Computer Science Degree Overview


Updated October 18, 2023

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Computer science covers a lot of ground and leads in many directions. Learn about the different computer science degrees and what type of roles they prepare graduates for. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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As technology advances and shapes various industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, and education, the demand for skilled computer science professionals continues to rise. Professionals interested in learning relevant professional skills might thrive in a computer science program.

A computer science degree develops critical thinking, programming, cybersecurity, and other skills needed for in-demand technology careers. These programs typically offer various concentrations targeting specific areas of computer science, like health informatics or artificial intelligence.

Discover more about pursuing a computer science degree and the exciting opportunities offered at each degree level.

What Is Computer Science?

Computer science uses technological systems to complete tasks across many industries. Computer science professionals seek solutions to problems, improve processes, and make forecasts for future developments. Graduates with all levels of education in this field can enter a rapidly growing sector with strong salary potential.

Career outcomes for computer science students depend on education, experience, and certification status. Students who complete associate degrees in computer science can pursue careers as web developers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), web developers earn a median annual salary of $78,300 as of May 2021.

Students who complete master's degrees in computer science can pursue roles as computer and information research scientists. According to the BLS, professionals in this career earn a median annual salary of $131,490.

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Why Get a Computer Science Degree?

While the discipline can be challenging, a computer science degree can provide many benefits. Students in these programs develop widely used computer and problem-solving skills. Graduates can join the workforce with professional versatility and job security, along with the following:

  • Job Growth: The BLS projects a strong 15% growth rate for computer and information technology occupations from 2021-2031.
  • Financial Rewards: According to the BLS, the median annual salary for computer and information technology occupations was $97,430 as of May 2021. Computer network architects, one of the higher-paying positions, made a median annual wage of $120,520.
  • Career Flexibility: Computer science degrees and specializations allow students to pursue various career paths, such as networking, databases, security, and development. Professionals can also change paths by building experience, completing continuing education, and earning industry certifications.
  • Global Opportunities: The worldwide presence of technology provides near-limitless career opportunities for computer science professionals. With the help of translation and remote work technologies, many professionals can access out-of-state and international positions without relocating.
  • Making a Difference: Computer science professionals can create and innovate their work to empower individuals, organizations, and societies. They solve problems, improve processes, and enhance standard operations in many ways. Overall, computer science makes a major difference in how we function.

Types of Computer Science Degrees

Students can pursue associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in computer science. Lower levels of education usually take less time to complete and often cost less than advanced degrees, which may lead to better-paying jobs with more responsibility. Prospective computer science students should consider their personal and professional goals before applying.

The following sections explore these types of computer science degrees, highlighting the typical formats, requirements, and postgraduate opportunities.

Associate Degrees in Computer Science

An associate degree in computer science typically requires two years of study in general education and computer science fundamentals. Students learn the principles of programming and web development, along with the basics of design and testing. They develop skills in algorithmic design, analysis, and problem-solving.

While associate degrees offer fewer concentration options than more advanced programs, the breadth of training allows learners to find their areas of interest. As a result, many students begin their computer science studies with associate degrees before pursuing more specialized bachelor's programs.

Associate programs often feature more affordable credits and accessible admission requirements than bachelor's programs. Graduates can enter the workforce quickly to pursue entry-level computer programmer roles and related jobs. The shorter study times can offer quicker access to careers and on-the-job training.

Bachelor's Degrees in Computer Science

A bachelor's degree in computer science degree typically includes four years of study. These programs cover foundational studies in programming, operating systems, and computer systems. They may also explore computation, data structures, and software engineering, along with intermediate-level topics in many of these areas.

The popularity of bachelor's degrees in computer science has generated many program types and formats. Students have access to in-person, online, and hybrid programs, along with various concentration options. In a specialization like cybersecurity, students learn about issues in information security and how computer science professionals manage them.

Other popular specializations include:

  • Systems and software
  • Algorithms
  • Data analytics

Bachelor's students typically gain skills using programming languages for various purposes, along with advanced problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Graduates can pursue many computer and information technology occupations, including information security analyst and database administrator roles.

Master's Degrees in Computer Science

Master's degrees in computer science usually require two years of full-time enrollment to build on undergraduate training in programming theory, design, networks, databases, and security. These programs investigate and analyze computing challenges and emerging technologies, challenging students to develop solutions and new computing applications.

Master's students acquire advanced communication, leadership, and analytical skills. Graduate programs also provide many specialization opportunities, allowing enrollees to acquire specialized technical skills. For example, data science concentrations teach students to mine, process, and analyze large datasets for descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive purposes.

Other popular specializations include:

  • Human-computer interaction
  • Business intelligence

Earning a master's degree can lead to some of the best computer science jobs, including in computer information research. Professionals can use master's programs to advance their skills and qualifications to pursue senior or leadership positions. Many schools make this process easier by offering flexible online and hybrid programs.

Doctoral Degrees in Computer Science

Students may have access to multiple types of computer science degrees at the doctoral level, depending on the school and subject. While most schools offer research-based Ph.D. programs, some feature a professional doctorate, such as a doctorate in computer science (DCS). These programs vary in length, with DCS programs taking about three years and a Ph.D. taking 4-5 years.

Ph.D. students contribute to academic institutions and discourse through original research and theoretical analysis. Professional programs focus on practical skills that prepare graduates for high-ranking positions within organizations.

Despite the different approaches, both types of computer science degrees often feature similar concentrations. In machine learning, for example, students explore theories or technological developments that improve how computers learn and advance their computing capabilities.

Other popular specializations include:

  • Bioinformatics
  • Computer algebra
  • Cryptography
  • Quantum computing
  • Software engineering

While most doctoral graduates pursue careers in research and academia, they often qualify for the top professional positions in systems management.

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

More Computer Science Degrees and Concentrations

Do You Need a Computer Science Degree to Get a Job?

Depending on the job and employer, a degree in computer science may not be necessary for a career in the field. Some employers hire entry-level professionals who complete bootcamps, certificate programs, or self-study paths. Certain computer science certifications may also be available, which can help these individuals stand out.

However, employers typically seek candidates with degrees from accredited institutions. College degrees demonstrate that applicants have a solid educational foundation. The following table highlights some of the pros and cons of bootcamp vs. degrees.

Degree Pros

  • Access to more jobs, certifications, and continuing education
  • Programs are accredited and industry approved
  • Broader range of topics and specializations

Degree Cons

  • Takes more time and costs more money than bootcamps
  • Admission and program expectations more challenging
  • Study materials may be less focused or outdated

Bootcamp Pros

  • Accelerated programs that cost less than degrees
  • Focused on relevant and practical knowledge and skills
  • Specialized disciplines with up-to-date materials

Bootcamp Cons

  • Fewer employment and certification opportunities
  • Programs typically do not hold standardized accreditation
  • Accelerated training can be intense and require more support

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Resources for Computer Science Majors

While earning a computer science degree, learners can supplement their learning with resources and tools, including educational software and internships. Consider using the following resources for computer science majors:


Use CodePen to collaborate with others to write, develop, and improve code. Think of it like a social media platform where coders can share their work with others, test new code, and learn from other professionals.

Two Minute Papers

This YouTube channel dissects research papers on complex artificial intelligence topics and turns them into easily digestible, short videos. The eye-catching visuals make understanding research discoveries about machine learning, digital animation, and similar topics easier.

National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition

This competition occurs annually, allowing teams of cybersecurity enthusiasts to compete nationally. Students can put their skills to the test to secure a network with up to 10 servers in a timed event.


WayUp connects students and job-seekers with internships and entry-level opportunities. The searchable database provides internship opportunities in full-stack engineering, product management, data science, and information security.

Questions About Computer Science Degrees

What is the best degree to get in computer science?

The best computer science degree depends on the individual's professional and educational goals. An associate degree in computer science offers the quickest path to the field, while a bachelor's is the most widely applicable degree. Master's degrees allow graduates to pursue leadership positions, and doctorates can lead to roles in academia.

Is there a lot of math in computer science?

Yes, but the depth of the math required depends on the program and degree level. Most computer science degrees feature courses in calculus, algebra, and statistics. Students also work with discrete mathematics for algorithms.

Is a degree in computer science worth it?

Yes — a computer science degree is valuable for aspiring computer and information technology professionals. Most employers require a computer-related degree, and the broadness of computer science makes this discipline particularly useful.

Where can I learn how to get a computer science degree?

Readers can follow the links on this page to learn how to get computer science degrees. They can also research more about the programs offered by local or online schools through their websites and catalogs.

Last reviewed November 18, 2022.

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