Best Online PhDs in Computer Science


Getting a doctorate in computer science can help students pursue niche technology careers, but finding a program online is not easy. Here’s why.

Computer science is a large and complex field. While many IT professionals start their careers with only a bachelor’s or master’s degree, students interested in more abstract or cutting-edge topics in computer programming often pursue doctorates.

While there are many options for getting a BS or MS in Computer Science online, a PhD online. in computer programs are much rarer, especially now that schools are returning to in-person learning after the lockdown portion of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why get a doctorate in computer science?

Most people who stay in school long enough to earn a doctorate in computer science do so because they are interested in academics rather than regular jobs in the tech industry. They often focus on abstract subfields like quantum computing or machine learning, leading to jobs in university or government-funded research labs.

Meanwhile, most well-paying tech companies are happy to hire bachelor’s-level computer science graduates straight out of the undergrad, with master’s graduates taking up higher or managerial positions. The earning potential in these roles can be higher with a doctorate, but a BS holder with enough work experience can often earn a comparable salary.

The highest paying IT jobs


Median salary

Minimum education required

Computer and Information Researcher

$ 126,830


IT network architect

$ 116,780


Software developer

$ 110,140


Information security analyst

$ 103,590


Post-secondary teacher (Professor)

$ 80,560


Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

In short, with regard to computer science as a degree options, obtaining a doctorate. only makes sense if you pursue cutting-edge research or become a university professor. For most programming roles, a bachelor’s or master’s degree is sufficient, even at higher career levels.

The Best Online Computer Science PhDs

While online learning may work for lower level computer science courses, where data sets are limited and require less processing power, computer science doctoral students often need access to specialized computer equipment capable of process the large amounts of data required for peak work. This type of calculation simply cannot be done over a home Wi-Fi network, so doctoral students need access to research labs – or their own expensive high-end equipment.

In addition to the technological limitations, many CS doctoral students pursue faculty positions and careers in academia. For them, making a face-to-face connection and being on campus is often necessary for career advancement.

For these reasons, it is relatively rare to find a PhD entirely online. in computer science programs. There are a few – for example, North Central University and Auburn University both offer options entirely online – but it is much more common for “online” computer science doctoral programs to offer some distance learning while having on-campus requirements for other courses or research work.

At the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, most CS doctoral programs moved partially online. This included programs in private schools, like Johns Hopkins University, and public schools, such as Mississippi State University. However, with vaccines reducing virus levels, these programs are returning to campus, where students have more equitable access to technology and mentorship.

The lack of available computer science PhD programs that are fully online is the reason why we do not offer a full ranking at this time. There aren’t enough programs to make an honest list, and many currently available online programs are reverting to in-person formats for 2022.

What to expect in a computer science doctoral program

If that sounds like a doctorate. in Computer Science is the right path for your career, here’s what you can expect when you enroll.

Computer lessons

Unlike the undergraduate and masters levels, where students can expect to take a variety of computer science courses covering both general and specialist subjects, computer science doctoral programs are more focused. Students are responsible for the conceptualization and execution of their own research, and the subjects they may pursue often depend on the specialties of the professors stationed at the university of their choice.

There are courses at the doctoral level, but independent research and dissertation projects take up most of the students’ time and attention.

Computer Science Study Levels

If a doctorate seems more than your IT career goals demand, you have a few other options.

First, not all IT professionals need a full degree. For example, IT support specialists often only need a high school diploma and certificate in IT. With an associate’s degree in computer science, you can perform duties such as a web developer or designer, although some employers prefer a bachelor’s degree.

Most tech-specific jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science. This includes many of the highest paying positions, as tech companies often reward experience rather than training, especially in team building environments. It is much more common to find cheap computer science degree options online at the bachelor’s level than at the doctoral level.

However, a master’s degree in computer science can help with career advancement when seeking managerial or managerial positions. For example, technical directors often hold a master’s degree, sometimes a dual master’s degree in IT and business.

In conclusion

Earning a PhD in Computer Science is a great initiative for students interested in careers in computer science research or roles in academia. For most tech professionals, however, this isn’t necessary, and there aren’t many options for earning a doctorate online.

For most CS careers, a doctorate is not required. But if a doctorate in computer science is in your career plan, it’s best to look for options on campus, where you can access school resources and develop a personal relationship with your professor.


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