An associate's degree program in computer science prepares students for careers in computer programming or in systems analysis. On the other hand, a computer information systems associate's program covers many of the same topics, but there is more emphasis on technology applied to the business world. There are a range of specialization options in both fields.
These two-year programs are typically offered by community colleges and may be available in online formats. Graduates are prepared to find entry-level jobs in the field or to transfer into a 4-year degree program. A high school diploma or its equivalent is required for admission.
Associate's Degree in Computer Science
Students in associate's degree programs in computer science learn to design, develop and maintain computer software and systems. In addition to traditional lecture and lab coursework, students participate in internships and cooperative education experiences. Core requirements include courses in:
- Computer organization and machine language
- Analytical geometry
- Java and object-oriented programming
- Programming and data structures
- Compiler and network design
- Software development
Associate's Degree in Computer Information Systems
Students in associate's degree programs in computer information systems choose from various areas of emphasis, such as computer business applications, database management, website software, programming and analysis. Candidates also learn about programming, database management and develop troubleshooting and critical-thinking skills. Commonly, these programs teach students about the business applications of computer systems. These programs combine classroom studies with hand-on training in computer labs. Students also have independent study and internship opportunities. Course topics include:
- Microcomputer operating system
- Systems analysis and design
- Website development and Internet tools
- Technology project management
- Microsoft office products and server product support
Popular Career Options
A computer science program can prepare students for careers in various computer-related settings, where troubleshooting, maintaining, installing and repairing computer software and hardware systems is necessary. Some common career titles include:
- Computer support specialist
- Help-desk technicians
- Technical support specialists
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Commonly, computer information systems programs combine knowledge of computer systems with management concepts, which could prepare graduates for administrative positions. With sufficient work experience and industry certification, associate's degree holders could enter administrative and management positions in this field, though applicants who hold bachelor's and master's degrees may be preferred for these positions.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of network and computers systems administrators is predicted to grow by 5% between 2018 and 2028. The BLS reports that, as of May 2018, network and computer systems administrators earned a median annual wage of $82,050.
Continuing Education Information
Beyond the associate's degree level, computer science students can enroll in bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in computer science. These degree options can help individuals move into higher-level careers in areas such as software engineering, database administration or network architecture. Earning a Ph.D. in Computer Science can lead to jobs in research or to teaching at the college level.
Graduates of computer information systems can enroll in bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs in computer information systems and management information systems (MIS). Individuals interested in MIS programs may find concentration options through broader business programs, like Bachelor of Business Administration or Master of Business Administration programs.
Professional certification can also demonstrate an employee's commitment and knowledge of the profession. Certifications can be obtained through computer software vendors or independent certifying organizations. Many computer-related training programs include courses that prepare students to take certification exams in specific specialized areas.
Earning an AS or AAS in Computer Science or Computer Information Systems can prepare students for entry-level work in the IT world. Graduates are also prepared for voluntary certification, which can bolster job prospects, and they can go on to earn bachelor's degrees in IT-related fields.