Computer science has remained one of the most marketable degrees. Due to the rapid growth of technology, demand has consistently grown for educated programmers. While a computer science (CS) degree can require a fairly intense amount of study, it also has the unique advantage of being one of the degrees that is most compatible with a distance education environment.
Those looking for computer science degrees will in many situations opt to study at a university due to the opportunity to work with others and focus entirely on studying. Those that already possess some programming knowledge, are currently employed, are unable to move to attend a university, or have a strong enough independent work ethic may determine that obtaining a CS degree from distance education to be their best option.
An independent work ethic and strong study skills are absolutely essential when it comes to earning a computer science degree. The amount of tutoring and assistance offered to those that cannot come on campus can be limited requiring that pupils either hire their own tutors, excel at figuring concepts out on their own, or otherwise be able to find assistance in learning what can often be fairly hard concepts. For this reason, some distance education programs will require that students at least be able to attend certain math intensive courses in person in order to ensure comprehension of basic programming logic.
There are a number of traditional brick-and-mortar universities which offer computer science degrees through distance learning. They include Dakota State, Florida State, Franklin University, Illinois University, Old Dominion, Oregon State, Regis, University of Maryland and Troy. Many of these programs are fairly expensive; the Oregon State program as an example can cost as much as $40k/year for non-residents. In some cases they could end up costing more than attending the university in-person would cost. They do offer some level of convenience, however, and are much easier to balance with a full time job or other occupation than traditional matriculation.
Dakota State charges a modest tuition of less than $383 per online course regardless of residency. The entire program is approximately 110 credit hours with a moderate portion of general education. Like most CS programs it is fairly math heavy.
Troy University is a decently respected school and offers one of the best prices for a CS degree, but their program is only an applied major which can cause accreditation problems as well as issues if one plans to pursue a Masters in the future. That said, the program is only 36 hours and focuses on programming rather than theory. Additionally, the math requirements for this program are comparatively light which can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on your goals.
Oregon State is often cited as having one of the most attractive programs for those looking to avoid taking too many un-related courses. Their focus is on providing CS classes but they do so through offering a post-bac degree. This means that while one can take 4 years, the program can be completed in as little as 1. The degree given is a full bachelors, but again one must have a degree first in order to get in. This will be particularly attractive to those looking to avoid taking further math courses. At $630 per unit, the course requirements will cost nearly $40,000 which depending on finances could be a bit off-putting to some.
It’s also worth mentioning the University of London’s international programs, particularly to those that do not live in the United States. They offer a Computing and Information Systems as well as a creative computing program which are both very affordable and geared towards those looking to learn from a broader range of studies beyond just programming. The downside is that these programs have far less emphasis on programming and offer a more well-rounded education akin to general information technology programs in the states.
Be sure to research each program before making a decision. Many of these programs are new enough that in some cases they are yet to have any graduates. That can make it difficult to find fellow pupils. There is a definite shift towards offering more computer related courses through distance education so it’s likely that more courses will become available in the next few years.