One of the fastest-growing fields of employment, computer science is gaining momentum as more students flock to high-tech degree programs. More people than ever want to earn the IT skills that can open up further career opportunities in an increasingly digital world. Naturally, there are few areas of study better suited to online coursework than computer science.
A good online school in any subject is one that can overcome the inherent limitations of distance learning. Online computer science degree programs should not cut corners compared to those pursued in a physical classroom. Along these lines, this list evaluates online computer science (CS) programs on the basis of:
- Objective criteria, including U.S. News & World Report ratings, program diversity, and accessible student services like tutoring, academic advising and career counseling
- Unique CS programs and features, such as special combined undergraduate-and-graduate tracks
- Overall value for the investment—the ‘bang for your buck’ factor
Ranking the 10 Best Online Programs For Computer Science
The following are all-online as well as campus-based schools that provide superior value for the tuition invested to earn an online computer science degree.
#1 — Georgia Institute of Technology
The Georgia Institute of Technology takes the number one spot on our list because it will soon offer considerably more ‘bang for the buck’ than just about any other school out there.
The school has recently announced it is partnering with Udacity, a MOOC—or Massive Open Online Courseware—provider to offer a high-quality master’s degree in online computer science for a fraction of the cost of competitor programs—$6,600. The first professional Online Master of Science in Computer Science, or OMS CS, will take three years to complete.
Heretofore, free ‘MOOCs’ haven’t offered serious degrees to those who ace their programs. Meanwhile, credible online degrees with name recognition courtesy of their brick-and-mortar counterparts aren’t exactly cheap.
Where most programs spell ‘compromise’ in these respects, trading access for quality and vice versa, prestigious Georgia Tech is set to deliver innovation in a way that’s actually affordable to most online degree-seekers. Best of all, it has an impressive CS department ranked in the top 10 by U.S. News & World Report.
#2 — Pace University
New York-based Pace University has a stellar lineup of online CS degree programs ranging from the associate’s and bachelor’s to master’s and doctoral levels. Here, distance learners can enjoy a high-caliber curriculum at competitive rates.
The school’s undergraduate options include the iPace degree completion program. iPace gives working students who need to finish their bachelor’s degree a chance to do that, both online and part-time. The basic Bachelor of Science (BS) in Professional Technology Studies is a real steal at $535 per credit, giving distance learners with some college experience a chance to earn an undergraduate computer science degree online for around $30,000.
Pace currently takes the top spot in U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best online bachelor’s degree programs, scoring high in faculty credentials, student services and technology, and student engagement.
#3 — Oregon State University
Oregon State, a public research university, offers affordable online degrees priced well below the average. For around $26,500, a web-based bachelor’s can be had through the highly-regarded School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
It can take as little as one year to earn a BS in Computer Science through OSU’s new ‘post-bac’ option. One of the first online post-baccalaureate programs for CS students in the country, the new degree appeals to those who already have undergraduate degrees. Oregon State is an excellent medium-priced option for those who want to expand their existing bachelor’s into the IT sector without committing to graduate school.
#4 — Western Governors University
As its name suggests, Western Governors University was founded in 1997 by the governors of 18 Western states. The idea was to make an online, accelerated, affordable and accredited education available to people of all ages. Today, WGU’s competency-based model of education has carved itself a solid niche that regularly turns out satisfied graduates.
WGU is uniquely affordable and flexible. Students work at their own pace, demonstrating competency as they go for course credit. “Course mentors,” easy hotline assistance for homework help, and built-in mobile functionality via the WGU app are among the perks for online enrollees. An online bachelor’s costs as little as $23,000–as much as most public four-year colleges charge for a single year.
#5 — Dakota State University
Dakota State University made its popular undergraduate CS major publicly available online in 2010, part of a wider state initiative to expand workforce development in this key growth industry. Here, online students can enjoy community advising, tutoring services and a web-based Online Writing Lab (OWL).
At Dakota State, students can earn a BS or MS in the computer sciences through the Office of Extended Programs. Undergraduate-to-graduate CS education can be completed entirely online in a variety of specialties. The online MS in CS is an especially good value among online computer science degree programs, costing just $10,000.
#6 — Colorado Technical University
Based out of Colorado Springs, Colorado Technical University (CTU) is another school with a highly-rated campus-based institution, a student-friendly distance-learning syllabus, and affordable tuition. In 2009, CTU’s “amazingly interactive, experientially immersive” Virtual Campus won the Best of the Best award in the Computerworld Honors program. The school is for-profit and regionally accredited.
CTU offers both master’s and doctoral online degrees through its College of Information Systems and Technology. These include Masters of Science in Computer Science with one of three concentrations: Computer Systems Security, Database Systems, or Software Engineering. All doctoral online degrees are Doctors of Computer Science (DCS).
#7 — Regis University
Based out of Denver, Colorado, Regis University’s online CS Bachelor issued through the School of Computer and Information Sciences has recently earned the ABET stamp of approval, the gold standard of computer science accreditation. Regis is one of just a few all-online programs that can claim this distinction.
Students can earn a BS in Computer Networking capped off with an MS in Systems Engineering in an accelerated, lower-cost program. The path encompasses both undergraduate and graduate degrees in a single 152-credit hour program designed to save students money. As a bonus, it’s also one of the few schools that accepts MOOC coursework as valid transfer credit.
#8 — Sam Houston State University
U.S. News & World Report ranked SHSU #2 in their account of the best online graduate Computer IT programs in America. Compared to the number one school on the list—University of Southern California—Sam Houston is significantly cheaper, offering graduate courses online for less than a third of the per-credit cost.
Sam Houston State University is a good public school option for students in search of online graduate studies. At $445 per credit, a full-time online MS candidate will spend $15,000 to $16,000 on a degree through the Computer IT program. Graduate studies include the MS in Information Assurance and Security.
#9 — Colorado State University—Global Campus
The non-profit Colorado State University—Global Campus is “the nation’s first 100% online, independently accredited public university.” The regionally-accredited CSU-Global distance learning platform has a student-friendly system of awarding transfer credit. Transfer applicants to CSU-Global can even get credit for completing Udacity’s ‘Introduction to CS’ MOOC.
CSU-Global graduates get name recognition, real faculty support, student resources and accessible rates of tuition. Students collaborate with their peers in real-time and via virtual extracurricular groups and clubs. Note that CSU—Global Campus is not the same institution as CSU, although the two schools are siblings within the wider Colorado State network.
#10 — University of Maryland
The University of Maryland’s University College (UMUC) is an option to consider for those who want a flexible degree from an established institution. Part of the largest public university in the U.S., UMUC offers numerous online credentials from the certificate through graduate levels across a variety of IT specializations. All of UMUC’s online CS faculty are experts in their field, and they are the same teachers that instruct classroom learners.
Aspiring computer scientists can major in Computer Networks and Security, Digital Media and Web Technology, or Technology Management. UMUC is also now hosting a joint undergraduate-graduate track in Cybersecurity that shaves nearly 20 credits off the total number required to achieve the BS and MS.