Computer Science Associate Degree Guide

What is an Associate Degree in Computer Science?

Students graduating with an associate degree in computer science gain the expertise needed to help run the digital world. From video games to mobile phone apps, computer science associate degree students often graduate in just two years and often quickly secure lucrative jobs in the tech economy.

Imparting both technical training and theoretical, STEM-based knowledge, an associate degree in computer science supplies learners with the foundational knowledge to tackle careers as computer programmers, web designers, and computer support specialists. During their degree, students often choose from academic concentrations spanning from computer programming to artificial intelligence.

Keep reading to learn more about this popular academic option and see how it can lead to a career in a growing field.

What Can I Do With an Associate Degree in Computer Science?

Earning an online associate degree in computer science can lead to myriad career options. The technical skills students gain through coursework prepare them for careers such as web developers, computer programmers, and software developers. In addition to relatively high median salaries, graduates enter a career field defined mainly by stability and growth.

Keep reading to learn what you can do with a computer science associate degree, how much you can make, and project job growth.

Computer Science Associate Degree Salaries and Career Outlook

CareerSalaryProjected Job Growth (2019-2029)About the Position
Web Developers and Digital Designers$77,2008%These professionals design, create, and maintain websites. Web developers have multiple responsibilities, including monitoring website traffic, developing graphics, and testing applications.
Computer Support Specialists$55,5108%Computer support specialists evaluate network systems, perform network maintenance, and address network and internet systems issues. These professionals often both work in-person and remotely and in areas ranging from law firms to hospitals.
Computer Programmer$89,190-9%Computer programmers write and test code and have fluency in computer languages such as C++ and Java. Programmers also test new programs and applications and upgrade existing computer programs.
Software Developers$110,14022%These professionals utilize technical training to create computer applications. Software developers also assess computer program functionality and work closely with clients to meet their digital needs.
Source: BLS

Earning an Associate Degree in Computer Science

Whether a student plans on entering the workforce after graduation or continuing to a bachelor’s degree program, earning an associate degree in computer science can lead to various career options and lucrative salaries.

Under the computer science umbrella, degree-seekers can often select from degrees like an associate of science (AS), an associate of applied science (AAS), or an associate of arts (AA). Additionally, some students even complete an associate of applied business (AAB) if they plan on utilizing both technical and entrepreneurial skills.

Continue reading to learn more about the in’s and out’s of associate degrees in computer science programs.

Computer Science Associate Degree Specializations

As computer science is a relatively expansive field, students commonly have the option to select a specialized concentration when earning their associate degree. Typical academic concentrations include:

  • Computer programming
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Web development
  • Video game design

However, note that options vary by institution. 

Additionally, selecting an associate of arts track is a useful path if you’re planning on transferring to a bachelor’s program.

Courses in Computer Science Associate Degree Programs

Focusing on the essential computer fundamentals that students need when beginning their careers, courses often address technical areas, including database design, networking, and programming. Classes and requirements vary between programs and specializations, but students often have access to professional training and preparation for further undergraduate work.

  • Introduction to Computer Science: Covering the fundamentals required for a career in computer science, this course offers a wide lens look at the discipline while exploring topics like algorithms and programming. Other areas of focus include network security, data management, and software engineering.
  • Database Management: Utilizing foundational knowledge of data science and encoding, students learn to build databases and familiarize themselves with SQLs (structured query language) while addressing complex data sets and covering database design methods.
  • Computer Networks: Acting as an introduction to computer networks and network technology, this course covers local area networks and wide area networks. Additionally, students learn about network functionality and design while gaining experience with various network hardware like switches and routers.
  • Web Development: Often utilizing experiential learning, this course offers students the chance to use common programming languages like HTML, Java, and CSS. Typical focus areas include designing interactive graphics, methods for writing scripts, and web development and applications.

How Long Does a Computer Science Associate Degree Take To Finish?

Like most associate degrees, full-time students can expect to complete their computer science track in about two years. Over the two years, degree-seekers typically complete about 60 credits worth of academic requirements, including general education coursework, core computer science classes, and technical electives. Part-time students balancing personal and professional obligations typically finish in three to five years, depending on the course load.

Skills Learned in a Computer Science Associate Program

The best computer science associate degree programs supply students with the technical and theoretical skills needed to enter the workforce or enroll at a four-year institution. In addition to technical training, associate degree graduates gain essential soft skills like problem solving and communication.

Common degree outcomes include competency in computer languages like Java, C++, and Visual Basic. Additionally, students learn to develop and employ algorithms and gain experience with general-purpose programming. Alongside computer science coursework, degree-seekers also complete various general education classes in preparation for their transfer to a four-year institution.

How Do I Choose The Best Associate Degree In Computer Science?

Choosing the best online associate degree in computer science is a personal choice, but elements like location, cost, and flexibility can factor into your decision. You can access many online degrees from almost anywhere, but out-of-state programs often come with a heftier price tag.

When selecting an associate degree, it is also valuable to match your career goals with the specializations of academic programs. If you’re interested in cybersecurity, make sure your program can offer the training you need.

Typically cheaper, in-state options also give you the opportunity to attend on-campus classes. Before enrolling, reach out to a potential school’s admissions office and open dialogue—make sure that any program meets your financial, academic, and professional needs.

Online vs. On Campus Degrees

Due to the digital nature of computer science programs, many schools offer these associate degrees partially or entirely online. Especially useful for students balancing a complicated mix of personal, professional, and academic responsibilities, online learning allows students to complete course requirements at their own pace, on their own time.

Online courses often utilize asynchronous coursework that students complete at their own pace. Additionally, many classes have students engage with live lectures, Zoom meetings, and collaborative online group work.

And while online learning makes for an accessible and flexible academic option, some students prefer the consistent schedule and social element of on-campus learning. Know how you learn best and choose the delivery method that best fits your needs.

Should I Complete Courses Online?

While both online and in-person diplomas carry the same weight, online classes require self-motivation and self-discipline, and some students tend to fare better when working in an on-campus environment. That said, online degrees afford working students the opportunity to complete course requirements while keeping up with professional obligations.

Before enrolling in online classes, it is often helpful to discuss your academic plans with an advisor or admissions counselor. These professionals can help you figure out if online coursework is the educational path most likely to lead to success.

Accreditation

Regional accreditation is one of the best indicators of a school’s quality. Regional accrediting bodies ensure that your school meets a set of rigorous academic, professional, and administrative standards. In short, regional accreditation is a stamp of approval that means you’re getting a quality education.

In addition to regional accreditation, many academic programs can also earn programmatic accreditation through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Similar to regional accreditation, programmatic accreditation ensures that college-level programs meet specific academic and professional standards. ABET accreditation is recognized as the industry standard for tech-based programmatic accreditation.

Applying to Computer Science Associate Degree Programs

When applying to a computer science associate degree program, application requirements often vary between programs. As a result, check with your college to ensure you meet the criteria and submit all necessary documents. Keep reading to review some standard admissions requirements.

What Are AA in Computer Science Program Admission Requirements?

  • High school diploma/GED: AA programs typically require students to have their high school diploma or GED. That said, some programs offer dual enrollment where high school seniors can complete college-level coursework before graduation.
  • Standardized test scores: While not always necessary, some programs require applicants to submit SAT, ACT, or ACCUPLACER scores.
  • Completed Application: When applying to any college program, you must complete your application entirely. Omitting a crucial requirement can make the difference between admission and rejection.
  • Academic Transcripts: While most programs do not have a minimum GPA requirement, you will need to submit transcripts from your high school and any other institutions previously attended.
  • Resume: A resume laying out professional and volunteer work gives the admissions office a better idea about your interests and activities outside the classroom.

Paying for a Degree in Computer Science Associate

While typically cheaper than four-year institutions, community and technical colleges still cost money. Even with more affordable tuition rates, many students take advantage of financial aid to offset the cost of their computer science associate degree. Loans, grants, and scholarships can help you pay for this practical degree.

How Much Does a Computer Science Associate Degree Cost?

Many factors contribute to the cost of your computer science associate degree. Your status as an in-state versus out-of-state student can significantly affect tuition costs. Additionally, online learning sometimes mitigates some of the expenses accrued by on-campus learners. Whether it’s saving money on gas, parking passes, or other campus-based fees, online students often end up paying less in the end.

Scholarships for Computer Science Associate Degree Students

Computer Science Associate Degree FAQs

What can I do with an associate degree in computer science?

Students enter a wide variety of computer-based careers, including computer programming, network administration, and website design.

Is an associate degree in computer science worth it?

Yes. Earning an associate degree in computer science can broaden career options and increase earning potential. Additionally, many computer-related careers are projected to grow over the next decade.

Can I get a job with an associate degree in computer science?

Yes. While a bachelor’s degree can additionally boost career options, an associate degree offers learners the technical competencies they need to begin their careers.

Is computer science hard?

If you have an aptitude for STEM-based classes, computer science isn’t more challenging than other degrees. Computer science programs cover both computer-specific technical training while simultaneously cover advanced mathematics.

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