Best Computer Science Certificates
| ComputerScience.org Staff Modified on March 21, 2022
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Computer science careers have become increasingly popular in recent decades. Employment in the field is projected to grow at an above-average rate from 2020-2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
However, tech jobs typically require a college degree. Certificates usually require less time and money than a traditional degree.
Let’s take a look at why people decide to obtain a computer science certificate, the process for doing so, and career opportunities for those who pursue this path.
Why Get a Computer Science Certificate?
Today, most jobs require some computer skills since employers rely on computers to collect, process, store, and analyze data for their operations. Organizations require IT professionals that maintain the equipment, manage users and handle data security.
The BLS projects the computer and information technology field to add 667,600 new positions from 2020-2030. Well-paying jobs in this field include computer and information research scientists; computer network architects; and software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers.
The variety of computer science disciplines offers several entry points for those just starting or looking to advance or change their careers. Many jobs do not require a two- or four-year degree.
However, most computer science professionals do some type of short-term training to get the skills they need. Options include coding bootcamps, which are often available online. Still, these can be costly. Computer science certificate programs, another option, offer the following benefits:
What to Expect From a Computer Science Certificate Program
Computer science degree programs differ from certificate programs in content. Degrees aim to provide students with a well-rounded education. This education focuses on computer science, also featuring courses in liberal arts, mathematics, and the traditional sciences.
Certificates are more narrowly focused and typically only consist of core computer science courses. They may focus on a single area or skill.
Over the past decades, higher education institutions have begun offering more online courses with flexible scheduling. These efforts have opened the door for more nontraditional students to attend college. Certificate programs may be more accessible for nontraditional students as well.
If you plan to enroll in a computer science certificate program at a college or university, keep the admissions process in mind. Admission typically requires a bachelor’s degree from another institution.
If your degree is not in a computing or related discipline, you may need to pass a qualifying course to meet prerequisite requirements. Community colleges and technical schools, however, do not require bachelor's degrees.
Different Certificate Types
Certificates indicate knowledge or skill in a particular area. They are awarded at the end of a course of study after passing an exam. Consider several factors before choosing a computer science certificate, including:
- Schedule Flexibility: If you have a job or family, make sure to ask how much flexibility a certificate program allows when it comes to attendance and assignments.
- Residency Requirements: Consider whether a certificate program is available online, in person, or in a hybrid format.
- Skill Level: A certificate can help bolster a resume. However, it may not be necessary to get a certificate if you can demonstrate your skill level with prior experience or education.
Popular Computer Science Certificate Courses
The computer science field includes many positions. Therefore, many certificate programs focus on a single skill or application. However, many programs include the courses listed below.
How Much Do Computer Science Certificates Cost?
Tuition and fees at public universities cost $9,212 per year on average for in-state students. Most undergraduates pay tuition for at least four years, totaling about $37,000 overall.
Certificates typically cost much less. The cheapest computer science certificate programs charge less than $3,000 for tuition. For example, Madison Area Technical College offers an IT-professional Java developer certificate for under $1,500. Seminole State College of Florida confers a computer programming specialist certificate for less than $3,000.
Pricier certificates may cost upwards of $10,000. However, this is still much less expensive than a traditional bachelor's degree.
Computer Science Careers
As mentioned above, virtually all organizations need employees with computer science skills. Computer professionals most commonly work in computer systems design, the federal executive branch, and company and enterprise management, according to the BLS.
There is strong demand for computer science specialists such as software developers and information research scientists. With cyberattacks on the rise and costing companies millions in ransoms, cybersecurity specialists are seeing high demand as well.
Web Developers and Digital Designers
People use webpages to connect and share information on the internet. Web designers build and test webpages. These professionals should demonstrate both technical and creative skills.
Required Education: High school diploma, associate, or bachelor’s degree in computer science
Job Outlook (2020-30): +13%
Median Annual Salary: $77,200
Programmers design, write, and test software programs and applications. Professionals with coding skills are always in demand to create new tools. Programmers spend most days exercising their creativity on new software or enhancing the capability of existing programs.
Required Education: Associate or bachelor’s degree in computer science
Job Outlook (2020-30): -10%
Median Annual Salary: $89,190
Information Security Analysts
Security analysts devise and implement strategies to protect their organizations' software assets. Organizations aim to protect their software assets from hackers, ransomware, and other types of attack. Therefore, cybersecurity careers are among the most lucrative in computer science.
Required Education: Bachelor’s degree in computer science
Job Outlook (2020-30): +33%
Median Annual Salary: $103,590
Network and Computer Systems Administrators
Systems administrators manage computing systems and networks. They ensure that these systems are working properly and are responsible for dealing with any contingencies. Typical duties include creating and updating user accounts, loading new software programs, and adding new computers and peripherals to the network.
Required Education: Bachelor’s degree in computer science
Job Outlook (2020-30): +5%
Median Annual Salary: $84,810
Computer and Information Research Scientists
Computer and information research scientists find innovative ways to use current and emerging computing resources. This exciting field is projected to experience a high growth rate over the next several years. However, these jobs require advanced degrees in IT.
Required Education: Master’s degree in computer science
Job Outlook (2020-30): +22%
Median Annual Salary: $126,830
Choosing the Right Computer Science Certificate
Regardless of what computer science career you are interested in, take your time selecting a program. The training and skills you gain will impact your career opportunities. Also consider each program or school’s reputation and accreditation status. Regional accreditation is typically more respected than national accreditation.
Other considerations may include the following:
- School size
- Student-to-teacher ratio
- Staff and student body diversity
- Program reputation
- Transferability of any courses
- Tuition and fees
Should You Get Your Certificate in Computer Science Online?
Educational institutions are turning to online instruction for degrees and certificates. Distance learning makes higher education possible for more nontraditional students who might not be able to live on or near campus. That said, online learning has both pros and cons.
Advantages of getting a certificate online include schedule flexibility and the ability to study from any location. On the other hand, distance learners must be self-disciplined, and some students prefer to learn in classroom settings.
Should You Pursue a Certificate, Associate Degree, or Bootcamp?
Careers in computer science can be rewarding and high paying. However, it can be difficult to choose whether to pursue a certificate program, an associate degree, or a coding bootcamp.
|Comparison Point||Computer Science Certificates||Computer Science Associate Degrees||Bootcamp Programs|
|Program length||One year or less||Two years||Four months on average|
|Admission requirements||High school diploma or BS||High school diploma||Varies|
|Course load||10-30 credits||60 credits||Varies|
|Program goals||Learning a specific topic or skill||Broad subject knowledge||Learning a specific topic or skill|
|Class types||Online, in person, or hybrid||Online, in person, or hybrid||Online, in person, or hybrid|
Other Educational Paths
Computer science professionals might consider bachelor’s, graduate, and postgraduate degrees in addition to associate degrees and certificates. However, the requirements for an MS or doctorate typically include extensive research in addition to coursework.
Degree programs are time-intensive, multi-year commitments. That said, professionals with an MS in computer science make an average annual salary of $106,000, according to Payscale data from January 2022. Traditional degrees may garner higher salaries.
Explore other computer science education paths:
Computer Science Certificate Questions
What is a computer science certificate?
A computer science certificate is a non-degree designation that demonstrates technical competence in a specific area or skill.
What jobs can you get with a computer science certificate?
Professionals with computer science certificates typically work in information technology. Common jobs include web developer and computer programmer.
Should I get a computer science degree or certificate?
Yes, if you plan to pursue a career in computer science. When choosing a program, consider your target occupation, school reputation, location, costs, and admission requirements.
How do I get a computer science certificate?
The specific process for earning a computer science certificate may vary by institution. After filling out an application and paying requisite fees, the curriculum typically includes a series of courses and a final exam.
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