFSA.

Bachelor degree holders can earn a master's degree within a year or two of graduating.

University admissions prerequisites include a high school diploma or a GED.

Community colleges students can complete an associate degree in two years, transfer to a university, and earn a bachelor degree in two more years.

What is a Bachelor’s (BS) Degree in Computer Science?

Computer science degrees are in the science category, therefore the full title is a bachelor’s of science in computer science. Bachelor’s degrees are traditionally four-year programs, although many BS degrees can be obtained in three years, or longer than four years if studying part-time.

BS in Computer Science Benefits

A bachelor’s in computer science is considered by many to be an industry standard. Obtaining a four-year degree in this field opens hundreds of career doors. The unemployment rate for graduates holding a bachelor’s degree of any kind is nearly half the rate for those with a high school diploma.

 

Having a bachelor’s in computer science is particularly valuable. Many of the job fields associated with CS have six-figure salaries on average, making it one of the most valuable BS degrees available.

Computer Science Graduates

A career in computer science puts graduates before an ever-expanding career field. The demand for professionals in the computer software and hardware spaces will only increase as people around the world continue to introduce software into their daily lives and businesses.

  • Average Computer Science Salary: $86,370
  • Projected Computer Science Job Growth: 12%

The above numbers are taken from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 12% projected growth over the next ten years is over double the average of 5.2%. This is on top of the existing demand for professionals in the field. Indeed lists over 100,000 jobs available just under the banner of ‘developer,’ a portion of the jobs available in the fields covered by computer science. 

 

In addition, some jobs in this field that require a BS degree, like software developer and computer network architects earn a median salary that’s over six figures. 

  • Job Openings
  • Jobs Filled

Computer science is a field with more jobs than workers. As you can see in the chart, job growth constantly outpaces jobs filled. These benefits tend to increase if students pursue higher education, such as a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree.

As the number of computer science graduates increases, opportunities in the workforce are filled. However, as the chart above indicates, the number of jobs available far outnumbers the amount filled. Even with a stark increase in graduates over the last decade, there’s still and enormous (and exponentially increasing) demand for fresh talent in the field.

In short, computer science is a future-proof career field that’s worth considering. Computer science salaries are high, and opportunities are plentiful. An associate’s in computer science is an excellent way to test the waters and see if an IT career is right for you.

University students and bachelor degree holders almost always benefit from additional certifications, especially if they’re currently in the market for a job. Large companies (like Apple, Cisco, and Microsoft) offer certifications for people looking to work with their products. Also, dedicated certification organizations exist to qualify students for specific fields, such as cybersecurity and network administration. Certification costs vary widely but start under $100. 

Cisco offers communications systems and equipment to thousands of businesses across the world, and sets the standard in the industry. If you want to work with neworks, Cisco certification is an absolute necessity. Cisco’s CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) certification is a great place to start, and can help you qualify for numerous jobs. 

CompTIA offers several technology certifications, including Network+ credentials for network and communication specialists. CompTIA’s Network+ certification costs $319, and applicants must pass a 90-minute examination to prove their qualifications. Study materials are available, and Network+ credentials are a great way to expand your resume and build your skillset.

Apple is one of the top computer hardware and software companies in the world. Thanks to the popularity of Mac and iPhone, job opportunities for Apple specialists are plentiful across the United States. If you’re looking to work with Apple products and help businesses integrate its computer systems, consider the ACA certification program from Apple.

CompTIA now offers A+ Technician certification for individuals interested in a broad range of technology skills. A+ Technician credentials are a great way to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of technology in the workplace. Test subjects include data management, cloud computing, and more.

Cybersecurity is a lucrative career path with growing influence in the tech industry. As digital threats to businesses become more complex, an increasing number of cybersecurity professionals are needed. Earning a CISSP (Certified Information System Security Professional) certificate is a must if you’re looking to work in the industry. 

Apple doesn’t corner the market on OS and brand certifications, as Microsoft also offers a similar program for professionals. This certification covers desktop and system infrastructure, cloud computing, messaging, communication, Microsoft data, and business intelligence among other things.

Computer Science Bachelor’s Degree Jobs

As mentioned, many jobs are available to those with a BS in computer science, and for many this degree is a soft requirement. Let’s take a look at some of the careers with this requirement, and some information about each from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Please note that while the above degree is a typical requirement for these jobs, it may not be the only one. Experience or training on your own or from a coding bootcamp may also be required to land one of these jobs. 

Software Developer

Software is an essential part of our daily lives. ‘Software developer’ is a broad term that encompasses many responsibilities involved in the design and production of software. This could be any software including systems for the web, mobile phones, embedded systems, video games, and more. 

  • Salary: $105,590
  • Job Growth: 21%
  • Total Employment: 1,365,500

Computer Network Architect

The internet has become as important to our lives—and our businesses—as software has. Computer network architects design and build complex networks for data communication, which allow the level of communication that we enjoy today. 

  • Salary: $109,020
  • Job Growth: 5%
  • Total Employment: 159,300

Computer Programmer

Computer programmers work closely with software developers, and their job descriptions often overlap. In fact, as software developers are more and more often tasked with the same responsibilities as programmers, the computer programming job title is in decline. Programmers are typically more focused on the actual code used to create the software and tend to work building details rather than big picture planning. 

  • Salary: $84,280
  • Job Growth: -7%
  • Total Employment: 250,300

Computer Systems Analyst

Systems analysts have the job of looking over existing computer infrastructure and finding ways to improve the efficiency of those systems. For many, designing and redesigning systems to chase an ever faster system is highly satisfying.

  • Salary: $88,740
  • Job Growth: 9%
  • Total Employment: 633,900

Database Administrator

Database administrators (DBAs) work with, as one might guess, databases. These are large stores of data that require tools like SQL to be properly stored and managed. DBAs are need to make sure this data is protected, backed up, functioning, and well organized. 

  • Salary: $90,070
  • Job Growth: 9%
  • Total Employment: 116,900

Information Security Analyst

Information security analysts find and fix security flaws in computer systems and networks. This is an important job, as these analysts often find and patch vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to gain access to sensitive data. Many also get to simulate cyberattacks on their own systems to find security flaws with ‘white hat’ hacking. 

  • Salary: $98,350
  • Job Growth: 32%
  • Total Employment: 112,300

Network and Computer Systems Administrator

These professionals are responsible for day-to-day operations and maintenance of networks and computer systems. For many companies these systems are vital; these companies can face enormous losses for every second that the system is down.

  • Salary: $82,050
  • Job Growth: 5%
  • Total Employment: 383,900
TitleMedian SalaryEntry-Level SalaryMid-Career SalaryLate-Career Salary
Web Developer$68,524$44,000$69,000$111,000
Software Developer$76,526$58,000$77,000$107,000
Computer Hardware Engineer$89,641$70,000$90,000$115,000
IT Product Manager$88,397$66,000$88,000$119,000
Data Scientist$113,309$83,000$113,000$154,000
Information Security Analyst$76,410$53,000$76,000$116,000
Network Administrator$63,043$45,000$66,000$85,000
Database Administrator$78,779$59,000$80,000$107,000
Support Analyst$69,035$49,000$70,000$95,000
TitleMedian SalaryLate-Career Salary
Web Developer$68,500$111,000
Software Developer$76,500$107,000
Computer Support Specialist$48,600$70,000
Systems Administration Specialist$64,800$93,000
Data Scientist$113,300$154,000
Information Technology (IT)$84,800$125,000
Network Administrator$63,000$85,000
Help Desk Technician$41,800$58,000
Support Analyst$69,00$95,000

University Accreditation

It’s essential to understand college accreditation, especially if you’re considering online classes and remote learning. Today, there are a number of accreditation agencies responsible for determining what ‘counts’ towards what in the education system. With a good understanding of accreditation, you’ll be prepared to make the best choice. For computer science programs, be sure to pay attention to the accreditation status of courses and schools, so you can earn your degree and keep your transfer options open. Here’s a list of the most common college accreditations.

Institutional Accreditation

Institutional accreditation applies to courses within a college, or a system of colleges that follow the same guidelines. Generally speaking, students seeking a bachelor’s in computer science won’t need to be concerned with institutional accreditation when deciding to attend a college.

National Accreditation

National accreditation is designed for field-specific studies, online classes, and programs like music and theology. Degrees from nationally-accredited colleges are valid, but regional accreditation is easier to transfer between universities (even outside of a specific region).

Specialized Accreditation

Specialized accreditation includes local programs for specific careers that require in-school education. Degree-seeking students generally don’t need to concern themselves with specialized accreditation until later, if they choose a career that requires additional schooling.

Regional Accreditation

Regional accreditation is what degree-seeking students should look for when choosing a college. Dedicated private and public universities are accredited by one of seven regional agencies, and most college graduates earn their degrees under this primary system.

University admissions is a complex process that requires a careful consideration, especially if you haven’t recently graduated from high school. Colleges are selective, but each school has its own standards and admission requirements. Generally, a high GPA (grade point average) and good test scores are helpful, and extracurricular activities are a plus. The specific requirements of your college choice may vary, so consider the GPA and test scores of current students before applying. Resources like the Common App are popular, and help students cast a wide net when applying to schools. Here are the requirements to apply to the majority of four-year universities.

High School Diploma

Many community colleges require degree-seeking students to come equipped a high school diploma. This is especially true for students who wish to transfer to a four-year university to earn a bachelor’s degree. This requirement sometimes applies to non-degree-seeking students, but each school varies. Prospective students and adults without a high school diploma can earn a GED instead.

GED

 A GED, or General Education Development, is a high school diploma equivalent that (by law) carries the same weight as a diploma in most situations. You can meet community college admissions standards by taking a test and earning a GED. In some cases, colleges allow students to complete their GED while attending class, and will issue an associate degree as long as the GED is complete by graduation.

SAT Testing

The SAT is the traditional standardized test used by colleges to determine applicant eligibility, but has recently fallen out of favor with many institutions. Nonetheless, thousands of high school students continue to choose the SAT as their only standardized admissions test. SAT scoring is based on two sections, scored between 200 and 800 for a total of 1,600 possible points.

ACT Testing

The ACT is an increasingly popular standardized test option for college prospects. The test is divided into sections for english, mathematics, reading, and science reasoning. This multiple-choice test is scored using a point scale, similar to the ACT but with a total scale of 1 to 36 instead of 400 to 1,600 points.

Like any bachelor’s degree, the cost of these programs varies depending on which school you select. Some can be relatively affordable, some might push potential students to seek scholarship options. 

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of a 4-year degree across the board was $26,593 per year in 2016. For public institutions like community colleges, the average was $19,488, while for private institutions the average cost was $41,468. It’s important to note these costs include all fees, room, and board for students in addition to tuition. 

Scholarships for Computer Science Bachelor's Degrees

For many, the best option to reduce the above costs is via scholarships. Students in 2018 were given an average of $9,520 in scholarships and grants. Many students are able to attend college with a government-provided FAFSA grant along with a combination of smaller scholarships. If the above prices seem steep then seeing if you apply to get any of these benefits. 

Bachelor’s in Computer Science Financial Aid

In addition to scholarships and grants, students have other options for managing the cost of getting an education. These include private or federal student loans and student finance programs that can defer the cost of tuition. 

 

The federal government offers subsidized loans to many students, with interest rates of 4.5% to 6% and lengths between 10-15 years. Private institutions offer many similar terms, and not only is each institution different, but each student’s financial situation is unique as well. Credit history, cosigner credit history, and the college/program of choice can all affect how student loans pan out. Nerdwallet has assembled a list of 10 good institutions for finding a good student loan. 

Computer science degree programs are available at many colleges worldwide, from local community colleges to Cambridge University. There is a wide range of curriculums with different styles and focuses, so here we will cover some typical requirements along with some of the commonly available focuses.

 

Completing a BS in anything usually starts with getting the same general education as an associate’s degree for the first two years, then getting classes more specific to the field in the second two years. The average BS requirement in the US is a total of 120 credits hours, with 40-60 credits in the target field.

 

Below are some of the typical elements in computer science courses for a bachelor’s degree.

General Education

Nearly every degree program requires the completion of general education (or GenEd) courses. They typically include humanities studies, history, or mathematics. Since computer science has mathematics focus, most degrees in the field will have a general education portion that also has a mathematics focus.

Additional Mathematics

Since computer science deals so heavily in math, BS degree programs often have additional math programs outside of the courses included in general education. These are generally higher math like linear algebra and statistics.

Systems Architecture

Having a strong understanding of how computers work, data structures, and other software basics like operating systems are essential or useful in almost every technology career field. This will usually be covered in more than one course focusing on different areas of this broad topic.

Computer Programming and Algorithms

It would be a little silly to learn everything about how computers work without learning how to speak their language. Every computer science degree will have a course in at least one programming language, while also typically covering the basics of programming in general, like object-oriented design and data structures.

Computer science programs share similarities at accredited community colleges. Among these are required courses, or prerequisites. These courses cover the core principles of computer science, best practices, and essential skills for the field. The vast majority of students in computer science programs will spend a significant amount of time mastering the topics presented in these classes.

Basic Computer Programming (Programming I)

Basic computer programming is often the first exposure students have to coding. This course generally covers low to medium-difficulty coding projects using Python and similar languages. Over time, students will learn best practices, syntax, and various common programming languages.

Advanced Programming (Programming II)

Students move on to advanced programming courses after learning the fundamentals. At many schools, students begin solving full-scale coding problems with complex languages during this course. Programming II generally takes place towards the end of a degree program.

Introduction to Databases (Databases I)

Databases are a big part of computer science, and schools generally cover the subject in great depth. Students begin with the basics, completing introductory assignments and learning the fundamentals of digital data and databases.

Computer Network Fundamentals (Networks I)

Computer networking is another important aspect of many computer science jobs. During an associate degree program, students dive into the basics of how computers and servers communicate using networks. This part of the course usually runs alongside another technical course, such as Programming I.

Introduction to Operating Systems (Operating Systems I)

Operating systems are the platforms that people utilize to interact with computers. For computer science students, an introductory course in operating systems is essential. Many I.T. jobs involve helping businesses adopt a new operating system, and students must be prepared to use and teach about them.

Advanced Databases (Databases II)

Advanced database courses are sometimes excluded from a computer science curriculum, though it’s common enough to mention here. This course is an elaborated version of Databases I, and often includes advanced topics and occasionally programming languages. Students who have the opportunity to attend this course should do so, especially if they intend to transfer.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

Online education programs are the most flexible way to earn an associate’s degree in computer science. Over the last decade, numerous community colleges rolled out online courses for students with busy schedules. It’s now possible to attain a 2-year computer science degree online.

 

Generally speaking, online computer science associate’s degree programs feature the same curriculum as in-person courses, leading to the same well-rounded technical education experience.

 

Online computer science degrees often follow predetermined schedules, and some courses feature live video classes with college instructors. However, some colleges offer flexible programs that students complete on their own time.

Flexible Degrees

Today, many students choose to attend online universities for the flexibility of remote learning. Students can choose between part-time and full-time education options, and learn on their own terms. Public, private, and nationally accredited online-only schools are popular options.

Transfer Opportunities

Students who attend certain online universities can earn credits and transfer them to other accredited schools at a later date. The process is easiest when attending regionally-accredited online courses, such as an online program of an in-person school.

Cost Effective Education

In some cases, online bachelor degree programs are less expensive than in-person programs. For freshmen, the averted expenses of housing, meal plans, and physical textbooks alone can account for thousands of dollars in savings.

Multiple Programs

Students who attend online bachelor degree programs have the flexibility to attend other courses, such as a coding bootcamp or a certification class. This allows students to build their skillset efficiently and increase their job prospects down the line.

High Quality Education

Online four-year universities are known for providing the same high quality education and coursework as in-person programs. In many cases, online schools offer the exact same curriculum as in-person courses, along with live professor-led instruction.

Learn and Work

Online college degree programs are ideal for anyone who wants to continue working while attending classes. Part-time online students often work full-time during the day and take classes at night.

Computer Science Education Pathways

There’s more than one way to get an education in computer science. Students from all backgrounds earn high salaries after completing a degree or certification program for the tech industry. College degrees are the most popular way to enter the field, but alternatives exist. Programs like coding bootcamps popped up to fill high demand for computer science jobs. Bootcamps, universities, and community colleges graduate thousands of students each year, and the majority end up starting a career in the field. Here are the most popular computer science education options.

Bachelor Degree

A bachelor degree is a common qualification for high-paying positions. And although the tech industry hires more holistically than other fields, having a bachelor’s degree in computer science is still an asset. Bachelor degrees take about four years to complete at a university.

  • Program Length: 4 Years
  • Average Cost: $20,714 / Year

Master Degree

For those seeking advanced education, a master’s degree is the next step after a bachelor. This advanced degree opens the door to numerous career opportunities, and provides a level of seniority in the field. Master’s degree students spend a year or two more in school.

  • Program Length: 1.5 – 2 Years
  • Average Cost: $40,000 Total

Doctorate / PhD

A PhD, or doctorate degree, is the highest level of education available to computer science students. This degree takes several more years to complete, but establishes you as an expert in the field. Doctorate holders earn the highest salaries of anyone in the computer science field.

  • Program Length: 3-7 Years
  • Average Cost: $48,900 Total

Coding Bootcamp

Coding bootcamps are the fastest route into a high-paying tech career. These short-term career training schools cut out the general education courses and focus on in-demand coding skills. Bootcamps have a solid record of success, and some programs offer job guarantees. 

  • Program Length: 3 – 12 Months
  • Average Cost: $13,500 Total

Technology Degree Options

Computer science is a broad field with numerous degree options and job opportunities. Students can choose a hands-on hardware field with a computer engineering degree, or focus specifically on software development with a software engineering degree. Other fields focus on networks, data, and project management. Thanks to the ubiquity of tech in the economy, computer science-related degrees offer increasingly strong job prospects for students.

Computer Engineering Degree

Computer engineering is one of the most hands-on computer science career paths. Many colleges offer this degree program. Computer engineers learn how to build computer hardware, and contribute to innovation in the tech industry.

Data Administration Degree

Data administration degrees are common in the data science field, but these students occupy a wide range of positions. In our increasingly data-oriented economy, a degree in data administration is an excellent choice for job security and career growth.

Software Engineering Degree

A degree in software engineering is a common path into a programming career. During the program, students learn how to use engineering principles and apply them to wireframing and software development. Students also learn numerous coding languages.

Information Technology Management Degree

An IT Management degree is a great path to a high-paying career in the field. IT managers oversee technology professionals and business systems. They ensure that companies have reliable systems that are up-to-date.

Computer Science Professional Organizations

Joining a computer science professional organization can help jump-start your career and keep you up-to-date with the latest industry trends. Membership sometimes comes with additional perks, such as access to a strong peer network, coaching, job opportunities, and employment workshops. Computer science degree students benefit from mentoring opportunities in professional organizations.

The Association for Women in Computing, founded in 1978, is a computer science professional organization catered directly to women in tech. This organization provides a strong network, education opportunities, and support for female computer science professionals though its system of nationwide chapters.

The Association for Information Science and Technology is a popular choice for computer science graduates.  This organization offers an enormous amount of resources to technology professionals, and covers everything from jobs to legal information.  Additionally, the Association for Information Science and Technology welcomes current computer science students.

The Computing Research Association is a top organization for computer science professionals seeking networking opportunities and more. Additionally, the CRA offers opportunities and resources for computer science students and researchers, thereby delivering an all-in-one destination for the field. The organization focuses on technology, leadership, and networking.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology, or ITE for short, is a multinational professional organization for engineers and technology professionals in over 150 countries.  With over 160,000 current members, the ITE is one of the most popular and diverse professional organizations for students with a computer science degree.

The IEEE Computer Society is a technology-focused organization for software engineers, web developers, and all kinds of computer science professionals.  The IEEE Computer Society hosts dozens of annual conferences on some of the coolest technology developments, including virtual reality, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and security.

The Association for Information Systems is a premier computer science professional organization with chapters located all around the world. This organization hosts conferences, offers career support, provides educational webinars, and gives computer science workers access to a vast global professional network.

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