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What kind of online computer science degree should you pursue?

A person sitting in front of two computer monitors with code displayed on them.Read our guide to understand the difference between Oregon State’s online computer science degrees and how to choose the best fit for you

As our world increasingly relies on computers and technology, more and more people are exploring career options related to computer science. As a wide and varied industry that touches everything from music and science to health care and business, there are many opportunities to specialize and build a satisfying career. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, technology and computer science careers also tend to offer higher salaries, more advancement opportunities and increased job security.

But how do you know which program is right for you?

Oregon State University offers several online degree programs in computer science, each designed with different prospective students in mind. The program you choose will depend on a few factors:

  1. Your current level of education.
  2. Whether you have prior academic or professional experience in computer science.
  3. Your goals for the future.

Below we break down Oregon State’s four main computer science online degree offerings to help you find the best fit for your experience and goals.

1. B.S. in Computer Science (180 credits)

Who it’s for

If you don’t yet have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university and want to pursue computer science as a career — this is the best program for you. In addition to studying computer science, you’ll fulfill your baccalaureate core, a required component of every undergraduate degree.

Skills you’ll learn

Once you’re admitted to the online B.S. in Computer Science program, you’ll work with an academic advisor to customize your focus area and submit a proposed plan of study. Online students can shape their degree programs to specialize in the following areas:

No matter which option you choose, Oregon State’s online B.S in Computer Science will give you a solid foundation in programming fundamentals, software engineering, theories of computation, database structures, network security, operating systems, and so much more.

Career outcomes

There are many opportunities in the field of computer science, and earning a bachelor’s degree can set you up for a variety of entry-level positions in this field. To get a better sense of the opportunities out there, visit the BLS occupational outlook page to view different positions, median pay, expected job outlooks, etc. Oregon State’s Career Development Center also offers helpful tools and career guidance that can help you explore potential pathways.

The College of Engineering also hosts a biannual Career Showcase for undergraduate computer science students. These events feature small group sessions, panel discussions with instructors, and networking activities with recruiters from companies like Garmin, HP, IBM, Intel, Xerox, and more.

2. Postbaccalaureate B.S. in Computer Science (60 credits)

Who it’s for

A computer science degree can unlock new opportunities within your current career, or help you change directions entirely. But going back to school for another undergraduate degree can feel daunting. That’s why Oregon State offers an online postbaccalaureate degree in computer science. This is a uniquely flexible and rigorous program that’s designed for those who hold a bachelor’s already, in any subject except computer science. Since you’ve already completed your core classes through your previous degree, you can earn a computer science postbacc in only 60 credits. Admissions details are outlined on the College of Engineering’s CS online postbacc admissions page.

If your previous bachelor’s degree is in computer science, or a similar subject area, check out Oregon State’s online M.S. and MEng options instead.

Skills you’ll learn

The postbaccalaureate degree includes core courses in computer science, along with courses that teach you the latest in computing technologies, software design, web development, and mobile/cloud computing. You’ll learn about algorithms, computer architecture, assembly languages, operating systems and more. You can view the full course details in Oregon State’s academic catalog.

Career outcomes

The job outlook for postbaccalaureate computer science students is the same as students who earn their B.S. in computer science. The postbaccalaureate program includes the same biannual Career Showcase, which features small group sessions, panel discussions with instructors, and networking activities with recruiters from companies like Garmin, HP, IBM, Intel, Xerox, and more.

Additionally, you can combine a computer science postbacc with your previous degree and experience to unlock new career opportunities. For example, if you earned a previous undergraduate degree in biology, earning a postbacc in computer science can lead to work in areas like bioinformatics. More examples are available on our careers page.

3. M.S. in Computer Science (45 credits)

Who it’s for

If you already have academic or professional experience in computer science, then an online master’s in computer science is a great opportunity to deepen your existing knowledge and skills. Earning a master’s degree in computer science will set you up to move into leadership positions or go on to pursue a PhD in computer science.

Oregon State’s M.S. in Computer Science is more research-oriented than the MEng program. You’ll go deeper into emerging topics and work 1-on-1 with an expert Oregon State faculty member to design and complete a research project. We recommend this program option for those who are interested in research and development. It’s also a great fit if you want to eventually earn a PhD in computer science.

You can read detailed admissions information on the OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science website. Generally, an undergraduate computer science degree is required for admission to the M.S. program, but this requirement can be waived in exceptional cases.

Skills you’ll learn

The courses you’ll take in Oregon State’s online M.S. in Computer Science will deepen your understanding and prepare you to become a team leader in areas like artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, software engineering, computer graphics and more. You’ll be able to choose your focus area from the following options and work with leading researchers in that field:

As part of this program, you’ll create a project in collaboration with an expert faculty member. This can be done from a distance without any in-person requirements.

Career outcomes

Earning a master’s degree in computer science can expose you to new opportunities or allow you to advance into technical lead or management positions. The specialization that a master’s degree affords you will often lead to increased responsibility and a higher salary.

It all depends on your specialization, but students who earn a master’s degree in computer science might go on to lead software development teams or become machine learning engineers, information research scientists, digital forensics analysts, senior database architects, information security managers or computer research scientists.

4. MEng in Computer Science (45 credits)

Who it’s for

Like the M.S. in Computer Science, the online MEng degree program is for those who have previously studied computer science or have professional experience in software development, although anyone who meets the admissions requirements may apply.

The MEng program is designed for those who want to deepen their technical skills and advance professionally, but who are not interested in completing a thesis project. You’ll take the same 45 credits of intensive coursework as the M.S. program. Additionally, you’ll complete a final portfolio that demonstrates your advanced skills and will help you meet your professional goals.

You can read detailed admissions information on Oregon State’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science website.

Skills you’ll learn

Like the M.S in Computer Science, you’ll go deep into a topic area of your choosing and advance your knowledge and skills in subject areas like computer architecture, machine learning, privacy and surveillance, algorithms and software engineering.

Career outcomes

The career outcomes for the MEng in computer science are similar to those for the M.S. in computer science. Earning a master’s degree can lead to a higher salary, and going deep into an area of specialization can help you move into team leader positions. Sample positions include senior software engineers, business intelligence analysts, network architects, information security managers, or chief technology officers.

Ready to get started?

Now that you know more about Oregon State’s online computer science programs, check out Oregon State Ecampus’ detailed guidance on how to apply.

Or you can create an account and get started on your application today.


Still have questions? The Oregon State Ecampus enrollment services team is available to help by email, phone or live chat.

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