Computer Science Associate Degrees: A Complete Guide
A deep dive into the computer science associate degree, including costs, benefits, curricula, admission requirements, jobs and salaries.
In an increasingly digital world, the demand for professionals with a solid background in computing and information technology is soaring. An associate degree in computer science can be your launchpad to a rewarding career in this field.
A computer science associate degree is a 2-year undergraduate program that typically includes coursework in programming, algorithms, data structures, computer architecture, and mathematics. CS associate degrees offer a strong foundation for students who wish to pursue a bachelor's degree in computer science or begin an entry-level IT career directly after completing the program.
This article will provide an in-depth look at computer science associate degrees, including marketable classes, costs and benefits, potential career paths and salaries. We’ll also highlight some of today's best online computer science associate degrees.
Explore the top-rated online associate degrees in computer science and related fields.
CS Associate Degree Curriculum
While the exact course list will vary by program and institution, here are some of the classes you will take in a well-designed computer science associate degree.
Coding is at the core of any computer science associate degree curriculum. Students in a CS associate degree will learn sought-after programming languages such as Python, Java and C++, and develop skills in writing, testing and debugging code.
This component of a CS associate degree focuses on the fundamental concepts of algorithm design and analysis, and the use of data structures like arrays, lists, stacks, queues and trees.
In this portion of a computer science associate degree, you will learn about the basic architecture and functions of computer hardware and software, including processors, memory, input/output devices, and operating systems.
Computer science associate degrees feature coursework in calculus, discrete mathematics, and linear algebra, which can be vital in developing problem-solving skills and a deeper understanding of comp-sci concepts.
In today’s era of escalating digital threats, information security has made its way into the curriculum of many computer science associate degrees. Students in CS associate programs learn basic cybersecurity skills in areas like secure software development, cryptography, cloud and network security.
This portion of a computer science associate program covers database design, development and management. CS associate students will learn about popular database models, Structured Query Language (SQL), and how to manage large data sets.
Benefits of a CS Associate Degree
Here are some key advantages of pursuing an associate degree in computer science.
An associate degree in computer science is more affordable than a CS bachelor's program, making it attractive to students on a budget. Many computer science associate’s are also available at community colleges, which are significantly cheaper than public and private universities. Explore CS associate degree costs below.
A typical computer science associate degree is completed in two years as a full time student, allowing graduates to enter the workforce sooner. Some schools even offer accelerated CS associate’s which can be completed in 12 to 18 months.
Many community colleges and online institutions offer conveniently scheduled or even self-paced computer science associate degrees, providing flexibility for working professionals who need to balance education with other commitments.
Computer science associate degrees - especially Associate of Arts (AA) and Associate of Science (AS) programs - provide a solid foundation and transferable credits for students who wish to pursue a bachelor's or master’s degree in computer science and related fields.
CS Associate Degree Jobs & Salaries
An associate degree in computer science can open up various job opportunities in computing and information technology. Here are some potential career paths for graduates of a computer science associate’s program and the average salary for each role.
|CS Career Path||Average Salary|
|Junior Software Engineer||$77,000|
|Junior Computer Scientist||$87,000|
|User Interface Developer||$92,000|
|Mobile Application Developer||$103,000|
While a computer science associate degree provides the foundational knowledge to pursue many of these jobs, further education or IT certifications may be required for competitive positions.
CS Associate Degree Requirements
Admission requirements for computer science associate degrees vary by institution, however the standard requirement is a high school diploma or GED, as well as proficiency in reading and writing English so you can follow the instructors and course materials. Some associate degrees in computer science have additional requirements, such as a minimum GPA (usually above a 2.0 or 3.0), certain standardized test scores on the SAT or ACT, and letters of recommendation.
Computer Science Associate Degree Cost
The net price of an associate degree in computer science will vary depending on your location, school, and access to scholarships and financial aid. That said, here are the average annual tuition costs for computer science associate degrees, broken down by institution type.
- Community College: $3,730
- State College (In-State): $5,540
- State College (Out-of-State): $15,650
- Private University: $28,750
These computer science associate degree costs represent tuition and fees only - not inclusive of room and board, books and so on. Remember, these costs are best used as a guideline since higher education prices vary widely by state and institution. Always do your due diligence and contact admissions advisors for exact CS associate degree prices.
Types of CS Associate Degrees
Computer science associate degrees typically fall into one of four categories: Associate of Science (AS), Associate of Applied Science (AAS), Associate of Arts (AA), and Associate of Applied Business (AAB). Here are the key differences between the most popular types of computer science associate degree.
- Purpose: AS in CS degrees prepare students for further study in computer science and related fields. This program provides a strong foundation in the scientific and mathematical principles underlying computing.
- Curriculum: The curriculum typically includes courses in programming, algorithms, data structures, computer architecture, mathematics, and sometimes introductory courses in areas like cybersecurity and database management. General education courses are included but less emphasized than an AA in computer science.
- Transferability: College credits from an AS degree are usually transferable to a bachelor's program in computer science or a similar field.
- Purpose: AAS degrees in CS prepare students for immediate employment in computer science or information technology.
- Curriculum: The coursework focuses on practical skills and knowledge needed for entry-level positions in areas like programming, software development, network administration, database management, and cybersecurity.
- Transferability: While some credits from an AAS in CS may be transferable to a bachelor's program, this degree is not specifically designed for transfer. AAS students planning to pursue a bachelor's should consult the institution they plan to transfer to regarding credit transfer policies.
- Purpose: AA in CS degrees provide a broad liberal arts education along with foundational courses in computer science and IT.
- Curriculum: AA curricula includes general education courses in areas like humanities, social sciences and communication, in addition to basic computer science courses in programming, computer architecture, networks and data management.
- Transferability: Credits from an AA in computer science are usually transferable to a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field of study.
- Purpose: AAB degrees in computer science are designed to prepare students for immediate employment in business-centric technology positions.
- Curriculum: The curriculum is focused on the practical application of computer science in a business context, including classes in programming, data analytics, and computer information systems.
- Transferability: Similar to the AAS degree, some credits from an AAB in computer science may transfer to a bachelor's, but this type of program is not designed for maximizing transfer credits.
Computer Science Associate Degrees Online
Research and compare the top-rated online computer science associate degrees alongside CS programs at other degree levels.
- Python, Java, and C++ Coding
- Agile Project Management
- Data Structures & Algorithms
- System Analysis and Design
- Computer Programming & Web Design
- Network Hardware & Operating Systems
- Database and Info Systems Management
- Introduction to Information Security
CS Associate Degree FAQs
IT and education insiders answer frequently asked questions from computer science associate degree candidates.
Requirements for CS associate degrees vary by institution, but typically include graduating high school or passing a high school equivalency exam like the GED. A small percentage of computer science associate degrees also require a minimum GPA or standardized test score grade for admission.
Yes, many schools offer high-quality computer science associate degree programs online. An online CS associate degree provides greater flexibility for busy students who need to balance their studies with other commitments like work or family, or those who don’t live near their school of choice.
Yes, most community colleges and universities design their computer science associate degree to be transferable to an accredited bachelor's program. However, it’s essential to confirm with the institution you plan to transfer to, as credit transfer policies vary.
Yes, an associate degree in computer science is a cost-effective and time-saving way to launch a career in the high-tech sector or pave the way to further education. With a strong demand for computer science professionals, a CS associate degree can unlock a range of lucrative job opportunities.
An associate degree in computer science can help you land entry-level roles in computer programming, web and mobile application development, software engineering, computer science, and data analytics.
An associate degree in computer science is an affordable and time-effective option for students wishing to launch a career or pursue further studies in the proliferating tech sector. As technology continues to evolve and permeate our lives, the skills acquired in a computer science associate degree will remain a sought-after commodity.