Why Choose an Associate Degree in Computer Science?
Earning an associate degree in computer science can prepare you for entry-level employment or further education. While you can learn the basics of computer languages, troubleshooting, programming and design on your own, many employers prefer to interview and hire formally trained applicants.
Experts anticipate that employment opportunities for computer scientists will increase throughout the next decade. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, web development jobs will increase by 20% by 2022, adding nearly 30,000 new positions to the economy. An associate degree is all you’ll need for some jobs, and these programs prepare you to earn a bachelor’s degree in the subject as well.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, web development jobs will increase by 20% by 2022, adding nearly 30,000 new positions to the economy.
While pursuing your computer science associate degree, you will develop an understanding of the basic principles and practices needed to program and maintain computers and computer systems. You will also complete many of the general education courses required by most four-year schools.
Computer science programs usually provide students with hands-on learning experiences, requiring them to complete an internship or demonstrate proficiency in lab work as a prerequisite for graduation.
- 2 Years
Computer science associate degrees can be found under a number of titles. Along with the common Associate of Science in Computer Science title, you may also encounter the following while researching programs:
- Associate of Arts in Computer Information Systems
- Associate of Science in Information Science
- Associate of Science in Information Technology
- Associate of Science in Technology (Computer Technologies)
- Associate of Applied Science in Technical Studies (Computer Technologies)
- Associate of Science in Information Sciences and Technology
Though associate degree conferrals plummeted in the previous decade, two-year degree programs in the computer and information sciences are slowly regaining traction.
U.S. Graduates in CS, 2002-2012
Average Annual Tuition, 2015
Online Associate Degree in Computer Science
Computer and information science departments embrace the convenience of delivering quality education online and feature curriculums well-suited to the online format. Lecture theories are taught through discussion boards and digital reading materials, and they can be put into practice through programs relevant to your classes.
Online students also have a more flexible schedule than their on-campus counterparts. Like residential students, distance learners must submit assignments and take exams by certain dates, but they can usually watch lectures at their convenience. With access to digital library materials and virtual office hours with professors and academic advisors, online computer science students have the same resources as their on-campus peers.
As a computer science student, you can expect an online program to provide:
- Quality Education: Students, even those working full-time jobs, report that their online education is of comparable quality to traditional programs. Additionally, students claim that they work harder in online courses.
- Personalized Schedule: Many distance learners have responsibilities outside of school. Online students can review materials, complete assignments, and take tests whenever they have time.
- Option to Transfer: Most associate degree programs offer coursework that fulfills the general requirements for a bachelor’s degree. Depending on which four-year school and bachelor’s program you choose, most, if not all, of your credits will transfer.
- Comprehensive Learning Experience: Online coursework ensures that students receive a thorough understanding of the basics of computing. Possible courses include:
- Programming in C++
- Programming in Java
- Introduction to Systems Analysis and Design
- Information, People and Technology
- Electronic Commerce.
Accreditation is the most powerful indicator of a program’s quality. Regardless of enrollment level or area of study, all degree seekers should confirm their prospective school’s accreditation status before enrolling. This is particularly true for students in specialized subjects like computer science, where individual program accreditation is often as important as school-wide accreditation.
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) does not directly accredit schools. Instead, the government enforces universal standards for accrediting bodies. All accreditors must be officially recognized by the ED or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to be considered official.
U.S. colleges and universities can receive two types of institution-wide accreditation: national and regional. Unless you are enrolling in your courses at a vocational or technical school, regional is the only school-wide accreditation you need to consider. Regional accreditation is much more common: more than 85% of the nation’s degree granting institutions are accredited regionally. Regional accreditation ensures three things about a given program:
- The school has earned the most widely recognized accreditation status in the country
- Credits are transferrable to other regionally accredited schools
- Students can qualify for federal financial aid and corporate tuition reimbursement plans
Employers, graduate schools and professional organizations may not recognize your computer science degree if your program is not accredited. Worse, you may not get the quality education you need to compete for positions in the field once you graduate.
You can confirm the accreditation status of any post-secondary school in the country by searching the ED’s database.
Program accreditation matters more than regional accreditation for most technical programs. If you’re earning your BA in computer science, for example, you shouldn’t worry about program accreditation as long as your school is regionally accredited. On the other hand, if you’re seeking a bachelor’s of engineering with a concentration in computer science, you should absolutely confirm program accreditation.
While many fields rely on multiple agencies to evaluate programs, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is the only recognized U.S. accreditor of undergraduate and graduate programs in applied science, computing, engineering and engineering technology. ABET maintains four commissions responsible for accrediting specific program areas and degree levels:
- Applied Science Accreditation Commission
- Computing Accreditation Commission
- Engineering Accreditation Commission
- Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission
Over 3,400 programs at 700 colleges and universities have received ABET accreditation since 1932. You can find ABET-approved programs through their accredited program search.
Remember: unaccredited or falsely accredited schools that attract students with low-effort, high-cost programs are considered diploma mills for a reason. They sell degrees, not education. Protect yourself and confirm a school’s accreditation status before you apply.
Admission requirements for associate degrees do not vary greatly from school to school. Though some may require supplemental materials, applicants generally need to be at least 18 years old and have either a high school diploma or a GED. Below, we’ve provided a bit more information about how to get into a computer science associate degree program.
General Admission Requirements
Depending on where you apply, you may be asked to submit any of the following with your official transcripts to prove you’ve earned a diploma or GED:
- Completed application
- College transcripts (if applicable)
- If you are an international student, scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
- Passing scores for math or English placement tests
If you are an international student, scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
Scholarships and Financial Aid
At accredited schools, students enrolled in full-time or part-time study are eligible to apply for federal financial aid. To determine how much aid you can receive, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). According to an NCES report, the percentage of students receiving financial assistance at nonprofit two-year schools has increased over the past decade.
Federal aid is not the only way to finance your degree: many schools award scholarships to students within certain departments, and you should contact your target schools to find out more about their financial assistance packages.
The percentage of students receiving financial assistance at nonprofit two-year schools has increased over the past decade.
Sources for Aid and Awards
There are hundreds of online scholarships available to undergraduates from all schools. These awards are often competitive but they’re still worth pursuing. Below, we’ve posted a few scholarships intended for tech and computer science students:
Though associate degree programs teach introductory material and concepts, computer science students may be able to focus their studies on specific areas, including, but not limited to, the fields below:
Information Systems Management
Learn how organizations use information and develop technological applications to increase their efficiency.
Learn to code and develop computer games while becoming proficient in languages like C++ and Visual Basic.
Develop programs for end-users. Obtain skills to deliver practical tools for modern business operations, including accounting or inventory tracking programs.
Design web pages and websites to attract audiences or sell products. Common languages include Java, HTML, Python and C++.