The computer-based world we live in today has made computer science degrees very valuable, and many aspiring students wonder if employers look at computer science degrees from online schools differently than campus-based schools. Computer science professionals are very much in demand today, and with the increasing popularity of online education, many are choosing to earn their degrees online. Learn about online computer science degrees, including what they entail and how employers view them.
What a Computer Science Degree Entails
Computer science degrees focus on the technologies and theories professionals use to create and maintain both computer software applications and computer hardware platforms. Computer science is a field that covers various subfields, including computer programming, database administration, networking and software engineering. Computer science degrees are similar to and often discussed interchangeably with information technology degrees, yet they are quite different.
While information technology focuses on using computers and networking for business use, computer science is all about developing and maintaining the actual computer software and hardware. Within an organization, a computer science professional would determine the needs of the business and develop, install and maintain the computer software and hardware to meet the needs of the organization. The information technology professional, on the other hand, is in charge of maintaining the files and programs that are on the system and networking them with other systems or businesses.
A computer science degree may come in the form of an associate’s, bachelor’s, master or doctoral degree depending on the student’s career goals. The duration of the program depends on the degree level. The student takes general education courses as well as computer-based courses. Computer science students can also choose from different areas of specialization. Internships are also a big part of computer science programs. Online computer science students are generally also required to complete internships.
Online computer science degree programs help students obtain skills that will make them marketable in the workforce. The students develop mathematical, problem-solving and analytical skills necessary in a computer science job. The curriculum for online computer science programs is very similar to that of a brick-and-mortar school. The major difference is that online programs offer more flexibility, which allows students to complete the program in a shorter or longer period.
What to Look for in an Online School
With so many online schools available today, it can often be difficult to choose an online school or program. With so many computer science programs out there, choosing the right online school can become a real daunting task. Here are some important things to keep in mind when looking at online schools:
- Accreditation – A school’s accreditation is probably the most important factor when choosing an online college. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation should accredit a credible college.
- Reputation – For some reason, employers tend to look more credibly and favorably on colleges that offer physical campuses in addition to online programs. Colleges should have an actual physical address and not a post office box number.
- Program duration – Although online degrees can be earned in less time than on-campus programs, there shouldn’t be a big difference. Schools that promise students they can earn a four-year degree in just a few months are usually not credible.
- Quality of graduates – Students need to research any online school they may be considering and pay close attention to the graduation rate as well as the job placement rate of graduates.
How Employers Look at Online Computer Science Schools
In the past, online schools were looked upon much differently than they are today. With more and more colleges offering not just online courses but also online programs, the trend is steering more towards online schools. A 2016 report by Online Learning Consortium indicates that at least 28 percent of students are taking at least one online course.
An equally high number are choosing online degree programs. In most cases, employers are more interested in the applicant having the degree and where it was earned than in what format it was earned. Work experience, training and computer skills are factors most important to potential employers.
Career Outlook for Computer Science Professionals
Computer and information technology jobs are expected to grow about 12 percent during the 2018-2028 decade as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This percentage should result in more than 546,000 new computer-based jobs by 2028. Several factors are helping to keep this field a growing field, such as the need for information and network security, the retrieval and storage of data, and the increasing use of cloud storage and computing.
The more computers are used in the business world, the more computer science professionals will be in demand. As of May 2018, the computer and information technology professionals earned a median annual wage of $86,320. Here are some jobs available to computer science graduates along with their median annual wages in 2018 according to the Bureau:
- Computer support specialist – $53,470
- Network and computer systems administrator – $82,050
- Computer programmer – $84,280
- Computer systems analyst – $88,740
- Database administrator – $90,070
- Information security analyst – $98,350
- Computer network architect – $109,020
- Computer and information research scientist – $118,370
The career outlook for online computer science professionals is typically the same as for campus-based students. Employers generally are more impressed with the applicant’s knowledge and relevant work experience than they are with where or how the degree was earned. Knowing that employers generally view online computer science degree programs the same as they would traditional programs makes it much easier for students to earn the degree with confidence.