Online Computer Science Programs in California

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Written by Doug Wintemute


California's tech industry employed more than 1.8 million professionals in 2020, which comprises nearly 10% of California's entire workforce. In addition to large workforces and ample access to professional opportunities, California offers high wages for technology professionals. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the state provides some of the country's highest annual mean wages for many tech-related positions, such as software developer, computer systems analyst, and information systems manager.

Earning a computer science degree in California prepares students for many of the state's in-demand careers. The following page highlights some degree options for computer science students, along with potential career opportunities.

California at a Glance

Population 39,747,267
Per Capita Income $37,124
Number of Higher Learning Institutions 448
% of Workforce in Tech 9.7%
Economic Impact of Tech Industry $492.8 billion
Climate

Average Annual Temperature: 59.4 ℉

Annual Precipitation: 22.2 inches

Major Sports Teams Los Angeles Lakers, San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Clippers

Top California Schools for Computer Science

  • Stanford University
  • Pomona College
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Harvey Mudd College
  • University of Southern California
  • Scripps College
  • University of California-Los Angeles
  • Occidental College
  • National University
  • California State University-Monterey Bay

Why Go to College for Computer Science in California?

Computer science students in California can choose from nearly 450 higher education institutions. In addition to the many on-campus programs, the state offers online programs, which offer students flexibility and accessibility.

More than 2.7 million California students attended degree-granting postsecondary institutions as of 2017, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, 59% of students in the California State University system graduate from their four-year program within six years, slightly less than the national average.

California increased its funding for higher education, including offering more financial and academic support for transferring students. Furthermore, the Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools aims to improve computer science education in the state's K-12 programs, ensuring students are prepared for the training after high school.

Education Statistics for California

California offers strong educational attainment numbers, with students completing bachelor's and master's degrees at above-average rates. This data indicates increased job competition, but it also suggests that students find educational success at higher levels.

Higher Education in California
California Data National Data
Number of Four-Year Colleges 264 3,004
Number of Two-Year Colleges 184 1,579
Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education 29.1% 34.7%
Postsecondary Education Appropriations per Full-Time Student $9,078 $8,196
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education 6.8% 5.8%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With an Associate Degree 7.8% 8.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Bachelor's Degree 20.8% 19.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Graduate Degree or Higher 12.5% 12.1%
Sources: NCES, SHEEO, U.S. Census Bureau - American Community Survey

Accreditation for California Schools

Accreditation informs students, employers, and other institutions that a school or program meets a high quality standard. Schools may receive regional or national accreditation, with regional accreditation generally considered the more prestigious of the two. The Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission regionally accredits California schools. Programs within a school may also receive accreditation. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredits computer science programs.

Accreditation benefits students in several ways. For example, only students at accredited schools qualify for federal financial aid, and many schools only accept degrees and transfer credits from accredited institutions. Additionally, many professional licenses and certifications require an accredited degree.

Considerations for a Computer Science Degree in California

For students to feel confident about their school decisions, they should consider a variety of factors. Location, for example, may influence students' learning experiences, finances, and careers after graduation. Read on to learn about potential degree types, study options, and career paths for students in California.

Computer Science Degree Levels

Before committing to a computer science degree in California, students should think about their educational and professional interests. The following list highlights degree level options for computer science learners.

Associate Degree in Computer Science

An associate degree in computer science delivers fundamental training in the field, preparing graduates for entry-level professions, such as web developer.
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Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science

Bachelor's degrees in computer science provide comprehensive training and prepare graduates for a variety of computer and information technology careers.
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Master's Degree in Computer Science

A master's degree in computer science delves into more specialized training and prepares graduates for leadership and managerial roles.
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Ph.D. in Computer Science

Doctoral degrees in computer science emphasize advanced specializations and research, which typically prepare graduates for careers in research and academia.
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Computer Science Concentration Options

Students can fine-tune their educational experiences and prospective career pathways through concentrations. The following concentrations lead to promising careers with strong long-term growth projections and high annual mean wages.

  • Web Development

    Web development concentrations cover major programming languages and software applications. Students learn about contemporary media standards, website architectures, and database integration. Graduates can work as web developers and other computer science professionals.

  • Computer Systems

    Computer systems concentrations focus on the application of information systems to solve business problems. Students learn to analyze organizational needs and design and implement solutions. This training prepares learners for many information systems management careers.

  • Software Development

    Software development concentrations explore the fundamentals of software engineering, programming, algorithms, and operating systems. Students learn to identify needs, design software to address them, and implement new systems effectively. Graduates can work as software developers and other computer science professionals.


On-Campus Versus Online Program Options

A program's delivery format can affect degree length, tuition expenses, and student outcomes, so learners should choose the format that aligns with their needs and interests.

On-Campus

On-campus programs provide students with ample opportunities to interact and collaborate with peers and professors in real time. Students can also take advantage of the many resources and facilities available on campus.

Online Programs

Online programs give students the flexibility to balance their studies with personal and professional obligations. Online programs can also reduce travel and tuition costs. To succeed in this format, students need self-discipline and motivation.

Hybrid Programs

Hybrid programs combine online and on-campus learning, though specifics vary by program. Some programs may require students to attend half or more of their classes on campus, while others require few campus visits. Either way, learners enjoy both flexible online study and interactive on-campus classes.
Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education
Enrolled Exclusively in Distance Education Courses Enrolled in Some but Not All Distance Education Courses Not Enrolled in Any Distance Education Courses
CA Students 11.6% 17.5% 70.9%
United States Students 16.3% 18.4% 65.3%
Source: NCES

Paying for Your Computer Science Degree

California offers below-average in-state tuition rates for both two- and four-year public schools, but attending college still requires a significant financial investment. Students can take advantage of many financial aid opportunities to help offset the cost of their education, such as loans, scholarships, and grants. Learners can find financial aid opportunities through sources like the government, private businesses, and nonprofit organizations.

Average Cost of College Tuition and Fees in California, 2017-2018
California National
Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year) $8,020 $9,037
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year) $29,173 $25,657
Average Tuition and Fees (Private Four-Year) $33,483 $30,731
Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year) $1,268 $3,243
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Two-Year) $7,504 $7,971
Source: NCES

For more information on financial aid options, click on the link below.


In-State Versus Out-of-State Tuition

Out-of-state learners generally pay higher tuition rates than in-state learners. Out-of-state tuition at California's public schools costs more than three times in-state tuition, but out-of-state learners can access some opportunities to help bridge the gap.

For instance, students from certain states can pay lower tuition rates at some California schools and programs through the Western Undergraduate Exchange. Out-of-state learners can also access online programs in California, which may feature standard online tuition rates for all students, regardless of their state of residence.

California's Cost of Living

In addition to tuition costs, learners should consider how the local cost of living might impact their finances. According to the World Population Review, California's cost of living index sits at 151.7, the second-highest in the country. Compared to the national average of 100, California features some of the nation's highest costs for groceries, housing, and transportation.

Therefore, California students should invest even more time and energy into their financial aid research and preparation. By finding the greatest possible savings on tuition, these learners can reduce the impact of a higher cost of living on their overall financial situation.

Other School Selection Criteria

Before settling on a school, students should weigh a variety of considerations to find the best institution for their needs. Learners might look into school and class sizes and examine faculty credentials. On-campus students may value schools with better facilities, while distance learners can seek out strong online support resources.

Students should also consider how each prospective program's length, concentration offerings, and internship options might help them achieve their career goals. Additionally, candidates should examine the application processes and requirements at each school, which may give insight into each program's competitiveness and learning environment.

Careers for Computer Science Graduates in California

Computer science graduates qualify to enter one of the country's most lucrative fields. The BLS projects computer occupations to grow at nearly double the national average rate from 2018-2028.

California boasts one of the strongest economies in the U.S., including among the most vibrant business environments. According to CyberStates' interactive map, California features the most tech-related positions in the country, as well as the most significant job growth, the highest wages, and the largest economic impact.

California, like many states, offers many job opportunities in its metropolitan centers. Areas such as San Jose, Sacramento, and San Francisco house some of the tech industry's strongest career environments. The following sections highlight some specific computer science careers and what they look like in California.

Select Computer Science Careers in California

Web Developers

Web developers write front- and back-end code for websites, ensuring that all facets of each site function correctly. These professionals often work with clients to create websites to their exact specifications. They also maintain the sites and troubleshoot any issues.

Job Outlook in California: +16.7% (2018-2028)

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Software Developers

Software developers design and create computer programs and applications. They identify user needs and build software to address those areas. These professionals also test, maintain, and improve software. Developers may work with programmers and designers to create optimal programs for mobile, desktop, and operating systems.

Job Outlook in California: +11.9% (2018-2028)

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Computer Hardware Engineers

Hardware engineers take charge of designing and manufacturing computer systems. They analyze problems and create computer system solutions for organizations. They may run tests, analyze results, and supervise hardware installation. These professionals also make improvements and updates to existing hardware to make sure everything runs effectively.

Job Outlook in California: +10.6% (2018-2028)

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Computer Science Employers in California

  • Google

    Specializing in internet-related products and services, Google provides many job opportunities for computer science graduates in California, with nine locations in the state. Google hires computer science graduates to support software and hardware development, programming, and database architecture.

  • Facebook

    Facebook leads California tech companies in terms of computer science employment. Graduates may find work in the company's data and analytics, software engineering, and technical program management sectors.

  • Cisco

    Headquartered in the middle of Silicon Valley, Cisco designs and manufactures telecommunications hardware and software. It also provides technology services and products. Computer science professionals can find careers in hardware, software, and network engineering. They can also pursue careers in the information technology or cloud services divisions.


California Employment Trends



CA Employment Numbers by Career

Source: BLS OES

The computer and information technology industry provides plenty of opportunities for graduates across the country but few states beat California in this respect. California features one of the top-three largest workforces for each of the jobs listed above, and for several of those jobs, it offers one of the most concentrated industries.

According to Projections Central, many positions are projected to grow faster than the national average between 2018-2028. The above table also illuminates some of the financial rewards for computer science careers in California. The annual mean wages for each of the above careers rank among the country's highest.

Curious about other computer science jobs? Explore more here:

Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Is computer science a good major in California?
A computer science major is one of California's most attractive study options. The state's information technology industry is by far the largest in the country, and computer science degrees provide students with the skills and tools necessary for the field.
What is the best field in computer science in California?
California hosts many computer science jobs that experience strong growth and earning potential, such as computer systems manager, network administrator, and software developer.
What computer science jobs are there in California?
Computer science graduates can access many careers in California. The state is home to some of the country's largest workforces for web developers, software developers, and systems managers.
Can I get a computer science degree in California?
California hosts nearly 450 colleges and universities, many of which offer computer science degrees. Students can find programs at all levels, including associate, bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. degrees.
Does California have online computer science programs?
Many California schools offer online computer science programs. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 30% of California students take some classes online.

Professional Computer Science Organizations in California

  • Computer Science for California CSforCA strives to improve access to and the quality of computer science education in California. The organization unites professionals, educators, and higher education institutions, all dedicated to promoting, advocating for, and advancing the field.
  • California Software Professional Association Committed to improving leadership and education in the field, the CSPA boasts more than 30 years of experience assisting computer software professionals in California. Members can access education, career, and networking opportunities.
  • Association for Computer Machinery The ACM connects professionals, educators, and researchers in an effort to promote, advance, and improve leadership in the field. Members enjoy access to education, professional news and resources, and industry events.
  • Association for Women in Computing With its national headquarters in California, the AWC assists women in advancing their careers and the industry. Members can access professional networking, continuing education, and mentoring opportunities.

Related Reading

Computer Science Programs in California

With hundreds of schools and a wide variety of computer science programs in California, students should take the time to thoroughly research their options. To help with this process, the following list outlines each regionally accredited school in California. For information on schools with programmatic accreditation, students can search individual organizational databases, like the ABET institution database.

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