Is an Associates Degree in Computer Science Worth It? [2021 Guide]

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Is an Associates Degree in Computer Science worth it? Explore careers, salaries, and job growth to see if an associate’s in computer science is right for you.

Is an Associates Degree in Computer Science Worth It

If you’ve fallen in love with the ever-changing world of technology, pursuing an associates in computer science degree online may be worthwhile. Companies need computer science professionals now more than ever. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs using computer science graduates will grow 12% to 2028.

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Is an Associates Degree in Computer Science Worth It?

Yes, earning an associate’s degree in computer science is worth it for many students. With an average salary of $52,830 (Bureau of Labor Statistics), associate degree holders can qualify for positions such as systems administrator, software developer, IT specialist, application developer, and computer support analyst.

Most students can complete their associate’s degree in 2 years or less. This means that you can complete your studies relatively quickly and enter the workforce sooner than if you spend 4 years in the classroom. But that door is certainly not closed to you.

If you decide that you would like to pursue your bachelor’s degree at a later date, your associate’s degree can serve as a stepping stone to reaching that goal.

Associate’s in Computer Science Careers & Salaries

Computer Science Associate Degree Jobs Available

You can break into the world of tech and start a career with an Associates Degree in Computer Science. Relative to the national salary average, the jobs that you can get with an associates degree in computer science have high salaries.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some careers in the computer science field are listed below. Some employers may prefer you to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science when applying for these jobs.

Careers Annual Median Salary
Software Developers $107,510
Database Administrators $93,750
Computer Programmers $86,550
Network and Computer Systems Administrators $83,510
Web Developers $73,760
Computer Network Support Specialists $62,340
Computer Support Specialists $54,760

Salaries depend on education, experience, expertise, industry, and location.

Associates Degree in Computer Science Jobs

computer programmers discussing a project

After completing the program and earning your Associate Degree in Computer Science, you’ll now be able to offer your services to the world in any of the following capacities.

What follows is a list of the types of jobs that you can have with your Computer Science Associates Degree.

Computer Programmer – As a computer programmer, you will probably do many different things, such as designing algorithms, writing code, testing, and troubleshooting. This is a versatile career path that could lead you anywhere from developing new phone apps or creating new computer graphic technology for filmmaking.

Website Developer – As a website developer, you’ll create the online presence of your clients. It could be your duty to create functional websites that look great and have an easy to understand graphical user interface.

You can work as a company man and maybe even have a few freelance gigs on the side. Who knows, perhaps you can create the next Facebook.

Systems Analyst – As a systems analyst, it would be your responsibility to develop and optimize the computer systems that are used by companies. You would be the one to update technologies used by the organization that hired you based on current industry standards.

Network and Computer System Administrator – Network and Computer System Administrators have a lot of overlap with systems analysts. Some of the responsibilities you’ll have as the network and computer system administrator include the installation and repair of hardware and software as well as the setting up of cyber security systems.

Computer Support Specialist – The computer support specialist maintains the hardware and software utilized by an organization. Your tasks include training employees on using their computers and the company systems and networks as well as troubleshooting.

The jobs that are available to individuals with an Associates in Computer Science vary depending on which areas you specialize in.

Associates in Computer Science vs. Bachelors in Computer Science

Associates in Computer Science vs Bachelors

If you’re deciding to get your degree in computer science online or on campus, then it’s good to know about the two educational paths available, namely the Associates and the Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science.

One of the most substantial differences is the amount of time required to complete each degree. When you’re enrolled in an Associates Degree in Computer Science, you should be able to complete the program and be awarded your degree in 2 years.

On the other hand, a typical Bachelor of Science in Computer Science program will require 4 years to finish before you get your degree.

The reason for this discrepancy is that a Bachelors program will have more coursework, more major subjects, and will generally provide a more thorough advanced training and experience than an Associates degree.

The Associates Degree in Computer Science will generally require 60 semester hours to complete, while the Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science may require 120 semester hours. This means that the Associates Degree course is about half of the full Bachelor’s degree course.

In this light, it is also apparent that the Associates degree course units can be credited towards completing a Bachelor’s degree program.

Associates Degree in Computer Science Bachelors Degree in Computer Science
Time to Complete 2 years 4 years
Semester Hours 60 hours 120 hours
Level of Computer Education and Training Introductory to Intermediate Introductory to Advanced
Number of Major Subjects/Courses Fewer More
General Education Units required required

Both the Associates degree and Bachelors degree in Computer Science require students to complete general education units.

Computer Science Curriculum

students-studying-computer-science-on-laptop

The things that you’ll learn studying for your Computer Science Associates Programs are vastly dynamic and thorough, as you’ll see from the list below.

Here is a list of the standard courses that you need to take:

Introduction to Computer Programming – Right of the bat, this is one of the most important things that you, as a student, must learn to do – program. While this course may only be an introduction, it does lay the groundwork for understanding code and the environment of a programming language in general.

Fundamentals in Database – Learning database management is one of the cornerstones of Computer Science. By learning the fundamentals, you should be able to effectively design, manage, and manipulate databases in various programming languages – the main one being SQL.

Operating Systems Basics – Every machine runs on an underlying operating system. There are a few standard ones in use today, and it is essential for you as a student of Computer Science to learn what they are and to get to know their inner workings in order for you to properly manipulate them to achieve the result you want.

Intermediate Programming – This intermediate programming course will build upon the foundation laid with the introductory course. This class will have you programming more in a few different coding languages. You’ll create algorithms, create, run, test, and troubleshoot programs hands-on.

Fundamentals of Computer Networking – This course will have you learning about the details of how computers communicate with either one or several million computers. You’ll learn about the essential mechanisms of the internet at large and other smaller network connections.

These are just some of the various commonly offered courses in the Associate Degree in Computer Science program.

Associates in Computer Science vs. Self-Taught

computer programmer working on her computer at home

With enough time, resources, and a whole lot of genuine motivation, it is entirely possible for you to teach yourself the essentials and even the more advanced concepts of computer science.

It’s not unheard of for people to become adept in a coding language by just learning on their own as opposed to being taught in school. Nevertheless, there are some benefits and drawbacks to each approach.

When you enroll in a school program, you are basically utilizing the expertise of the course creators and instructors to cut the time of your learning. This is because, as an enrolled student, you will be following structured and rigorous training and studying schedules.

You will have timelines as to when you need to learn which lesson. If you’re learning Computer Science on your own, especially coding, most of the time, you will have to do additional research as to what it is that you do not know before you can continue with your learning.

There are times when self-taught computer scientists and coders may be lacking in one or a few essential standard techniques and concepts that may be commonly taught in school.

Self-taught coders and computer scientists have total freedom over their lessons and schedule, but this is a double-edged sword since these independent learners may end up straying from their goals.

Students enrolled in Associates in Computer Science programs, on the other hand, have strict course outlines and schedules to follow.

Enrolled Student in Associates Degree in Computer Science Self-Taught in Computer Science and Coding
Schedule Structured Own time
Course/ Program Outline Provided by School Personal Research
Received upon enrollment May require a lot of time
Standard Concepts and Techniques Taught in School Hit or Miss depending on the amount and level of personal research and study
Employment May meet minimum educational requirements Self-taught coding skills may not be considered

Company job posts may require that you have at least an Associates Degree in Computer Science to apply.

Accreditation

nice-looking university campus

Regional accreditation is utilized by educational institutions to self-regulate and maintain the level of high standards in their courses and program. Regional accreditation means that a school is officially recognized by its accrediting body when it meets the minimum standards of education.

The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accreditation is proof that the online Computer Science Associates Degree offered by an educational institution is of high enough quality that it prepares its graduates well for employment in the profession.

Financial Aid

Financial Aid for an Associates in Computer Science Online

Students that are enrolled in the Associates in Computer Science online program should submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Remember to check all student loans and grants available to you.

One of the most generous scholarships for students who want to study Computer Science is the Stokes Educational Scholarship Program that’s run by the National Security Agency. If you get this scholarship, you will get a year-round salary, real-world experience, as well as a job waiting for you after you graduate.

Can I Get a Programming Job With an Associates Degree?

Yes, you can get a programming job with an Associates Degree. An associate’s degree in computer science will equip you with an intermediate level coding skillset that should allow you to be employed as a programmer.

What You Learn in a Computer Science Associates Program

You can write, test, or troubleshoot code. This will depend entirely on the type of project the organization is working on and how well your skill set fits their needs. You may be able to work in a lot of different industries, which could range widely from coding firms down to companies engaged in in-house app development.

How Much Do You Make With an Associates Degree in Computer Science?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pay for someone with an associate’s degree in computer science is $52,830.

Some career options include information technology specialist, application developer, systems administrator, and IT support analyst.

What Can You Do With an Associates Degree in Computer Science?

An Associate Degree in Computer Science is your ticket to a high-paying entry-level to a mid-level career in technology and Computer Science.

There are countless more tech companies that need not only coders but also IT managers, web developers, systems analysts, and administrators. You’ll also be able to freelance for clients on the side if you have the entrepreneurial spirit to earn some extra cash.

How Long Does It Take To Get a Computer Science Degree?

web developers working in front of computer

How long it takes to get a computer science degree will depend on your degree level and method of instruction.

To complete a bachelor’s degree in computer science it takes about 4 years. An associates degree in computer science will generally take 2 years or less. In either case, you can finish your degree in less time if you enroll in accelerated online classes and take advantage of programs like credit by exam (testing out of classes).

Getting Your Associates Degree in Computer Science Online

Is an associates degree worth it? After you earn your associate’s degree in computer science, you should be highly employable in a wide-range of entry-level careers and industries.

Not only will you be valuable to tech-based companies like websites, computer companies, or app companies, your skillset will also be very useful in the corporate world regardless of the industry.

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.