What are the Different Types of Computer Science Programs?

Carol Francois

Computer science is the study of computer programming and system logic. There are four different types of computer science programs: undergraduate, graduate, technical and online. All of these computer science programs prepare you to work in the information technology sector.

Computer forensics and data recovery are both specialties within the computer science field.
Computer forensics and data recovery are both specialties within the computer science field.

An undergraduate computer science program provides university level education in computer programming, advanced mathematics, engineering principles and system logic. The purpose of this program is to provide the basic training necessary to enhance existing computer languages and fine tune products.

Computer science majors will spend significant time in the computer lab while in school.
Computer science majors will spend significant time in the computer lab while in school.

After successfully completing an undergraduate degree, graduates can expect to find employment in software development companies. They usually work in teams, under an experienced project leader. It is important to realize that these employment opportunities require a significant time commitment. Although they are considered office jobs, the projects typically require long hours, weekends and working from home.

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Graduate computer science programs develop the primary theories of programming languages and network architecture. This work is very theoretical, with a great deal of time invested in developing a detailed understanding of the theories behind computer programming. The expectation is that a graduate of this program will develop new computer languages, structures and integration between the technology and people.

Technologist computer science programs are available from community or career colleges. The training provided is a combination of theoretical and practical. A great deal of the work is hands on, with the opportunity to manipulate existing tools, enhance your skill sets and develop a deeper level of expertise with different computer programs.

Upon graduation, you will be eligible to find employment as a computer technologist or technician. Positions are available in robotics, product testing, development and project management. The opportunities available are focused on hands-on activities that drive the actual sale and support of products.

Online computer science programs provide education via the Internet. These programs are typically undergraduate and certificate-based. The nature of computer science courses lends them very easily to online training. When selecting a school it is important to ensure that they are accredited. Courses completed at a non-accredited school cannot be transferred to another institution, should you decide to complete your schooling at a traditional school.

All four computer science programs will provide the fundamental training necessary to secure a mid-level job in the information technology sector. In order to advance your career, additional training in management or specific software tools may be necessary. Your training in computer science can be further enhanced with certificate programs throughout your career to ensure your skills stay current.

Training in computer science can be further enhanced with certificate programs.
Training in computer science can be further enhanced with certificate programs.

Discussion Comments


@Charred - A major revolution that has taken place in the world of Internet courses for computer science is the popularity of video tutorials.

If you really want to get your hands dirty with software development tools right away, then I encourage you to research websites that offer video tutorials on the language of your choice.

Many of these sites offer hundreds of bite-sized, video tutorials that last anywhere from ten to twenty minutes in length, on targeted topics in computer programming.

You can usually access these sites by paying a modest subscription fee each month. That will get you the skills you need as fast as possible in my opinion.


@allenJo - At our software company we hired a guy right out of college who had a master’s degree in computer science. He had all the right credentials, and he knew the theory.

Within six months, we let him go. He couldn’t pick up the software fast enough; he was all theory, little practical application.

I personally believe that the best computer science programs should offer a generous helping in real world applications and programming languages. This should be done in addition to whatever theoretical instruction is delivered.

It should not be an either/or proposition. Both theory and real world practical application should work together, in order to truly equip students to enter the real world of computer programming and hit the ground running.


@David09 - Yeah, that’s true, but those extra concepts are not that hard to pick up if you at least have some grounding in computer science.

Some people prefer to work in a purely theoretical sphere however. I know one of my college computer science professors belonged to that category.

He had a PhD and wrote obtuse technical articles in peer reviewed publications about exotic computer algorithms. I was fascinated by his work, but I wondered how much real world application there was for a lot of it.

Still, if that’s the kind of thing you like to do, then you’d have to pursue the highest credential in an accredited institution.


When you get out into the real world, all that employers really care about is what programming languages or tools that you know. In that sense, the technologist programs in computer science taught by the local community colleges could serve you effectively in that regard. You won’t need a four year degree if that’s all you aim to do.

However, be forewarned. You'll be missing out on something by not having sufficient grounding in theory. This could be detrimental if, for example, you are exposed to computer concepts on the job that you never studied in depth in school.

I am talking about advanced database concepts or computer algorithms or things like that. So what happens is you end up learning these concepts on the job. In the end, you will have to keep learning.

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