This ranking of the most affordable online computer science doctorate degrees was originally published in July 2018. The most recent updates (June 2020) may affect the ranking order, but the list has not been re-ordered.
If you are a computer science professional looking for an online Ph.D. in computer science, then these five schools are the place to look. The online Ph.D. in computer science and computer engineering is still quite rare. The reason online Ph.D. degrees in computer science are rare is that the highest levels of the computer science profession tend to only require a master’s degree. Only the high-level research going on in universities and private companies requires the researchers to have a Ph.D. in computer science or engineering. So, the online Ph.D. in computer science, like most Ph.D.s, isn’t for everybody. But if you want to teach computer science at a college level, or wish to pivot into high-end computer science research, then the online computer science degree might be the right choice for you. These are the only five online Ph.D. degrees offered by regionally accredited universities. Most of them aren’t available 100% online as they still require periodic work and research to be done in person with your advisor. However, they do offer more flexibility than on-campus degrees because they don’t require you to fully relocate for four years. The following online Ph.D. degrees in computer science and engineering are ranked from least affordable to most affordable. The tuition cost listed is the cost of the full four years of each degree, and these numbers are taken from each school’s website.
5. Clarkson University
Online Ph.D. in Computer Science
Students can transfer up to 30 credits with a grade of B or higher from a master of science in computer science degree into this 90-credit Ph.D. program. Areas of interest for this program include theory and algorithms, computer systems and networks, languages and software development, and artificial intelligence and applications. Students will spend regular residency periods on-campus doing essential work with their advisor.
- Tuition: $124,920
4. Nova Southeastern University
Ph.D. in Computer Science Online
Students looking to enter the online Ph.D. in computer science degree must have a master’s degree with a 3.25 GPA or higher on a 4.0 scale from a regionally accredited university. Students will take courses like theory and principles of programming, operating systems, data communications and computer networking, database management systems, artificial intelligence, secure systems analysis and design, and knowledge discovery in databases.
- Tuition: $78,144
3. Mississippi State University
Online Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering
The online Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering degree at Mississippi State gives students the chance to focus on both hardware and software. Some of the areas of study available include communications, controls, computer architecture and digital computing, and signal, image, and speech processing. Courses include an introduction to electronic circuits, signals and systems, digital devices and logic design, and digital system design.
- Tuition: $32,274
2. Northcentral University
Online Ph.D. in Computer Science
At Northcentral University you can start your online Ph.D. in computer science degree at the beginning of any week. Students will explore broad subject areas like software engineering, artificial intelligence, and data mining and cybersecurity before narrowing their focus down to their precise chosen area of study. This online computer science Ph.D. can be completed 100% online and totals 60 credit hours.
- Tuition: $67,530 (includes course material fees)
1. Colorado Technical University
Doctor of Computer Science Online
The online doctor of computer science degree at CTU progresses from coursework to research, to dissertation. The coursework offered by this online computer science doctorate includes current topics in computer science and information systems, future and innovation, principles of research methods and design, qualitative research methods, and quantitative research methods.
- Tuition: $59,800
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between an online computer science Ph.D. and a traditional computer science Ph.D.?
Both have their advantages and disadvantages. In a traditional program, it’s easier to build and cultivate your working relationship with your Ph.D. advisor. Doing this over a long distance can be difficult. Modern innovations in education and technology have come a long way. However, the online programs still have a hard time providing the same level of access to an advisor as traditional programs.
Online programs provide you much greater flexibility, especially during the coursework stage of the degree. This flexibility allows students to earn their degree with minimal disruption to their professional and personal lives. Earning a Ph.D. in computer science, online or traditionally, represents a significant investment of both time and resources. However online Ph.D. computer science and engineering degrees offer some relief. Regardless of which you choose, there are pros and cons. I hope our ranking above helps you see plainly what these five online Ph.D. in computer science degrees bring to the table.
Is an online Ph.D. in Computer Science or Computer Engineering a good fit for me?
The answer is maybe. That might not seem very helpful, so allow me to elaborate. In order for the Ph.D. in computer science to be the right fit, you must be absolutely sure of your purpose in earning the degree. Put in the time and effort to research the ways in which the Ph.D. in computer science can help you achieve your career goals. If there are ways to achieve those goals without doing the Ph.D. then the Ph.D. might not be the right choice. Doing an online Ph.D. in computer science isn’t a decision that should be made lightly. Unlike a master’s degree, the Ph.D. requires four years of intense study, research, and writing. In cost, it’s more comparable to the cost of a bachelor’s degree. This represents a significant investment of time and money. Often the Ph.D. is undertaken during a time that could be the prime of your career as a computer scientist, and it can be difficult to work full time while doing your Ph.D. full time. Often Ph.D. students serve as teaching assistants or professors themselves, neither of which earns much money in comparison to computer science professionals, however, with the discounted tuition that often comes with such a position, it can be worth your while.
The best advice is to do a Ph.D. only if there is no other way to accomplish your career goals. This brings us to the next point. Only do a Ph.D. in computer science if you know exactly what you want to do with it. There aren’t really any general knowledge Ph.D.s because that’s what the bachelor’s and master’s degrees accomplish. Ph.D.s by nature are hyper-focused, often focusing on a small part of a single niche in the computer science profession.
Choosing the right Ph.D. Advisor
It has often been said that you don’t choose a Ph.D. program, you choose an advisor. This is because in many cases the advisor is the program. What I mean by that is that a computer science Ph.D. is like an apprenticeship or mentorship. You often must work closely with your advisor from the research stage through the development of your own research and writing of your dissertation based on that research. Your advisor will guide you, offer criticism and encouragement, and help you find your way when you feel lost. When choosing which online Ph.D. programs to apply to, make sure you get a chance to talk to your prospective advisors and have a full understanding of what they will be providing you throughout the process of earning this degree. Determine whether or not you have good chemistry with your prospective advisors as well. A four-year working relationship is a big deal, especially when you’re paying tens of thousands of dollars for it. The right advisor can make all the difference.
What’s the difference between computer science and computer engineering?
A Ph.D. in computer science will tend to be more focused on the research and development of high-level, cutting edge software, pushing the boundaries of what can be done with computers.
Computer engineering Ph.D. programs are more focused on the relationship between the most advanced software and the most advanced hardware. Computer engineers will focus on how to push the limits of hardware, and often how to construct hardware that can utilize the most advanced software more efficiently.
Is online learning the right choice for me?
The answer to this question depends on a variety of factors. Are you self-motivated? Do you think you can do the intensive research and writing of a Ph.D. program with less face-to-face time with your advisor? Do you learn well through video lectures and forum or text-chat or video-chat discussions? Do you know exactly what you want to accomplish by earning an online Ph.D.? Are you certain that the online Ph.D. is the only or best way to accomplish your career goals?
If you can answer yes to the majority of those questions, then the five online Ph.D. degrees in computer science or engineering in our ranking might be a great fit for you.
Why is regional accreditation important?
Regional accreditation is the standard by which all degrees offered in the United States are judged. Most colleges and universities require their faculty to hold regionally accredited degrees. Most regionally accredited graduate programs require students to hold regionally accredited degrees. Following is a list of all regional accreditation agencies.
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
- Western Association of Colleges and Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities
What are the career opportunities and statistics for Ph.D.-holding computer scientists?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a computer and information research scientist is $122,840/year. Entry-level positions require a master’s degree, but a doctorate is often required for the highest level research scientist positions. The job outlook is good, growing at a rate of 16% between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than average.