5 Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Computer Science 2021
| ComputerScience Staff
A computer science bachelor’s degree provides a foundation in computing theories and develops essential information technology (IT) skills. Earning a computer science degree can open the door to lucrative career opportunities in the technology and IT sectors.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 11% growth rate for computer and information technology occupations from 2019-29, much faster than the average projected growth for all jobs. As society’s need for information security, data storage, and cloud computing continues to grow, demand for these professionals is expected to keep pace.
This guide includes a ranking of the best affordable online bachelor’s in computer science degrees. We also explain why you should earn a computer science degree, what to expect from a typical program, and how to choose the right school.
2021’s Top 5 Affordable Online Computer Science Degrees
Computer science is the study of computers, software, and software systems, focused on areas like artificial intelligence, database systems, information security, and programming languages.
The computer science field offers many lucrative and fast-growing career opportunities. Potential jobs that require a bachelor’s degree in computer science include computer and information systems manager, software developer, database administrator, and computer systems analyst. Computer science professionals work in computer systems design, software publishing, and research and development.
BLS projections indicate faster-than-average job growth for many computer science careers, due to society’s increasing reliance on professionals with expertise in information security, data collection, and cloud computing.
Computer science often appeals to individuals with strong math, analytical, technology, and problem-solving skills. This sector offers room for advancement for those who earn graduate degrees or professional certifications.
Why Get an Affordable Online Computer Science Bachelor’s?
Completing a four-year computer science degree requires a significant investment of time, effort, and money, but the investment pays off for many students. Earning an affordable online bachelor’s in computer science gives learners the chance to gain new in-demand skills, qualify for more job opportunities, and increase their salaries.
Coding bootcamps typically take less time and money to complete. Many computer science employers require applicants for advanced positions to hold at least a bachelor’s degree.
Some benefits of earning a computer science degree include:
Potential jobs include computer and information systems manager, computer systems analyst, software developer, and database administrator.
Specific salaries vary depending on job, employer, and level of experience, but PayScale reports that individuals with bachelor’s degrees in computer science make an average annual salary of $85,9150.
Gain In-Demand New Skills
Students who complete a computer science degree learn IT, data analysis, software development, and information security skills, which they can apply to many different industries.
The 5 Most Affordable Bachelor’s in Computer Science Degrees of 2021
Earning a computer science degree prepares students for high-paying, in-demand careers. This guide introduces the 15 best affordable online bachelor’s in computer science programs for 2021. Each school we rank holds regional accreditation. Some programs also receive recognition from industry-specific accrediting agencies. Accredited schools undergo an independent review process to ensure that they meet minimum educational quality standards. Look for the following accrediting agencies:
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)
FIU's 120-credit, fully online computer science program features coursework in structured computer organization, net-centric computing, database management, and operating systems principles. Students must complete pre-calculus and statistics prerequisites. FIU accepts applications for fall, spring, and summer terms.
Nine credits outside the School of Computing and Information Sciences fulfill the degree's interdisciplinary requirement. These credits must apply to a certificate or minor in another discipline. Enrollees can pair the computer science BA with additional degrees in fields such as economics, business, and digital media. Open to online computer science majors, FIU's Honors College offers thesis, seminar, and study abroad opportunities.
Among the cheapest online computer science degrees, FIU's BA costs $229/credit for in-state students and $346/credit for out-of-state learners. Online program participants may qualify for a variety of institutional scholarships.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: SACSCOC Tuition: $229/credit (in state); $346/credit (out of state) Required Credits: 120 credits Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
Process: Application, transcripts Standardized Tests: SAT or ACT Cost: $30
Founded in 1969 as Sangamon State University, UIS boasts numerous student organizations and over 50 academic programs. The public institution serves more than 4,000 students, including about 1,500 online learners.
UIS's online computer science program admits a new cohort each fall and spring. The 120-credit curriculum covers subjects such as computer organization, operating systems, network security, information assurance, and Windows network administration. Bachelor's candidates complete a capstone and 12 elective credits.
Prerequisites include two semesters of Java programming experience and one semester each of statistics, calculus, and discrete or finite math. Computer science majors choose an emphasis in software engineering or systems security and information assurance.
UIS's affordable online computer science degree costs $359/credit regardless of residency. Nearly 70% of UIS enrollees receive financial aid, including scholarships, loans, grants, and student employment.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: HLC Tuition: $359/credit Required Credits: 120 credits Delivery Format: 100% online
Process: Statement of purpose, application, transcripts GPA: 2.0 minimum Standardized Tests: ACT or SAT (optional through fall 2021)
A private university established in 1854, CMU offers a liberal arts education aligned with its United Methodist heritage. The Fayette, Missouri-based university welcomes students from all faith backgrounds.
Students pursuing CMU's 120-credit online computer science degree choose either a BA or BS track. Both degree options combine liberal arts content with professional preparation. The curriculum includes coursework in computer and information security, database systems and SQL, data structures and algorithms, and computer architecture and operating systems. Online courses last 8 or 16 weeks.
The program builds analytical and critical thinking skills as learners diagnose computing problems, review systems, and create solutions. Featured programming languages and tools include Java, Microsoft Access, Oracle Netbeans, and HTML-CSS. Degree-seekers enjoy internship opportunities with campus departments and Missouri businesses.
One of the cheapest online computer science degrees, CMU's computer science bachelor's costs $260 per credit for both in-state and out-of-state participants. Missouri residents enrolled in the online computer science program may qualify for a fast track grant.
OSU's School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science offers a 180-credit BS in computer science focused on topics such as programming fundamentals, cryptography, social and ethical issues in computer science, and mobile and web development. Students interested in the applied computer science focus can customize their own curriculum.
Students gain hands-on project management and engineering design experience in a three-term capstone senior design project. Computer science majors can enhance their resumes with a minor or undergraduate certificate in business, cybersecurity, or resource economics. OSU hosts a semiannual computer science career showcase where aspiring tech professionals network with potential employers like Google, IBM, and Intel.
OSU's online computer science degree costs $371/credit for Oregon residents and non-residents alike. Distance learners may qualify for scholarships, need-based grants, and financial hardship grants.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: NWCCU Tuition: $371/credit Required Credits: 180 credits Delivery Format: 100% online
Process: Application, transcripts Standardized Tests: SAT or ACT (optional) Cost: $65
Housed in the Department of Computer Science, FHSU's 120-credit online computer science degree covers topics such as human-computer interaction, digital storage and retrieval, and electronic media. Major courses include object-oriented programming, computer graphics, software engineering, and assembly language. Transfer students may apply up to 90 credits towards the degree.
FHSU's College-Level Examination Program allows learners to save time and money by receiving college credit for knowledge gained through internships, independent study, and on-the-job-training. FHSU's robust alumni network can help graduates find job connections with research organizations, government agencies, and Fortune 500 companies.
With a tuition rate of $227 per credit for all enrollees, FHSU offers one of the most affordable online bachelor's in computer science programs.The university offers a variety of freshman, transfer, and military scholarships.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: HLC Tuition: $227/credit Required Credits: 120 credits Delivery Format: 100% online
Process: Application, transcripts GPA: 2.25 minimum (or minimum composite ACT score of 21 or SAT ERW+M score of 1080) Standardized Tests: SAT or ACT Cost: $30
Jobs for Bachelor’s in Computer Science Graduates
A computer science degree prepares graduates for lucrative careers in the computer and IT field. The BLS projects faster-than-average job growth from 2019-2029 for all of the potential computer science careers below.
Computer science professionals can advance into better-paying and higher-level management positions by gaining on-the-job experience or earning a graduate degree and industry certifications. Common roles in the field include:
Computer and Information Systems Managers
BLS projections indicate faster-than-average job growth for computer and information systems managers from 2019-2029. This high-earning career typically requires several years of relevant professional experience in information technology. Many of the top computer and information systems managers also hold graduate degrees. Important qualities include analytical, business, communication, and leadership skills.
Computer systems analysts work in finance and insurance, management, and information industries. Typical job duties include overseeing new computer system installation, researching emerging technologies, analyzing costs and benefits of IT systems, and training end users. Experienced computer systems analysts can advance to lead teams of analysts or managing projects.
Database administrators secure organizational data, prevent data loss, and maintain databases. The BLS projects much-faster-than-average job growth for database administrators from 2019-2020. Experienced database administrators can advance into careers as computer and information systems managers.
These professionals create applications that run on computers and other devices in one of the fastest-growing IT jobs. Software developers analyze user needs, recommend software upgrades, work with other specialists to create software, and test applications. They typically work in computer systems design, manufacturing, software publishing, and management.
What To Expect From Bachelor’s in Computer Science Programs
Computer science bachelor’s programs focus on the fundamental theories of computing and computer systems. Topics include programming languages, algorithms and data structures, operating systems, and information security. Students gain proficiency in data analysis, software development, and mathematics. They also develop problem-solving, analytical, critical thinking, and communication skills.
Common computer science classes include programming languages, discrete mathematics, software security, and full-stack development. Most computer science degrees take four full-time years to complete and require about 120 credits, with some online programs offering accelerated options.
Admission requirements for online bachelor’s in computer science programs vary among schools. Typical requirements include a high school diploma or GED certificate. Some programs stipulate a minimum 2.5-3.0 GPA or completion of specific college preparatory coursework. Many universities, especially the most competitive ones, also require minimum SAT/ACT scores.
Applicants with computer science associate degrees or certificates may increase their chances of acceptance. Some community colleges partner with four-year institutions to offer guaranteed admission to computer science bachelor’s programs for graduates with associate degrees.
The application process typically requires candidates to submit high school transcripts, test scores, letters of recommendation, and essays. Most universities require a $50-$150 application fee. Many colleges accept Common App, which allows students to apply to multiple schools with one general application.
Schools with computer science programs may offer different bachelor’s degree options within the subject. Students typically choose a type of degree depending on their career and academic goals. Potential computer science degrees include a bachelor of arts (BA), bachelor of science (BS), and bachelor of business administration (BBA).
BA in Computer Science
A BA in computer science typically features elective courses or available minors in other subject areas. It prepares graduates for entry-level employment in computer and IT jobs or graduate school.
BS in Computer Science
A BS in computer science shares many similarities with a BA in computer science. However, BS students typically use their elective requirements to specialize in an area of computer science.
BBA in Computer Science
A computer science BBA focuses on the business aspects of computer science. Graduates qualify for entry-level jobs combining IT and management skills.
Computer science bachelor’s programs often offer concentrations, which allow students to specialize in an area of the field. Common concentrations include big data, cybersecurity, machine learning, and mobile computing.
Popular Computer Science Courses
Specific course availability varies by college, but curricula for online computer science degrees typically focus on programming, software development, and information security. Most computer science degrees require core, elective/concentration, and general education credits. Some universities require an internship or capstone project near the end of the program. Common computer science courses include:
Learners gain proficiency with industry best practices and regulations to develop functional, secure, professional, and efficient code.
This core class develops problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Students learn about relations and digraphs, operations on sets, truth tables, and graph theory.
Enrollees learn to create secure code that meets security testing protocols. Students also become proficient in using encryption techniques and technologies to promote secure communication.
Learners develop and design a full-stack application using programming language frameworks. They also develop databases and code for cloud-based applications.
Students learn to differentiate between environmental and adversarial threats, along with appropriate responses. Other topics include human and legal factors that affect security strategies for organizations.
How Much Do Affordable Bachelor’s in Computer Science Degrees Cost?
Tuition for affordable bachelor’s in computer science degrees varies considerably, but the College Board reports that public, four-year universities charged $10,560 yearly in 2020-2021, for a total cost exceeding $40,000. Private schools typically charge much more for tuition. Students can save money by completing the first two years of their education at a community college before transferring to a four-year university.
Other factors affecting cost include delivery format (online vs. in person), prestige, and residency status (in state vs. out of state).
Prospective computer science students should also consider other costs they may incur while in school, including housing, living expenses, textbooks, and technology upgrades. Most universities offer financial aid opportunities for computer science majors, including scholarships, grants, fellowships, and loans.
Making the Cheapest Computer Science Degrees Even Cheaper
When assessing affordable online bachelor’s in computer science programs and their costs, you must decide what matters most to you. Factors influencing program cost include:
Online vs. On-Campus Delivery
Online computer science degrees typically offer greater affordability. Distance education makes it easier for students to work while in school, which may allow them to avoid taking on more loan debt to pay for their degrees. Out-of-state learners can often pay in-state or reduced tuition rates to earn fully online degrees from schools in other states.
Prestigious universities, particularly private institutions, often charge higher tuition rates. Students must weigh the benefits of attending a highly regarded school (well-known professors, networking opportunities) with the drawback of spending more on their education.
More expensive colleges typically offer a greater number, variety, and quality of student resources, such as career development centers, mentoring programs, tutoring, and networking opportunities. When researching potential schools, ask about the available student support services.
Quality of Instructors
Universities with high tuition often feature some of the best-known and reputable professors on their faculty. A strong staff can translate into better networking opportunities, job and internship connections, and overall education. However, dedicated and experienced teachers also often call less expensive schools home.
More expensive schools often have lower student-to-faculty ratios. Smaller classes offer many benefits, including the opportunity for more individualized attention and one-on-one time from the instructor.
Choosing the Right Affordable Computer Science Program
Our ranking of the top cheapest online computer science degrees offers a great place for prospective students to start their research. Other factors these learners should consider include:
Make sure to find a regionally accredited university. Regional accreditation is the gold standard of accreditation, signaling that an institution meets rigorous third-party standards and offers a high-quality education. Attending a regionally accredited school makes it easier to qualify for financial aid, transfer credits to another college, and qualify for graduate programs and professional certifications.
Many students learn better in smaller classes. Most institutions publish their average student-to-teacher ratios on their websites.
Reputable schools with strong academic programs employ faculty members with terminal degrees in their fields. Many degree-seekers enjoy learning from teachers who bring diverse experiences, viewpoints, and backgrounds to the classroom. You can research staff credentials and diversity on computer science department websites.
What is the estimated cost of attendance for your program? Research financial aid opportunities, including any special grants or scholarships for computer science majors.
Why You Should Get Your Computer Science Degree Online
Earning an online computer science degree offers additional benefits over on-campus programs. Distance learners often enjoy greater flexibility, convenience, and affordability. Most online computer science programs offer asynchronous instruction, allowing students to view recorded lectures and complete coursework at any time, as long as they meet deadlines. This flexibility allows learners to work, take care of family, or fulfill other personal responsibilities while pursuing their degrees.
Distance education continues growing in popularity in many fields, and computer science students may find online learning particularly compatible with their work.
Computer and information technology professionals need to be very comfortable using computers and digital technology to communicate online. Many computer science professionals also work remotely or are self-employed, so students can gain comfort working independently.
Only you can decide if an online computer science degree would work for your unique learning style and academic and career goals. Read our online class tips for more information about distance learning for computer science majors.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which bachelor's degree is best for computer science?
The best computer science bachelor’s degree depends on your career and academic goals. A general computer science BS or BA prepares students for many entry-level computing and IT jobs.
How hard is a computer science degree?
Earning a computer science degree takes hard work and dedication, but most people find it achievable. Program difficulty varies depending on your previous experience and knowledge of computing.
What can you do with a computer science degree?
A computer science degree prepares graduates for lucrative roles in high-growth areas. Potential careers include computer and information systems manager, software developer, database administrator, and computer systems analyst.
Is a computer science degree worth it?
Yes. A computer science degree typically pays off. Graduates qualify for high-paying jobs, with the BLS reporting computer and information technology occupations earning a median annual salary of $88,240 as of 2019.
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Bachelor's programs in computer science (CS) cover the theoretical and mathematical underpinnings of computing. Schools offer various degree titles, including bachelor of arts in computer science, bachelor of applied science...