Are you interested in computer science? Working in computer and information technology (IT) can be rewarding and lucrative. Many jobs in the field come with six-figure salaries, and there is a great need for new IT professionals. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for computer scientists should increase by 21 percent over the next decade.
If this sounds like something you’re interested in pursuing, consider earning your degree online. This article will examine why you might consider earning a computer science degree online.
Why Get a Computer Science Degree Online?
There is no single right or wrong way to earn your degree. For some students, an in-person, campus-based program is best, especially if they want a whole college experience. For other students, however, the benefits of an online degree are significant.
The most significant benefit is the flexibility it offers. Many programs offer asynchronous courses, which means they are available to you when it’s convenient for you to view them. Adult learners, who may work during the day or have family commitments, can participate in the early morning, late at night, or whenever possible.
There are also likely to be financial savings with an online degree. You will not need to pay for gas or parking, for one thing. Some institutions offer cheaper programs or fewer fees for online students.
You will also save time with an online program since you will not need to allow time for commuting. You can focus solely on your courses without the distractions that would occur if you were on campus.
Selecting a Program
There are a few factors to consider when looking for the best program. First, choose a school accredited by a regional accrediting organization, which ensures that the institution is regularly evaluated for the quality of the academic experience and merit of the programs offered. If this information is unavailable on a school’s website, be sure to ask an admissions counselor if the school goes through the periodic process for accreditation.
Cost is another factor. In general, programs offered by public schools are cheaper than those offered by private schools. You’ll want to check the tuition rate per credit hour and any fees charged. Many schools charge a technology fee for online programs, so be sure to factor that in as well.
Also, consider the available concentration options. For example, if you’re interested in robotics, look at schools with a concentration or minor. You may not need to choose a specialty if you are going for your associate’s degree, but at the bachelor’s and master’s levels, you will need to choose a focus within the broad field of computer science.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions when applying to a particular school. Find out what support services are offered, such as career services or academic counseling, and whether you will be required to write a thesis or complete an internship. It’s also a good idea to ask about office hours for online students and find out if the technology allows for group projects or conversations with other students.
The Application Process
Applying to a college or university for an online program isn’t difficult, and you will generally find helpful admissions counselors who can answer your questions. Before you start the process, note that there will be deadlines you’ll have to meet with your materials. Missing a deadline could cost you your place in the class, so be sure you’re staying on top of any dates when materials need to be submitted.
There are a few materials that institutions may require you to submit, including the following:
- Official transcripts: You must request transcripts from your former schools. They will be mailed directly by the school to your intended institution.
- Test scores: If you are applying for a place in an undergraduate program, this will likely be the SAT or ACT. You may be asked for your GRE scores if you apply to a graduate program.
- Letters of recommendation: These should come from former teachers, mentors, coaches, religious leaders, or anyone who knew you well and can speak to your character and ability to succeed in higher education classes.
- A personal statement or essay: Some institutions will ask you to write an essay about yourself and your reasons for wanting to attend. At the graduate level, you may be expected to write about your career goals or intended area of focus.
- A resume or outline of your activities: If you’re a graduating high school senior, you may not have work experience, but you can include a summary of your extracurricular activities or academic honors. Graduate students may be asked to submit a more standard resume or CV, depending on the program.
Completing Your Coursework
Being self-disciplined, focused, and conscious of time management is essential when taking your courses online. Here are a few tips to help you succeed:
- Create a realistic schedule and stick to it. Remember that you must devote time to reading, research, homework, and studying besides watching the class. A good rule of thumb is to allow three to four hours of study time for every credit hour spent in class.
- Stay organized. Set up a binder for each class, print out any materials the professor provides, or keep materials in a folder on your computer. If you don’t have an office, set aside a spot where you can keep all your educational materials. If you prefer to study at a local coffee shop or other places outside your home, have a knapsack or bag to keep everything you need for class.
- Get to know your professors and colleagues. Take advantage of online office hours, especially if you need help with coursework. If the technology enables it, forge connections with your classmates.
- Take care of yourself. No matter how crammed your schedule is, allocate some downtime to rest, rejuvenate, and focus on something other than your school commitments. Be sure you’re getting enough rest.
- Use your college’s support services. Many online institutions offer free tutoring as well as academic and personal counseling. Your institution wants you to succeed as much as you do.
Honing Your Skills
Computer science is a challenging field that is continually evolving. Even with your degree, you may need further education to keep pace with technology and remain qualified for the best jobs.
Take advantage of learning opportunities that can augment your formal education. You could contribute to an open-source project to gain critical job skills. Bootcamps for specific coding languages or other IT applications can be helpful. MOOCs (massive open online courses) from Coursera, EdX, or other venues can give you an excellent education boost for little or no money.
Interested in another degree instead?
Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.