Few aspects of modern life are immune to the influence of computers. It is little wonder that positions are growing briskly for experts in computer technology, programming, information processing, networks and database administration. An online bachelor's degree program in computers is a good way to prepare for a career in computer science and technology, offering a variety of specializations for immediate entry into the job market, or as the first step toward a graduate degree in computers.
Online bachelor's degree programs in computers are widely available in fully online formats; however, students can also choose hybrid format programs, involving online and on-campus courses and labs. This program typically takes about four years of full-time study, and students can choose to concentrate in several areas, like networks, database administration, network security and game programming. This program also typically includes a senior capstone course.
Due to the nature of the field, the technical requirements that students will need to meet to access the coursework may be more stringent than usual for online programs; therefore, students should check their computer systems and media capabilities with the school's requirements. After graduation, bachelor's holders may be able to apply for voluntary certifications that are available through several associations, product vendors and software companies.
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Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science
The field of computer science offers many opportunities for today's undergraduate. Mechanically minded students can study the physical components that make up a computer and any of the various levels of technology involved in computer hardware, in order to master the design, assembly, maintenance and repair of computer devices. Programming is another broad area of concentration, comprising machine languages, operating systems and dozens of computer languages. Other specialties include networks and communications protocols, database administration, Web design, user interfaces, end-user support, computerized training, computer graphics and digital audio.
Program Information and Requirements
Distance learning students can generally complete a bachelor's program in computers in four full-time years of study, in most cases taking all courses completely online. Course loads vary between 120 and 140 semester credits, including 40 or more hours in general core curriculum subjects, 30 or more hours in a computer specialty and the rest in a broad range of computer courses distinct from the specialty.
Students in online courses require up-to-date computer systems with media capabilities and Internet connection. The CPU, graphics, hard drive and memory requirements for a student majoring in computers may be more stringent than for other online students, and computer majors are advised to consult their schools' distance learning department for specifics.
Some subjects may not be available online, or not available online every year, so students are advised to plan their curriculum a year or more in advance. Lectures are generally prerecorded and available at any time the student chooses to view them, but some instructors schedule live classroom time, during which remote students may interact with other students, as well as the instructor. Assignments and exams are often designed to be completed remotely and submitted electronically, although some remote exams may require the services of a proctor.
Most online bachelor's degree programs in computers encourage students to take classes in a broad variety of computer subjects prior to concentrating on a specialty. Possible concentrations include computer technology, enterprise computing, systems analysis, assembly language, Web development, database management, game programming, object-oriented analysis and network security. Some programs offer students the flexibility to tailor a curriculum to meet a specific educational goal.
The course presents a variety of programming environments, tools and utilities tailored to the strengths and structures of different computer languages, operating systems and code libraries. Examples of software development kits (SDKs), driver development kits (DDKs) and integrated development environments (IDEs) are compared.
The functionality of flat, tabular, relational and document-oriented databases are presented. Students learn common database packages, and design their own database projects and queries.
Networking and Communications
Computer networking is presented in the context of the modular open system interconnection (O.S.I.) model of data communications, dealing primarily with physical networking hardware, the data link layer and transport protocols.
The history and capabilities of microprocessors are discussed, and students are given the chance to experiment with increasingly complex generations of microprocessors and programming languages.
Students are introduced to basic operating system concepts like interrupts, memory management, multitasking, file systems, code libraries and graphic user interfaces. The course emphasis on components and concepts can prepare students for further study in systems like Windows, Mac OS and Unix.
As computers continue to evolve, computer professionals with experience in the latest technology will be in high demand, particularly graduates with additional business or industry expertise. The outlook for computer jobs in general is very good. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) projected that jobs for computer network and systems administrators, database administrators and software developers will grow much faster than the national average, increasing by 8%, 11% and 17%, respectively, from 2014 to 2024. Jobs for computer programmers, Web designers and system software engineers should also experience significant growth.
Median annual salaries in 2015 were $81,710 for database administrators, $77,810 for computer network and systems administrators, $98,260 for computer application software developers, $105,570 for systems software developers and $79,530 for wage-and-salary computer programmers.
Continuing Education Information
Product vendors and software companies often offer certification in their family of products, and some require that specialists be certified in order to install or service their products. Professional societies also offer numerous levels of certification in many computer specialties. Certification may increase job-seeking advantages or command higher pay, depending upon the employment situation.
As technology continues to advance, more positions in the industry experience significant job growth. A bachelor's degree program prepares students for various positions in this field, whether it involves repairing devices or computer programming. Online programs at the bachelor's degree level are widely available to prospective students.