If you currently work in computer science and are looking for opportunities to move up in your workplace, an online doctorate in computer science may be a good investment. Computer Science is a broad and ever-expanding field that impacts almost every industry, so the demand for experts is growing as well. However, not everyone has the time or ability to complete a traditional doctoral program, particularly if they are already working full-time. This is where online doctoral programs computer science can really shine.
It may seem difficult or overwhelming to look for legitimate online programs, but don't despair—we're here to help. In this ranking, we'll show you some of the top online doctor of computer science programs and discuss some of the factors you should consider when choosing which program is best for you.
Rating and Ranking Methodology
- Under $20,000—3 points
- Under $15,000—4 points
- Under $10,000—5 points
- Under $5,000—6 points
- Content Customizations (e.g. Minors, Concentrations, Specializations, etc.)—1 Point Per Customization Option
- Format Customizations (e.g. Hybrid/Online, Full-time/Part-Time, etc.)—1 Point Per Customization Option
- 1 point awarded for each unique feature or program that "wowed" us
#1 –Aspen University
Online Doctor of Science in Computer Science
Aspen University's online doctorate computer science degree offering is an affordable, yet comprehensive Doctor of Science in Computer Science program. The curriculum is comprised of twenty courses spanning topics in computer and information science as well as classes in doctoral-level research methods. Standout course titles include Artificial Intelligence, Modern Compiler Design, Technology and Innovation Management, and Discrete Mathematics for Computer Scientists. The program is designed to be completed within 25 months. Graduates of this online doctor of computer science program go on to find positions as computer and information systems managers, computer network support specialists, search marketing strategists, web administrators, and more.
Graduate Tuition: $6,975
#2 –Mississippi State University
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Computational Engineering
The online doctorate computer science degree offering from Mississippi State University is an interdisciplinary online Doctor of Philosophy in Computational Engineering. The program requires 72 credit hours of study beyond the bachelor of science. This includes 48 credit hours of coursework and 24 credits of dissertation research and preparation. Standout courses include Engineering Design Optimization, Computational Fluid Dynamics, Advanced Process Computation, and Linear Programming. Students will also take courses in high-performance computing and numerical mathematics.
Graduate Tuition: $7,780
#3 –Colorado Technical University
Online Doctor of Computer Science
Colorado Technical University's online doctorate in computer science program is a 96-credit hour Ph.D. program in general computer science. Requirements for the program include Current Topics in Computer Science and Information Systems, Futuring and Innovation, and Principles of Research Methods and Design. The curriculum also allows for ten elective courses, enabling students to achieve some degree of content customization. A doctoral dissertation is also required for this online doctor of computer science offering.
Graduate Tuition: $12,139
#4 –Northcentral University
Online Doctorate in Applied Computer Science
The online doctorate in computer science option from Northcentral University is a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program with a specialty in Applied Computer Science. The 54-credit hour program is comprised of eighteen different courses and is designed to be completed within 39 months. Specific course titles for the specialization include Complex Database Management Systems, Advanced Topics in Network Communication, Enterprise Network Architecture, and Software Engineering Fundamentals for Technology Leaders. A doctoral dissertation is also required for this online doctorate computer science degree.
Graduate Tuition: $16,821
#5 –Villanova University
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Electrical and Computer Engineering
The online doctor of computer science offering from Villanova University is an online Doctor of Philosophy in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Enrolled students will study highly specialized topics in computer science, including electrical communications, photonic fiber sensors, advanced computer and mobile networks, and microgrids, for example. Although the ideal online doctorate in computer science candidate will already hold a master's degree in computer science or a related field, the university will also accept the rare student with a bachelor of science degree. Qualifying exams are also required for admission into this selective program.
Graduate Tuition: $17,917
Accreditation for Online Doctoral Programs Computer Science
Proper accreditation is often what separates a legitimate, high-quality program from a scam or low-quality program, and it is especially important to look into when considering an online doctorate in computer science program. While it might not seem like accreditation is all that important on the surface, in reality, it does three important things: it makes transferring credits easier; it makes potential employers much more likely to respect your degree, and it ensures that a program's curriculum is regularly reviewed for quality and relevance.
There are two main types of accreditation: programmatic and institutional. Programmatic accreditation is, as the name suggests, specific to a single major or program. Institutional accreditation, on the other hand, applies to the entire university or college.
Programmatic accreditation, which is sometimes referred to as specialized accreditation, is best. This is because it means that an accrediting agency looked explicitly and thoroughly into the specific program that you are interested in. However, not all fields have a specialized accrediting agency, and some agencies do not have any standard set for doctoral programs yet. That said, as long as the school you choose is institutionally accredited, you should be fine.
Online Doctor of Computer Science Concentrations and Specialization Options
Computer science is an incredibly broad field, so most online doctorate computer science degree programs include different concentrations or other specialization options. Often, these will be clearly separated into different tracks, but sometimes the opportunities for specialization may be more ambiguous.
The most common specializations available within online doctorate in computer science programs are cybersecurity, data analysis, and enterprise information systems. It's a good idea to look for a program that specifically offers a concentration that matches your career goals, but don't fret if you can't. Students are typically able to explore their specific interests through their research and dissertation.
Another thing to consider in terms of becoming more specialized within your specific online doctor of computer science program is your chosen school's research interests. If you find that a school you are interested in is doing a lot of research in an aspect of computer science that matches your personal interests and career goals, that school may be a good match for you.
Online Doctorate Computer Science Degree Residency and Dissertation
Near the end of an online doctor of computer science degree program, students will begin work on their dissertation, which typically includes extensive research, a lengthy paper, and an oral presentation. Because this work is much more suited for an in-person format, much of it is done during a residency.
Residencies are in-person components of an online program that most online doctoral programs computer science require before students can graduate. During their time on campus, students may participate in seminars, intensive research, and symposiums. While this may seem like an inconvenience to students who prefer the online format, residencies are an excellent opportunity for students to get the interaction and networking opportunities that a completely online format cannot provide.
You may find that some online doctoral programs computer science are, in fact, completely online programs with no residency requirements. However, this is rare, and students interested in an online doctorate computer science degree should expect to have to make at least one trip to campus. This is especially important to consider if you live far from your school's physical location.
Prerequisites for Online Doctoral Programs Computer Science
Every online doctor of computer science program is different, so there's no one-size-fits-all answer for what is required to start your doctoral studies. However, there are a few things that tend to be the same between programs.
First, most programs will require you to submit test scores from a graduate school admission test such as the GRE. Many also require a master's degree in a related field, though accelerated programs in which students earn their masters on their way to a doctorate are not too uncommon. Another common requirement is relevant work experience.
Some programs allow certain requirements to be waived so long as other requirements are met, but this varies greatly between programs.
Paying for Your Online Doctorate Computer Science Degree
As with any other degree, an online doctorate computer science degree can be expensive. It's a good idea to have at least a basic plan for how you want to pay for your degree before starting the program so that financial concerns do not affect your studies.
The good news is that many online degrees are much more affordable than their on-campus counterparts, and most of the methods you used to pay for your undergraduate and master's degrees are still available to fund your online doctorate in computer science. If it's been a few years since you finished your last degree and you're not so familiar with the process anymore, don't worry—we'll provide a quick refresher.
First, be sure to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, as soon as possible for the aid year for which you are applying. The FAFSA determines what government grants and loans you are eligible for, even at the doctoral level.
Grants such as the ones awarded through the FAFSA and scholarships provided through your school or other organizations are the best place to start. You don't have to worry about paying these back like you do with loans. Another payment method that you don't have to pay back that may not have been available to you previously is tuition assistance from your employer. If you plan to stay with your current employer for the long haul, they may be willing to invest in your professional development and cover part of the cost of your education.
If you need to take out a loan, try to stick with the government-backed loans awarded through your FAFSA. These will cost you less than private loans and include more benefits of which you can take advantage.
Career Information for Online Doctorate Computer Science Degree Graduates
Computer science is such a broad field that it can be difficult to summarize the career opportunities and advancements available to individuals graduating with an online doctorate computer science degree. The field's interdisciplinary nature means that graduates will be able to work in a wide range of industries in both the private and public sector.
The most common professions for individuals with an online doctor of computer science degree are university faculty and computer and information researchers, as a doctorate is a must-have for these careers. Some people may use their degree to move into a high-level position in the IT department of their current workplace as well, though a doctorate is not always necessary for jobs like these that are less research-focused.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for individuals working in computer and information research was $111,840. Individuals with higher level degrees will likely find themselves in jobs that pay a bit higher than the median. The job outlook for this field is also much better than average, with employment of computer and information research scientists projected to grow 19% in the next ten years.
Certifications for Online Doctor of Computer Science Students
If you're looking for opportunities to gain extra credentials to supplement your online doctorate in computer science, you should consider pursuing some of the certifications options available through online doctorate in computer science programs. Certifications are big in the world of computer science and IT, and by the time you've completed your degree, it's likely that you'll be prepared for several advanced certifications.
There are so many certification options available in computer science that it may be a little overwhelming to pick which ones to pursue. If you're looking into advanced certifications, you should look for ones that are more specialized and match the subfield you are most interested in. Basic certifications tend to be more general.
Just like degree programs, it's important to make sure your certifications are accredited and by a well-respected organization. Since the main purpose of certification is often bolstering a resume, it is wise to choose a certification program that is recognizable and in-demand. CISCO and CompTIA are examples of well-known providers that offer some of the credentials potential employers are searching for.
Don't bog yourself down trying to obtain too many credentials, though. At the level of specialization that most doctoral students have achieved, excessive credentials are either redundant or irrelevant. They can also be a little pricey and time-consuming. You don't want this to distract from the important work of your degree program.
Before looking into certification programs on your own, check to see if your school or employer promotes any specific certifications. Some online doctorate in computer science degree programs include certification tracks, and some employers recommend specific certifications for their employees. Not only does this narrow down your options, but it also may turn out to save you money, as the school or employer may be willing to foot the bill for training memberships or exam vouchers.
Frequently Asked Questions for Students interested in Online Doctoral Programs in Computer Science
It's typical for individuals interested in online doctoral programs in computer science to have many questions about studying online. It's important to make sure that these issues are addressed before making a commitment, as doctoral programs, though often worth the investment, can be expensive and time-consuming. Below, you'll find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about online doctorate computer science degree programs.
How much does an online doctorate in computer science cost?
This depends heavily on your specific program. As you can see by our ranking, tuition costs can vary quite a bit from program to program. The good news is that it is likely more affordable than you think, especially once you factor in your financial aid options. As we noted above, online programs tend to be considerably cheaper than their traditional counterparts, and with an online program, you don't have to worry about costs related to commuting to campus like you would if you were attending a traditional program.
Are online doctorate computer science degrees lower quality than traditional doctorate computer science degrees?
Generally speaking, no. Most of the time, courses in an online degree program have the same basic curriculum and is accredited by the same agency or association as the courses taught on campus. Many are even taught by the same faculty. That said, certain aspects of the online format may make online classes less effective for an individual. To be successful, a distance student must be very self-motivated and not depend so much on classroom interaction and learning environment.
Will potential employers respect my online doctor of computer science degree?
On most transcripts, it is not noted that a student took the program online instead of traditionally. This means that, unless you offer the information yourself, a potential employer would not necessarily know that your degree was earned online. Plus, as long as you obtain your degree from an accredited institution, it shouldn't matter to your employer whether you studied traditionally or online.
How long will it take for me to earn my online doctorate computer science degree?
Again, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The amount of time it will take to complete your online doctorate computer science degree depends on a variety of factors, but the biggest is whether you are studying part-time or full-time. Some programs say that they can be completed in only a few years, and while this may be technically true, it is likely that this is only possible if you're a full-time student with a somewhat heavy course load. More commonly, students are studying part-time while also working a full-time job. Students in this category may take up to seven years to complete their degree at this slower pace.
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By BVS Staff