If you’re interested in going into computer science but you can’t or don’t want to attend classes on campus, you’ve probably considered getting an online degree. Many universities offer some version of an online computer science degree, and each program usually has its strengths and weaknesses. Computer science is not like biology or chemistry in that it doesn’t require in-person labs, although there are many benefits of going to CS lectures in person, such as the opportunity to meet face-to-face with your instructors and work in groups with other students.
Choosing the Best Online Computer Science Degree
Most of the for-profit online colleges offer only a four-year IT degree, and this degree is not the same credential as a bachelor of science in computer science. A BS in IT is not looked on favorably in the computer science industry and doesn’t make you qualified to find employment as a programmer or researcher. However, many public brick-and-mortar universities offer online CS programs that are the equivalent of a traditional degree and give you all the same opportunities that an in-person program does. Another benefit of enrolling in a public college is that a four-year degree typically costs about 20 percent less at one of these schools than at a for-profit online college.
When you graduate and start looking for work, you will be tested on your knowledge during your job interviews, and this hiring test is really what counts when it comes to finding employment. You need to be polished on your knowledge of algorithms, data structures and coding ability.
Getting Hired as a Programmer
In interviews, you will be asked questions that cover basically the same material as what you learned in college, such as how to convert a looping function to a recursive function and how to prove the time complexity of an algorithm. You will also be quizzed on material that isn’t usually covered during a degree, such as how to implement a particular algorithm in Java or how to debug a program that doesn’t work properly. CS programs don’t usually go into very much depth on writing code, and programmers have to learn that part of their jobs on their own time.
It’s a good idea to take on some extracurricular projects while you’re in school, and the best way to get experience working with other programmers is by contributing to an open-source project. It doesn’t matter which project you choose; it should just be a project that matters to you. Don’t worry about making mistakes because these projects are managed through revision control software, and the project leader can easily undo incorrect revisions. If you don’t yet have enough confidence to start revising source code, these projects always need people to write documentation, which gives you a chance to get your feet wet.
The software industry is booming, and by honing your programming skills, you put yourself ahead of the many programmers who fail their in-interview tests. It doesn’t matter if you get an in-person degree or an online degree as long as you take your job seriously and be as sharp as possible.
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