Cheap Online Computer Science Degrees: Finding the Best
Universities are offering cheap computer science degrees online to meet the growing demand for technology professionals.
According to Code.org, IT jobs account for 67% of emerging STEM positions. Yet the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that computer science degrees accounted for just 4.4% of all bachelor’s degrees in the 2018-2019 school year.
Online computer science degrees can make a technology career more accessible and affordable. Keep reading to find out what to look for in an online computer science program and the expected costs.
The tuition and fees information listed below is current as of March 2022.
Online Computer Science Degree Costs
While some computer science degrees can cost upwards of $100,000, affordable options do exist. Online tuition for Florida International University’s computer science degree is just under $27,500 — or about $3,400 per semester — for Florida residents.
Southern New Hampshire University charges $320 per credit for online courses. You can expect to pay $38,400 in total, $21,400 cheaper than the on-campus program.
Western Governors University (WGU) offers an accelerated computer science degree online. Most enrollees finish within two years, paying only $14,500 for tuition. Keep in mind that WGU — like most universities — charges a fee, bringing the total cost over two years to $15,680.
Universities may charge technology, career center, proctor, or graduation fees. You can still have personal expenses, like investing in a laptop. To help cover costs, you can apply for computer science scholarships.
Why Get a Computer Science Degree Online?
Online computer science degrees can help you save money while gaining in-demand skills for the growing tech industry.
Many universities charge less for online degrees. For example, an on-campus computer science degree at St. Leo’s University costs nearly $100,000, but the online version totals $47,400. You can also save on accommodation, meal plans, transportation, and parking fees.
Studying online also offers flexibility. Many universities offer asynchronous or self-paced computer science courses, which means you complete the assignments at your convenience within a given time frame.
You can often tailor the program to your career goals by selecting a computer science specialization. Possible concentrations include:
- Data analysis
- Software engineering
- Game and Simulation
- Artificial intelligence
- Information Security
An online computer science degree prepares you for a booming industry. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 13% growth in computing and information technology between 2020 and 2030. In 2020, the median salary for computer science jobs was $91,250.
Computer science courses prepare graduates for success by imparting essential technical and soft skills, including:
- Software development
- Design of algorithms
- systems management
- cloud computing
- Communication and teamwork
Online Computer Science Degrees: Our Top Picks
Using data from NCES, ZDNet’s proprietary algorithm ranked online computer science degrees based on affordability, reputation, and academic quality.
Our top three picks include Florida International University, Oregon State University, and the University of Illinois. For the full list, click to continue reading about the best computer science degrees online.
What to Look for When Choosing an Affordable, High-Quality Online Computer Science Degree
If you are looking for a cheap online computer science degree, quality always matters. Weigh your options against each of the following factors to make an informed decision about your education.
Online computer science degrees generally hold the same accreditation as their in-person counterparts. Seek program-specific accreditation, ideally through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
Hands-on technical practice
Computing is a practical and hands-on field. While some classes focus on theory, many include project components.
Look for a course with individual and collaborative projects. Capstone projects or internships help build your portfolio.
Credit Transfer Opportunities
Transferring past college credits can reduce your overall cost and time to completion. However, many schools limit the number of transferable credits. Compare programs to find the one that can maximize your previous courses.
Job placement assistance
Computer science students enter a highly competitive workforce upon graduation. Choosing a college with job placement assistance and career coaching can help you land a tech job quickly. Many schools facilitate networking opportunities, interview preparation, and job fairs.
Getting a computer science degree from a reputable institution can help you stand out when applying for jobs. Research the institution’s national rankings and companies that hire recent graduates.
Degrees and Faculty Diversity
Most universities include faculty biographies online. Review their credentials and experience to ensure they are experts in the field. Also look for diversity in faculty for more perspectives in your classes.
High quality curriculum
A top-notch online degree includes a comprehensive curriculum. Research various topics, embedded projects, and possible focus options.
If you want to work in a specialized tech job – like cybersecurity or network administration – make sure the program covers these topics.
Consider online computer science programs that offer as many student resources as on-campus options. Tutoring centers, technical support teams and career coaches can help you.
A low student-faculty ratio can foster a personalized learning experience.
With fewer students in a classroom, teachers can spend more time answering your questions and creating an interactive classroom, even in a remote environment.
Alternative Options to Cheap Online Computer Science Degrees
If you want to jump-start your career in a shorter timeframe, consider the following affordable alternatives to an online science degree.
Coding bootcamp offerings at universities and other institutions quickly train individuals to pursue entry-level tech jobs. They incorporate practical projects, career coaching and networking opportunities. Topics can include the following:
- cyber security
- Software development
- UX/UI design
These bootcamps last between four weeks and almost two years, depending on the subject. Most cost between $10,000 and $15,000.
Some of the best coding bootcamps take place online. Computer science and e-learning go well together. These short, intensive programs help people looking to quickly land a job in technology or develop in-demand skills.
Online Computer Science Certificate Programs
Computer science certificates last several months and prepare students for entry-level technology jobs. Courses are generally not as intensive as bootcamps. You can apply earned credits to an associate of information technology or a bachelor’s degree.
The program often focuses on one area of computer science. It can cover programming, software development, or CompTIA exam topics.
Universities can offer IT certificate programs online. You can expect to pay between $3,000 and $12,000.
Online Computer Courses
Many institutions – such as Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – offer individual courses online. You can use these technical courses to enrich your CV without committing to a full study program.
Classes can cost between $50 and $400. You can also find free college courses online at respected universities on sites like Coursera.
Courses usually cover a specific IT topic, such as programming in Python, data communications networks, or cybersecurity. You can spend a few days to a few months on each course.
An online computer science degree can provide an affordable and flexible way to pursue a career in technology. Consider the online programs mentioned above. They can save you money while providing a quality education.
If you’re not interested in a degree, explore the alternative options above to launch your IT career.
This article has been reviewed by Brian Nichols
Born and raised in upstate New York, Brian Nichols began his computer training at a vocational high school where he focused on computer science, computer fundamentals, and networking. Brian then went to his local community college, where he received his associate’s degree in computer information science. He then earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Networking and System Administration from a private college.
Brian now lives in Kansas City, where he works full time as a DevOps engineer. Brian is also a part-time cybersecurity instructor. He is passionate about cybersecurity and helping students succeed.
Brian Nichols is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Independent Assessment Network.
Last revised March 19, 2022.