Every day, we use computers for a wide variety of tasks. They help us stay connected with our friends and family, entertain us, and even educate us.
But have you ever stopped to think about how these amazing machines work? The answer lies in computer science.
It covers everything from the simplest phone apps to autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence.
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Many people think of computer science as a dry, boring subject. But in reality, it is an incredibly diverse and interesting field with limitless potential.
A degree in computer science can open up a world of opportunities, and there are many types of computer science degrees to choose from.
This article will explore some of the different computer science degree options available and help you decide which one is right for you.
Computer Science Degrees: Types, Differences, and Which is Best for You
When most people think of computer science, they think of coding. But coding is just a small part of what computer science is all about.
While a degree in computer science will give you a broad overview of the field, some majors allow you to specialize in a certain area. For example, you could specialize in artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction, or security.
There are five main types of computer science degrees:
- Associate Degree in Computer Science
- Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science
- Bachelor of Arts Degree in Computer Science
- Master’s Degree in Computer Science
- Doctoral Degree in Computer Science
Each degree has unique benefits, and the best degree for you will depend on your goals and interests.
#1. Associate Degree in Computer Science
All computer science degrees will give you a strong foundation in the basics of the field. But if you’re looking for a more affordable and shorter option, an associate degree in computer science might be the best choice for you.
An associate degree typically takes two years to complete and can be done at a community college or online. Since it’s a shorter program, it is generally less expensive than a bachelor’s degree.
This degree is a good choice if you’re looking to start working as a computer scientist or programmer right after graduation.
If you’re interested in eventually transferring to a bachelor’s degree program, make sure to choose an accredited associate degree program.
Most colleges and universities will accept credits from an accredited associate degree program, but it’s always best to check with your school first.
#2. Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science
Many computer science jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor of science (BSc) in computer science is the most popular degree for students interested in this field.
A BSc in computer science will give you a more in-depth understanding of the subject than an associate degree. You’ll learn about topics like data structures, software engineering, and computer architecture.
You’ll also have the opportunity to specialize in a certain area of computer science, such as artificial intelligence or human-computer interaction.
Most BSc programs take four years to complete, but some schools offer accelerated programs that can be done in three years. You’ll also have the option to study part-time or online.
When choosing a BSc program, make sure to pick an accredited school so that your degree will be recognized by employers.
If you’re unsure if computer science is the right field for you, an associate degree might be an excellent way to test the waters. Between an associate degree and a bachelor’s, the latter is obviously the better choice if you’re looking to start a career in computer science.
But it’s essential to remember that a bachelor’s degree is a significant investment of time and money.
#3. Bachelor of Arts Degree in Computer Science
A Bachelor of Arts (BA) in computer science is similar to a bachelor of science but with a slightly different focus.
Like a bachelor of science, most BA programs take four years to complete. But you might also be able to find accelerated or part-time programs.
Fewer schools offer a BA in computer science than a bachelor of science, so it might be harder to find an accredited program. But if you do find one, make sure to check with your potential employer to see if they accept credits from that particular school.
Choosing between a BSc and BA in computer science depends on your specific goals and interests. If you’re interested in a career that emphasizes technical skills, go for a bachelor of science. But if you’re interested in a career that emphasizes creativity and problem-solving, a BA might be the better choice.
#4. Master of Science Degree in Computer Science
Here’s where things start to get serious. A Master of Science (MSc) in computer science is a graduate degree that will prepare you for a career in academia or research.
With an MSc, you’ll deepen your understanding of computer science concepts and learn about advanced topics, such as algorithms, machine learning, and data mining. You’ll also have the opportunity to specialize in a specific area of computer science.
Typically, an MSc takes two years to complete. But some schools offer accelerated programs that can be done in one year. And if you’re already working in the field, you might be able to find a part-time program that will allow you to study while you continue working.
Before you apply to an MSc program, make sure you have a strong foundation in computer science. Most programs require you to have a BSc in computer science or a related field. And although it’s not required, it might also be helpful to have some work experience in the field.
While an MSc is not required for most computer science careers, it will give you the skills and knowledge you need to pursue a career in academia or research.
Even if you don’t want to pursue a career in academia or research, an MSc can still be a valuable investment. It will give you the chance to deepen your understanding of computer science and specialize in a specific area.
#5. Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science
A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in computer science is the highest degree you can get in the field. With a PhD, you’ll gain in-depth knowledge of computer science concepts and research methods. You’ll also have the opportunity to contribute to the field through your own research.
A PhD usually takes four years to complete, but it can take longer if you’re also working or have other obligations. And like other computer science degrees, you might be able to find an accelerated or part-time program.
As you can imagine, getting a PhD is a big commitment. But if you’re passionate about computer science and want to contribute to the field, it might be the right choice for you.
All you need to apply to a PhD program is a bachelor’s degree. But it’s also helpful to have a master’s degree—especially if you want to pursue a career in academia or research.
And like other computer science programs, most PhD programs require you to have a strong foundation in computer science.
Looking for more info on doctorate programs? Check out the complete information technology PhD guide.
Specialize or just study computer science broadly?
So, you’re interested in studying computer science. But what should you study? Should you specialize in a specific area, or should you just study computer science broadly?
The answer to this question depends on your specific goals and interests. If you’re interested in a particular area of computer science, like artificial intelligence or game development, you might want to specialize.
But if you’re interested in a career that emphasizes problem-solving and creativity, a broad computer science education might be a better fit.
No matter what you decide, make sure you choose a program that matches your interests and goals. And don’t be afraid to change your mind—you can always specialize later, either through a graduate program or on the job.
Some popular computer science specializations are:
- Artificial intelligence
- Database systems
- Information security
- Programming languages
- Software engineering
- Web development
Keep in mind that this is just a small sampling of the many specializations available. So, if you don’t see your specific interest listed here, don’t worry. There’s a good chance you can find a program that matches your interests.
Computer Science Degree Alternatives
Not everyone wants to get a traditional computer science degree. And that’s OK! There are plenty of alternatives to traditional computer science degrees, such as bootcamps and certification programs.
- Bootcamps are short, intense programs that can give you the skills you need to start a new career in computer science. They typically last between 12 and 20 weeks and often have an immersive, hands-on approach to learning. With a bootcamp, you can learn specific programming languages or frameworks. It’s also a good option if you’re interested in a specific area of computer science, like web development or data science.
- Many bootcamps offer career support services, such as job placement assistance and mentorship programs. And some bootcamps even offer guaranteed job placement—meaning they’ll refund your tuition if you don’t get a job within a specific time frame.
- Certification Programs
- If you’re already working in the tech field, getting certified in a specific programming language or technology can help you advance your career. Certification programs are typically shorter than degree programs and are usually less expensive. They are also a flexible way to learn since you can often complete them online.
- That said, certification programs don’t always teach you everything you need to know. They usually focus on teaching you how to use a specific technology. So, if you’re interested in a more general education in computer science, a certification program might not be the right fit.
There are different types of computer science degrees, and the right one for you depends on your specific goals and interests.
If you’re not sure what you want to do, a broad computer science degree like a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science might be a good place to start. And if you’re interested in a specific area of computer science, you can always specialize later.
There are also plenty of alternatives to traditional computer science degrees, such as bootcamps and certification programs.
Whatever you decide, make sure you choose a program that matches your interests and goals. And don’t be afraid to change your mind—you can always specialize later, either through a graduate program or on the job.
Frequently Asked Questions
Computer science degrees vary from associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, to doctoral degrees, each offering different levels of depth and specialization in the field of computer science.
A master’s degree in computer science is a graduate program that offers advanced study in specialized areas of computer science. It goes beyond the bachelor’s level, focusing on more complex concepts and often involves research.
Students can expect to learn about software development, programming languages, algorithm design, artificial intelligence, database systems, and network security, among other key topics in computer science.
Yes, a degree in computer science is highly valuable, considering the growing demand for tech professionals in various industries. It opens doors to numerous career opportunities and is often associated with competitive salaries.
Graduates can pursue careers as software developers, data scientists, systems analysts, IT consultants, and more. The degree also lays a strong foundation for advanced studies and research in the field.
Yes, many programs offer specializations such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, data analytics, and software engineering, allowing students to focus on their areas of interest.