How Long Does It Take To Get a Computer Science Degree? [2021 Guide]

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How long does it take to get a computer science degree? The answer may not be nearly as long as you’re thinking, but you have options.

How Long Does It Take To Get a Computer Science Degree

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An associate degree typically takes half the time of a bachelor’s degree to earn. If you want to speed up your computer science degree, you can consider taking online classes.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Computer Science Degree on Campus?

computer science degree students studying in university library

If you’re planning on going the more traditional on-campus route, computer science degrees can usually be earned in four years, assuming you’re a full-time student. A full-time, on-campus student usually takes between 12 and 15 credit hours—four or five classes—each semester.

After your first two years, you may be awarded your Associate of Science in Computer Science. If you want a degree that further prepares you for the workforce, though, you may want to keep going to receive your Bachelor of Computer Science, which usually requires another two years of school.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Computer Science Degree Online?

Computer Science Degree student studying on her computer

The other option is to take classes online. This may mean taking online classes at a university on a semester schedule with a similar time frame as the one mentioned above, but some schools now offer accelerated courses for a computer science degree online. These courses are set up differently than regular semester courses.

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Accelerated course programs are usually set up into terms that are eight weeks long. Most universities offer the option to take either two or three classes each term, allowing you the opportunity to earn six or nine credits each term. There are typically six terms a year, meaning you can achieve either 36 or 54 credits a year, depending on how many classes you take.

Learning via accelerated courses means you have to work at a much quicker pace than with normal semesters, but if you work hard, you can succeed. Accelerated courses can also help you finish your degree much faster. Assuming you take three classes each term, with accelerated courses, you could potentially earn your bachelor’s degree in a little over two years.

Associate’s in Computer Science Degree Requirements

computer programmer working on his computer

The specific requirements for obtaining an associate degree in computer science will differ from college to college, with different colleges having different course requirements. However, there are some basics that usually remain the same.

Here’s an example of what an associate-level computer science curriculum might entail:

  • English comp courses, e.g. basic English/writing classes
  • At least two math classes, including college algebra and statistics
  • Two science courses, at least one with a lab
  • Two social and behavioral science classes, such as sociology, economics, or anthropology
  • Some type of class to improve your critical thinking skills
  • One art, music, or theater elective
  • Public speaking or its equivalent
  • A learning course that teaches you how to use the library and databases to write papers
  • At least two general electives
  • At least 24 hours worth of computer science-specific courses, such as programming, database management, or cyber security

You’ll likely have more computer science-related courses than anything.

Is It Hard to Get a Computer Science Degree?

computer science degree students doing their activity in computer room

Objectively, achieving a degree in computer science is no harder than getting a degree in anything else. If you’re determined and willing to work hard, you should be able to achieve your goals.

Depending on your strengths, you may breeze through some courses and have to work a little harder in others. For instance, students good at math may have no trouble with the algebra and calculus classes, and if you already have an interest in computer science, the computer-related subjects may not be a problem either.

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Other classes may present a challenge, but that can be overcome with hard work and perseverance.

What GPA Do You Need for Computer Science?

GPA You Need for Computer Science

Just like the specific courses for computer science degrees differ at each university, so, too, do the GPA requirements. Most colleges require at least a 2.0 to be accepted into their computer science programs.

Higher GPAs are preferable, though. Some computer science programs are highly competitive, and only a few individuals are chosen for them each semester. The higher your GPA, the more likely you’ll be selected to enter the program. Higher GPAs can sometimes lead to scholarships as well.

Should I Get a BA or BS in Computer Science?

BA or BS in Computer Science

Despite what many people think, you can get a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science as well as a Bachelor of Science. The two degrees are similar in most respects. The main differences come from the classes you have to take to achieve each one.

BS in Computer Science

A BS is a science degree. The coursework for a BS in Computer Science is typically more STEM-oriented. You’ll likely have to take more higher-level math classes, such as Calculus II and Discrete Mathematics. Probability and computational classes will also probably be required.

BA in Computer Science

A BA is a humanities/liberal arts degree. For a BA in Computer Science, you’ll probably take most of the same computer science classes, but you may not have to take as much math. Instead, you’ll likely be required to take more electives and humanities courses.

Most employers don’t prefer one degree over the other since all the basic computer science coursework should be covered in both.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Computer Science Degree?

Cost to Get a Computer Science Degree

There are many factors that go into pricing computer science degrees. First of all, every university is going to be different when it comes to tuition and fees. A quick check on CollegeCalc.com can provide you with a list of schools in each state that offer degrees in computer science.

The total costs for a computer science degree typically range anywhere from $17,000 to $76,000. The price for your degree will vary depending on a variety of factors.

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For example, on-campus classes are often—but not always—less expensive than purely online courses. If you choose to go to a university within your state of residence, that’s probably going to cost less than having to pay out-of-state tuition at a school in another state. Public universities will most likely cost less than private ones.

What Can You Do With a Computer Science Degree?

Computer Science Degree Salary

The job market for people with computer science and other computer-related degrees is booming right now, and there are many job opportunities for those with computer science knowledge to pursue. In addition, earning an online post baccalaureate in computer science can help you gain the edge over other candidates pursuing this field.

Three of the most popular jobs are:

  • Computer programmer: Writing code for various computer programs, testing software, and working out bugs.
  • Software developer: Developing new software programs for specific computing tasks.
  • Web developer: Building, creating, and regularly updating websites for various companies.

Software Engineer working in a cafe

Other potential jobs include:

  • Information/data analyst
  • Software engineer
  • Computer support specialist
  • IT specialist
  • Computer hardware engineer
  • Computer network architect
  • Cybersecurity engineer

All these jobs tend to pay well, can be very rewarding, and ultimately make an associates in computer science worth it for many people.

Computer Science Degree Salary

web developer working on his computer

According to the Burea of Labor Statistics, here are some of the most common jobs for people with computer science degrees along with their average yearly salaries:

Careers Annual Median Salary
Computer and Information Systems Managers $151,150
Computer and Information Research Scientists $126,830
Computer Hardware Engineers $119,560
Computer Network Architects $116,780
Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers $110,140
Information Security Analysts $103,590
Computer Systems Analysts $93,730
Computer Programmers $89,190
Web Developers and Digital Designers $77,200
Computer Support Specialists $55,510

Salary depends on more than just education, though. Your experience, job performance, industry, and location will have an influence on your salary as well.

Certifications Following a Computer Science Degree

Computer Support Specialist analyzing server in a data room

One of the great things about working toward your computer science degree is you can also work towards various certifications in the field. You may want to earn as many certifications as possible because more certifications could mean more job opportunities.

The following certifications can help you get ahead in the computer science industry:

Even when employers don’t require you to have specific certifications, it can still look impressive to list them on your resume anyway. You never know, one single certification might put you ahead of someone else being considered for the job.

Accreditation for an Online Computer Science Degree

nice-looking university campus

When deciding on a college, it is important to check the college’s and the specific program’s accreditation status. Without accreditation, your degree may not be worth your time and effort.

A school with regional accreditation is one that meets both regional and national standards of education. Receiving a degree from an accredited program of study means your degree is both academically and professionally reputable and will be more respected by employers. Also, credits from a regionally accredited school are more likely to transfer to other schools.

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Programs can have accreditation as well. Many computer science programs strive for ABET (Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology) accreditation. Having a degree from a computer science program with this accreditation may have a little more weight with future employers.

Financial Aid for a Bachelor’s in Computer Science Online

FAFSA website

As long as your computer science program is being offered by a real, accredited university, there are plenty of options for financial aid out there to pursue. First, to see if you’re eligible for a Federal Pell Grant or Direct Stafford Loan, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

If you qualify for a Pell Grant, that’s money toward your degree that you don’t have to pay back! If you qualify for a loan as well, that’s additional money, but loans have to be paid back, so it is important to borrow responsibly.

There are other loan options available through banks or credit unions, but again, that money must be paid back, so never borrow more than you need.

Bachelor’s in Computer Science Online Scholarships

In addition to the Pell Grant and loans, there may be scholarship opportunities available to you as well. Each college or university usually has its own in-house scholarships, whether they’re merit-based (earned by grades/GPA/ACT/SAT scores), talent-based (earned through sports, music, dance, etc.), or something else.

You can also search for community and faith-based scholarships available in your area. There’s often a lot of money to be found there that’s overlooked by people. You’d probably be amazed at the amount of money that remains unclaimed each year.

Is a Degree in Computer Science Worth It

Is a Degree in Computer Science Worth It?

Yes, a degree in computer science is worth it for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 11% job growth in computer and information technology occupations over the next 10 years. Common careers in this field include web developer, computer programmer, software engineer, and IT manager.

If you have any interest at all in computers, programming, cybersecurity, or any other aspect of computer science, then a degree in computer science may be worth the time and money it takes to earn it.

With the number of scholarships and the amount of federal grant money potentially available to help you pay for college, you may be able to earn a very in-demand degree at little cost to you.

The availability of accelerated courses means you may be able to earn your degree quicker than ever before and move directly into the workforce. There’s likely never been a better time to pursue a degree in computer science. You can start researching universities today and find a program that’s right for you.

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Jordan Meeks
WRITTEN BY
Jordan Meeks
Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and earned her Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Jordan's research focuses on adults returning to college and online degree programs.