Many schools offer associate's degrees in computer science that prepare students for further education in computer engineering. While graduates with an associate's degree can't go to work as computer engineers, the degree program prepares them to pursue higher degrees in the field or work in another computer-related field.
Most of these programs can be completed entirely online, with students accessing videos of class sessions as their schedules permit. Specific software may be necessary for some technical courses. Most associate's degree programs take about two years to complete. The first part of the program consists of general education requirements such as mathematics, social studies and the sciences. In the last half of the program, students begin examining the fundamentals of computer science. They explore hardware, software and operating systems and learn about common operating systems.
Associate's Degree in Computer Science
Generally, students in this program choose from the concentrations of computer applications software engineer or computer systems software engineer. The computer applications specialty focuses on designing specialized programs for individual clients. The computer systems software concentration educates students on how to design and maintain programs for general business processes, such as an accounts payable program. Typical prerequisites for associate's programs include math and science coursework, a placement assessment and a high-school diploma or its equivalent. Students are awarded an Associate in Science (A.S.) or an Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree upon completion.
Information and Requirements
Some computer science programs offer all courses online and take approximately two years to complete. The curriculum normally requires core math, science, liberal arts and social science classes in the first and second semesters, and the second year focuses on computer science theory and application. Some programs offer honors courses after meeting academic requirements.
Participants must have access to a personal computer, and some schools offer computer labs to students residing close to campus. All assignments are completed via the Internet. Specific software requirements may be necessary for some technical courses. Some schools also offer access to research databases such as Lexis Nexis or Medline.
List of Common Courses
Coursework in associate's programs includes general education requirements, along with specific topics in computer science. Although the specific courses vary by school, some classes are common to all computer computer science programs.
Students learn introductory programming techniques in analysis, development, debugging, documentation standards, data abstraction and storage management. The course also introduces basic programming theories, functions and languages.
Computer Science Fundamentals
This course introduces computer science principles and further develops the learner's programming knowledge and design skills. Topics such as numerical and character representation, data representation fundamentals, computer organization, networking technology, game programming and graphical user interfaces are also explored.
Hardware, Software and Operating Systems
Entry-level skills in building, installing, configuring, upgrading and managing computer systems, software and hardware are the focus of this class. The course also covers troubleshooting and maintenance of the keyboard, printer, mouse, monitor and central processing unit (CPU). Interaction between operating systems and computer hardware is explored.
An associate's degree program is generally not sufficient to prepare graduates for a career in computer engineering. However, graduates of associate's programs are often qualified for entry-level jobs in computer-related fields, such as a computer support specialist position. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer user support specialists earned a median salary of $51,470 per year in 2015. Employment in the field was expected to grow by 12% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education Information
Bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs are available either partially or completely online, for graduates of associate's degree programs interested in becoming full-fledged computer engineers. A bachelor's degree or higher, along with experience in different technology and computer systems, is usually required for engineering positions.
Online associate's programs related to computer engineering help students gain a familiarity with using and troubleshooting hardware, software and operating systems. Students also develop programming skills and can choose a specialty.