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Computer Science Associate Vs. Bachelors Degree: What's the Difference

Degree requirements and coursework are the primary differences between an associate-level computer science program and a bachelor's degree program in computer science, though career outcomes can vary as well. View article »

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  • 0:00 Associate vs. Bachelor's
  • 0:37 Associate Degree Programs
  • 1:11 Bachelor's Degree Programs
  • 1:44 Career Options

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Video Transcript

Associate vs. Bachelor's

When deciding whether to enroll in an associate or bachelor's degree program in computer science, it can be helpful to consider the curricula of both programs, as well as future career opportunities. There are a few key differences between associate degree and bachelor's degree programs in computer science. First, an associate degree program generally takes two years to complete, while a bachelor's program takes about four years. A bachelor's degree, which requires more coursework, also provides a more in-depth and well-rounded education.

Associate Degree Programs

Most associate degree programs in computer science require 60 semester hours. Upon completion, students may be awarded an Associate in Arts (AA) or Associate in Science (AS) degree. Students complete general education requirements, such as social science, arts and humanities, math, English, and science. They also take introductory computer courses in subjects such as computer programming, data organization, discrete mathematics, and algorithms.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Bachelor's degree programs in computer science require approximately 120 semester hours, depending on the school. They usually result in either a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) degree. General education and field of study requirements for bachelor's programs are similar to those for associate programs, but with additional requirements in the major. These courses might include calculus, advanced programming, data structures, and computer architecture.

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Career Options

Another difference between earning an associate or bachelor's degree in computer science is the types of positions and median salary graduates can expect. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an associate degree can prepare individuals for jobs as web developers and computer support specialists, but bachelor's degree holders have a much wider range of career opportunities within the information technology field. Some bachelor's-level options include:

  • Computer programmer
  • Computer systems analyst
  • Computer network architect
  • Software developer
  • Database administrator

Graduates with a bachelor's degree can also usually find higher-paying positions. However, it is important to note that other factors also play into salary potential, including previous work experience and professional certification.

According to PayScale.com in April 2017, most graduates of an associate program in computer science with one to four years of experience earned a median of $38,446. PayScale.com also notes that graduates of bachelor's degree programs in computer science with one to four years of experience made a median annual salary of $63,352 as of April 2017.

Although both associate and bachelor's degree programs provide introductory computer science education and general education courses, bachelor's degree programs allow for more advanced study and provide greater career opportunities.

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