Online Computer-Related Undergraduate Degrees: Program Options

Learn about online associate's and bachelor's degree programs with computer science courses. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

Essential Information

Online associate's degree programs in computer science are available primarily through for-profit institutions, as well as select public or private not-for-profit universities. These programs may be completed totally online, without the requirement for on-campus or in-person experiences. On-campus exams are required by some programs.

Online bachelor's degree programs in computer science are more commonly offered as degree completion options than totally online programs. In some cases, as little as 30 credit hours may be required for admission. In other cases, these online options may be available as post-baccalaureate experiences, in which bachelor's degree holders in another field are able to obtain a bachelor's degree in computer science in a shorter-than-usual amount of time.

Associate's Degree in Computer Science

An online associate's degree program in computer science provides students with a comprehensive computer-related education. Graduates should be able to perform a variety of computer-related functions, such as developing spreadsheets, designing software solutions, developing computer programs and producing data analysis. They should also be well-versed in areas such as fundamental computer programming constructs, computer organization, data warehousing, Java programming and networking systems. An online associate's degree program also places importance on the development of analytical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Program Information and Requirements

Online associate's degree programs in computer science can range from approximately 60-80 credits in length. While it is possible to complete a computer-related program entirely online, some programs may require brief, periodic campus visits in order to take exams or attend face-to-face meetings. Discussion sessions, correspondence with professors, readings and lectures can all be completed online.

Computer requirements include an operating system such as Windows XP or MAC OS 10.3, DVD drive, sound card, speakers, microphone and a broadband Internet connection. Software such as Microsoft Office is also typically required.

Course Topics

An online associate's-level computer science curriculum covers fundamental computer concepts, often preparing graduates for a 4-year program.

Introductory Computer Science

An introductory computer science course covers the fundamentals of computer programming, including computer languages, character representation, computer organization and array structures. The course also covers the principles of object-oriented programming, Java programming and computer software.

Object-Oriented Programming

This course introduces programming languages such as Java, Visual Basic, C# and C++. Topics covered include handling exceptions, object interfaces, data structures and inline functions.

Discrete Mathematics

An online discrete mathematics course looks at mathematical techniques as they relate to discrete domains. The course may cover the areas of elementary number theory, formal logic, functions, graphs and symbolic logic.

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science

Like associate's degree programs, online bachelor's degree programs in computer science cover a broad range of computer-related topics. Emphasis is typically placed on areas such as algorithms and data structures, object-oriented programming, operating systems, programming languages, distributed networks, computer architecture and assembly language programming. In addition to core computer science concepts, focus is often placed on cutting-edge practices and emerging technologies. Specialization areas within an online bachelor's degree program in computer science may include systems security, automated systems and software engineering.

Program Information and Requirements

Bachelor's degree programs are often degree-completion programs, with many general education and lower-division courses completed prior to admission into the core computer science curriculum. Some programs may require students to complete Java programming, discrete mathematics, calculus and other courses prior to entering the core computer science curriculum, which usually consists of around 60 credits.

Online lecture materials commonly consist of a combination of streaming video, downloadable audio, graphic- and text-based materials. Group discussion via message boards is also common in an online bachelor's degree program in computer science.

Online computer science programs commonly use course management software such as Blackboard to deliver course materials. Computer requirements include an up-to-date operating system and browser plug-ins such as Adobe Acrobat Reader, QuickTime and Shockwave. There is typically ample technical assistance available for online students. In fact, some programs offer workshops or tutorials via streaming video for distance-learning students.

Course Topics

An online bachelor's-level computer science program prepares graduates for careers as computer professionals through a curriculum that often looks at computing through a systems view.

Programming Languages

This course examines computer programming languages such as Pascal, JAVA, C++, Fortran, LISP and APL. Topics covered include compilers, syntax, language features, binding and data types.

Software Engineering

Emphasis is placed on software design and analysis in a software engineering course. The course covers requirements engineering, formal specification, validation, software architecture and project management.

Computer Networks

This course focuses on the technologies used in computer network design. Protocol layering, network fundamentals, routing protocols, network installation, wireless networks and disaster recovery are examined.

Career Information

Graduates of an undergraduate computer science program are prepared for a variety of computer-related careers in education, government, industry and business. Potential job opportunities for graduates include Web developer, JAVA programmer, computer security specialist, systems analyst, database administrator and network administrator. Individuals with a bachelor's degree tend to have better opportunities for career advancement, such as moving from a junior analyst or developer position to senior status.

Continuing Education Information

An online associate's degree program in computer science prepares graduates to enter bachelor's degree programs in areas such as computer science, technology management, computer information systems, business administration or software engineering. In fact, associate's degree programs include ample general education coursework in order to better prepare students for transfer to a 4-year university. Graduates of bachelor's-level computer science degree programs can also seek career advancement through a master's or doctoral degree program.

Students can earn a computer-related undergraduate degree online in either an associate's or bachelor's degree program. These programs cover topics such as discrete mathematics, object-oriented programming, software engineering, and computer networks.

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