Top Associate Degrees in Computer Engineering for 2022

| ComputerScience.org Staff Modified on June 21, 2022

Top Associate Degrees in Computer Engineering for 2022
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An associate in computer engineering gives students foundational tech skills. Programs vary in focus, covering programming, operating systems, and computer hardware. Many programs also feature courses in software engineering or development.

Learners can complete a computer engineering associate program in about two years. Graduates can pursue entry-level tech careers or further education.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer engineers earned a median salary of nearly $120,000 per year in 2020. Associate degree-holders can pursue various tech careers. This guide provides detailed information about computer engineering associate degrees, including admissions processes, typical courses, and costs.

What to Expect From an Associate in Computer Engineering Program

Associate in computer engineering programs culminate in a degree, acting as a stepping stone to a 4-year degree. Graduates can transfer their coursework towards a bachelor's in computer engineering.

Credit requirements vary. Computer engineering associate degrees require 60 credits — half of the usual 120 credits needed for a bachelor's. Other programs may feature more intensive requirements, totaling up to 90 credits.

Most programs include major requirements, electives, and general education classes. Major requirements cover core computer engineering coursework. Electives allow students to pursue related areas of interest. General education courses round out the curriculum with classes in the humanities and sciences.

Admission Requirements

Learners applying for an associate in computer engineering program usually need a high school diploma or equivalent. Most programs recommend a strong background in math and physics. Applicants without this foundational knowledge may need to complete preparatory courses before applying.

Associate degrees in computer engineering may assume incoming students have a basic understanding of computer systems and programming languages. However, most programs include introductory classes in these subjects. Even so, incoming students with some relevant knowledge may enjoy an advantage.

Minimum GPA requirements vary, but usually start in the 2.0 range (on the 4.0 scale). Schools may request SAT or ACT scores. Once accepted, students may need to take placement tests in various subjects.

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Degree and Concentration Options

At the associate level, computer engineering programs usually lead to one an associate of science (AS) or associate of applied science (AAS).

Though similar, AS and AAS degrees have some differences. With a stronger focus on academic theory, AS programs prepare learners for entry to bachelor's programs. AAS degrees place more emphasis on practical skills so students can enter the workforce after graduation.

Yet, AS and AAS programs both qualify graduates for entry-level jobs and bachelor's degree transfer. The BLS notes that bachelor's graduates earn an average of about 33% more than people with associate degrees in 2020. For that reason, associate degree-holders may choose to complete a four-year degree.

Additionally, students wanting to specialize in a computer engineering subfield, like robotics or networks, may also consider advanced degrees.

Comparing Similar Degrees

Schools feature many undergraduate programs in areas similar to computer engineering, including:

  • Associate Degree in Computer Science: General computer science programs cover similar topics to computer engineering programs, but may focus more on troubleshooting, software, operating systems, and programming.
  • Associate Degree in Software Engineering: Computer engineering programs emphasize hardware and system design. Learners with a stronger interest in software development can pursue software engineering.
  • Bachelor's Degree in Computer Engineering: These four-year programs study computer engineering topics in more depth.

The data below summarizes the key features and differences among these programs:

Degree Program Length Credit Requirements Areas of Focus
Associate Degree in Computer Engineering 2-3 years 60-90 credits System design | Electronics and circuitry | Hardware design and development | Programming languages
Associate Degree in Computer Science 2 years 60-64 credits Operating systems | Software design and development | Programming languages | Communications, networking, and databases | Troubleshooting
Associate Degree in Software Engineering 2 years 60-66 credits Information technology | Computer systems and networking | Programming | Database management | Interface design | Data analytics
Bachelor's Degree in Computer Engineering 4 years 120-145 credits Similar to associate degrees, but in greater depth | Specializations in topics such as programming, system design, robotics, machine learning, networking, and hardware engineering may be available

Learners interested in computer circuitry, hardware components, network design, and system design may choose computer engineering programs. Students drawn to programming, analytics, user interfacing, game design, and computer applications may thrive in software engineering or development programs. For those who are unsure, general computer science degrees cover many areas in the discipline.

Learners interested in computer circuitry, hardware components, network design, and system design may choose computer engineering programs.

Students seeking to enter the tech workforce right away may prefer an associate degree. Bachelor's degrees can lead to more career opportunities and higher salaries but require a greater investment.

Popular Computer Engineering Courses

Associate in computer engineering programs usually feature core and elective courses. Students must complete all core courses, and they can choose their electives from a list of approved options.

Each school develops its own computer engineering curriculum, so courses vary among schools. The following list highlights some common classes in computer engineering associate programs:

  • Computer Theory: This course develops students' understanding of the theories and principles underlying computer system design. Topics include logic, data registries, computer circuitry, and Boolean algebra. The class structure may combine lectures with lab-based practical learning.
  • Introduction to Computer Programming: The course explores computer programming fundamentals with an emphasis on simple programming languages. Students also examine elements common to multiple programming languages.
  • Introduction to Electrical Engineering: In this course, learners apply engineering principles to computer circuitry and hardware. Depending on the degree's structure, this course may be required or elective. When offered, it usually falls in the program's upper semesters.
  • Introduction to Software Engineering: This popular elective introduces students to software engineering development models. Specific topics typically include state-, function-, and object-oriented programming; prototyping; and the product development lifecycle.

How Much Will a Computer Engineering Associate Degree Cost?

The U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) tracks higher education costs. For the 2019-20 academic year, the NCES reports the following averages for tuition, fees, room, and board at two-year institutions:

  • Public institutions: $11,069
  • Private institutions (nonprofit and for-profit): $26,749
  • All institutions: $11,391

While these average costs are a good starting point, actual college costs depend on many factors, including:

  • Whether you attend a public institution in or out of state. Out-of-state students usually pay more tuition than in-state students.
  • Whether you study in person or online.
  • The school's profile, reputation, and prestige.

Financial aid can help cover some or all of your computer engineering associate degree costs. All students should first fill out and submit a FAFSA to determine their eligibility for federal aid. Next, look into nonrepayable sources of aid like scholarships and grants. Then consider private loans as a last resort.

Why Get a Computer Engineering Associate Degree?

An associate in computer engineering may appeal to people seeking an entry-level tech job or a 4-year degree. An associate degree may carry even more value when paired with optional computing and technology certifications.

Historically, the tech industry values an applicant's skills and relevant experience. Even so, degrees can indicate a candidate's commitment to the industry and knowledge level.

Computer engineering associate programs feature shorter timelines than bachelor's degrees. Associate degrees can match learners wanting the benefits of a degree while minimizing costs and time commitments.

Job-seekers with an associate in computer engineering can pursue many tech careers. Examples include:

Read More:

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Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

Choosing the Right Computer Engineering Program

Choosing the right program requires careful research. As you investigate programs, consider the factors most likely to impact your educational outcome and job prospects. These points differ for everyone, but often include:

  • Graduation and job placement rates
  • Transferability of credits toward bachelor's programs
  • Quality of on-campus computer labs and technical facilities
  • Program costs
  • Financial aid availability

Look into the accreditation status of any school you are considering. Only accept institutions that hold recognized accreditation. Confirm the school's standing with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

Endorsements from specialized accrediting bodies add further value to computer engineering associate programs. ABET acts as the key accreditor of computer science and technology programs. ABET-validated degree tracks meet particularly high academic standards and merit extra attention.

Should You Get Your Associate Degree Online?

Online learning has made major strides over the past decade and continues to grow. Tech-related degrees translate well to the virtual classroom. Course content for these programs does not typically require real-time interactions.

Succeeding in online learning does require high levels of independence and self-discipline. If you thrive in these areas, an online degree might work well for you.

However, some people prefer the structured environment of traditional campus-based programs. Think about which format better matches your learning style, and take that into account during your program search.

Explore Related Programs

Learn More About Computer Engineering

Becoming a full-fledged computer engineer is a demanding process. This page explains the journey from start to finish. Computer engineers enjoy strong job and salary prospects in an increasingly high-tech world. Get insights and data-based projections here. Are you interested in computer engineering but not sure what exactly a typical day on the job looks like? This page explains. If you plan to study computer engineering, you can find many schools offering relevant degrees. Start your search by exploring top programs. Degrees are not the only credentials that hold value in the tech industry. Certificates and diplomas can also bolster your job prospects. Learn about them here.

Frequently Asked Questions About Associate's in Computer Engineering

What can you do with an associate degree in computer engineering?

An associate in computer engineering can lead to entry-level roles in many technology sectors. Computer engineering graduates may pursue jobs designing and testing hardware components. They can also work in programming, web design, IT, and information security.

Can you get a job with an associate in computer engineering?

Yes. Some employers value skills and abilities over an applicant's academic background. For example, some entry-level tech jobs like computer support specialists may require relevant knowledge but not always a degree. However, degrees can lead to more job opportunities and a higher earning potential.

Is an associate in computer engineering worth it?

Earning a degree shows employers that you are committed to the industry and understand the fundamentals. An associate degree also develops important professional skills. These factors may give associates in computer engineering graduates a job market advantage.

What other jobs are available in computer engineering?

Computer engineering programs build technical skills that transfer well to many roles. Examples include programming, tech support, IT support, cybersecurity, and web development.


Top Associate Degrees in Computer Engineering

A computer engineering associate degree can prepare graduates for entry-level tech jobs. Begin your computer engineering career today with one of the following five associate programs.

Follow the link below to learn how we ranked these programs.


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