Computer Science Certificates

Updated May 18, 2023 | Thomas Broderick

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Current and aspiring computer science professionals can earn computer science certificates to improve their job prospects. These programs require undergraduate- or graduate-level coursework and focus on a specific skill set. Learners typically complete a certificate in computer science within one year. Many certificate-seekers continue working while in school.

Individuals with a certificate in computer science often become software developers, back-end developers, and quality assurance engineers. These and related professions may require a certificate and a degree. This article explores computer science certificates in depth, provides the latest tuition information, and answers frequently asked questions.

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Questions About Computer Science Certificates

What computer science certificates are in demand?

Changing economic conditions affect in-demand credentials. Certificates leading to in-demand careers may include software engineering and ethical artificial intelligence.

What jobs can I get with a computer science certificate?

Potential careers for computer science certificate-holders include front-end web developer, full-stack developer, and iOS engineer. Many computer science certificates align with a specific career path or industry subfield.

Can a computer science certificate replace a degree?

Both degree and certificate programs emphasize the skills computer science professionals need. However, employers may limit applicants to those with a bachelor's or master's degree.

Do you need certifications in computer science?

To qualify for more jobs, professionals with a degree or certificate can pursue professional certifications. Companies and organizations award certifications to candidates who pass an exam and meet other requirements.

Why Get a Computer Science Certificate?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that computer and information research scientists earn a median annual salary of $131,490, significantly higher than the median of $45,760 for all occupations. The BLS projects employment for these professionals to increase 22% from 2020-2030. This strong growth may translate to more open positions, even for workers without a master's degree. Growing companies may consider applicants with a bachelor's degree and a graduate certificate in computer science.

Online computer science certificates offer many advantages, especially for working professionals. Some programs offer asynchronous curricula, allowing students to complete assignments around their work schedule.

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How Much Do Computer Science Certificates Cost?

Many computer science certificates cost significantly less than a bachelor's degree. As of May 2022, tuition for the University of California, Santa Cruz's computer programming certificate costs $4,530. However, a program's cost of attendance also includes school fees, technology, and class materials. Some online programs require on-campus visits, which involves commuting costs.

Students earning a one-year certificate in computer science may qualify for federal, institutional, and private financial aid. Learners with financial need submit the FAFSA to determine whether they qualify for federal and institutional grants. Students with excellent high school or undergraduate grades often apply for scholarships. Some schools consider all incoming learners for institutional scholarships.

Online Computer Science Certificate Program Options

Computer science certificates, such as those below, help students develop in-demand knowledge and skills. A certificate in computer science requires a core curriculum, and some programs feature electives. Prospective certificate-seekers should consider their career preferences when choosing a program. Individuals can review program websites and contact admissions counselors for detailed information.

This section introduces a few of the many computer science certificates. Available certificates, program requirements, and graduate outcomes vary by school. Many programs report employment and salary information for recent graduates.

  • Ethical Artificial Intelligence

    A graduate certificate in ethical artificial intelligence features classes in technologies and applications, ethics and compliance in business, and ethical principles. Learners often develop a self-reflection paper during the final term. Certificate-seekers take some classes alongside MBA students. The certificate can qualify holders for entry-level positions and promotions in the field.
  • Software Engineering

    Students earning a graduate certificate in software engineering take classes in software engineering applications and technologies. Participants master basic systems, mobile technologies, and web engineering fundamentals. Most learners graduate in 2-3 semesters. Graduates may apply the certificate toward a master of science. Others use the certificate to secure entry-level jobs.
  • Computer Information Systems Professional in Linux

    Students can earn this certificate in less than one year. Participants train to use the Linux operating system. Core classes cover Linux laboratory, Linux networking and security, and secure web server programming. The program prepares learners to obtain professional certifications. Graduates can become web server administrators and database programmers.
  • Software Architect

    A software architecture certificate requires 17-18 graduate credits. Required classes include software architectures, systems architecting, and model-based systems engineering. Some software architecture certificates feature electives in security systems and software engineering for embedded systems. Participants learn to apply process models to various software systems. Some graduates transfer certificate credits to an MS in computer science program.
  • Computer Sciences for Professionals, Capstone Certificate

    Adults without an academic background in computer science can earn this certificate to switch careers. Coursework explores software engineering, computer architecture, and machine organization and programming. Some programs allow learners to customize the curriculum based on their career goals. Graduates often use their skills to design new software and troubleshoot problems.

Career and Salary Outlook for Computer Science

Computer science certificates align with many lucrative careers, including database administrator and architect, computer systems analyst, and computer and information research scientist. The BLS projects positive growth for each of these positions from 2020-2030.

The following job descriptions may not include all responsibilities. The BLS provides more information on each career, including typical job duties and the latest salary information.

  • Database Administrators and Architects

    Database administrators and architects create and administrate their employers' databases. These professionals maintain security, back up data, and add new permissions. They may specialize in system or application database administration. Professionals in the latter group work with a specific type of database, such as one containing employees' personal information.
  • Computer Systems Analyst

    Computer systems analysts research the latest technologies, update computer systems, and troubleshoot problems. They also train new employees in hardware and software operations. Experienced professionals can become programmer analysts. These workers debug and code software. Major employers include computer systems design, finance, and insurance companies.
  • Computer and Information Research Scientists

    Computer and information system research scientists develop software for administrators, architects, and analysts. These scientists solve complex problems, develop new software languages, and perform experiments. These professionals also publish research essays and present at conferences. Nearly a third of research scientists work for the federal government.
Salary Potential and Growth Rate
Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2020-2030)
Database Administrators and Architects $98,860 8%
Computer Systems Analysts $99,270 7%
Computer and Information Research Scientists $131,490 22%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Computer Science Certificates

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