Computer Science Programs in Wisconsin

Wisconsin takes computer science seriously. The state's economy supports a variety of career options and has established standards for teaching computer science from kindergarten through high school. As a result, Wisconsin boasts an array of computer science programs.

Several excellent colleges and universities provide solid options for higher education in the state, which also hosts many large employers, including 10 Fortune 500 companies.

Prospective students with an interest in studying computer science might consider Wisconsin as the place to do so, and this page assists in finding the right program for you.

This page includes information on the careers, salary, and education options in Wisconsin, which should help you determine whether Wisconsin is the place for you to study or work, or both.

Wisconsin has established standards for teaching computer science from kindergarten through high school.

Higher Education in Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s higher education system includes 80 colleges and universities, enrolling more than 360,000 students and boasting the highest retention rates in the region. The state’s public universities also rank among the best schools for technical and scientific research.

The University of Wisconsin system, one of the world’s largest public education systems, serves almost half of Wisconsin’s student population (175,000 students) across 13 four-year universities at 26 campuses. These include the state’s largest institution (the University of Wisconsin-Madison), which features a nationally ranked computer sciences department. Students in this program have interned with and secured jobs at many prestigious high-tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple.

Several other two- and four-year computer science colleges in Wisconsin, including those discussed in the ranking below, also feature departments of computer science and related fields. These include UW-Oshkosh and UW-Green Bay, plus Silver Lake College and Concordia University. These computer science schools offer a variety of work experience opportunities in northeast Wisconsin, where computer scientists enjoy particularly high demand, and in the southern cities of Madison and Milwaukee, which rank among the top U.S. cities for tech jobs.

Computer Science Careers in Wisconsin

No matter which specific computing field you pursue -- from software engineering to business analysis to video game design -- computer scientists can expect a bright outlook. The demand for these professionals far outweighs the supply, and the continuous evolution of technology creates new jobs all the time. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the field will grow by 13% from 2016 to 2026 -- much faster than national average job growth.

Mean Salary for Computer Science Careers by Degree

Computer Science Employers in Wisconsin

Wisconsin's booming computer science industry has created a wealth of job opportunities. Major cities offer an abundance of tech jobs in a variety of sectors, including education, finance, and healthcare. In fact, Wisconsin's 10 Fortune 500 firms hire computer science graduates, including the companies listed below.

  • Johnson Controls: Johnson Controls, a multinational firm with 170,000 employees, leads the industry in HVAC technology. The company hires in computer science-oriented positions at all levels, some of which, including software engineers, require a bachelor’s degree. Other positions, such as for data scientists, require a master’s degree.
  • Northwestern Mutual: This insurance and investments company offers a variety of information-based tech jobs, from DevOps engineers to mobile developers. The organization regularly recruits personnel with computer science backgrounds, especially in areas such as big data applications and cybersecurity. Most jobs at Northwestern Mutual are located in Milwaukee.
  • ManpowerGroup: Also headquartered in Milwaukee, multinational staffing and recruitment provider ManpowerGroup comprises Manpower and Experis. Experis focuses on IT, engineering, and finance resourcing for a range of positions, including data warehouse programmer analysts and firmware engineers.

How Much do Computer Scientists Make in Wisconsin?

Employment Annual Mean Wage
Wisconsin 200 $75,260
United States 27,920 $119,570
Source: BLS

Computer Science Programs in Wisconsin

Computer science splits into two main subdivisions: theoretical and applied. Depending on the program you choose, you can focus more on the theories behind concepts, like coding and algorithms, or on the practical applications of software engineering and network architecture. You can also specialize in a subfield. Computer science programs in Wisconsin cover the fundamentals of software, hardware, and networks, and may require students to complete a portfolio or a capstone project for a client. Some schools, such as UW-Milwaukee, offer thesis options and supervised internships.

Online computer science programs in Wisconsin offer curricula through flexible learning formats. Classes at most schools are taught asynchronously, allowing students to study at their convenience rather than in the confines of a cohort-based classroom. Some programs also offer accelerated formats. For example, the University of Wisconsin system’s "UW Flexible Option," a competency-based format, lets students apply college credit or on-the-job experience toward their degree, helping individuals save money and graduate faster.

Prospective students should consider accreditation when selecting colleges and universities, which typically only accept transfer credits from accredited schools. Additionally, schools with regional or program-level accreditation are more likely to meet industry- and region-specific standards. Computer science students should look for programmatic accreditation from ABET (formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology), though only some computer science schools in Wisconsin (including UW-Oshkosh) hold it.

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Types of Computer Science Degrees

This section explores the levels of computer science degrees available in Wisconsin, and suggests what you might expect to gain from each. Your chosen career path can help determine what level of degree you need, or you can select a career after completing all your degrees.

Associate in Computer Science

An associate degree from an online computer science program in Wisconsin covers the basics of computer science to prepare students for a variety of entry-level positions. This degree covers about half of a bachelor's degree, including the foundational courses. However, an associate degree does not go into as much depth as a bachelor's, which might limit the positions for which an associate graduate qualifies.

Community colleges tend to offer associate degrees at much more affordable rates than bachelor's from universities. Because they require less time and money, these degrees provide a feel for whether or not the field of computer science would suit you you. Full-time students can usually complete their associate degrees in two years, or less time in online programs.

Bachelor’s in Computer Science

A bachelor's degree qualifies graduates for most computer science careers in Wisconsin, covering the same subjects as an associate degree, plus more. Bachelor's degrees go over a wide array of general education courses, along with specialized computer science courses, which allow for some customization by students. A bachelor's degree allows students to begin specializing their education, focusing on one or two specific aspects of computer science. It also equips students with the knowledge and skills for most careers in the field. This degree represents the most common educational requirement for computer science jobs.

A bachelor's takes about twice as long to complete as an associate degree, because it comprises about twice as many credits. Bachelor's students usually take four to five years to complete their programs, though accelerated or intensive options -- usually available online -- may take less time to complete.

Master’s in Computer Science

Bachelor's and associate graduates qualify for most entry-level positions in computer science, but a master's degree can help them advance their careers or access more demanding positions. Master's degrees offer options for specialization, allowing learners to explore an aspect of the computer science field more in-depth than they would in a bachelor's program. Master's graduates boast expertise in a particular aspect of computer science, qualifying degree holders for new career options, higher earning potential, and greater upward mobility within the field.

Master's degrees require 30 to 60 credits to complete, depending on each individual program and school. Most students complete their degrees in two to three years, though accelerated options are available.

Computer Science Ph.D

The doctorate degree, or Ph.D., represents the highest degree you can earn in most fields. This terminal degree qualifies graduates for any career path, but it applies best in academia. A Ph.D. focuses on research, and sees the highest demand at universities seeking professors and research fellows. If you're interested in advancing the field of computer science by developing new technology, you might consider pursuing a doctorate.

A Ph.D. takes four to eight years to complete, depending on a variety of factors. Few online doctorate programs exist, and even fewer accelerated programs do. Doctorate programs entail even more specialized study than master's degrees, and Ph.D. graduates represent the foremost experts in their field.


Professional Computer Science Organizations in Wisconsin

Students pursuing online computer science degrees in Wisconsin should consider joining a professional organization, as should recent graduates. These organizations provide opportunities to network within your field through conferences, career services, and continuing education programs. Each opportunity offers members a unique set of benefits, and many organizations focus on certain subfields or specialties. The list below includes three of the top associations in the field of computer science.

  • Association for Computing Machinery: Since 1947, ACM has worked to advance the fields of computer science and information technology. The group maintains several publications, hosts conferences, and promotes networking and professional development to achieve this goal. Members participate in 860 student and professional chapters around the world.
  • Association for Information Science and Technology: ASIS&T works to connect the practice and research of information science. With 80 years of history and representation across 50 countries, this group provides a wealth of knowledge sharing and professional development opportunities.
  • Association for Women in Computing: One of the oldest groups for women in the computer science industry, AWC has promoted the needs of women in the field since 1978. AWC provides professional development, networking, and knowledge sharing resources to help women compete in the field.
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What Schools Offer a Computer Science Degree in Wisconsin?

Choosing the right online program is a personal decision, depending on each student’s individual academic and professional goals. To help with this decision, the following ranking presents the best computer science schools in Wisconsin. This list details Wisconsin computer science schools known for providing top-quality programs, and should help narrow your search.

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