Need help choosing where to get your associate’s degree in computer science? This handy guide will help you find the perfect program for your needs.
You’re interested in getting an associates degree in computer science, but there’s so many options out there! How can you know which one is best suited for your needs?
After reading this helpful guide, you’ll be an expert on associate degrees in computer science and be much better equipped to decide on the perfect degree for you. Then you’ll be that much closer to your goal of joining the professional tech world full of exciting (and lucrative!) job opportunities.
What is an Associate of Computer Science?
Associate degrees, no matter the specialty, generally take 2 years (about 60 credits) to complete. Classes include general education courses that depend on the individual school’s requirements, plus plenty of classes that have to do with understanding, programing, and maintaining computers and computer systems.
Associate degrees in computer science can have many different titles at various universities, including:
- Associate of Science in Computer Science
- Associate of Arts in Computer Information Systems
- Associate of Science in Information Science
- Associate of Science in Information Technology
- Associate of Science in Technology (Computer Technologies)
- Associate of Applied Science in Technical Studies (Computer Technologies)
- Associate of Science in Information Sciences and Technology
Most programs require hands-on learning experiences, such as an internship in your desired field, which can be a very valuable experience for getting your foot in the door of the professional world.
Benefits of Getting an Associate Degree in Computer Science
Getting into the computer science field opens up a world of in-demand job opportunities for you. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, web development jobs are expected to grow by 15% over the next 10 years. This rapid growth is much faster than average for all occupations, meaning those entering the computer science field will be in high demand for many years to come.
Computer science jobs are also much higher paying than most jobs. The median annual wage for web developers in the US was $67,990 in 2017. Since computer science jobs are in such a high demand globally, you have the ability to find a nicely paying job anywhere in the world.
Some people study computer science on their own, without investing in a degree. This is possible to do, though most employers prefer to see some form of formal training. Having an associate degree in computer science will give you a leg up when you’re on the job hunt.
At the same time, it doesn’t require the time commitment of 4 years of studying to obtain a bachelor’s degree. This means you can jump into employment 2 years sooner than if you decide to go for a bachelor’s. Your knowledge will not be as in-depth if you go for an associate degree, but it’s great for getting your foot in the door and then learning as you go, gaining hands-on experience instead of studying in a classroom.
Plus, if you end up deciding you do in fact wish to get a bachelor’s degree, the credits you earned from your associate degree can often be transferred and counted towards a bachelor’s.
Set Your Goals
The first step to choosing an associate degree in computer science is to set your goals. Why do you want to go into computer science? Do you love the technology field, or do you just want to make boatloads of money?
If it’s the latter, you might realize you actually don’t love computer science halfway through your degree and you could wind up in debt with nothing to show for it. So first, make sure this is truly a field you want to pursue. You don’t want to get stuck in a job you hate just for the money.
Computer science jobs can be incredibly interesting and rewarding for the right people, however. If you have a passion for technology and problem solving, this could be an ideal field for you.
Set long-term goals as well. Do you want to change careers completely? Perhaps you already are in the field and want a promotion, or you’d like to specialize in a certain field within computer science, such as artificial intelligence. Maybe you’re an entrepreneur and want to learn how to develop that app idea you have. Whatever your goals are, keep them clear in your mind to help you choose what associate degree is right for you.
Full-time or Part-time Study?
The next step to picking the perfect associate degree is deciding on full-time or part-time.
If you want to keep working while you study, or perhaps you have a family to look after, then part-time study may be a better fit for you. It will take longer, but you won’t have to quit your job or get overwhelmed with too many responsibilities on your plate.
If you want to dive in and finish as fast as possible, go for a full-time program so you can get into the workforce sooner. There’s even accelerated programs out there that are even more intensive and can get you a degree in just a year.
Deciding on how much time commitment you have available for your studies will help narrow down which degree is best for you.
Make Sure the School is Accredited
It’s hugely important to make sure the colleges and universities you are considering are accredited. This means the institution has been evaluated and approved on a set of standards that ensure the quality of the education they provide their students is high.
Many employers do not recognize degrees given by non-accredited schools, so this is a crucial step in your process to choosing an associate degree. Moreover, your credits would not be transferable between a non-accredited school and an accredited one.
So be sure to do your research thoroughly to ensure the school you pick is accredited and will provide you with a high quality education.
Check the Syllabus
When looking at different associate degree programs in computer science, be sure to thoroughly look over what curriculum each program offers. See what classes are required and what you may be able to specialize in.
Some schools focus in different fields so be sure to explore the course that you may be interested in pursuing, such as:
- Information systems management
- Game programming
- Applications programming
- Web development
- Artificial intelligence
If you know you want to go into a specific field, look for programs that offer concentration in the area you are most interested in.
It’s also helpful to look at the faculty members involved in the college or university. Are there prestigious professors there that would be beneficial for you to get close to? Networking with bright and experienced people is an essential part of getting higher education. They may just help you land your dream job.
On Campus or Online?
Another important factor of choosing the right program for you is the location of the college or university. It may be most convenient for you to choose a local college near your home that you can easily commute to each day. Or perhaps you want a reason to move to a new city, and getting an associate degree in that city will help you start your new life there, with a new network of professionals and opportunities under your belt.
However, if you are looking for a more flexible program that allows you to study from anywhere, then enrolling in an online program could be a viable option. Online degrees are generally cheaper, as well, since there’s no on-campus costs to maintain.
Online colleges such as the University of the People offers an online associate degree in computer science that’s tuition-free. If the costs of getting a degree are holding you back, worry no more. With University of the People, it’s possible to obtain an accredited degree in computer science from the comfort of your home and without breaking the bank. For more information on UoPeople’s Associate of Science in Computer Science program, click here.
It can be overwhelming trying to decide on just one program to pursue your associate degree, but these tips hopefully helped you narrow down your options. It’s best to apply to several different programs that fit your unique needs, so you can see which you get accepted to and which may offer you the best scholarship options.
Good luck on your journey to getting your associate degree in computer science!