What Are the Different Types of Computer Degree Programs?

Maggie Worth

Computer degree programs vary in a number of ways. Degree courses may be offered in traditional settings, online, or though a combination of delivery methods. They may be offered by public, private, or for-profit institutions. Programs may lead to associate, bachelor, master, or doctoral degrees, and others may result in certificates. Perhaps most importantly, select programs offer varied course content and prepare students for different types of careers.

Computer degree programs are available at a range of levels, from associate and bachelor degrees on up to master's or PhD.
Computer degree programs are available at a range of levels, from associate and bachelor degrees on up to master's or PhD.

One distinguishing factor between computer degree programs is course format. Some programs, particularly those leading to certificates or advanced degrees, are offered online. Others are offered only in traditional brick-and-mortar settings, while still others are hybrid programs that combine the two delivery methods. Each format has pros and cons for students to consider.

Many types of institutions offer computer degree programs. Public colleges are those run by governmental agencies. Private colleges are run by groups, churches, individuals, or organizations, with the primary emphasis being on education and little or no intent to turn a profit. For-profit universities are generally run by corporations as profit-making ventures with the product offering being education.

Students can earn a variety of degrees through computer degree programs. At the two-year or associate level, the degree may be an associate of arts or an associate of applied science. Bachelor degrees may be a bachelor of science (BS) or bachelor of arts (BA). The same is true of master-level programs. Doctoral degrees are generally PhDs but may be in a number of subfields.

Field of study is extremely important when considering computer degree programs. Most fields are classified as either technology programs, such as computer science, or business programs, such as information systems. In general, technology degrees work with hardware and software, while business-driven programs work with systems and philosophies.

At the most basic higher education levels, particularly associate’s degrees, the technology-driven computer degree programs often focus on installing, modifying, or networking computers. Studies are often very specific to a subspecialty of computers. Business-driven classes are more likely to focus on how computers can be used to increase productivity or otherwise make a business more efficient, successful, or cost-effective.

As studies progress, numerous specializations become possible, particularly on the business side. PhD candidates may choose to focus on information systems or computer science or on the use of computer technology in education. They might also choose computer engineering, digital systems security, enterprise systems, or other subfields.

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