In its simplest terms, computer science is the study of computers and computational processes. This technical discipline covers both theory and practice, but programs tend to focus on either the theoretical study of computation and algorithms or the practical techniques for implementing computer applications. Students in an associate degree computer science program will also explore other subject areas, such as computational complexity theory, computer graphics, programming language theory, computer programming, and complex systems. The associate degree provides a comprehensive introduction to computer science and teaches students the basic skills needed to work in this growing field.

Why an Associate Degree?

Graduates of the associate program will be ready to start an entry-level computer science occupation or transfer to a four-year institution. This two-year program is one of the quickest ways to satisfy the postsecondary education requirement and jump into the workforce. Although there are plenty of jobs for associate degree holders, it is not uncommon for students to go back to school to earn their bachelor’s degree in computer science. Doing so may open the door for more employment opportunities and advancement prospects.

Getting Into an Associate Degree Program

Admission depends on several different factors. However, most schools and programs require applicants to have the following:

  • High school diploma or its equivalent
  • Desired scores on the SAT, ACT, and/or entrance exam
  • Minimum GPA

Inside a Computer Science Associate Degree Program

Computer science online associate degrees typically take two years to complete and include a wide variety of classes, such as introduction to computer systems, applied calculus, data structures and algorithms, computer architecture, programming, and other technical subjects. Students may have additional general education courses and graduation requirements to fit into their schedules. Some programs offer optional concentrations and electives to enhance your educational experience and lead you toward a specialization.

Like most online programs, computer science majors will also access their lectures, class assignments, grades, and tests or quizzes on the web through a learning management system, such as Blackboard or Moodle. Although online classes are normally self-paced, most do have some sort of scheduled readings, discussions, or exams to ensure full participation. Communication and self-motivation are crucial to your success in online classes. When academic, financial, or career assistance is needed, online students can reach out to their school officials for help.

What’s Next for Computer Science Associate Degree Holders?

Completion of the online associate computer science degree opens the door for several exciting careers within the computer science field. Many associate degree holders become computer support specialists, network and computer systems administrators, or computer programmers. Although some employers in these occupations prefer to hire workers with a bachelor’s degree, many will accept a minimum of an associate degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer support specialists made an average annual salary of $46,260 in 2010, whereas network and computer systems administrators earned $69,160, and computer programmers made $ $71,380. Keep in mind that additional schooling and work experience can lead to job promotions and pay raises.

Graduates generally go on to earn their bachelor’s degree in computer science to expand their computing knowledge and skills. Earning a bachelor’s degree will improve students’ career options, both in the field of computer science and elsewhere. Depending on your employer or desired specialty, the bachelor’s or master’s degree may be a requirement for employment.