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Universities are offering cheap online computer science degrees to help meet the growing demand for technology professionals.
According to Code.org, computing jobs account for 67% of emerging STEM positions. Yet the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that computer science degrees comprised only 4.4% of all bachelor’s degrees in the 2018-19 school year.
Online computer science degrees may make a tech career more accessible and affordable. Keep reading to learn what to look for in an online computer science program and the expected costs.
Tuition and fee information listed below is current as of March 2022.
Online computer science degree costs
While some computer science degrees can cost over $100,000, affordable options exist. Florida International University‘s online computer science degree tuition totals just under $27,500 — or about $3,400 per semester — for Florida residents.
Southern New Hampshire University charges $320 per credit for online courses. You can expect to pay $38,400 total, $21,400 cheaper than the on-campus program.
Western Governors University (WGU) offers an accelerated online computer science degree. Most enrollees finish within two years, paying only $14,500 for tuition. Keep in mind that WGU — like most universities — charges fees, raising the total two-year cost to $15,680.
Universities may charge technology, career center, proctor, or graduation fees. You may still have personal expenses, like investing in a laptop. To help cover costs, you can apply for computer science scholarships.
Why earn a computer science degree online?
Online computer science degrees can help you save money while gaining in-demand skills for the growing technology industry.
Many universities charge less for online degrees. For example, an on-campus computer science degree at St. Leo University costs almost $100,000, but the online version totals $47,400. You can also save on housing, meal plans, transportation, and parking fees.
Studying online also provides flexibility. Many universities offer asynchronous or self-paced computer science courses, meaning you complete the assignments at your convenience within a given timeframe.
You can often adapt the curriculum to your career goals by selecting a computer science specialization. Possible concentrations include:
- Data analysis
- Software engineering
- Gaming and simulation
- Artificial intelligence
- Information security
An online computer science degree prepares you for a booming industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 13% growth in computer and information technology between 2020 and 2030. In 2020, the median salary for computer science jobs was $91,250.
Computer science courses prepare graduates for success by imparting critical hard and soft skills, including:
- Software development
- Algorithm design
- Systems management
- Cloud computing
- Communication and teamwork
Online computer science degrees: Our top picks
Using data from NCES, ZDNet’s proprietary algorithm ranked online computer science degrees according to affordability, reputation, and academic quality.
Our top three picks include Florida International University, Oregon State University, and the University of Illinois. For the complete list, click through to keep reading about the best computer science degrees online.
What to look for when choosing a high-quality, affordable online computer science degree
If you’re looking for a cheap online computer science degree, quality still matters. Weigh your options against each of the following factors to make an empowered decision about your education.
Online computer science degrees generally hold the same accreditation as their in-person counterparts. Look for program-specific accreditation, ideally from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
Hands-on tech practice
Computer science is a practical, hands-on field. While some classes focus on theory, many include project components.
Seek a curriculum with individual and collaborative projects. Capstone projects or internships help build your portfolio.
Credit transfer opportunities
Transfering in prior college credits can lower your overall cost and completion time. However, many schools limit the number of transferable credits. Compare programs to find the one that can maximize your previous courses.
Job placement assistance
Computer science students enter a highly competitive workforce upon graduation. Choosing a university with job placement assistance and career coaching can help you land a tech job quickly. Many schools facilitate networking opportunities, interview preparation, and job fairs.
Earning a computer science degree from a reputable institution can help you stand out when applying for jobs. Research the institution’s national ranking and what companies hire recent graduates.
Faculty credentials and diversity
Most universities include professor biographies online. Review their credentials and experience to ensure they are field experts. Also, look for faculty diversity for more perspectives in your classes.
A top-notch online degree includes a comprehensive curriculum. Search for diverse topics, incorporated projects, and possible concentration options.
If you wish to work in a specialized tech job — such as cybersecurity or network administration — ensure the curriculum covers those topics.
Consider online computer science programs that offer as many student resources as on-campus options. Tutoring centers, technical assistance teams, and career coaches can benefit you.
A low student-to-faculty can foster a personalized learning experience.
With fewer students in a classroom, professors can dedicate more time to answering your questions and creating an interactive classroom, even in a remote environment.
Alternative options to cheap online computer science degrees
If you wish to jumpstart your career in a shorter period, consider the following affordable alternatives to an online science degree.
Coding bootcamp offerings at universities and other institutions quickly train individuals to pursue entry-level tech jobs. They incorporate hands-on projects, career coaching, and networking opportunities. Topics may include the following:
- Software development
- UX/UI design
These bootcamps last between four weeks and almost two years, depending on the topic. Most cost between $10,000 and $15,000.
Some of the best coding bootcamps are online. Computer science and online learning pair well. These short, intensive programs aid individuals looking to quickly land a tech job or develop in-demand skills.
Online computer science certificate programs
Computer science certificates last several months and equip students for entry-level tech jobs. The courses are typically not as intensive as bootcamps. You may apply earned credits toward an information technology associate or bachelor’s degree.
The curriculum often focuses on one area of computer science. It may cover programming, software development, or CompTIA exam topics.
Universities may offer IT certificate programs online. You can expect to pay between $3,000 and $12,000.
Computer science online courses
Many institutions — like Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — offer individual courses online. You can use these tech classes to enrich your resume without committing to an entire degree program.
The courses may cost between $50 and $400. You can also find free college courses online from respected universities on sites like Coursera.
Classes generally cover one specific computer science topic, such as programming in Python, data communication networks, or cybersecurity. You may spend a few days to a few months on each course.
An online computer science degree can offer an affordable and flexible way to pursue a tech career. Consider the online programs mentioned above. They can save you money while providing quality education.
If you are not interested in a degree, explore the alternative options above to launch your computer science career.
This article was reviewed by Brian Nichols
Born and raised in upstate New York, Brian Nichols began his IT education through a vocational high school where he focused on computer science, IT fundamentals, and networking. Brian then went to his local community college, where he received his associate of science in computer information science. He then received his bachelor of science in applied networking and system administration from a private college.
Brian now lives in Kansas City, where he works full-time as a DevOps engineer. Brian is also a part-time instructor in cybersecurity. He’s passionate about cybersecurity and helping students succeed.
Brian Nichols is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.
Last reviewed March 19, 2022.