Graduate Certificate Programs in Computer Science - Online and Campus
Updated: October 8, 2022
A graduate certificate in computer science is an academic program offered by an accredited college or university that provides practical training in the theories and applications of computer science. These programs are designed for college graduates and professionals who hold at a least a bachelor’s degree and who want to add computer science proficiencies to their skill set without having to devote a year or more of full-time study to completing a full master’s program.
Students in a typical computer science graduate certificate program are only required to take a small cluster of courses – four or five is common – rather than the ten or more graduate courses that are typically required to earn a master’s degree. Thus, a graduate certificate in computer science can be completed in roughly one year or less of part-time enrollment. In addition, unlike programming bootcamps and computer training programs offered by private, for-profit institutes and educational companies, computer science graduate certificate program confer graduate credits that may be applied toward a master’s degree in computer science or a related field, if and when a student opts to pursue further graduate studies in the field.
Computer Science Explained
Computer science is the academic discipline and professional field that encompasses theoretical research in areas of computer processing, algorithmic programming, and the design of computer hardware and software, as well as the practical application of that knowledge in the use of computer systems to solve problems and to create products and/or functionalities (such as computer and mobile phone applications). Among some of the core knowledge areas in the field of computer science are computer programming in general purpose languages like C and Python, object-oriented languages like Java, and database languages like SQL; advanced mathematical theory statistics, and algorithms; data structures, systems, and analytics; and machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Professionals in the field of computer science then use their knowledge to conduct research, design new systems and software applications, and/or work in one of the many other fields throughout the economy in which there is a demand for computer science proficiencies. As with most other scientific fields, computer science includes pure research and theoretical work, as well as a broad array of applications in the tech sector and other fields, including communications, engineering, finance, healthcare, entertainment and the arts, and beyond.
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Identifying and Classifying Computer Science Graduate Certificate Programs
Although there is no formal naming convention for graduate certificate programs, computer science graduate certificate programs are generally designated as such and are offered through schools and departments of computer science and engineering within accredited, non-profit colleges and universities. Indeed, many of these programs offer courses that overlap with graduate degree programs, such as Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) degree programs.
Like master’s programs, graduate certificate programs require students to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, although they are also designed to accommodate graduate students and mid-career professionals who hold a master’s or doctoral degree. In addition, applicants to these programs may be required to have prior training and/or experience in computer science or a related field, and some graduate certificate programs require a master’s degree and are thus designated as post-master’s certificate programs. Finally, graduate certificate programs in computer science give students the opportunity to earn graduate credits by completing four or five graduate courses in core areas of computer science, such as computer programming, algorithms, and computer systems design and network architecture.
Computer Science Graduate Certificate Coursework
As noted above, computer science graduate certificate programs generally provide training and instruction in core areas of computer science, including common programming languages, data and information processing systems, and the role of algorithms in computer functions. However, certificate program curricula vary by school and by program, and many programs give students the option of choosing one or more of the courses they complete from among numerous graduate course offerings. Thus, while students in a computer science graduate certificate program generally learn one or more programming languages and apply computer science theory to various practical uses of computer technology, the specific composition of a certificate’s curriculum may also depend on a student’s prior training, current interests, and career aspirations.
The list below is meant to provide a representative overview of the types of courses that are commonly offered as part of graduate certificate programs in computer science. They are drawn from actual computer science graduate certificate programs that are offered by accredited, non-profit colleges and universities.
- Architecture of Parallel Computers
- Computational Applied Logic
- Computer Networks
- Computer Programming with C
- Data Structures and Fundamental Algorithms
- Design and Analysis of Algorithms
- Developing User Interfaces
- Machine Learning
- Object-Oriented Programming with Java
- Paradigmatic Software Development
- Principles of Computer Graphics
- Web Services and Mobile Architectures
Online Graduate Certificate in Computer Science
Online instruction allows colleges and universities to extend the reach of their academic programs to students who do not live within commuting range of a school’s campus and to provide working professionals and others who cannot or would prefer not to attend classes on campus with an alternative to traditional, campus-based programs. Thus, many schools now offer fully and partially online graduate certificate programs, including graduate certificate programs in computer science.
An online graduate certificate program in computer science is a program that provides the same type of training and instruction as a campus-based program, but which does so through digital distance-learning technologies, including learning management systems (LMSs) and web conferencing applications. Online programs deliver live-streamed and pre-recorded lectures, virtual class sessions, online discussion forums, and a range of other types of program features and assignments through a secure internet connection. Online instruction that takes place in real time is referred to as synchronous instruction; online instruction that does not have a real-time component is known as asynchronous instruction.
Synchronous instruction, which may include live class sessions and lectures that require students to be logged on to a school’s LMS at a particular time, offers less flexibility than asynchronous instruction, but it provides more structure and the opportunity for students to interact with instructors and classmates “face-to-face” over the internet. In contrast, asynchronous instruction gives students greater scheduling flexibility, but it requires students to exercise effective time management skills to keep up with course materials in the absence of weekly scheduled classes. Each type of instruction has pros and cons, so students should carefully evaluate which method would best match their preferred learning style and choose a program that offers that type of instruction.
GraduateCertificates.com classifies computer science graduate certificate programs that offer all of their instruction online and programs that offer most of their instruction online but which require students to attend one, two, or at most three campus visits per year as online programs. While most programs are fully online, some programs incorporate on-campus sessions or intensives where students meet classmates and professors, and engage in learning activities and networking events in person on the college’s campus. These can be a valuable addition to an online program, but do require travel and time away from home for students who do not live near the college or university for which they are enrolled.
Programs that offer a mix of campus-based and online instruction and which require students to attend more than three campus visits per year are classified as blended or hybrid programs. While blended/hybrid programs represent a more convenient and flexible alternative to fully campus-based programs, these types of programs are usually not a practical option for students who do not live near the school offering the program.
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Examples of Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Computer Science
Below are several examples of online graduate certificate programs in computer science that are offered by accredited, non-profit institutions of higher education. These examples are intended to provide a representative overview of the types of graduate certificate programs that are available to students interested in computer science:
The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (UMass Dartmouth) offers an online Computer Science Graduate Certificate program through UMass Online and the UMass Dartmouth division of Online & Continuing Education. The 15-credit program requires students to complete five master’s-level courses and is designed for students who have undergraduate training in computer science, specifically students who hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science or computer engineering. However, UMass Dartmouth has a fully online, four-course preparatory sequence in computer science fundamentals that students who do not have a degree in computer science or computer engineering can take prior to enrolling in the graduate certificate program. Students who successfully complete the graduate certificate program are eligible for a GRE waiver and transfer credits if they opt to apply to UMass Dartmouth’s Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) program. The computer science graduate certificate program does not require any campus visits. For more information on the program, visit UMass Dartmouth at www.massd.edu.
Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA has an online Graduate Certificate in Computer Science program that consists of five courses that confer 15 graduate credits. The program draws on and can be a steppingstone to Drexel’s Master of Science (MS) programs in Computer Science, Software Engineering, and Cybersecurity. The certificate program is designed for bachelor’s program graduates and mid-career professionals who hold a bachelor’s degree and who want to learn basic computer theory, programming proficiencies, and other technical skills. Students in the program take four core courses in computer science and then choose one elective from among courses in artificial intelligence, machine learning, software design, and mobile technologies. The program does not require any campus visits. For more information on the program, visit Drexel University at www.online.drexel.edu.
North Carolina State University (NC State) offers an online Graduate Certificate Program in Computer Science through its College of Engineering and Department of Computer Science. The four-course program draws on a Master of Computer Science (MCS) program offered by NC State and confers 12 graduate credits that students can transfer into the MCS program, if and when a student opts to pursue further graduate studies. Students in the certificate program, which requires a bachelor’s degree, have a choice of four tracks: Computer Science Foundations; Networking; Security/Privacy; and Systems. The program does not require students to attend any campus visits. For more information on the program, visit NC State’s Department of Computer Science at www.csc.ncsu.edu.
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