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Your Complete Guide to

Online Computer Science & IT Degrees

The best computer programming and IT programs, pros/cons, list of universities, rankings, FAQs and everything you ever wanted to know.
Grant Aldrich
Grant Aldrich on April 16, 2021

Why We Love Them

  • Work From Anywhere
  • Fast Growing Industry
  • High Salary Potential

One of the best things you can do to improve your life and the life of your family is to go back to school to earn your degree. Higher education can help you change careers and significantly improve your earning potential. But how do you know what degree to pursue? With so many options, it can feel overwhelming trying to decide the degree that’s right for you and will help you reach your goals.

An IT degree is a fantastic option for prospective students because it provides valuable skills that are always in-demand in today’s technology-based marketplace. Once you obtain your IT degree, you will have myriad options for rewarding career paths.

In this article, we’re going to present you with every bit of information you need to know about earning an IT degree. You’ll learn the absolute best IT degrees that may offer you the biggest career potential. We’ll also compare and contrast online degree programs with traditional programs as well as take a look at the differences between Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctoral and PhD degrees.

We encourage you to read this ENTIRE article because at the end, we’re also going to tell you how OnlineDegree.com can help you save time and money toward your IT degree.

Ready to get started? Let’s dive in…

7 Best Online Computer and IT Degrees

Before we get to the specific online computer and IT degrees to focus your efforts on, let’s talk about WHY we believe these degrees are the best.

Job Stability

The following IT degrees can set you on the kind of career paths that offer high pay AND job security. Let’s face it, we never know what the economy is going to do. Layoffs happen, but they don’t have to happen to YOU. These degrees will give you the skills that are most in-demand so you have job security, no matter what the economy is doing.

Career Changers

Are you an adult student that has been in the workforce for some time, but you desire a career change? Are you hoping to find a career that can help you earn more for your family? The following degrees are absolutely suited for those adults looking to make a change.

Flexible and Affordable

We’ve decided to focus on those computer / IT degrees that can be earned online because they allow busy working adults to study at their own pace and when it is convenient for them. Traditional degrees earned at brick-and mortar schools make it incredibly difficult for working adults with family responsibilities to pursue higher education.

Plus, computer-based degrees are perfectly suited for online learning! We’ll touch on that more in a bit though. 

Now that you know why we chose the online IT degrees we did, let’s take a look at them:

Computer Science

Have you always been fascinated by the inner workings of computer systems or applications? Have you ever wanted to build your own iPhone app or program? A computer science degree helps students better understand the history of computing as well as learning to code/program, and the fundamentals of computer architecture. Graduates will have the ability to build apps, infrastructures, databases, software, and operating systems that expand the technology of computing. You’ll learn a variety of programming languages as well, including object-oriented (OOP) and functional languages, and individual coding like C++, Python, Java, SQL, OpenGL, Objective-C, Swift, MATLAB and countless others

One of the biggest benefits of earning a computer science degree is that it prepares you for just about any job in the information technology industry!  By learning how all programming languages and architecture work, you’ll be completely prepared to learn any of the new or emerging programming languages. You could end up with numerous career paths in website development, database management, software development, app development and much more! Talk about potential!

Expected Job Growth

As you might imagine, technology jobs are on the rise. In fact, the technology industry is growing faster than any other industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The demand for talented IT professionals is also on the rise, which means graduates will be in an ideal position to negotiate favorable job terms. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for computer programmers was $86,550 in May 2019.

Data Network Administration

At the heart of any modern computing system is a database that must be built, managed, and maintained. Databases are needed in every job sector including healthcare, finance, education and more. With a bachelor’s degree in database administration, you’ll learn to not only build databases that help computing happen, you’ll also learn how to secure, recover, and backup database information.

But this degree doesn’t stop there. You’ll also learn what is called structure query language (SQL). This language is commonly used to mine data for important insights.  You’ll learn all about the established and emerging languages like NoSQL, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle, and the cloud computing infrastructure like Amazon’s AWS. These are the kinds of insights corporations pay BIG money to get their hands on. 

This skillset is highly prized and will help you earn top dollar.

What Kind of Career Growth Can You Expect?

According to the BLS, employment of database administrators is expected to grow 10% from 2019 to 2029. This is much faster than the average for all other occupations and a result of the growing need of businesses in all industries to safely store and make sense of big data. The BLS reports the median annual wage for database administrators was $93,750 in May 2019.

Gaming Design & Development

Is gaming a passion of yours? Do you love the idea of creating video games and gaming apps for other people to enjoy? If so, a bachelor’s degree in gaming design and development may be the ideal choice for you.

In this program you’ll learn every aspect of coding, programming, and visual design, specifically tailored to the hot video game design and development industry. You’ll learn not only how to create visually stunning games, but also user-friendly gaming experiences and all of the latest technology and methods. By the time you graduate from this program you will have likely built your own comprehensive portfolio that will show off your design skills (and help you land that dream job), as well as an understanding of various platforms and languages like iPhone, Android, Playstation, PC, Xbox, or many others that your career might take you.

Career Outlook & Salary

Did you know video games are played in nearly every US household? The whole industry continues to grow and has eclipsed many other industries.  That’s a lot of demand for new games to constantly be made! 

Because of this, there is an increasing demand for talented video game designers and this demand should remain for the unforeseeable future.

While the BLS does not currently offer data on game designers, sources within the industry report that new game designers can expect a median starting salary of $46,000 while a game designer who has a bit of experience will earn a median annual salary of $55,600.

Information Technology Management

Do you have leadership skills? Have you always had a fascination with technology and what it can do for the world? If so, then a degree in information technology management may be right for you.

Whether it’s a data center or a cloud storage solution, today’s modern business world relies on complex technologies. An IT management degree will prepare you for a leadership role within the IT community. You’ll learn how to manage IT professionals, drive complex projects to completion, and make important decisions regarding technologies and security solutions. Graduates may work as IT project managers, IT managers and directors, and even chief technology officers.

What Does the Future Look Like with This Degree?

The information technology industry continues to grow and evolve, requiring talented and qualified IT professionals. There is also an ever-growing need for individuals to oversee these IT professionals and the projects they create. For these reasons, IT management graduates should have wonderful job opportunities.

In fact, according to the BLS, employment of information technology specialists is projected to grow 11% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all other occupations. The BLS also reports that the median annual wage for IT specialists was $88,240 in May 2019, which was higher than the median annual wage for all occupations of $39,810.

Cybersecurity

There’s no denying that the Internet has made it easier for us to connect with one another, conduct business, and share important information. 

But it has also made it incredibly easy for criminals to get their hands on sensitive data. Because of the rise of cybercrimes, it has become increasingly important for businesses and governments to have cyber security experts on their team.  These specialists are tasked with the exciting and ever-changing role of being one step ahead of criminals to prevent crimes, theft and potential loss.

A degree in cybersecurity will set you on one of the most lucrative career paths in computing today. Not only will you be able to command a high salary and have numerous career prospects in either the public sector (working at the government level to protect the US) or with private companies and startups, you’ll also experience the gratification of solving big problems every day.

Job Growth and Salary

As organizations across all industries become more reliant on technology every day, the need for cybersecurity experts increases. For this reason, the job outlook for these professionals is very bright. In fact, according to the BLS, employment of cybersecurity experts is projected to grow 32% by 2028. That is far, far faster than the average rate of growth for all other occupations, even those in the computing sector!

Even more good news, according to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for cybersecurity experts is $120,000 per year. Of course, that’s an average, more senior engineers can earn upwards of $188,000 a year!

Graphic Design

They say that an image is worth 1000 words. That saying is very applicable when it comes to the world of advertising. And the people who help brands engage consumers visually are graphic designers.

In our increasingly digital world, these designers are critical for companies and brands to differentiate themselves and get customers. 

With a degree in graphic design, you’ll learn how to take vague concepts and transform them into stunning graphics, images, logos and packaging, for websites, apps, social media and more. Graphic designers are involved in every aspect of the brand design process from choosing brand color palates to creating images that help customers connect with brands. Your talents will help businesses grow and thrive. Upon graduation, students with this degree will have the option for finding work at a major corporation, a design agency, or work for themselves.

What Does a Career as a Graphic Designer Look Like?

Demand for talented graphic designers is at an all-time high and that demand isn’t likely to decrease anytime soon. That’s because every business requires a digital presence. Graduates with this degree should find ample job opportunities.

The BLS has reported that graphic designers are also going to face some stiff competition in the marketplace. Job prospects will be best for those who have earned their degree and understand the latest trends and technologies. This BLS also reports that the median annual wage for graphic designers was $52,110 in May 2019.

Data Analytics

More and more businesses are looking to get ahead of their competition to thrive in an ever-growing global marketplace. 

The best way to find this competitive edge is by looking for actionable insights from data. And to do this, business leaders will need to rely on skilled data analysts.

A degree in data analytics will provide you with the tools to be able to spot trends, make forecasts, and extract information to help organizations make better-informed decisions. Because these skills are in such high demand, graduates may command a huge salary and excellent perks. You may find yourself one day working on Wall Street, in the healthcare industry, in marketing, retail or more. The sky is really the limit with this IT degree since it applies to every field!

Career Outlook

As we mentioned, a data analyst is one of the most in-demand professions around these days. Someone with this degree will have an open door to a rewarding and lucrative career path. According to Indeed.com, an entry level or junior data analyst can expect a yearly salary of $49,764 while a senior data analyst could expect a yearly salary of $96,970.

Online Vs Traditional Campus IT Degrees

 Now that you know what our top 7 computer / IT degrees are, you may be wondering why we are suggesting you earn your IT degree online. It’s simple: as a busy adult you are going to find it far easier to complete your coursework via an online learning platform. And that’s because traditional degree programs don’t offer the flexibility you need to study AND meet the demands of your current job and family obligations. Even if you were to find a local community college in your area that offers classes at night or on the weekend, chances are you’ll still end up missing important family outings like your kids’ recitals and little league games.

Here are 3 reasons why an online degree makes a LOT more sense!

  1. Flexibility

Learning online means you can study when and where is most convenient for YOU. You don’t have to show up for traditional classes at a brick-and-mortar school. You simply log on and complete your coursework at a pace and schedule you can manage.

  1. An Affordable Education

Online programs usually cost a small fraction of what a traditional college degree costs. On top of these initial savings, there is also the fact that you don’t have to pay for room and board. Heck, you don’t even have to pay for gas to get to campus!

  1. Computer and IT Degrees Fit Online Learning Perfectly!

These days you can earn pretty much any degree online. But unlike some degrees, such as those in certain science fields that require lab work, the field of computing and IT is perfect for online learning.

Benefits of a Computer / IT Degree

Here are just a few benefits of earning an information technology degree:

Numerous Job Prospects

The tech boom has begun, and computers and technology are here to stay. In fact, we will most likely see head-spinning advancements in technology in the near future as technology integrates everything in our lives (the Internet of Things). For this reason, qualified candidates with degrees in computing and IT will always be in demand in just about every industry.

High Earning Potential

As you’ve just seen, the careers you can have with an IT degree are some of the best paying in any sector or industry. Even entry-level positions will command an enviable salary, and senior level positions will command six figure salaries.

You’ll Be at The Forefront of Tech Innovations!

Artificial intelligence. Robotics. Cybersecurity. These are the areas we can expect to see the biggest innovations in the coming years. With an IT degree, you can be in a position to work on some of the most cutting-edge products and services to hit the market. This will make you and your skills invaluable.

Cost and Tuition of Obtaining an IT Degree

We probably don’t have to tell you that the cost of a higher education is a significant financial commitment – and sometimes burden – for most individuals and families. Consider that the average yearly cost of a public college education is close to $10,000. That same degree at a private university will cost you close to $35,000!

Did those figures make your heart sink? Don’t worry! There are numerous ways you can save on your college education and we want to help you. We recommend you take a few minutes to read our article on 5 ways you can save on college tuition, and also use our free Smartplan to find ways to save at various schools across the country by taking advantage of free courses, discounts and more. In fact, that’s why we created OnlineDegree.com so that everyone could have access to an affordable education.

Choosing the Right Type of Online Computer Degree

Associate’s Degree in Computer Science or IT

An associate’s degree is typically a two-year degree that can be earned either online or at a community college or vocational school. Some associate’s degrees are geared toward a specific profession, while others offer students general education requirements that can be later used toward their bachelor’s degree.

The information technology industry is one that doesn’t necessarily require a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions. It is possible to obtain your associate’s degree and immediately begin working in the industry. Going this route will help you get a sense of your specific strengths and interests so you may then go back to complete your bachelor’s degree.

Having said that, going straight for your bachelor’s degree will help you be far more prepared for whatever career or job you ultimately get, and potentially begin earning more.

Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or IT

While a student can use an associate’s degree towards a bachelor’s degree, most students enroll straight into a bachelor’s degree program. These programs are typically completed in 4 years, but can be much faster through accelerated programs and other non-traditional methods.  The key thing will be speaking with each school you like to find out what they offer. 

The 7 degrees we have listed are all bachelor’s degrees and will help you stand apart from the competition. While job prospects are fantastic in the IT industry, it is also worth noting that you are not the only one reading how fantastic a career in this industry can be. So if you want to stand apart from the competition, earning your bachelor’s degree is a great way to do just that!

Master’s Degree in Computer Science or IT

A master’s degree is an advanced degree you may choose to complete once you’ve obtained your bachelor’s degree. Master’s programs vary in length but generally last from one to four additional years. It is common for master’s students to attend classes while they also work full-time.

You may wonder if it’s worth it to obtain your master’s in IT. Well, that ultimately depends on what your overall career goals are. While a bachelor’s degree is enough to land an excellent job with high pay and benefits, obtaining your master’s can lead to greater career advancement, which ultimately comes with more credibility, a stronger salary and even MORE opportunities for advancement down the road.

Doctorate Degree

The most advanced degree you are able to earn in most academic disciplines is the doctorate degree. Those that hold this degree are regarded as authorities in their field. Obtaining your doctorate will lead to more professional credibility and leadership roles within a person’s chosen field.

A doctorate degree in information technology will open up even more doors for you and lead to an even higher salary.

Choosing the Correct University For Computer Science

You’ve completed the first step on your journey as an IT specialist by recognizing the top 7 online IT degrees available. Now it’s time to find the right school for you. It’s a big decision, but that’s where we could help.

Here are a few things we think are hugely important for adult students to look for in a university: 

  • Online Programs
  • $0 application fees
  • They don’t require SAT/ACT testing
  • Faculty and professors that understand adult students’ needs
  • Offer discounts or scholarships
  • Convenient enrollment dates year-round (so you don’t have to wait for Spring or Fall)
  • Accredited

Again, finding adult-friendly schools that match these features above can certainly be challenging! 

BUT, that’s why we created our Smartplan.  

Take a few moments to interact with our Smartplan to find the schools that have all of the criteria you require.

Register today to get your free Smartplan and compare different colleges! >>

Salary Data for Computer / IT Professionals

 There’s no denying that technology careers are on the rise. And many of these jobs command a remarkable salary. Below are some of the top IT jobs and their median annual salaries, according to the BLS:

  • Computer Programmer – Median Salary: $84,280
  • Web Developer – Median Salary: $69,430
  • Computer & Information Systems Manager – Median Salary: $142,530
  • Computer & Information Research Scientist – Median Salary: $118,370
  • Software Systems Developer – Median Salary: $110,000

FAQs

Q: How hard is computer science?

A: Like most other subjects, learning computer science can be challenging, but not too difficult, particularly if you have an interest or passion for technology. The key to being successful with your studies it to have patience and determination!

Q: Is there a lot of math in computer science?

A: We know that not everyone is a fan of math. So it’s no wonder many prospective students are curious if an IT degree will call for a lot of math skills. The answer is, it really does depend on the degree you are looking to obtain. The general answer is, no, although computing and programming concepts are built on a foundation of math, most of the math that comes into play is relatively easy to understand. Much of the math takes shape in the form of probabilities, simple algebra/arithmetic, and statistical modeling.

Q: Why should I get a degree in Information Technology?

A: Almost no other industry offers people job stability and a high earning potential. According to the BLS, the tech industry is one of the fastest growing with high demand for skilled professionals. You will have rewarding and interesting work as well as many opportunities for career advancement.

How to Get Started 

 Congratulations for making it to the end of the article! We’ve covered a lot of ground and you’re probably wondering what you should do next.

We highly recommend you take a few moments to use OnlineDegree.com’s Smartplan to find the right school that offers all of the criteria you’re looking for your online computer science degree.   We’ve provided this helpful and free tool for you to help you make the right decision, and find ways that could end up saving you a lot of time and money toward your IT degree.

Register today for free >>

 

About the Author
Grant Aldrich
Grant Aldrich
Grant founded OnlineDegree.com with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.

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