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The demand for computer and information technology professionals continues to expand across the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an overall 13% increase in employment for these occupations from 2020-2030, and a hefty 22% increase for software developers during this same period. Illinois, recognized as a major financial, industrial, and research hub, offers unique opportunities for computer science graduates in areas such as software development, computer systems analysis, and computer programming.

Chicago, the nation's third most populous city, has emerged as one of the nation's largest technology centers, second only to Silicon Valley.

The Illinois Technology Research Corridor that runs along Interstate 88 through the suburban counties northwest of Chicago has attracted the corporate headquarters and regional offices of several Fortune 500 companies who employ computer science specialists, technicians, and managers. Employment prospects expand beyond the Chicago metropolitan area to smaller cities and towns throughout the state, at colleges and universities, research institutions, healthcare facilities, and government offices.

Higher Education in Illinois

Institutions within Illinois offer quality undergraduate and graduate degrees. The University of Chicago and Northwestern University — both private schools — have strong reputations for academic rigor. The University of Chicago is recognized nationally and internationally for its quality programs, while Northwestern University has garnered prestige for its programs in journalism, law, and medicine. UChicago offers a variety of online certificate programs and courses, and Northwestern provides online degrees and certificates.

Illinois is also home to many respected public universities, including the University of Illinois at Chicago. UIC provides quality instruction with an affordable price tag. Its medical school, engineering, and computer science programs are all highly regarded. The computer science program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign also boasts a strong reputation. Both schools offer fully online undergraduate and graduate programs.

Computer Science Careers in Illinois

Computer science graduates may pursue many lucrative career options, though some occupations are in higher demand. According to the BLS, the computer systems design and software publishing industries employ the highest concentrations of computer and mathematical professionals. The data processing and hosting industry closely follows. These national trends are reflected in the Illinois computer science industry. The most popular computer and mathematical occupations in Illinois are computer systems analysts and information security analysts.

The largest number of computer science professionals in Illinois are located in the Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights area. There, computer science professionals earn an average salary of $94,400, according to the BLS.

Computer Science Employers in Illinois

  • IBM: IBM is a manufacturer and marketer of computer technology. They hire computer science graduates who specialize in engineering and programming, and also employ researchers in the computer science field.
  • J.P. Morgan Chase & Company: This multinational bank is a top employer in Illinois, and hires systems analysts and data scientists to ensure the secure functioning of business processes. Many large banks are making heavy investments in machine learning, which requires computer science specialists.
  • United Airlines: Based in Chicago, United is one of the nation's largest major airlines. The company employs computer science professionals to manage its infrastructure of computer and information systems.

How Much Do Computer Scientists Make in Illinois?

Employment Average Annual Salary
Illinois 370 $115,210
United States 30,220 $130,890

Source: BLS

Computer Science Programs in Illinois

Students in computer science programs in Illinois can customize their degrees to fit their career goals. The University of Chicago, which is among the best computer science schools in Illinois, offers a bachelor's in computer science that includes specializations such as programming and web design.

UChicago's master's program balances theory with applied technical experience.

Even students who do not reside in the state can earn a computer science degree in Illinois. Online programs are ideal for distance learners or busy students balancing professional or personal responsibilities. Flexible online programs may be self-paced or accelerated.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers a fully online master's in computer science program, which is taught asynchronously through Blackboard. Though the program usually takes three years to complete, part-time learners can take up to five years. This level of flexibility makes earning an online computer science degree in Illinois the ideal option for many students.

When researching prospective computer science degrees, Illinois students should look for regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. However, computer science programs may also hold field-specific accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Types of Computer Science Degrees

Illinois offers several options for studying computer science. Students exploring online computer science programs in Illinois can pursue associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. While many entry-level positions require only an associate degree, employment possibilities, earning potential, and opportunities for career advancement increase with a four-year or graduate degree. Students interested in teaching or research careers require at least a master's degree or doctorate.

Associate in Computer Science

An associate degree in computer science introduces students to the basic procedures and languages to program and maintain computers and computer systems. While some students view this as a terminal degree before entering the job market, many online learners enter an associate program to complete most of the general education requirements required to transfer into a four-year school. An associate degree may appeal to students just beginning to explore career prospects in computer science. It also provides a desirable credential for students eager to enter the workplace with marketable skills without spending four years in an undergraduate program.

An associate degree requires 60-66 credits and typically takes two years to complete. While each online program differs in its requirements, all degrees offer courses in computer programming, database management, operating systems, and networking. While some positions may require a bachelor's degree, graduates of online associate programs often find employment in programming, systems analysis, software development, cybersecurity, and network administration.

Bachelor's in Computer Science

A bachelor's in computer science, viewed by many employers as the minimum-level credential for their open positions, ensures that job applicants possess the specialized training to move beyond entry-level tasks. Industry, government, education, and healthcare rely on well-trained computer science professionals to design and apply computer hardware and software. These professionals must also have the problem-solving skills to maintain and protect these systems. For students seeking higher-level research, teaching, and supervisory careers, a bachelor's also provides the academic foundation for graduate training at the master's and doctoral level.

An online bachelor's typically requires 120 credits of coursework, and is usually completed within 3-5 years. While undergraduate programs do not share a common curriculum, coursework generally equips students with a knowledge of operating systems, programming languages, database management, and system architecture. Graduates can expect to earn higher than average salaries, especially in high-demand careers such as hardware engineering, software development, and network administration.

Master's in Computer Science

Designed for math- and science-proficient students, as well as working professionals already employed in computer technology or engineering fields, an online master's in computer science opens numerous career opportunities in technological development and research. Employers in high-demand and high-paying fields like software development, information security, and database administration increasingly hire professionals with master's-level training. These professionals create and perfect emerging technologies and applications, and manage and protect computer systems and networks.

Several online computer science degrees in Illinois have designed master's programs that feature flexible schedules and convenient course delivery formats. These may be particularly appealing to computer science and engineering professionals with three or more years of experience who seek career advancement, or who desire to transition into more challenging and better compensated fields.

Most programs require 30-45 credits and take 1-2 years to complete. Coursework and concentrations vary by program, but they usually emphasize core areas like computer language theory, applied algorithms, data structures, database systems design and management, and network administration and security.

Computer Science Ph.D.

As the most advanced educational credential in computer science, a Ph.D. requires an exceptional academic and technological background, and a predilection for independent study. The online format provides an ideal platform for the self-directed research demanded by most Ph.D. programs.

An online Ph.D. in computer science can open doors to the most professionally prestigious and financial rewarding positions. Popular careers for graduates of doctoral programs include hardware and software engineers, network architects, and business intelligence analysts. Many Ph.D. graduates establish research-based or consulting companies that provide services to government, education, and corporate clients. Additionally, most universities require a Ph.D. for faculty positions. Professors seeking tenure or a promotion in rank must have completed a doctorate.

Online Ph.D. programs require 72-90 credits in foundational courses and specialized fields such as machine learning, robotics, human-computer interactions, and graphics and visualization. In addition to rigorous coursework, the majority of programs require a dissertation. Most students finish the degree in 4-5 years.

Professional Computer Science Organizations in Illinois

In a constantly changing field like computer science, students and graduates must stay apprised of the latest developments. Professional organizations provide opportunities for members to network and share the latest industry news. Many organizations provide resources such as webinars, annual conferences, and job boards to help members develop professionally and advance their careers.

  • Association for Computing Machinery: Based at the University of Illinois, this 50-year old student organization has hundreds of members. It sponsors several special interest groups in areas such as game building, mobile development, robotics, artificial intelligence, and security. ACM publishes a weekly newsletter and maintains a resume book to connect students entering the job market with major corporate recruiters.
  • 1871: The Chicago-based professional association 1871 recently absorbed the Illinois Technology Association. 1871 supports growth-stage and corporate innovators, offering opportunities for C-suite executives to network and share strategies. The nonprofit connects Chicago's tech and entrepreneurship community to help members share ideas and grow their businesses.
  • Illinois Digital Educators Alliance: IDEA aims to connect and inspire Illinois' educational community. The organization aspires to use technology to make changes in teaching and learning. Members access professional development opportunities, networking opportunities through regional chapters, annual events like IDEAcon, and financial aid opportunities.

Top Computer Science Programs in Illinois

#1

Principia College

School Information
Location Elsah, Illinois
Admission Rate 91%
Graduation Rate 80%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 0% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Founded in 1912, Principia College is a small, private liberal arts institution in Elsah, Illinois. The 2,500-acre campus hosts an average fall semester undergraduate enrollment rate of around 340 students.

Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science

Principia College offers two degrees in computer science: a bachelor of arts (BA) or a bachelor of science (BS). The intro level courses include hardware design, principles of modern software design, multiple programming languages, and building a computer from the ground up. 

Advanced computer science courses focus on web development, graphics, operating systems, algorithms, security, and AI (artificial intelligence). Students build a solar race car to compete nationally and can participate in the Mobile Apps Club. 

Learners in either the BA or BS program can choose a minor in management information systems. Coursework prepares students to work in business programming and focuses on studies involving database management and design, as well as complex computer software system development. 

Applying to Principia College

Admission requirements include an online application, official high school transcripts, a holistic assessment exam as an alternative to SAT/ACT scores, and references (e.g., school guidance counselor and/or additional academic or character references). 

Program at a Glance

  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $15,600 per semester for in-state and out-of-state students 
  • Program Length: The BS in computer science requires a minimum of 51 semester hours, and the BA requires a minimum of 40 semester hours.
  • Delivery Format: On campus
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#2

Illinois Wesleyan University

School Information
Location Bloomington, Illinois
Admission Rate 61%
Graduation Rate 77%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 0% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Illinois Wesleyan University, a private liberal arts institution in Bloomington, Illinois, was founded in 1850. Illinois Wesleyan is known for its small class sizes and exclusive bachelor-level degree programs. The average enrollment is approximately 1600 undergraduates.

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science

The bachelor's in computer science degree at Illinois Wesleyan includes courses on the basic principles of computing, applications of algorithms, linguistic abstractions, and hardware design. The program instructs students on diverse areas of applications in computing theory. 

Students can join the Association for Computing Machinery, an educational computing society.

Applying to Illinois Wesleyan

Admission requirements include the completion of 15 units of math, English, lab science, social science, and a foreign language with a "B" grade or higher; a personal statement; an academic letter of recommendation; and TOEFL scores for international applicants. 

Program at a Glance

  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission 
  • Tuition: $26,805 per term for in-state and out-of-state students
  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Delivery Format: On campus
  • Percentage Awarded Loans: 65%
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#3

Wheaton College

School Information
Location Wheaton, Illinois
Admission Rate 85%
Graduation Rate 89%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 5% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

A private, Christian college, Wheaton began in 1960 and now offers over 40 undergraduate and 18 graduate programs in the sciences and liberal arts. Wheaton hosts an undergraduate enrollment of just over 2,000 students on its 80-acre campus. 

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science

Wheaton's computer science degree offers a problem-solving approach to the computer science field. A software development course comprises an extensive, full semester project, performed in a group setting. Students learn to build a significant software product early in the program. 

Students can join ongoing computer programming competition teams where they receive a list of problems to solve on a single computer. Learners can also participate in apprenticeships and international study abroad programs. 

Applying to Wheaton

Wheaton college has removed its requirement for ACT/SAT testing for the upcoming fall and spring semester. Prospective students submit an online application, a $300 advanced deposit, official school transcripts, and letters of recommendation (including a pastoral reference). Students can participate in an optional admissions interview. Students must also complete a medical history form and sign a community covenant.

Program at a Glance

  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $20,995 per term for 12-18 credit hours; $1,166 per credit hour for over 18 hours; $1,750 per credit hour for under 12 hours 
  • Program Length: 124 total semester hours
  • Delivery Format: On campus
  • Percentage Awarded Loans: 49%
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#4

Lake Forest College

School Information
Location Lake Forest, Illinois
Admission Rate 55%
Graduation Rate 77%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission

LFC in Chicago is a private liberal arts college established in 1857 by Presbyterian ministers and was originally named "Lind University."

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science

The computer science degree at LFC focuses on programming, web and software development, administration of databases, and other essential skills required to work in the high-tech field. Students can participate in internship opportunities in the nearby Chicago metropolitan area. 

Computer science students select a concentration based on their interests, including:

  • Business and finance 
  • Law and public service 
  • Creative arts and communication 
  • Science and health 
  • Build your own 

Applying to LFC

Admission requirements include an application, official high school transcripts, a letter of recommendation, standardized ACT/SAT test scores, and an optional phone or in-person interview with an admissions counselor. 

Program at a Glance

  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $25,050 per semester for full-time students
  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Delivery Format: On campus
  • Percentage Awarded Loans: 73%
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#5

Augustana College

School Information
Location Rock Island, Illinois
Admission Rate 57%
Graduation Rate 71%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 0% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Augustana is a Lutheran, liberal arts and sciences institution, established by Swedish colonists in 1860. The 100-acre campus ‌in Rock Island enrolls approximately 2,500 undergraduate students each year. 

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science

The computer science degree at Augustana focuses on data structures, network design, information processes, AI, global internet, computer architecture, and database management. Students with an interest in computer science and liberal arts can enroll in special classes, such as the artful computing course that combines creative design with mathematics and computer coding.

During their second or third year, all computer science major students engage in a semester-long software development team project. A senior capstone project involves a software development design implementation and testing project that incorporates ethical and social considerations. 

Applying to Augustana

Admission requirements include an application, official high school transcripts with a GPA of 2.75, a college preparatory course of study, and submission of official ACT or SAT scores (optional). 

Program at a Glance

  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission and the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET
  • Tuition: $46,039 per academic year for full-time in-state or out-of-state students 
  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Delivery Format: On-campus
  • Percentage Awarded Loans: 67%
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