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Computer Science Associate's Degree Vs. Bachelor's Degree

What are the differences between computer science associate's and bachelor's degree programs? Explore the primary features of each, including curriculum, length, benefits, cost and potential careers for graduates.

What are the Differences Between Computer Science Degrees?

Computer science associate's and bachelor's degree programs have several key differences, including what content they include and what jobs they prepare students for. Associate's degree programs are shorter, typically taking two years of full-time study, while bachelor's degree programs take around four years of study. Outside of content differences, which we will address below, the two programs can have substantially different costs, depending on the school. Students who are on a budget may find an associate's degree program more appropriate. And they can then transfer their associate's degree into a more focused bachelor's degree program. The differences in program content are discussed below.

Compared Degrees Associate's degree, Bachelor's degree
Associate's Degree Features 2-year degree, introductory courses in computer science
Bachelor's Degree Features 4-year degree, more in-depth and focused coursework
Associate's Degree Jobs Computer programmers, web developers, information technology specialists
Bachelor's Degree Jobs Software developers, computer network architects, database administrators

What Are the Features of a Computer Science Associate's Degree?

Associate's degree programs in computer science include general education courses, such as English and communication, along with computer science and related coursework. These programs often include around 60 credit hours of coursework and usually culminate in an associate of science degree. Associate's degree programs include classes from a broad range of computer science topics, providing students with a general foundation of computer science. Some of the classes that can be included in computer science associate's degree programs are listed below.

  • Intro to Computer Science
  • Computer Networks
  • Fundamentals of Cyber Security
  • Object-Oriented Programming
  • C++ Fundamentals
  • Intro to Java

What Are the Features of a Computer Science Bachelor's Degree?

Bachelor's degree programs include the generalized coursework that is found in associate's degree programs as well as more in-depth and focused coursework and most culminate in a bachelor of science degree. Many computer science bachelor's degree programs offer degree concentration options, which allow students to focus more of their classes on topics of interest to them. Some computer science concentration options are cybersecurity, networking, database management, software engineering and project management. Courses vary by concentration but can include some of those listed below.

  • Software Engineering
  • Programming for the Web
  • Operating Systems
  • Programming Languages
  • Organization for Computers
  • Database Structures
  • Big Data

What Jobs Can I Get with an Associate's Degree?

Because computer science associate's degree programs include introductory computer science content, they can prepare students for entry-level positions in and outside of the computer and technology industries. Graduates could use their developed knowledge in non-computer fields, such as administration and technical roles, or enter the workforce in a computer and information technology (IT) position. Some of the careers available to computer science associate's degree graduates are listed below.

  • Computer programmers
  • Information technology specialists
  • Software engineers (with experience)
  • Network and system administrators (with experience)
  • Database administrators (with experience)
  • Web developers

What Jobs Can I Get with a Bachelor's Degree?

Bachelor's degree programs in computer science give students a deeper understanding of computer science processes and topics, and often enable students to focus their expertise in a specific discipline of computer science. Because of this, graduates have better opportunities for employment in computer science-related positions compared to those with an associate's degree. Some of the careers available to graduates of computer science bachelor's degree programs are:

  • Software developers
  • Information security analysts
  • Network and computer systems administrators
  • Computer network architects
  • Computer systems analysts
  • Database administrators