Introductory Course: Learning Wordpress Development

Wordpress is the most utilized blogging platform on the planet. But did you know that Wordpress also powers some of the largest online stores, publications, and communities online? Wordpress powers millions of sites, and for individuals wanting to work with Wordpress, there’s never a lack of potential projects. 

In this guide we’ll start by assuming you know you want to learn some web development. But don’t have much experience. Many Wordpress developers are self taught, and there are more resources online to help you get your initial chops. We’ve worked with Wordpress themes for many years and will step you through some of our favorite resources on the matter. 

In this guide we’ll take a look at the following specific topics: 

First things first, vs

If you’ve spent any time tinkering with your own web presence and trying to get a wordpress blog started, you’ve likely encountered the fact that there’s a difference between and 

In case you haven’t, or would just like to learn more, we’ll outline the crucial differences between these two entities below. 

The key difference between and is who hosts your site. 

In the case of, installs an instance of Wordpress and provides hosting. In the case of, you host your own site. While this may not seem like difference — after all, someone has to host the site, right? — what it does mean is that has a great deal of control over the functionality you’re offered. can be a great way to get a free site online that is somewhat customizable. But this service is typically meant for complete web development novices. Sites aren’t really that customizable at all. And a great deal of the functionality increasing features that Wordpress is known for aren’t available through 

In short, with you can’t utilize plugins, you can’t edit backend code, and you can’t customize your themes (the visual look and feel of your site). While there are many use cases for, third-party Wordpress development isn’t possible on this platform. 

For these reasons, just note that in our guide on Wordpress we’ll be talking about the open source software that users can augment the functionality and design of through themes and plugins: available at 

The Front-End Triad, HTML, CSS, JS

Front end web development is primarily concerned with the visual structure and interactivity of websites. While Wordpress development does involve some querying of the database (particularly for complex sites), a knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JS can be used to substantially alter your Wordpress site and perform many customizations you may require. 

While PHP (in the next section) has historically been what Wordpress themes and plugins are built on, Javascript is what Wordpress itself is built on, and recent developments including Gutenberg Blocks have made knowledge of Javascript more important than ever for advanced Wordpress development. 

So what are HTML, CSS, and JS?

HTML stands for hyper text mark up language. HTML actually isn’t a programming language, but rather a mark up language. A series of tags are placed around content to tell browsers how to interpret what is on the page. Additionally, page metadata including tags for what language the content is in, what search engines should think of your page, and more and included in HTML. 

CSS stands for cascading style sheets. CSS — and more modern preprocessing libraries like SCSS and SASS — are what provide the primary visual design for your site. The use of “selectors” that refer to html elements tell browsers how they should display elements. For example, CSS can specify all instances of paragraph HTML elements should be red. Or that all links should be purple. This is oversimplified for the sake of illustration, but CSS essentially works in this way. 

Why “cascading?” CSS provides the ability to override itself based on the specificity of your selector. For example, you could have a style for your whole site that acts as a default. But you may have an individual page where you want a different style. Specifying a more specific element on that one page with style instructions would take precedence over the default styles. 

JS stands for javascript. Javascript is an incredibly powerful language with many modern web development frameworks built on top of it. Netflix, Amazon, and Facebook’s public facing sites are largely built on JS frameworks. Javascript can run as a front end or backend language. Meaning it can affect the visual design of the site as well as make calls to the database and manipulate objects that are returned. In the context of Wordpress development, Javascript is important if you want to edit your editing experience, or if you want to provide interactivity on your site. By interactivity we mean events triggered when a user performs an action. 

Together, HTML, CSS, and JS are probably the most commonly covered topics through online resources regarding web development. There are scores of free and paid ways to learn, practice, and find examples of working code from these three languages. 

You can pursue a knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JS through many types of resources online. Depending on how much support you feel you will need, you can learn these items entirely on your own, through a book, through tutorials, through paid not-for-credit online courses, through bootcamps, or through degree programs.

  • Beginners: Treehouse,,, W3Schools
  • Intermediate: Coursera, Udemy, Udacity

Just Enough PHP

To meaningfully work with Wordpress themes and plugins, you’ll need to grasp the fundamentals of one more programming language: PHP. With that said, you can customize Wordpress sites with tweaks to existing themes to some extent without any PHP knowledge. But to truly change the functionality of sites through theme and plugin development, you’ll need some knowledge of PHP. 

The good news is that if you’ve worked your way through some Javascript, the basics of PHP should be very familiar. PHP is another object-oriented programming language. And in the case of Wordpress it’s primarily used to communicate with your Wordpress site’s database to determine which content should be output where and which supporting files should be loaded.

PHP comes with a range of built in functions, which are coupled with Wordpress’ core functionality (also largely dealt with in PHP). Together these functions can be tailored to provide a vast majority of functionality one expects from a Wordpress theme or plugin. As you move forward with your Wordpress development skills, there’s likely no single location that will provide as many answers to built in Wordpress functions as the Wordpress codex

If you’re a true Wordpress beginner the range of functions available in the codex may be overwhelming. 

To get started, there are three clusters of functionality you should definitely acquaint yourself with. These include:

  1. The Wordpress “Loop”
  2. The Wordpress Template Hierarchy
  3. Post Types

Many beginners at Wordpress describe the Wordpress loop as “magical.” It’s the core mechanism for “looping” through different types of content and returning content data to be arranged in a systematic way. 

As you may have noticed, Wordpress has a range of built in page types with default behaviors that include returning a certain type of content. A category page may return all posts within a certain category. An author page may return all posts by a specific author. An archive page may return all posts from a specific time period, and so forth.

Within each of these page types, the loop by default returns a post object that represents all of the posts meant to be shown on this type of page. Individuals then have a range of built-in functions to pull information from the post object. 

Functions like “the_excerpt,” “the_permalink,” “the_title,” and “get_the_post_thumbnail” each return components of the given post from inside the loop (namely, an excerpt for the post, the link to the post, the title, and the image meant to be a thumbnail). This is just a small sampling of the built-in functions related to posts from within Wordpress. By returning values from the current post in the loop to specific positions on the page and applying html and css, one can dramatically change the look, feel, and organization of the default pages within Wordpress.

One can also call a custom query to pull in posts that meet certain parameters. Perhaps you want to display the three most recent posts from a given category, or by a given author. Or perhaps you want to show related posts in the sidebar. These actions can be accomplished by calling a second query to your Wordpress database. As you may be able to imagine, many page types are accomplished with a range of custom queries. 

The second element that allows individuals to start really making impactful edits to site functionality and design through theme design is that of the Wordpress template hierarchy

As I mentioned a moment ago, Wordpress comes with a set of page types that perform a default functionality built around serving up content of certain types. These pages are designed to catch any logical location that a site viewer could reach within a Wordpress site and provide details on what content should be shown on the screen. 

Wordpress defaults to the most specific template that applies to the location an individual is on a site. For example, if your theme provides both a products category and a general category template, then viewers looking at your products category will see the products category template. If you did not include any other specific category pages, then viewers would likely see the general category page for all other categories. 

The Wordpress template hierarchy provides a common language and organizational structure for Wordpress theme developers. Template hierarchy allows you to build on the code of another more easily, as well as revisit a theme you worked on in the past by providing information on where specific design and layout choices may have been implemented. 

While we’ve already referred you to the Wordpress codex, a beloved graphic that lives on the Wordpress template hierarchy page provides the definitive reference for many developers throughout their career. Check out the template hierarchy diagram in interactive format here.   

The third cluster of functionality a beginning developer should acquaint themselves with are Wordpress post types. As with all things Wordpress, the codex provides one of the definitive sources of knowledge on post types

In short, post types are types of content that live within Wordpress. Each post type has a different purpose in a given theme. Different post types have different fields of metadata and can be used in different ways. 

The five default post types within Wordpress include:

  • Posts – what you likely think of as a blog post or individual piece of content
  • Pages – a second post type that can provide a tiered url structure and (example: and are meant for less changeable or static pieces of content
  • Attachments – a type of post used to display media files and uploads. Includes metadata related to images or other multimedia content
  • Revisions – a type of post that is utilized to save a “working copy” of a post being edited every 60 seconds (by default). This post type is primarily involved with the editing process inside of the Wordpress dashboard
  • Navigational Menus – a type of post that details the structure, layout and location of menus that will be used throughout your theme

For many beginner Wordpress developers the usage of the word post can be confusing as it can refer to an individual post (one of five default post types), or it can be used generally to refer to the type of content being referenced. In the case of this second usage one may read examples such as “one can pass the post type desired into the wp_query.” 

It’s also of note that many Wordpress themes and plugins utilize custom post types. Custom post types can include products, universities, individual people, organizations, or any type of “entity” that can be represented by a series of distinct fields in a piece of content. 

While this is a lot to digest before actually playing around with your own themes, below are some of our favorite resources on the three clusters of functionality we covered in this section for your to revisit over time: 

Setting Up Your Local Environment

While there are cases in which you may deploy code immediately to a host, in most cases you’ll want to work on your site locally. This means that you’ll want to set up a locally run server capable of handling a Wordpress install. This also means that you can open up the themes or plugins folder of your Wordpress install and make changes to files that you can see the results of in real time. 

There are many ways to set up a local host, and many local hosting set ups that specialize in Wordpress in particular. The best options allow for you to easily pull the existing state of a live site from the web, make changes, and push that site back into production.

The specifics of how to choose a local hosting solution and how each is set up are beyond the scope of this guide. But we’ll list a few favorites below:

Making Your First Child Theme

If you already know your way around the Wordpress dashboard as a user, you may know there’s a view where individuals can edit the themes installed within a Wordpress instance. In a pinch, you can use the “edit themes” section of the Wordpress dashboard. But it’s not the best practice method of editing themes by any means. 

When beginning to make your own or edit existing Wordpress themes, you’re likely to hear the notion that you should be using “child themes” for development. What exactly does this mean? 

A child theme takes all of the existing code from an established parent theme and defaults to this code, except for where the child theme explicitly differs. The point of child themes is two-fold: 

  1. Child themes allow you to continue receiving updates to your parent theme (for security, new features, and so forth) without wiping away your changes to the site. 
  2. Child themes allow you to build off of the layout and design of parent themes giving you a framework from which to start

Simply setting up a child theme is a great starter project for getting acquainted with Wordpress development. 

There are many guides that step you through the steps to creating a child theme. In short the steps include:

  1. Creating a folder in your Wordpress install’s theme directory
  2. Inside of the folder adding a styles.css file with a range of commented fields at the top including the name of the child theme, the name of the parent theme, the author of the theme, and other optional fields
  3. Creating a functions.php file that enqueues parent theme styles and scripts
  4. Activating your child theme within your Wordpress dashboard
  5. Adding new files to your child theme to overwrite the layout, styles, and functionality of the parent theme

Many guides on this topic provide step-by-step instructions as well as code snippets you can simply paste into the proper files. Some of our favorite guides on creating child themes include:

Themes Vs. Plugins

Both plugins and themes can provide your Wordpress install with instructions on which files and content to load. Both plugins and themes can interact with your site’s database. And both plugins and themes can draw from Wordpress’ core functionality and functions to turn a Wordpress site into something “more” than it was before. 

With this in mind, should you focus on themes or plugins for Wordpress development? We’ve tackled the topic of how to set up a child theme. And there are similar guides that include boilerplate templates for creating the basic frameworks for plugins. 

To truly become an experienced Wordpress developer, you’ll likely need to know how to work with and create both themes and plugins. For the sake of this walkthrough, we will primarily talk about themes as they’re typically an easier entry point to Wordpress development. While plugins can in theory achieve pretty much anything a theme can, plugins typically also provide files and instructions altering the functionality of the Wordpress dashboard as well as the front end of the site. 

So when should one use a theme versus a plugin? 

Modern Wordpress conventions dictate that themes should be used to primarily change the design of a Wordpress site. This includes elements such as what the site looks like, which posts are loaded on which pages, and what sort of interactivity is possible. 

Plugins, on the other hand, are primarily used to alter or enhance the underlying functionality of a Wordpress site. 

One of the reasons for this divide is due to Wordpress sites’ ability to continue running as expected with no plugins. As you’re altering the functionality of a Wordpress site with the use of plugins, you may find yourself needing to deactivate plugins that interact with each other in unexpected ways. And you’ll undoubtedly “break” your site at some point. When this happens you can simply deactivate the plugin you’re working on, leaving much of the overall experience of the site intact (in many cases). 

Segmenting the functionality and design of the site into different locations also means that when one of these aspects break, it won’t necessarily break both. Plugins are primarily used to achieve specific functionality enhancements which in practice don’t entirely “make or break” a site. This segmentation of function and design allows you to incrementally improve a site and make your site more resilient. 

Next Steps

Once you’re up and running to some extent as a Wordpress developer, there are many ways to enhance your skills, gain expertise, and make a name for yourself. Many open source projects related to Wordpress are very supportive of beginners willing to lend a hand in helping to build a project. Many facebook, linkedin, and other networking groups are happy to answer questions about Wordpress development or the business of being in Wordpress development. 

As you progress, you’re also likely to encounter more modern build and automation tools. Many theme and plugin development frameworks require basic command line knowledge of automated task managers such as gulp or node. Build tools can — with basic command line knowledge — help to minify files, remove unnecessary files from your final distribution version of a theme, check for security flaws, and make sure your code is up to standards. 

While many guides can provide some basic overview of how to get started with Wordpress development, it isn’t until you really start jumping into projects that you know specific questions that you may need to seek out answers to. It’s at this point where you may find yourself becoming more involved on stack overflow or other technical forum sites, and learning (or teaching) a lot along the way.  

Introductory Course: How To Become a UX/UI Designer or Researcher

User experience and user interface (UX/UI) are often used interchangeably. While there are definite distinctions between the disciplines, they tend to work together, with UI choices affecting UX, and with UX research leading to changes in the UI. 

We’ll get into more specifics about this process, as well as precise definitions of both disciplines in the following sections. What we’ll assume until then, however, is that you have some notion of what UX/UI involves. Perhaps you’ve seen opportunities for roles in UX/UI. Perhaps you know that both skill sets can lead to in-demand and lucrative careers. Or perhaps you’ve worked in related fields like user research, product management, web development, or psychology. 

In this guide we’ll step you through some of our favorite resources and provide some foundational definitions and concepts related to UX and UI. Much like related fields in product management and software development, individuals can be self taught in UX/UI disciplines. And hopefully this guide will provide you with your bearings enough to create a portfolio of your own (or to just apply what you’re learning in a current role). 

Topics we’ll cover here include: 

What is UX/UI?

First things first, what exactly are we talking about here? 

UX and UI are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but instead refer to two related disciplines. Namely: 

  • User Experience (UX)
  • And User Interface (UI)

User experience is the science and collection of techniques used to measure and improve upon how a product “feels” to a user. User experience is primarily concerned with qualitative aspects such as what individuals like or dislike about a given product. Though these qualitative aspects bleed into quantitative metrics such as how long users use a product, whether users sign up for a service (or additional services), how much users buy, and how users interact with a product. 

User interface is essentially the design and implementation of the form of a product. Generally speaking, interfaces are what we use to gain information or use a product. User interfaces may be composed of forms, the structure of a site, interactivity or animations, general design choices, imagery, and anything else related to the implementation of how a user actually interacts with a product. 

There’s a popular saying around UI that essentially notes that interfaces are like jokes. If you have to tell someone how they work, then they don’t! A related notion is that the best interfaces are intuitive. Individuals shouldn’t have to spend much time learning how interfaces work, they should simply do what the user would expect them to do. 

UX and UI are implemented in all sorts of product designs, though the largest cluster of opportunity in these fields is primarily related to products that live online (websites, apps, portals, services online, etc.).

The Differences And Overlap Of UX/UI

UX and UI are often implemented by the same teams (or even the same individual). The process of UX work informs UI development, and UI development informs where UX work may start again. 

While there are many processes within UX and UI, a general schema for how UX and UI may relate could be summed up with the following steps (assuming you’re starting a new project): 

  • Content strategy
  • Information architecture
  • Scope of project
  • Initial sitemap
  • Initial user flow diagrams
  • Mood Boards
  • Wireframes
  • Lo-Fidelity Mock Ups
  • Testing 
  • Hi-Fidelity Mock Ups
  • Design Standards Documents

Differences between UX and UI can summed up in the processes and tools these roles use: 

  • User Experience: 
    • Tools: Analytics, Polling Tools, Diagrams, A/B Testing Frameworks, sitemap making tools
    • Processes: Site maps, Wireframes, Analysis of Analytics, Polling
  • User Interface:
    • Tools: photography, imagery, typography, color, mock up and design tools
    • Processes: Graphic design, mock ups, QA testing

Types of UX / UI Specializations

As with many fields, the level to which you may find yourself specializing in UX/UI is often a function of how large your UX/UI team is. In large corporations, UX/UI professionals may find themselves doing one subset of these tasks. On teams where there’s one UX/UI individual, you may find yourself doing all of the below specializations. With this said, if you’re trying to get into UX/UI it’s good to at least have a working knowledge of all of the following focus areas. 

Experience Strategists work on the UX side of the spectrum to try and determine both user and client goals and flesh out requirements and methods for tracking progress towards these goals in products. These individuals are closer to product management roles than project management roles (which may be more closely aligned to UI deliverables). 

User Researchers conduct qualitative and quantitative research on users to provide feedback for product changes. These roles may be more heavily reliant on analytics (quantitative data) or less formal research methods including usability surveys, focus groups, and interviews (qualitative data). User researchers are more heavily involved in the UX than the UI side of the equation, and often work in close contact with product teams. 

Information Architecture Specialists are somewhat like a cross between digital librarians and web designers. These individuals are tasked with ensuring information is laid out in a logical and easy to use manner. While IA specialists likely do less straight up design than interaction designers, they lay the groundwork or initial thought out for interaction (and other) designers to implement UX/UI proposals. 

Interaction Designers investigate and help hone the actual interface that lets users interact with the product. Interaction designers may investigate questions like “what does a user see before content is loaded on a page,” “what precisely happens when a user clicks a button,” “how does a user navigate through a site or app.” Interaction designers help to implement new layouts with an eye on quality UI principles. Depending on the team size they may or may not be the individual who actually implements the new design.

The four above roles are one particular way to break down UX and UI into “the four quadrant model.” There are, however, many other specialty roles within UX and UI. 

Additional specialist roles include: 

UX Writers who are tasked with implementing copy as part of the content that plays a major role in what a user’s experience is. Not all of a users experience is visual (and for some users, none of it is). That’s where UX writers come into play, ensuring quality UX principles are applied through written (or verbal) communication. These roles are especially prominent in products where individuals don’t interact with the product in a visual way. Smart speakers would be an example of this. 

Voice Designers are an even more specialized version of UX writers who apply UX principles to spoken text in auditory interfaces. Speech-to-text technologies are all around us, from portions of app and phone interfaces, to scores of internet-as-a-thing products. These designers help to ensure UX principles are implemented into the design of these types of products. 

UX Developers not only help with defining a UX strategy and research, but in implementing changes in the interface. While many UX/UI professionals have some coding skills, UX developers may find web or app development as a more central component of their job description. 

UX/UI Designers provide another “specialization” that may include any of the skills or specializations listed above. Depending on the size of the employer, individuals within UX or UI roles may be expected to perform design, research, and every stage of the UX/UI process. These individuals may go by UX/UI designers instead of just one specialization within these broader fields. 


Tools of the Trade

In recent years, the range of design, prototyping, and user research tools available have exploded. A field that was once dominated by Adobe products (similar to web design) now has many, many options for prototyping, wireframes, hi and lo-fidelity mockups, sitemaps, and user research. 

In this section we’ll look at some of the major categories of tools and point out some crowd favorites within each. 

Many of these tools are actually quite intuitive. But if you want to learn more advanced techniques or functionality, nearly all of the following tool makers have educational portals or learning centers. 

Prototyping and Wireframing Tools

  • Sketch is at the top of the list for many UX/UI teams and individuals. The ability to make prototype-wide changes to symbols, shapes, typography, and colors from one location. Add animations, and quickly switch from artboard to prototype. Available for an annual subscription and only on iOS. 
  • Adobe XD is Adobe’s main foray directly into UX/UI and prototyping. This wireframing and prototyping tool offers integrations with most other Adobe products, making it an easy choice for some designers. Comes with the ability to include animations as well as voice interactions. Available for monthly subscription. 
  • Axure RP offers slightly more wide-ranging functionality than either option listed above. Axure allows for visualizations based on conditional logic, inclusion of animations, dynamic content, and more. This product is available for purchase or via subscription.
  • Invision Studio provides similar features to all of the above prototyping tools, with the addition of a focus on mood boards as well as the ability to gain feedback directly within a prototype. Available as a subscription. 
  • Marvel is perhaps the best choice for interdisciplinary teams. With all of the same wireframing and prototyping features of the out tools in our list, Marvel also generates CSS, XML, and Swift for quick hand offs to design and development teams. Individuals can leave feedback from within prototypes and an app is available for editing or feedback on the go. Available as a subscription. 
  • Figma offers a free entry-level with optional upgrades for multi-member teams. This app allows for easy handling of all routine prototyping and wireframing tasks from within the browser. The ability to see prototypes with simple link sharing and the ability for any team member to leave feedback are two definite plusses of Figma. 

User Research

  • The UX Collective offers a pretty dang comprehensive list of user research tools. Depending on your needs, tools in this collection include surveying, the analysis of user behavior, recruitment of survey members, and more. 
  • User Interviews provides a whole chapter of an ebook about user recruitment, interviewing, and analysis. If you’re already applying some of your UX knowledge at work, many of these tools and services are great for enterprise environments. 

Sitemaps, Content Maps, and Site Diagramming

  • Visual Sitemaps is a great tool for taking an existing web property (particularly one with hundreds or thousands of pages) and generating a beautiful representative sitemap that can be exported. Sitemaps can be exported into Sketch or AI. Subscription-based service.
  • Slickplan is likely the frontrunner among all site organization tools, with suites of tools related to content mapping, site mapping, click path mapping, and diagrams that can help inform you into the wireframing and mock up processes. 

Initial Research

The start of the UX/UI lifecycle typically begins with research on a number of fronts. UX/UI professionals start by taking stock of the current project (if it’s already created in some form). 

Additionally, some investigation into current or future users is sought to inform some set of “user goals” and some investigation into those funding the project for a set of “client goals.” 

User goals and client goals can many times go hand in hand. For example, clients may want higher click through rate to a certain page. Simultaneously, users may want an easier or more clear path to valuable information. These two goals are not mutually exclusive and there’s likely a solution that appeases both parties involved. 

There are times, however, where user and client goals may appear to be in direct contradiction. For example, a client goal may be to reduce ongoing marketing costs for a web property. Meanwhile, a user goal may be to gain access to regularly updated free quality content.

There are a variety of useful exercises and techniques employed by UX/UI designers to discern how they should prioritize competing interests at the start of this project. These steps are important towards the beginning of the project as they can help to inform all future sections and lower project time and cost in the end. 

Below are a few resources on prioritizing features at the start of a UX/UI design process. 

And a few resources on creating user personas to inform choices early in the design process.

Sitemaps and Content/Functional Requirements

As we discussed in previous sections, the continuum of UX to UI roughly follows the trajectory of moving from non-visual and idea-driven to visual and functional. At this point in the design process, the prioritization of user and client priorities is often used to generate general organizational distinctions including sitemaps as well as distinguishing between content and functional needs for the site. 

There’s no one clear-cut way to make a great sitemap. Generally speaking, many designers use some of the same conventions, including squares for pages, diamonds for “choice points,” and lines and arrows to dictate the logical flow of information. But beyond that, sitemaps can incorporate a vast range of information. 

Some sitemaps are descriptive in nature, while others indicate major suggestions for how a site should transform. Some sitemaps take a very high-level view, while others provided somewhat detailed instructions on how a user will progress through pages. 

You may also work out many sitemaps and diagrams throughout the UX lifecycle, gaining specificity until you’ve moved on to a high fidelity mockup of pages. 

In the above video, Pierluigi Giglio walks new UX designers through many of the considerations you may want to make. Additionally, while you can essentially make a sitemap on any software that allows you to design squares and lines, choosing a program with additional sitemap-specific features can greatly enhance what you take from this part of the process. Some sitemapping tools (as are listed in the tools section above) provide the ability to interview users, testing capabilities, and the ability to export to other tools to “prettify” the sitemap as time goes on. 

While sitemaps occur in pretty much every UX process, and can be used to inform the overall structure of a project, there are a variety of common mapping types employed early-on in UX processes. These can include:

  • Empathy Maps
  • User Journeys
  • Experience Maps
  • Content Maps
  • And Service Blueprints

The two maps that likely appear the most are similar to content maps and service blueprints. These could also be phrased as documents that flesh out the content and functional requirements of the project. 

Rolling out content and functional requirements can further help you to prioritize what should be at the center of your site. While content is a central part of UX, functionality requirements are what need to be included for the project to even have a chance at being deemed successful. 

Lo and Hi-Fidelity Mockups

Some of the final stages of a UX/UI site or app build out center around the creation of lo and hi-fidelity mockups. Typically these documents proceed from research and work done in earlier sections of the design process. 

Use of user personas including values and what they’re looking for in the service can first be used to make a mood board. Mood boards don’t comment on the final design or layout, but provide an underlying “feel” or mood for the project. Ideally mood boards should be aligned with both user and client goals and can be a great starting point for the visual design process. 

Once documents like mood boards have been created, you may begin to start thinking about the actual layout of content elements on the screen. This is most commonly done through wireframes. Wireframes don’t make opinionated choices on font size, colors, and so forth, but instead provide a general layout that shows what content will be shown where within a site. 

Wireframes typically include elements including the following:

  • Navigation elements including main, secondary, footer, and sidebars
  • Banner locations and sizes
  • Individual blocks of copy as well as header and meta elements
  • Locations where images would be included
  • General layouts of buttons and call to actions

Just as there are lo and hi-fidelity mockups, so too can you proceed through wireframes in greater and greater detail. The key difference between a lo and hi-fidelity wireframe is that hi-fidelity wireframes tend to include interactivity to some degree and may be placed as a “live” prototype that individuals can click through. Lo-fidelity wireframes may be drawn on paper or software and are almost always static. 

Mockups take the general structure of wireframes and start integrating color, typography, imagery, and — eventually — interactivity. Finalized mockups can vary in specificity from a few “fully” designed dummy pages to a functioning prototype that includes dynamic content and actual baseline functionality. 

Typically speaking, the structure of the more finalized mockups will depend to some extent on the program you use. For UX developers or front end developers working on the UX side of a project, the finalized mockup may be a functionally simple page in HTML, CSS, and JS. Most of the case, however, mockups proceed until they are a semi-finalized design that allows a trial user to click through pages. 


The 10 Best Online Master’s in Health Care Informatics Degree Programs

If you’re a healthcare professional, you’re working at a turning point in health politics, economics and technology. Healthcare organizations are still transitioning their systems to the Internet, and they need competent professionals that can help them improve efficiency, maintain security, design databases and electronic systems, and so much more. With a Master’s in Health Informatics, you can be on the cutting edge of this vital evolution in health. Right now you can earn a Master’s in Health Informatics entirely online in between 18 months to 3 years depending on the program and class schedule you choose. We’ve given you a big head-start to finding an online Master’s in Health Informatics on the ranking below. Before we look at the programs on the list, let’s look at what’s in a Health Informatics Master’s program, and trends within the industry.

Regardless of your background in health, in the programs we’ve ranked you’ll gain advanced skills in areas like:

  • Database Security
  • Healthcare Project Management
  • Analysis
  • Research
  • Health Law and Ethics
  • Health Economics
  • Health Information Systems
  • And much more.

Let’s take a look at some industry trends:

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics found employment for Health Information Technicians will increase 13% from 2016 to 2026, leading to 27,800 new jobs (which is faster than average occupations).
  • It also found Medical and Health Services Manager positions would grow 20% between 2016-26, which means 72,100 new jobs. Their 2017 median salary was $98,350 per year.
  • In a Health Informatics Master’s you’ll be qualified to work in one of the estimated 190,000 unfilled data analytics positions, and also to work in health management, a stellar combination.
  • Overall, the health industry is expected to make up 14 percent of the national economy by 2025.

Clearly you can see the value in earning one of these degrees. They’ll also help you build extremely useful skills in analysis, decision-making, leadership, project management and much more that will apply throughout your life and career. Throughout these programs you’ll learn how to improve health systems for an organization and the people it cares for. This is a fulfilling, lucrative career path, and the first step is finding the right health informatics program for you and applying. Whenever you find a school on the list that feels like a good fit, make sure to contact their support staff and request more information. You’ll often find compassionate professionals that are eager to help you in your application process. So what was our methodology on this list?

The following programs were ranked on the following:

  • Affordability
  • Graduation Rates
  • Retention Rates
  • Student-to-Faculty Ratios
  • Academic Quality
  • Flexibility
  • Special Features.

Let’s get to the ranking!

1) University of Denver

The University of Denver, or DU, is a four-year, independent private school. It’s the oldest university in the Rocky Mountains, founded in 1864. DU offers programs and degrees in law, business, music, social work, education, among many other disciplines. DU has grown parallel to the city of Denver, which boomed in the post-World War II migration to Colorado, and is now seeing an influx of transplants from across the country. It now serves over 11,400 students, and offers them the uncommonly low student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1. The University of Denver was ranked 87th among all public and private national universities in the U.S. News & World Report 2018 rankings. DU is also known for its University College, which is a school of professional and continuing studies that DU created in order to offer graduate certificates and master’s degrees online.

DU offers an online Master’s in Health Data Informatics and Analytics through its University College. It can be completed in as little as 18 months. Students will learn to use data analytics and informatics tools through connecting with patients, providers, payers, and other groups/individuals. They’ll learn to create, record and report data, and then use informatics to contextualize that data and create solutions to pressing issues within the health industry. The next start date for this program is January 7th. Sample core courses include Healthcare Project Management and Professionalism, Healthcare Database Applications, and Healthcare Data and Delivery by Perspective.

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  • Cost: 11th ($660 per credit hour)

2) University of South Carolina

The University of South Carolina is a public research university based in Columbia, South Carolina. It was founded in 1801, and is the flagship school in the University of South Carolina System. SC offers more than 350 programs of study, and coveys bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees through fourteen degree-granting colleges and schools. It’s known for its professional programs, which include business, engineering, law, medicine, pharmacy, and social work. USNR has ranked its Graduate Health program 23rd in the nation. Over 34,700 students attend SC, which has a 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio.

SC offers an online Master of Health Information Technology. It can be completed in 18-24 months, and requires 36 credit hours. Students will learn how healthcare has changed in the digital era, and with the policy changes from the Obama administration. Graduates will be prepared to help healthcare organizations become more efficient, and do a better job protecting their data. Students will build skills in analytics, project management, healthcare finance, administration, technology, and so much more. Sample courses include Management of Health Information Systems, Health Economics, Health Database Systems and Telecommunications for Health Information Systems. Students also do a 16-week internship as part of this program

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  • Cost: 4th ($554 per credit hour)

3) University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati is a public research university in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was founded in 1819 as Cincinnati College, and is the first higher learning institution in the city. UC serves over 37,100 students with a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio. It’s one of the 50 largest universities in the United States. In the 2011 edition of the U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” rankings, the University of Cincinnati was first ranked as a Tier One university, and it hit 133rd among National Universities in USNR’s 2018 rankings. Students at UC can access 100 bachelor’s degrees, over 300 degree-granting programs, and over 600 total programs of study, from certificates through doctoral degrees. It features nationally ranked programs in aerospace engineering, anthropology, architecture, classics, composition, conducting, cooperative education, criminal justice, design, environmental science, law, medicine, music, musical theater, neurology, nursing, opera, otolaryngology, paleontology, pediatrics, and pharmacy.

UC offers an online Master’s of Health Informatics. It’s aimed at meeting the growing demand for professionals with IT and healthcare training. The program requires 36 credit hours and can be completed on a part-time schedule in approximately 2 years. Its next start date is December 10th, and its next application deadline is November 18th. Students will build analytical and leadership skills in addition to delving deeply into current IT and healthcare methods, trends and competencies. Students will be taught by Business professors and health care industry experts to further broaden their education. Students can also choose to add a Health Information Security certificate as part of this program by taking 9 extra credit hours.

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  • Cost: 14th ($747 per credit hour)

4) Concordia University – Nebraska

Concordia Nebraska is a private university in Seward, Nebraska. It was founded in 1894. Concordia Nebraska is one of nine schools affiliated with the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and part of the Concordia system. It’s divided into three colleges: Arts and Sciences, Education, and Graduate Studies. It’s known for offering degree completion programs and graduate programs online, and also for its affordable programs. Concordia Nebraska offers over 50 undergraduate programs, and several Master’s degrees (a majority of which are offered online). Over 2,500 students attend Concordia Nebraska, which offers a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio.

Concordia Nebraska offers a 100% online Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) with a concentration in Health Information Technology. It can be taken in as little as two years, and is taught by healthcare leaders that use an ethical Christian framework in their educational approach. Students will learn to use information technology to improve healthcare systems’ clinical quality, safety/security, and cost-efficiency, all while improving the quality of patient care. The program requires 36 credit hours, and accepts up to 9 credit hours of applicable transfer credits. The program builds to a Practicum in Healthcare Administration. IT concentration courses include Healthcare Systems – Leadership Implications, Cyber-Security, and Health Informatics.


  • Cost: 2nd ($500 per credit hour)

5) Regis University

Regis University is a private Jesuit university in Denver, Colorado. It was established in 1877. Regis is one of the 28 member institutions of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. It’s divided into Regis College, The Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions, the College for Professional Studies, the College of Computer and Information Sciences, and the College of Business and Economics. U.S. News and World Report has ranked Regis 23rd among regional universities in the western United States Currently, Regis serves over 8,300 students with a student-to-faculty ratio of 13:1. The university offers 42 distinct online graduate degrees, including Master’s in Information Assurance, Business Administration, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice. It also offers 30 different online bachelor degrees, including Accounting, Computer Science, and Nursing.

Regis offers an online M.S. in Health Informatics. Classes are offered in 8 week sessions, and there are start dates in January, May, and August. The program was created for health care professionals that want to learn how to plan and implement systems planning, design workflow, manage security and electronic health information. Students will also build out their project management, leadership and ethical decision-making skills, all within healthcare environments and classes. Students can choose a track in Information Technology, Health Care Services, or Data Science. Required courses for all students include Workflow and Change Management in Adoption of Health IT, Managing a Secure Enterprise, and Healthcare Performance Evaluation. The program builds to a Capstone Applied Research Project.

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  • Cost: 9th ($625 per credit hour)

6) Saint Joseph’s University

Saint Joseph’s is a private, Catholic university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1851 by the Society of Jesus. Nearly 8,100 students attend SJU, which has a 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio. SJU offers 60 undergraduate majors, 53 graduate programs, 28 study-abroad programs, 12 special-study options, a co-op program, a joint degree program with Thomas Jefferson University, and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership. In total it has 17 centers and institutes. Currently, USNR has ranked SJU 12th among Regional Universities North, and 37th among Best Value Schools.

SJU offers an online Master’s in Health Administration that comes with a Health Informatics concentration. It can be completed in 2-3 years. The core curriculum gives students highly desired skills in research, law, and health industry practices that will make them indispensable to healthcare organizations. Coursework in the Health Informatics concentration focus on effective management, development, and evaluation of electronic medical records and other new health technologies. Students will learn how IT infrastructure, applications and more can be used to provide better care. They’ll also learn to manage data efficiently and securely. Sample courses include Computer-Based Patient Record, Health Care and the Internet, and Health Information Management Systems Applications.

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  • Cost: 22nd ($870 per credit hour)

7) University of Massachusetts – Lowell

The University of Massachusetts Lowell is a public research university in Lowell, Massachusetts. It serves over 18,300 students and offers a 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio, despite being the second largest public university in Massachusetts. UMass-Lowell is known for its degrees in engineering, criminal justice, healthcare, business, education, music, science and technology. U.S. News & World Report ranked UMass Lowell at 152 among top-tier National Universities in 2016. It’s one of only six schools to rank higher on that list each year between 2010-16. The school jumped 27-spots in the past five years, second-fastest in the nation. USNR also ranked it 78th among top public universities and second in the state. Forbes rated UMass Lowell the 10th best value among all universities and colleges nationwide in 2013, and fourth in value among non-military academies.

UMass Lowell offers an entirely online Master of Science in Health Informatics and Management with an Informatics Concentration. You’ll study health data management, storage, retrieval, exchange and analysis from a technical perspective. Students will learn how to integrate this study in with state and federal regulations, while maintaining data integrity and meeting meaningful use standards. Sample courses include Healthcare Project Management, Healthcare Database Design, Electronic Health Record Systems, and Healthcare Information System Planning. The program requires 36 credits. It culminates in a Capstone Project where students do independent research and development and write a substantial report.

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  • Cost: 6th ($575 per credit hour)

8) Liberty University

Liberty is a private, non-profit Christian doctoral research university in Lynchburg, Virginia, but that conveys degrees primarily online. The school was founded in 1971 by Jerry Falwell. It’s now attended by over 75,000 students worldwide, and offers a 19:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Liberty offers 290 bachelors, 315 masters, and 32 doctoral degrees through 17 distinct colleges. The vast majority of Liberty students take classes online. There are over 300 different degrees and certifications offered through Liberty’s online wing. It has been classified as a doctoral research university by the Carnegie Classification. According to LU, it’s the nation’s largest nonprofit online university, and has been offering distance learning since 1985.

Liberty offers an online Master of Science in Health Informatics. It requires 36 credit hours and can be completed in two years (on average). It’s designed for students that want to add an understanding of the latest technological advancements in the healthcare industry to their repertoire. Students may currently be in healthcare, or are seeking careers in a health or related occupation. It prioritizes being an advocate for those in need. Up to 50% of the credits for this program can be transferred in. Graduates go on to work as Data Administrators, Data Networking Analysts, Systems Integration Specialists and more.

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  • Cost: 5th ($565 per credit hour)

9) University of Scranton

Scranton is a private, non-profit, Catholic research university. It was founded in 1888, in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Scranton serves nearly 5,400 students, and offers a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio. For 23 straight years Scranton has been ranked in the top 10 schools in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of the Best Regional Universities North. In 2018, it placed 18th on USNR’s Best Value Schools list. Scranton offers undergraduate degrees (Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science) in 65 majors. Students can also choose pre-professional concentrations, like pre-medical, pre-law, and pre-dental. The school also offers graduate degrees in 29 fields, including Accounting, Chemistry, Software Engineering, Theology, Health Informatics, and doctoral programs in Physical Therapy and Nursing Practice.

Scranton offers an online Master of Science in Health Informatics. Students will learn how to make useful, educated, data-driven healthcare decisions that focus on patient care. You’ll take classes that build your computer science, communication, business, information systems and leadership skills. The program was designed for health, business and/or technology professionals, but Scranton offers an on-boarding program for students without backgrounds in those fields to catch them up and prepare them for the program. Sample courses include Public Policy for Health Informatics, Database Principles and Applications, and Principles of Computer Science and Software Development, among many others.

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  • Cost: 15th ($757 per credit hour)

10) Slippery Rock University

Slippery (also known as The Rock or SRU) is a public, Master’s level university that also offers doctoral programs. It was founded in 1889, and is located in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. The Rock is a member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Over 8,800 students attend SRU, which has a 21:1 student-to-faculty ratio. It’s known in part for its large campus (611 acres). In 2018 USNR ranked Slippery 78th among Northern Regional Universities.

SRU offers an online Master of Science in Health Informatics. It can be completed in just ten months, the quickest program on the ranking. In it, you’ll learn to establish and maintain information technology systems within a healthcare organization, and ensure those systems comply with organizational policies, regulations, goals, and the law. You’ll prepare to fill leadership roles and work as a bridge between corporate data management and technology departments in order store, retrieve, process and analyze data with cutting edge hardware and software systems.

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  • Cost: 3rd ($550 per credit hour)

The 20 Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Computer Science Degree Programs

Technology remains a leading economic driver. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and technology occupations are expected to grow 13% over the next decade — nearly twice the national average — adding over 550,000 new jobs in programming, computer networks, database systems, web development, and software, among other fields. And with the continued explosion of digital technologies, especially cloud computing, big data, and information security, public and private organizations will be eagerly seeking qualified professionals to manage their tech needs, leading to a highly competitive, lucrative job market. As of 2018, the median annual wage for computer and information technology professionals is nearly $85k.

For anyone wanting to capitalize on this in-demand field, education should be a priority. Fortunately, the rise in online learning has helped democratize higher education, opening up affordable, flexible degrees to the public and building a highly knowledgeable, skilled workforce.

Below we’ve ranked the top 20 affordable bachelor’s degrees in Computer Science, also factoring in academic quality, flexibility, and customization options. While each degree follows a similar CS curriculum, every program is different. To find the best CS bachelor’s for your needs and budget, review the profiles and explore programs that may be a good fit.

1) Western Governors University

Founded in 1996, Western Governors University is a global leader in distance and online education, with nearly 100,000 students enrolled. In particular, Western Governors specializes in flexible, self-paced learning that leverages a competency-based model to offer students credit for previous life and work experience, accelerating completion time, increasing affordability, and reducing redundant coursework. TIME, Fast Company, NBC, and CNN have recognized WGU’s innovation in educational technology, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded WGU $4.5 million in funding. Tuition is charged at a flat rate, and individual states offer financial aid opportunities.

Western Governors offers an affordable online BS in Computer Science that combines theoretical and technical skill development to prepare students to a wide variety of IT professions. Core coursework includes Web Development Foundations, Network and Security – Foundations, Scripting and Programming, Computer Architecture, Data Structures and Algorithms, and Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, among others. In addition to earning a bachelor’s, students will earn valuable certifications like CIW Site Development Associate, ITIL Foundation Certification, CompTIA Project+, and Oracle Database SQL (if you already have a certification, transfer it into the program to waive credits). The accelerated model allows students to complete the bachelor’s in as little as 6-36 months, and 97% of graduates recommend the track.

2) Central Methodist University

Established in 1854, Central Methodist University is a private institution located in Fayette, Missouri, with a total enrollment of about 1,100, and ranks 27th in the region according to US News. It also places in the top 40 for value. While founded as a liberal arts school, Central Methodist emphasizes practical, career-oriented instruction that prepares students for real-world challenges, and the university’s innovative, flexible online programs are designed to accomodate working professionals, adult learners, and non-traditional students. With a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio, classes are kept intimate and small: over 65% of classes have fewer than 20 students. For those interested in affordability, 80% of full-time undergrads receive some form of financial aid.

Central Methodist offers an affordable online bachelor’s in Computer Science (BA or BS) with coursework in Database Systems and SQL, Networking, Computer Architecture and Operating Systems, Data Structures and Algorithms, and .NET, among others. From there, students have the opportunity to tailor the degree through programming courses in Java, Visual Basic, Web Programming, Mobile Application Development, and more. Online delivery is designed meeets scheduling demands, and select 8-week course blocks accelerate the degree. Upon completion of the degree, students will be prepared to: evaluate and review systems, diagnose problems, and establish solutions; be proficient in a range of computer languages; and excel in networking, application programming, computing systems, databases and software packages.

3) California State University – Monterey Bay

Founded in 1994, California State University – Monterey Bay has a total enrollment of about 7,600. US News ranks Cal State Monterey in the top 50 among all colleges and universities in the region and 11th among public schools. With a 27:1 student-to-faculty ratio, the university supports a highly collaborative, dynamic learning environment, combining the resources of a large research institution with the intimacy of a medium-sized liberal arts school. One in five classes have fewer than 20 students, and less than 7% have 50. For those interested, 61% of full-time undergrads receive some form of financial aid, and the average need met is 70%.

Cal State’s affordable online CS degree blends computer science theory and hands-on information technology practice, preaparing students for careers as software engineers, mobile app developers, and technology project manager. Core coursework includes Multimedia Design and Programming, Database System, Software Design, Computer Networks, Internet Programming, and Design and Analysis of Algorithms, among others. Courses deliver in accelerated 8-week blocks, allowing the degree to be completed in as little as two years, and multiple entry dates per year accommodate students’ schedules. All course content is approved by an industry advisory board to ensure relevant instruction, and a capstone portfolio requirements provides students with hands-on experience and the opportunity to build resumes.

4) University of Illinois at Springfield

Founded in 1969, the University of Illinois at Springfield joined the UI system in 1995. US News ranks it among the top 15 public schools in the region and highlights its overall value and affordability. A worldwide leader in distance education, the university been offering online degrees since 1999, for which it has received awards from the Sloan Consortium for Excellence in Institution-Wide Online Teaching and Learning, the Ralph E. Gomory Award for Quality Online Education, and the Society for New Communications Research for Excellence in Online Reputation Management. The 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio supports tailored instruction, and over half of all classes have fewer than 20 students. Sixty-five percent of full-time undergrads receive financial aid.

UI Springfield offers an online bachelor’s degree in Computer Science that provides students with a firm understanding of core CS skills and concepts. While the curriculum follows a traditional CS structure, all students complete an entry placement assessment and have the opportunity to tailor the degree to specific areas of professional interest with the help of an academic advisor. Sample courses include Computer Programming Concepts, RoboEthics, Software Packages, HTML/Web Development, Computer Organization, Data Structures and Algorithms, Operating Systems, and Routing Configuration in WAN Environment, among others. Springfield also emphasizes practical skill development through hands-on requirements.

5) Southern University and A&M College

Founded in 1880, Southern University and A&M College is a public institution with a total enrollment of about 6,400. US News ranks Southern among the best schools in the region, and places it in the top 40 for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. With a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Southern promotes a tight-knit learning community, combining personalized instruction and collaborative, hands-on learning. Additional benefits include dual credits, academic and career counseling services, and support for military service members.

Southern’s online BS in Computer Science is an affordable, in-depth degree providing students with a solid foundation in the discipline. In particular, the program covers software engineering, computer organization, database systems, management information systems and operating systems, in addition to a wide range of computer applications. All courses are built for flexibility to fit scheduling demands — with resources like 24/7 access to course material, library resources, live chat, and group discussion boards — and the university’s generous transfer policy allows students to waive redundant coursework and accelerate completion time. CS graduates have gone on to careers in business, industry, government, and education.

6) Baker College

Founded in 1911, Baker College has thirteen campuses in Michigan in addition to an extensive online campus. With a variety of career-oriented undergraduate, graduate, and pre-professional programs, all Baker programs are built for maximum flexibility to accommodate a wide range of working professionals, adult learners, and non-traditional students, including 24/7 access to course material, customizable degree plans, and more. With a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Baker fosters a dynamic, intimate learning environment, including individualized instruction and collaborative opportunities. Additional benefits include dual credits, credit for life experience, and academic and career counseling services.

Baker offers a BS in Computer Science that consists of 71 major credit hours, including coursework in Database Management and Design, Systems Development Methods, Visual BASIC, C++ Programming, Java Programming, Data Structures and Algorithms, Big Data Analytics, and more. From there, students tailor the degree through an 18-credit concentration in Computer Programming that features advanced studies in Computer Architecture, Python, and other areas. Via the Blackboard learning platform, students have 24/7 access to course material, group discussion boards, live chats, video conferencing, and tech support. To ensure relevant, hands-on work, Baker integrates several project requirements into the curriculum, and the degree is constantly being updated to align with industry standards, reflect changes in technology, and prepare students for in-demand CS skills.

7) Grantham University

Founded in 1951, Grantham University is now a 100% online university. With more than 40 degree programs and certificates, Grantham offers degrees in a wide range of disciplines, from business, to nursing and allied health, to computer science. The university’s diverse student body comes from all 50 states, as well as more than 100 countries. All courses are designed for maximum flexibility to accommodate the schedule demands of working professionals, adult learners, and non-traditional students, and the 21:1 student-to-faculty ratio supports a vibrant, collaborative learning atmosphere with personalized instruction from expert faculty. Additional benefits credit for life experience, academic and career counseling services, and support services for military. include It is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.

Grantham’s online BS in Computer Science is an affordable program designed to give students a platform for a successful career in a variety of CS-related fields. Core coursework covers Programming in HTML, Programming in JavaScript, Computer Networks, Programming in C++, Data Structures, Software Engineering, Security Operations, Systems Analysis and Design, Security Trends and Legal Issues, and Discrete Math, among other subjects. Elective options allow students to customize the degree, and monthly start dates mean you can begin the degree according to scheduling demands. Grantham also offers a generous transfer policy: prior coursework and work experience can waive up to 75 credits, allowing students to complete the bachelor’s in as little as 38 months. Career options include Information Security Analyst, Software Developer, Computer and Information Systems Manager, Search Marketing Strategist, and Web Developer.

8) Calvary University

Founded in 1932, Calvary University is a private Christian institution with a total enrollment under 300 students. With one-year certificates, as well as bachelor’s, master’s, and associate degrees, Calvary offers small, intimate classes and a 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio, allowing students to engage personally with instructors and peers, and promoting a tight-knit educational community. Additional services include credit for life experiences, dual credits, academic and career counseling, and support for military members and veterans.

Calvary offers an online BS in Computer that combines flexibility, affordablity, and rigorous coursework to provide students with a solid foundation in CS. Major credits include Problem Solving and Programming, Discrete Structures, Database Design, Applied Probability, Artificial Intelligence, and Operating Systems, among other subjects. To allow for customization, 12 free credit electives are available, and students have the opportunity for hands-on experience to hone skills. All courses deliver online asynchronously to accommodate adult learners, working professionals, and non-traditional students, and the Canvas learning platform features 24/7 access to course material, group discussion, boards, and other dynamic tools with full tech support.

9) University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

At a total enrollment of 28,000, The University of Wisconsin — Milwaukee is the second largest university in the state, offering 191 degree programs, including 94 bachelor’s, 64 master’s, and 33 doctorate degrees. Classified by the Carnegie Foundation as an R1 research institution,

    US News

ranks UW Milwaukee on at least four best-of rankings. The university has also developed an extensive online campus run in junction with the 13 other members of the University of Wisconsin System. With a 19:1 student-to-faculty ratio, over 40% of classes have fewer than 20 students and just one in ten have 50, fostering a vibrant, collaborative learning setting.

UW Milwaukee offers a unique BS in Applied Computing that focuses on future-focused learning, real-world application, and a combination of technology and business instruction. Core requirements cover Programming, Technical and Professional Communication, Systems Analysis and Design, Project Management Techniques, Computer Security, Web Development, IS Strategy and Management, Computer Security, and Legal and Ethical Responsibilities in IT. Two capstone projects add an experiential component to the program. Multiple entry dates and asynchronous delivery provide flexibility, and students on an accelerated full-time track can complete the bachelor’s in as little as two years (or take as long as necessary — there is no completion deadline).

10) Park University

Founded in 1875, Park University is a private institution with a total enrollment of about 11,200 students, located across 42 campus centers and Park’s growing online campus. In addition to ranking among the best schools in the Midwest according to US News, Park has been recognized for excellent military support services and overall affordability. Payscale highlights Park’s ROI. With a 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio, classes are kept small, intimate, and collaborative, allowing for tailored instruction and hand-on learning opportunities. Additional benefits include credit for life experiences and academic and career counseling services.

Park online BS in Information and Computer Science prepares students for a wide range of fields. Coursework includes Discrete Mathematics, Technology in a Global Society, Computer Networking, Managing Information Systems, Data Management Concepts, Basic Concepts of Statistics, and either Intro to Programming or Intro to Java. From there, students have the opportunity to tailor the degree to areas of professional interest through concentrations Computer Science, Data Management, Information Technology, Networking and Security (including a Cisco certification), or Software Development. To ensure the coursework remains relevant, the curriculum is routinely updated, and Internship options provide hands-on learning.

12) Charleston Southern University

Founded in 1964, Charleston Southern University is a private Christian institution with a total enrollment of 3,600, including about 1,000 online students. US News ranks Charleston Southern among the best colleges and universities in the region, and its online bachelor’s programs rank 21st in the country. With a healthy 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio, CSU is able to combine individualized instruction with a dynamic, collaborative learning experience that emphasizes theory as well as practice. Half of Charleston Southern’s classes have fewer than 20 students. Admissions are rolling, and nearly all full-time undergraduates receive financial aid.

Charleston Southern offers an online BS in Computer Science featuring 60 major credits: Data Structure Analysis, Computer Architecture, Advanced Operating Systems, Systems Analysis and Software Design, Applied Systems, and more. Built-in electives allow customization, and a senior project and portfolio review ensure practical, real-world emphases. To accommodate an array of students, including adult learners and working professionals, online courses are designed for maximum flexibility. Through the Blackboard learning platform, students have 24/7 access to course material as well as cutting-edge tools like web conferencing, group discussion boards, and live chat rooms. Additional resources and support services include a student success center, enrollment assistance, tech support, and more.

13) Rasmussen College — Minnesota

Founded in 1900, Rasmussen College offers associate’s degrees, applied associate’s, bachelor’s, certificates, and diplomas across 23 campuses and the school’s extensive online campus. Designed for adult learners, working professionals, and non-traditional students, all Rasmussen programs are built for maximum flexibility, with accelerated track options and tuition-saving opportunities via flex paths, scholarships, discounts, and a generous transfer policy. With a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Rasmussen combines tailored instruction opportunities with a vibrant, collaborative educational community. Additional benefits include credit for life experiences, academic and career counseling, and military support services.

Rasmussen offers an online bachelor’s in Computer Science designed to prepare students for a career in software development, including earning certifications from Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Apple (the university reimburses students for up to three practice exams and exam application fees). Core course requirements include Enterprise Architecture, Operations Management, Distributed Application Architecture, Mobile Web Application Development, Business Project Management, Emerging Trends in Technology, Distributed Database Management, Web Analytics, and Advanced Cloud Computing Technologies, among others. From there, students can tailor the degree through specializations in Apple iOS App Development or Universal Windows App Development. Accelerated course delivery allows students to complete the degree in as little as 18 months. Graduates have gone on to work in a wide variety of fields, from tech to healthcare, finance, education, and government.

14) Davenport University

Davenport University, founded in 1866, is a private institution with a total enrollment of about 7,600. Ranked among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest by US News, Davenport places an emphasis on innovative, practical, and affordable education, including experienced faculty that integrate practical curriculum plans to develop professional skills. Davenport’s 12:1 student-to-faculty promotes personalized instruction, but also intimate and collaborative classes that allow for a tight-knit educational community. Three-quarters of all classes have fewer than 20 students, and none have more than 49. Additional benefits include credit for life experience, academic and career counseling, and services and programs for military members and veterans.

Davenport’s online Bs in Computer Science is an affordable, career-focused program that teach students to think logically, solve problems through collaboration, and effectively communicate. Major coursework covers Software Engineering, Data Structures and Algorithms, Computer Vision, Security Foundations, Finite Mathematics, Introduction to Game Design, and more, including a capstone that promotes skill development. Next, students can tailor the degree to areas of professional interest through selecting a specialization in either Artificial Intelligence, Computer Architecture and Algorithms, and Gaming and Simulation. Davenport also offers course credits for certifications you may already have earned, accelerated degree completion time. Related bachelor’s are available in Computer Information Systems, Network Management and Security, Cyber Defense, and Digital Forensics.

15) Oregon State University

Founded in 1868, Oregon State University has a total enrollment around 30,350. OSU is the only university in the state to hold both the Carnegie Foundation’s Tier 1 designation for research institutions and its Community Engagement classification, and US News, Washington Monthly, and Forbes rank it among the top public schools in the country. Most important, US News ranks OSU’s online bachelor’s programs 8th in the country, in addition to high marks for veteran support and overall value and affordability. The 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio supports a collaborative, vibrant learning community as well as tailored instruction from experienced faculty. Nearly a third of classes have fewer than 20 students, and over half of undergraduates receive some form of financial aid.

Oregon State’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science offers a rigorous, accelerated bachelor’s in CS that consists of 60 major credits in areas like Programming, Data Structures, Analysis of Algorithms, Web Development, Software Engineering, Operating Systems, and more. A range of electives, from Mobile and Cloud Software Development to Parallel Programming, allow students to customize the curriculum, and a capstone project adds a hands-on component. Oregon State’s flexible academic plans give students control over scheduling, and there are four annual entry dates. The degree is designed to be completed in one year. (As a post-baccalaureate program, students take only the required courses in the computer science major.)

16) Colorado Technical University

Founded in 1965, Colorado Technical University has a total enrollment of about 20,000, including an increasingly large online presence. All CTU degrees emphasize career-driven, hands-on education that promotes professional development and skill-building. With a 28:1 student-to-faculty ratio, CTU supports a vibrant, dynamic learning environment that balances tailored instruction and peer-to-peer education. Further, CTU’s MUSE program allows students to choose a delivery model that fits their scheduling demands, including 100% online, hybrid, and blended options for maximum flexibility. For students interested in tuition assistance, 80% of undergrads receive some form of financial aid.

Colorado Tech offers an online BS in Computer Science that balances affordable tuition with in-depth, in-demand coursework. Major requirements include Computer Architecture, Programming (Python, SQL, Java, C++), Operating Systems, Software Engineering, Big Data Analytics, Computer Security, Networking, and more. Electives provide program customization, and students can pursue concentrations in Cybersecurity Engineering, Software Engineering, and Data Science. New programs start monthly, and transfer credits, corporate partnerships, Fast Track courses, and tuition reimbursement opportunities give students multiple ways to reduce costs. US News has ranked CTU’s online bachelor’s programs among the best in the country for four straight years.

17) Saint Leo University

Founded in 1889, Saint Leo University is Florida’s oldest Catholic institution of higher learning, with a total enrollment of about 6,000 students, over 60% of which take online classes. Ranked among the best 60 schools in the South by US News, Saint Leo also ranks 23rd for overall value and affordability, and places in the top 40 for veteran support. Leo’s 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio promotes tailored instruction, collaborative education, and a tight-knit learning community that combines the intimacy of a liberal arts school with the resources of large research institution.

Saint Leo offers a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science teaches students to solve real-life problems via CS design, development, support and management. Major requirements cover Computer Systems, Network Theory and Design, Database Concepts and Programming, Introduction to Information Security, Software Engineering, Algorithms and Data Structures, and more. Open electives enhance customization features, and a specialization in Information Assurance includes coursework in Disaster Recovery, Penetration Testing, and Information Security Management. To ensure the most up-to-date curriculum, Saint Leo follows recommendations from IEEE and ACM. Graduates of the program have gone on to careers at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Verizon, Bisk Technologies, and Jesse Ball duPont Fund.

18) National University

Founded in 1971, National University is the second-largest private, nonprofit school in California and a leader in online education, with over twenty years of experience and five online programs ranked among the best in the country by US News. NU is a Yellow Ribbon school founded by veterans and offers the post 9/11 GI Bill in addition to other top-ranked military support services. Students come from all 50 states and 65 countries, and with over 150,000 alumni around the world, National offers an excellent professional network.

National offers an affordable online BS in Computer Science that builds students technical and design skills, combining a strong academic foundation with real-world programming requirements. All courses deliver online for scheduling flexibility (enhanced by year-round enrollment and accelerated 4-week delivery blocks) and include studies in object-oriented programming, data structures and algorithms, operating systems, computer communication networks, software engineering, and computer architecture. Among the program objectives are learning to utilize computer science for problem-solving; understanding the impact of technology on individuals, organizations, and society; and effectively communication computer science issues, concepts, and solutions to team members. The degree is accredited by the ABET and WASC Senior College and University Commission.

19) LeTourneau University

Founded in 1946, LeTourneau University is a private Christian polytechnic school with a total enrollment of 2,700. In addition to being ranked among the 15 most affordable schools in the region, US News ranks LETU in the top 30 for at least three other lists. The 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio encourages a tight-knit learning community, individualized instruction, and manageable class sizes: nearly 70% of classes have fewer than 20 students. For those interested, 73% of full-time undergrads receive some form of tuition aid, and the average need met is 70%.

LeTourneau’s online bachelor’s in Computer Science balances rigorous, up-to-date academic instruction with practical hands-on learning. Topics covered include Database Management, Software Engineering, Project Management, and Information Security, and concentrations may be available in Game Development and Network Security, giving students the opportunity to tailor the degree in an area of career interest. Additional benefits include blended delivery options for students who prefer on-campus and online coursework, a free admissions process, and a variety of student support services. The program is accredited by the ABET and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

20) Regis University

Regis University, founded in 1877, is a private Catholic university in Denver with a total enrollment of 11,500 students. As a member of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, US News ranks Regis among the top 30 schools in the region, including recognition for veteran services and overall value. The 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio fosters an intimate educational setting with collaborative learning, personalized instruction, and small classes; sixty percent have fewer 20 students. For students prioritizing affordable tuition rates, nearly all full-time undergrads receive some form of tuition assistance.

Regis offers an online BS in Computer Science that prepares students to design and implement computer solutions to real-world social, political, environmental, scientific, medical, economic, and business challenges. Major course requirements include Operating Systems Design/Analysis, Computer Architecture, Software Engineering, Computation Theory, Ethical Leadership in Computer Science, Distributed Systems, and a capstone to build professional skills. From there, a variety of electives are available to tailor the curriculum, and students can choose to concentrate in Computer Information Systems, Information Technology, or general CS. On completion of the program, students will have developed valuable problem-solving, communication, and management skills in addition to CS skills. The degree is accredited by the ABET.

The 10 Best Online Associates in Network Administration Degree Programs

Modern business flows through digital networks. They allow instantaneous communication, the lifeblood of profit and organizational success. Someone has to build and run those networks, and protect them from a external threats, insecurities and logistical issues. Network or System administrators make sure computer networks are up to date, working well, and are protected from attacks or exploitation. Large organizations, corporations and governments need multiple computers, systems, and software to operate. A network administrator works to coordinate these and more. Many organizations are just realizing they need to invest in network administrators, and IT/Cybersecurity positions are flooding job markets, with limited numbers of qualified applicants. This leads to high wages, job security and exciting opportunities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs available for network and computer systems administrators is expected to increase by 6 percent through 2026. They also found the median annual wage for network and computer systems administrators was $81,100 in 2017. If you’re looking to enter this field and begin working quickly, or build off a foundational education, a Network Administration Associate’s is a great place to start. It’s affordable, can be completed quickly, and often gets you ready for vital certifications within the field. And earning your Associate’s online is a great way to meet your work/life responsibilities, improve your career options and pay less time and money to earn your degree as well. An Associate’s in Network Administration will give you a great head start in the IT and computer science fields. This ranking was designed with the following methodology:

    • Affordability (1/3): the overall average cost of the program for out-of-state students, per credit hour; other fees not included.

Flexibility (1/3): the makeup of the program: fully online, hybrid, or class-based learning with online features.

  • Academic prestige (1/3): the strength and reputation of a given program according to other prominent rankings like US News & World Report.


1) Gulf Coast State College

Gulf Coast is a community college based in Panama City, Florida. It was founded in 1957 by the Florida Legislature, and is a member of the Florida College System. Students can earn associate’s and bachelor degrees at Gulf Coast. Nearly 5,500 students attend Gulf Coast, which has a 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio. It’s also the least expensive school on this list, AND 82% of its full-time students receive financial aid. Gulf Coast’s two options within Network Administration also increase its value, landing it at #1 on the ranking.

Gulf Coast offers two Associate programs in Network Systems Technology. The first is a Network Server Administration Option, which focuses on the functional skills needed to manage and maintain servers. Sample courses include Wireless Networking, Virtual Infrastructure: Installation and Configuration, and Advanced Router Tech. This program also covers some Cybersecurity courses that appear in the latter option. The second is a Network Security Option, focusing on protecting servers and data. This is a great way to begin an educational track into Information Assurance/Cybersecurity, a swiftly blooming field with lucrative opportunities and far too few qualified applicants. Sample courses include Encryption & Cryptography, Network Defense and Countermeasures, and Computer Forensics & Incident Response. Both options also contain course sequences from top certification organizations like CompTIA, CISCO and more.

  • Cost Per Credit Hour Rank: 1st-$133
  • Flexibility Enhancing Feature: 2 options
  • Homepage

2) American Business and Technology University

ABT University is a technical university that operates online. It was founded in Missouri in 2001 by Sam Atieh, a writer and online learning enthusiast. In 2002 it became the first school in the state to offer degree programs online. The school started offering retraining services, but now conveys certificates and undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Business and IT Technology. ABT is a small school, with just over 320 students and a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio. 55% of its full-time students receive financial aid.

ANT offers an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in two concentrations: Network Administration & Information Security and Computer Programming & Systems Design. It can be completed in 30 months and requires 60 semester hours. The total cost for the program is $17,440. Both concentrations introduce concepts like “hardware, business and productivity software, operating systems, networking, programming, and information security, and reinforces concepts and techniques through practical application.” Once again you have a choice of pursuing programming and systems themselves, or the upkeep of a network and maintaining its security. Students will be prepared to sit for three CompTIA certifications.

  • Rank: $290 5th
  • Feature: Two options
  • Homepage

3) Rasmussen College

Rasmussen is a private, for-profit business school that was founded in 1900. It has built 20 campuses across the country, and a robust online wing, which was founded in 2002. The school has graduated over 100,000 students. Rasmussen offers students more than 70 programs. Their programming is separated into seven schools: Health Sciences, Design, Business, Justice Studies, Education, Nursing, and Technology. Rasmussen is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the regional accreditor serving Minnesota. Over 13,500 students attend Rasmussen today. Rasmussen is committed to working with students to find a way to finance their education, whether through loans, scholarships, grants and credit transfers.

Rasmussen’s offers a Network Systems Administration Associate’s Degree. It gives you the keys to the skeleton of IT which includes systems analysis, network analysis and network and computer security. It’s fully online, but students will still work closely with industry hardware and software while learning networking and network maintenance, operations and network security. Rasmussen’s graduates have gone on to work at Best Buy, Microsoft, Target, Wells Fargo, Ikea, State Farm, Verizon and many other luminaries within the technology sector. This degree can be earned in as little as 18 months. It utilizes FlexChoice®, which lets students save on tuition with self-directed assessments and traditional courses to earn a degree with greater flexibility. It also prepares students to sit for the Cisco® CCENT, CompTIA® A+ (parts 1 and 2), CompTIA Linux+, CompTIA Network+, and CompTIA Security+ certification exams.

  • Rank: $300 6th
  • Feature: Course plan customized for you and accelerated classes.
  • Homepage

4) Lake Superior College

Lake Superior College (LSC) is a two-year community and technical college in Duluth, Minnesota. Nearly 4,800 students attend LSC, which has a 21:1 student-to-faculty ratio. 79% of its full-time students receive financial aid. LSC offers pre-baccalaureate majors to help students get credits they can transfer to 4-year schools, but also have over 90 certificate, diploma and degree programs in career and technical fields. LSC is proud of its Continuing Education/Customized Training division which works with area businesses and industry to build opportunities for entry-level and advanced education. The school offers over 150 courses online. Recently, over 25% of credits conferred by LSC have been delivered online and it’s offering more programs completely online.

Lake Superior offers an AAS in Network Administration & Cybersecurity. It prepares you to get CompTIA, Cisco CCENT, Microsoft MCP, or EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certified. You’ll also learn the ins and outs of networking, hardware installation, software configuration, management for computers, routers and networks, designing systems and networks, and much more. Lake Superior has a Center for Cybersecurity that was created, “to provide a broad range of system security and information assurance services for local businesses and the community at large. The Center will provide students with real-world learning experiences in cybersecurity education through several business and government partnerships.” This is a great feature and extremely helpful for finding a job in Cybersecurity. The program takes two years to complete and costs approximately $15,000.

  • Rank:$203 3rd
  • Feature: As of Fall 2018, LSC will charge the same tuition regardless of where students are located.
  • Homepage

5) Madison Area Technical College

MATC is a technical and community college centered in Madison, Wisconsin. It serves students in parts of 12 counties in south-central Wisconsin: Adams, Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Green, Iowa, Jefferson, Juneau, Marquette, Richland, Rock, Sauk, and everywhere online. Over 15,600 students attend MATC, which has a 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio. The school offers classes online, accelerated (6-week), compressed (8-week), and through a hybrid format. It was founded in 1912, initially offering vocational education, citizenship, and homemaking classes. Now it offers 175 associate degrees and technical diploma programs, trade apprenticeships and other certifications.

MATC’s Information Technology-Network Specialist AAS program will get you ready to “administer, install, maintain and troubleshoot data and voice networks.” Students will gain an understanding of Local Area Networks (LANs), Wide Area Networks (WANs), and how they work with nodes, servers and other end user devices in networks. Students will also get hands-on training in network operating systems, user administration, network security, network design and implementing voice over IP (VoIP), in addition to managing Network Operating Systems (NOS) and client software, network security measures, user accounts, and network event logs for problem resolution. Students will be prepared to sit for several Windows, CompTIA and Cisco certifications, among others. This program is aimed at getting you into a Bachelor’s program and/or a good job upon graduation.

  • Rank: $201 2nd
  • Feature: Accelerated course structure
  • Homepage

6) Seminole State College of Florida

Seminole State College of Florida is a public state college. It has four campuses in Central Florida. It’s the eighth-largest member institution of the Florida College System, with over 1,700 students and a 22:1 student-to-faculty ratio. It was founded in 1965, of courses via distance learning. In 2006, Seminole Community College partnered with the University of Central Florida to launch “DirectConnect to UCF.” The program guarantees graduates of SCC get admitted to UCF, and gives students academic advising from university counselors. SSC also offers 39 online degree and certificate programs, including five online baccalaureate degree programs.

SSC offers and Information Systems Technology AAS, and a Network Systems Technology AAS. The former comes in Networking, Programming, and AS to BS (IST) specializations. The latter is offered with CISCO Network Infrastructure, Network Operating Systems, Security and Virtualization specializations. In the Network Systems Technology program you’ll learn to administer, design, install, configure, connect, plan and maintain local area and enterprise networks. And in the IST program you’ll supervise and set up local and wide area networks, and emphasize creating and maintaining database objects used to store, retrieve and manipulate data. Students will also be prepared to earn their Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Technology.

  • Rank: $381 8th
  • Feature: Guaranteed acceptance to University of Central Florida when accepted to SCC

7) Dakota State University

DSU is a public university. It was founded in 1881 in Madison, South Dakota. DSU is known for their graduate and undergraduate programs in computer science, business, education, natural sciences, liberal arts and more. Its motto is, “Technically, we’re better.” There are nearly 3,200 students (17:1 student-to-faculty ratio), and most students take their classes primarily online. In 2013, DSU ranked 4th among online schools in the United States on Guide to Online Schools’ rankings that year. It also tied at #32 among top public schools in the 2017 U.S. News & World Report’s midwest rankings.

DSU offers a Network and Security Administration (AS) online. It’s perfect for students who want to gain knowledge and skills in network and security administration and begin working as soon as possible. Students will learn basic security, systems and networking fundamentals. Classes are kept small, with generally 25 of less students in each class, ensuring hands-on instruction can be closely monitored on an individual level. DSU also offers access to student activities and clubs like the Computer Club or Gaming Club. There are also LAN parties, programming contests, MACSTECH Scholarship opportunities, great research opportunities, and unique virtual and physical labs.

  • Rank: $340 7th
  • Feature: Virtual labs, and an unusual amount of extracurricular activities.

8) University of Toledo

U of T is a public research university in Toledo. It was founded in 1872. Toledo serves over 20,600 students and has a 21:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Students can access more than 250 academic programs through 18 schools and its online division. U of T is a big proponent of undergraduate research, which builds essential skills that cross most industries. Its undergraduate engineering and business programs are consistently highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report, in addition to its excellent programming in computer science, nursing, pharmacy, physician assistant, law, and education.

Toledo offers an Associate Degree in Computer Network Administration entirely online. It prepares students to work in business and government. Students will leave the program ready to enter the “high-growth computer networking industry.” You’ll learn about operating systems management, programming, networking fundamentals, and computer integration, and graduate prepared for professional certifications from companies like Microsoft, CompTIA and Cisco. Toledo works hard to make sure transferring schools is easy for students who want to go on and continue their computer science education. Students will receive a free evaluation from as part of this effort.

  • Rank: $420 10th
  • Feature: Help transferring to a next program
  • Homepage

9) Central Texas College

Central Texas College is a community college based out of Killeen, Texas. It also has branch campuses in Europe. CTC serves over 18,100 students, and offers a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio. It offers students access to Associate of Arts degree programs, Associate of Science degree programs, Associate in Applied Science degree programs, or Associate of Arts in General Studies, and over 40 certificate programs. For decades CTC has worked alongside US military members, and offered them programs around the world.

CTC offers a Network Systems Administrator AAS. It requires 60 credit hours, and can be completed in two years of full-time study. Students will learn to safeguard networks, make sure traffic runs smoothly and uphold reliability and security. You’ll be prepared for a number of lucrative positions, where you’ll install, configure, support and monitor a local area network (LAN), wide area network (WAN), Internet systems or part of a network system. Sample classes include Supporting Network Server Infrastructure, Web Design I, Project Management Software, and Firewalls and Network Security. This program also features an option for an Internship for credit in Computer Systems Networking/Telecommunication, or students can opt for classes that fill that void.

  • Rank: $235 4th
  • Feature: Internship or classes for credit.
  • Homepage

10) University of Phoenix-Arizona

The University of Phoenix is a private, for-profit university, operating from Phoenix, Arizona. It has been downsizing, and there are no current and accurate estimates of its student body and faculty. It was established in 1976, and became a behemoth in online education. It features an open-enrollment admission policy, so students need only a high-school diploma, GED, or equivalent to attend. Phoenix offers 100 degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree levels in schools of Advanced Studies, Business, Security and Criminal Justice, Education, Humanities and Sciences, Information Systems and Technology, Social Sciences, Health Professions, Nursing and Health Services Administration. In December of 2016, the US Department of Education approved the sale of Apollo Education Group, which owns UOPX for $1.1 billion to a group of investors that included the Vistria Group, a private equity firm run by Marty Nesbitt, friend of President Obama’s. It’s online Bachelor’s programs have been ranked tied at 193rd by U.S. News & World Report.

Phoenix offers an Associate of Arts concentration in Information Technology with Network Support Certificate. It requires 60 credits. The program focuses on teaching you how to build and support networks to keep an organization’s computers safe and interacting. You’ll learn how to install, configure and support local and wide area networks, and the ins and outs of network monitoring, website performance testing, network environment management, network security measures and much more. This program also comes with a certificate option, but both programs allow you to take courses that give you skills employers desire earlier, so you can show employers how competent you are before you graduate. Sample courses include Information Systems Security Concepts, Foundation of Local Area Networks, Wireless Networking Concepts, and more.

  • Rank: $398 9th
  • Feature: Enrollment representatives help you enter the program and plan how it can build your career.
  • Homepage

What Salary Should I Expect By Computer Science Degree Level?

Before investing time and money into a college degree it is important to take into consideration how your investment can be turned into profit. There are many ways to calculate the starting salaries and earning potential in your field of choice. Computer science degrees are some of the most employable types of degrees that students can choose. As many job markets are shrinking due to automation, computer science is one field that is projected to benefit and expand over the next few decades. Therefore, estimates of earning potential for computer science jobs might be understated at this time. As the Information Age continues to evolve more computer science jobs will be created, and there are already not enough qualified professionals to fill the demand in the job market place. Because of this there is great potential for promotion and salary growth since new positions open up on a regular basis. A computer science degree places graduates in one of the few job markets where they hold all the cards, as potential employers are looking for them, instead of the other way around. While a foot in the door with an associates degree will net you a comfortable salary, a more prestigious degree will grant you access to a higher starting salary, and will allow you to leap frog job applicants that are less qualified.

The computer science field has many various subsections: Information Assurance, Cyber Security, Information Systems, Information Technology, Computer Engineering, and the list goes on. Knowing what you have an affinity for is probably the most important factor in determining what kind of computer science degree to pursue, because they all have the potential to find high-salaried employment. If you are good at working with physical hardware, Computer Engineering could be the best route. If you are more comfortable doing high-level mathematics, Information Technology would be an appropriate degree to pursue. If you are interested in the political and social ramifications of online data breaches, Network Security would be a good path to follow. Let’s look at the average current salaries of some of the different jobs that students with computer science degrees are qualified for.

Associate’s Degrees in Computer Science

An associates degree in a computer science field will allow you to get your foot in the door for the least amount of investment. If you can see yourself climbing the company ladder towards promotion this might be the best route, though you should expect an entry-level job with a lower starting salary. Jobs in this field include Computer Support Specialist, who are expected to provide troubleshooting to private citizens or business employees that are using computer software and equipment. The median salary of a Computer Support Specialist is $52,160. Someone who has an associates in Network Security could land a job as a Vulnerability Assessment Analyst, where they would be expected to identify weak links in a company’s network that could be breached by a hacker. The average salary of a Vulnerability Assessment Analyst is $64,000. Someone with an associates in Information Technology would be qualified to become a Web Developer, where they would write code to create websites for companies. The median salary of a Web Developer is $66,130 per year. Associates degrees in computer science fields can therefore be expected to land you a job with a salary in the range of $50,000-$65,000.

Think you might be interested in an associate’s in computer science? Check out our ranking of the best online associate’s in computer science degrees.

Bachelor’s Degrees in Computer Science

A bachelor’s degree in a computer science field will qualify graduates for a number of higher paying jobs. A bachelor’s degree in Information Assurance would qualify someone to become an Ethical Hacker, where they would be expected to test network security by finding weak points in their system and attempting to breach them in order to patch weak points and make them safer. Ethical Hackers have a median salary of $72,000. Someone with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science who has good command of coding languages would be qualified to become a Computer Programmer. Computer Programmers make an average of $79,840. Someone with a bachelor’s degree in Information Systems would be qualified to become a Network and Computer Systems Administrator, where they would be responsible for the daily operations of a company’s network. Network and Computer Systems Administrators have an average salary of $79,700. A bachelor’s degree in a Computer Science field can be expected to get you a salary in the range of $70,000-$80,000.

Master’s Degrees in Computer Science

A master’s degree in an area of computer science allows graduates to land jobs with high salary and position security. A master’s degree in Cyber Security would qualify you to become an Information Security Analyst. Information Security Analysts are expected to create networks that protect their company’s valuable data, and their average salary is $92,600. Someone with a master’s degree in Software Engineering would qualify them to become a Software Developer, where they would create apps and computer programs. Software Developers make an average yearly salary of $102,280. A graduate with a master’s degree in Information Systems could become a Computer Network Architect, where they would design data communication networks for private and public communications among businesses and their clients. Computer Network Architects earn an average salary of $101,210. A master’s degree in Computer Science can therefore be expected to net graduates a salary between $90,000-$105,000.

Think you might be interested in a master’s in computer science? Check out our ranking of the best online master’s in computer science degrees today.

Doctorates in Computer Science

Doctorates in Computer Science give graduates access to the upper echelon of salaries in their field. Computer and Information Research Scientists conduct research to create innovative uses for existing technology, applying their computer knowledge to fields like medicine, business, and science, and have an average salary of $111,840. Application Architects are expected to oversee a wide variety of software developments for tech-based companies, and have an average salary of $108,000. Data architects are responsible for archival maintenance and organization, and have an average salary of $119,000. The sky is the limit for graduates with doctorates in computer science, as they can expect to earn salaries of at least $105,000, with the potential to earn up to $150,000 and beyond.

Think you might be interested in a PhD in Computer Science? Check out ranking of the best computer science departments in the world today.

The 10 Most Lucrative IT Certifications of 2018

If you want a high-paying position, you’ll need to demonstrate high-value skills. Earning an advanced certification is always a great way to show employers what you’re capable of in black-and-white terms. Passing a rigorous exam, and often meeting additional experience requirements, demonstrates mastery by external standards, and can make an essential difference in your job prospects or career advancement. According to, the right certifications could mean anywhere from an 8 to 16 percent increase in your pay.

Information technology is a highly dynamic and ever-changing field, however. As the industry evolves, new types or sets of certifications continue to crop up, while once-desirable credentials fall out of favor. So what IT certifications do today’s employers want to see? We’ve ranked the 10 of the most high-paying IT certifications of 2018 in ascending order, and given you the essentials on each, including:

Did you know?

Many online master’s degrees in computer science and information technology include industry-approved certifications in their course of study.

Check out our ranking of the best online master’s in information technology. Or request information from schools today.

  • The exam length and curriculum
  • The cost of the exam
  • Prerequisite certifications, courses or experience
  • How frequently employers post jobs associated with the certification
  • The average salary of jobs associated with the certification

Read on to discover which of these high-paying IT certifications fits your career goals.

#10 Citrix Certified Professional Ð Virtualization (CCP-V)

The Citrix certification website states that the CCP-V qualifies professionals to “install, configure and roll out common XenDesktop solutions.” In order to pass the certification test, you’ll need skills in scaling, optimizing, and advanced configurations and troubleshooting in virtual desktops.

What the Exam Covers

The test is 90 minutes long, and includes multiple-choice, drag-and-drop, simulations and decision trees. The test covers the following topics:

  • Intermediate FlexCast Management Architecture (FMA)
  • Workspace Environment Management (WEM)
  • The Virtual Desktop Agent (VDA)
  • App Layering
  • User Environment
  • StoreFront Optimization and Routing
  • HDX and Multimedia
  • Supporting and Troubleshooting User connection issues
  • Provisioning Services Infrastructure
  • Streaming the vDisk
  • Target Devices
  • Integrating Provisioning Services with XenApp and XenDesktop
  • Advanced Architecture
  • Supporting Provisioning Services

Exam Cost

$300 examination fee


Before taking the exam for the Citrix Certified Professional Ð Virtualization (CCP-V), you’ll need to first earn the Citrix Certified Associate – Virtualization (CCA-V) credential.

Availability of Associated Jobs

There are 124 current openings for Citrix Certified Professionals in Virtualization, and employers include World Wide Technology, Inc., BAE Systems, Sparkhound, and, of course, Citrix.

Average Salary of Associated Jobs

Professionals with the CCP-V credential make a median income of $83,166, and salaries for top positions can be higher than $115,000.

#9 Cisco Certified Networking Professional (CCNP) Routing & Switching

Cisco still dominates the realm of networking. The Cisco Certified Networking Professional- Routing & Switching (CCNP-R&S) credential is a solid professional choice, and has remained so for some time. This desirable credential requires an unusually extensive and costly testing process, which requires candidates to show mastery of Cisco switch and router planning, installation, configuration, and troubleshooting. The Cisco certification website states that the exam, “validates the ability to plan, implement, verify and troubleshoot local and wide-area enterprise networks and work collaboratively with specialists on advanced security, voice, wireless and video solutions.”

What the Exam Covers

Three exams are required for the CCNP- R&S: Routing, Switching and Troubleshooting. Each test is 2 hours long and covers a number of topics:

  • Routing: IP addressing and routing in implementing scalable and highly secure Cisco routers that are connected to LANs, WANs, and IPv6.
  • Switching: planning, configuring, and verifying the implementation of complex enterprise switching solutions that use the Cisco Enterprise Campus Architecture.
  • Troubleshooting:knowledge in planning and performing regular maintenance on complex enterprise routed and switched networks
    Using technology-based practices and a systematic ITIL-compliant approach to perform network troubleshooting.

Exam Cost

$200 for each of the three required tests ($600 total)


Before being awarded the CNP- R&S, Cisco requires that candidates first earn the Cisco Certified Network Associate- Routing and Switching certification or any Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert certification.

Availability of Associated Jobs

There are 3,725 job openings for IT professionals with the CCNP in Routing and Switching credential, making this a popular job qualification. Employers for this credential include Spectrum and General Dynamics Information Technology.

Average Salary of Associated Jobs

Jobs associated with this certification make a median of $83,178.

#8 Project Management Professional (PMP¨)

From security to networks to program development, IT work consists of projects which require planning and oversight. While the PMP is not exclusively an IT certification, it’s in-demand in IT firms, and has been for many years. A Project Management Professional (PMP) certification on your resume shows that, as an IT professional, you have not only technical skill, but managerial expertise as well. The PMP is the most recognized of all project management credentials, and is administered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). According to the
PMI certification website, the PMP demonstrates that those holding the credential “understand the global language of project management.” The exam curriculum is organized according to the linear phases any project must go through: initiation, planning, executing, controlling and closing.

What the Exam Covers

The exam is 4 hours long and consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, which cover the following topics:

  • Initiating projects
  • Planning projects
  • Executing projects
  • Monitoring and controlling projects
  • Closing projects

Exam Cost

$555 examination fee, or $405 with membership in the Project Management Institute (PMI)


A bachelor’s degree, along with 4,500 hours leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education are required to take the PMP. Those without a bachelor’s will need 7,500 hours leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education.

Availability of Associated Jobs

There are some 12,414 positions open for Project Management Professionals, making this the most popular certification in our ranking. A few of the most these are Advantage Solutions, General Dynamics Information Technology, Grant Thornton, and Jackson Hewitt.

Average Salary of Associated Jobs

Professionals with the PMP certification make a median of $84,094, and a recent survey by PMI found that those with a PMP earn 20% more than those in a similar position without.

#7 Citrix Certified Associate Ð Networking (CCA-N)

Those with Desktop and App visualization experience looking for a high-paying IT certification should pursue the Citrix Network Certified Associate- Networking credential. Professionals with the CCA-N have the knowledge required to administer enterprise environments consisting of NetScaler Gateway to allow secure remote access to data, desktops and applications.
According to the Citrix certification website, the CCA-N, “validates the knowledge and skills needed to implement and manage Citrix NetScaler 10 for app and desktop virtualization solutions in an enterprise environment.” You’ll be able to select one of two exams to attempt in order to qualify for the CCA-N, specializing in either Unified Gateway or Traffic Management.

What the Exam Covers

In order to earn the CCA-N, candidates may take either of two exams: Citrix NetScaler Essentials and Unified Gateway or Citrix NetScaler Essentials and Traffic Management. Both are 2-hour tests and cover the following curriculum:

  • NetScaler Platforms
  • Load Balancing
  • SSL Offload
  • Securing the NetScaler
  • Troubleshooting
  • Unified Gateway
  • AppExpert Expressions and Policies
  • Authentication, Authorization and Policies
  • Managing Client Connections
  • Integration for XenDesktop and XenApp Solutions
  • Configuring Unified Gateway
  • Classic and Default Policies
  • Rewrite, Responder, and URL Transform
  • Content Switching
  • Optimization
  • Global Server Load Balancing

Exam Cost

$200 test fee


There are no prerequisites, though Citrix recommends preparing with their training for the NetScaler 12 Essentials and Unified Gateway Exam or their training for the NetScaler 12 Essentials and Traffic Management exam.

Availability of Associated Jobs

There are 16 current openings for Certified AWS Solution Architects. Some of the companies which look for this certification are BAE Systems and Sparkhound.

Average Salary of Associated Jobs

Professionals with the CCA-N Certification make a median salary of $86,300.

#6 CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker)

With the high-profile data breaches at places like Equifax and Yahoo, organizations are looking to hire security experts of every stripe. If you’ve got the skills to probe and uncover security flaws, you can use your knowledge to strengthen, rather than exploit, the security of networks and systems, and earn a good salary doing so. The Certified Ethical Hacker credential is offered by the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC Council), and according to the EC Council’s certification website, designates professionals who know how to “look for weaknesses and vulnerabilities in target systems and use the same knowledge and tools as a malicious hacker, but in a lawful and legitimate manner to assess the security posture of a target system(s).” The exam covers the many techniques hackers use to infiltrate and compromise security systems; you’ll need to show that you can “think like a hacker” in order to pass. While the exam is challenging, this high-paying credential is essential to success in this exciting and in-demand field.

What the Exam Covers

The examination is an 4-hour test, which consists of 125 multiple choice questions. The test covers the following subjects:

  • Footprinting and Reconnaissance
  • Scanning Networks
  • Enumeration
  • System Hacking
  • Malware Threats
  • Sniffing
  • Social Engineering
  • Denial-of-Service
  • Session Hijacking
  • Hacking Web Servers
  • Hacking Web Applications
  • SQL Injection
  • Hacking Wireless Networks
  • Hacking Mobile Platforms
  • Evading IDS, Firewalls, and Honeypots
  • Cloud Computing
  • Cryptography

Exam Cost

The cost is $500 to take the EH test, plus a $100 eligibility fee for those selecting self-study over a formal preparation course which includes the examination.


Because of the sensitive nature of information relating to security and security flaws, the EC Council is stringent in its eligibility criteria. The EH examination is open to those who have completed the EC Council’s preparation course, or to those who self-study and can verify two years’ work in the security field.

Availability of Associated Jobs

There are 2,378 jobs posted for Certified Ethical Hackers. Common employers include IT and defense companies, such as Raytheon, General Dynamics Information Technology, Foreground Security, and Lockheed Martin.

Average Salary of Associated Jobs

IT workers with the CEH certification earn a median income of $87,315.

#5 Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

Like the CEH, the CISSP is a high-paying IT certification related to security. The CISSP is the go-to credential for IT experts who wish to specialize in designing and maintaining organization-wide security infrastructures. Offered by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, or (ISC)2
The (ISC)2’s certification website states that the earning this credential requires “understanding of new threats, technologies, regulations, standards, and practices.” The exam covers eight knowledge domains, including Security and Risk Management, Identity and Access Management and Software Development Security, among others.

What the Exam Covers

The CISSP is a 3-hour test with, multiple-choice and “advanced innovative response” questions. The test covers following eight knowledge domains:

  • Security and Risk Management
  • Asset Security
  • Security Engineering
  • Communications and Network Security
  • Identity and Access Management
  • Security Assessment and Testing
  • Security Operations
  • Software Development Security

Exam Cost

The cost is $549 to take the test, and additional attempts cost $345


In addition to the examination, you’ll need five years of cumulative, paid, full-time professional experience in any two of the above eight knowledge domains OR a bachelor’s degree in a related field OR one of a large number of (ISC)2-approved CISSP “prerequisite Pathway” credentials.

Availability of Associated Jobs

There are 10,689 job postings for Certified AWS Solution Architects, making this the second most-popular certification in our ranking. Security and communications companies are actively hiring, including Lockheed Martin, Leidos, AT&T, and Booz Allen Hamilton.

Average Salary of Associated Jobs

IT workers with a CISSP Certification draw an average income of $87,770.

#4 Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

Information systems audit control, assurance and security professionals are in demand, and the CISA is a longstanding, desirable and high-paying IT certification. The ISACA has been offering this certification for 30 years- a lifetime in the world of IT. The ISACA’s certification website calls this credential the “standard of achievement for those who audit, control, monitor and assess information technology and business systems.” The examining body has recently added more testing centers and dates, along with faster results processing, which makes the examination more convenient. The test covers five knowledge domains, such as Governance and Management of IT and Protection of Information Assets.

What the Exam Covers

The examination lasts 4 hours and consists of 150 multiple-choice questions, covering the following five knowledge domains:

  • The Process of Auditing Information Systems
  • Governance and Management of IT
  • Information Systems Acquisition, Development, & Implementation
  • Information Systems Operations, Maintenance, & Service Management
  • Protection of Information Assets

Exam Cost

It costs $595 to take the exam, with several discounts available. Membership in the ISACA discounts the cost to $465. Early registration is $415 for ISACA members and $545 for non-members.


In addition to a passing exam grade, you’ll have to show a minimum of 5 years of professional information systems auditing, control or security experience to earn the CISA. Short on time in the field? ISACA allows various substitutions of education for up to three years’ experience.

Availability of Associated Jobs

This IT certification is very popular; there are 4,888 positions currently open for Certified Information Systems Auditors. Some of the companies hiring CISA certified workers are QuickChek, PwC and Wells Fargo.

Average Salary of Associated Jobs

While the exam is notoriously difficult, this is one of the most high-paying IT certifications. The average annual salary for professionals with the CISA Certification is $87,906.

#3 Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

The ISACA’s certification website describes this credential as signifying “international security practices and recognize[ing] the individual who manages, designs, and oversees and assesses an enterpriseÕs information security.” As our number three in High Paying Certifications of 2018, the CISM comes with an impressive paycheck, and big responsibilities. While the CISA qualifies professionals as IT auditors, the CISM designates IT security managers and information risk managers, and requires a command of security policy and strategy. The test requires mastery of four domains:

What the Exam Covers

The exam is a 150-question, multiple-choice examination, which takes 4 hours to complete. Questions focus on the following five domains:

  • Information Security Governance
  • Information Risk Management
  • Information Security Program Development and Management
  • Information Security Incident Management

Exam Cost

As with the CISA, the CISM test costs $595 for ISACA non-members and $465 for members. Early registration costs $415 for members and $545 for non-members.


A CISM candidate must show 5 years of full-time, paid, professional experience in thei field. In addition, 3 of those 5 must be directly related to information security management. Unlike the CISA, it is not possible to substitute education for filed experience.

Availability of Associated Jobs

There are 3,246 current openings for IT workers with this certification. Relatively few professionals possess the CISM, making this a desirable credential. Common employers include PwC, BNY Mellon and CTR Group.

Average Salary of Associated Jobs

This high-paying IT certification nets an average salary of $ 92,827.

#2 Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)

The CRISC is the third credential offered by ISACA to make our list of Highest Paying IT Certifications of 2018. According to the ISACA’s certification website, the CRISC “recognize[s] a wide range of professionals for their knowledge of enterprise risk and their ability to design, implement, monitor, and maintain IS controls to mitigate such risk.” Simply put, the CRISC indicates an advanced understanding of enterprise risk assessment and control from a business perspective usinf Information Systems (IS) controls. Like data security, expertise in risk assessment has a certain level of built-in job security- companies will always want the greatest possible understanding of the risk entailed in their business ventures. As such, you’ll find that project managers and other business professionals pursue this lucrative and in-demand certification alongside IT pros.

What the Exam Covers

Like the CISA and CISM, the CRISC exam is 4 hours long and consists of 150 questions drawn from these four knowledge domains:

  • IT Risk Identification
  • IT Risk Assessment
  • Risk Response and Mitigation
  • Risk and Control Monitoring and Reporting

Exam Cost

Like other ISACA-administered examinations, the fee is $595 for ISACA non-members and $465 for members. Early registration for members is $415; non-members pay $545.


To qualify, candidates need 3 years’ in managing IT risk by designing and implementing IS controls. Of these, two must be in the knowledge domains specified above, including at least one on the first two essential domains (Identification and Assessment). including experience across at least two (2) CRISC domains, of which one must be in Domain 1 or 2, is required for certification. Unlike the CISA and CISM, no substitutions for this experience can be made based on education.

Availability of Associated Jobs

Financial institutions, such as Citibank and Wells Fargo, frequently post jobs requiring a CRISC certification. There are currently 771 such positions open.

Average Salary of Associated Jobs

Professionals with this high-paying IT certification can expect to make about $99,400 per year. The highest-paying positions associated with this certification can reach salaries of $150,000.

1. AWS Certified Solutions Architect Ð Associate

The very highest-paying IT certification on our list of 2018’s best, is the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Ð Associate credential. AWS (Amazon Web Services) is the top public cloud platform, and demand for skilled AWS architects is hotter than hot. The exam is rigorous and demands a thorough understanding of designing and deploying scalable systems on AWS. The certification website states that “the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Ð Associate exam is intended for individuals with experience designing distributed applications and systems on the AWS platform.”

What the Exam Covers

The exam is an 80-minute, multiple-choice exam, which covers the following topics:

  • Designing and deploying scalable, highly available, and fault tolerant systems on AWS
  • Lift and shift of an existing on-premises application to AWS
  • Ingress and egress of data to and from AWS
  • Selecting the appropriate AWS service based on data, compute, database, or security requirements
  • Identifying appropriate use of AWS architectural best practices
  • Estimating AWS costs and identifying cost control mechanisms

Exam Cost

$150 examination fee, with a practice exam available for $20.


None, but Amazon recommends the following coursework: Architecting on AWS and AWS Certification Exam Readiness Workshop: AWS Certified.

Availability of Associated Jobs

There are 165 current openings for Certified AWS Solution Architects. Common employers include Capgemini, Capital One, IBM, and, naturally, Amazon.

Average Salary of Associated Jobs

Professionals with the AWS Solutions Architect Certification make a median of $124,900. Even entry-level jobs associated with the AWS Solutions Architect certification make about $100,000, and top positions can pay as high as $200,000.

The 10 Best Online Associates in Information Technology Degree Programs

As human labor is replaced by automation, who will keep the robots running? People who can build, maintain and troubleshoot their way through computer systems. For those with no significant experience in this world, don’t worry! You’re not alone. Most people depend on computer systems daily, yet have no idea how they work. Fortunately, beginning a career in information technology can start for you tomorrow, from the comfort of your home. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the average employment in nearly all computer information systems occupations will grow faster than any other occupation, and it isn’t even close. Salaries are higher, too. The average salary in IT is almost twice as high as in the general economy, and people in the upper fourth generally make six-figure annual salaries. With that in mind, here are the top ten IT associates programs that can help you change your earning potential in two years or less.


  • Specializations (1/4): the number of emphases, specializations, or customizable tracks in a program.
  • Program length (1/4): the minimum number of months required to complete the program.
  • Affordability (1/4): the estimated out-of-state cost per credit hour.
  • Academic Prestige (1/4): the placement and rank of the program in other prestigious rankings.

1.)Removed by editor

Founded in 1911, this private, not-for-profit career college focuses on degree programs that will prepare students to enter the workforce in their desired position upon completion. Baker College has expanded rapidly since its establishment, by opening new campuses and purchasing existing campuses then converting them to part of the Baker system. Baker offers certificates, associate, bachelor, master and doctoral degree programs. Baker has a right-to-try admissions policy, which means that anyone with a high school diploma or GED can attend. In 1996, Baker College began offering online education. By 2001, they had 4,000 students enrolled online. Baker’s online classrooms and library resources are always accessible to its students.

Baker’s IT program promises to give its students the latest, specialized skills to break into the information technology industry. Baker reflects just how diverse this world is by offering 5 associates programs in IT: Computer Networking Technology – CISCO, Computer Networking Technology – Microsoft, Cyber Security, IT Support Specialist and Linux/Unix Systems Technology. Pick the specialization that best suits your interests, then learn to build, install, analyze, troubleshoot, and maintain the hardware and software that keeps computer networks functioning. Baker Online was ranked highly on this list because of its breadth and depth of specialties.

  • Homepage
  • Tuition per credit hour: $250

2.)Southern New Hampshire University

SNHU is a private, nonprofit, coeducational, and nonsectarian university. Established in 1932, SNHU now has over 3,000 on campus students, and approximately 60,000 continuing education students. SNHU has won many honors, including being named by Fast Company as the 12th most innovative organization in the world. SNHU ranked among companies like Apple, Google, and HBO, and in front of NFL, Starbucks, and LinkedIn. Their accelerated classes ensure you can complete your degree at a pace you have influence over. For those looking to make a shift into IT quickly, this is one of the better options to do so. SNHU also promises some of the most affordable tuition rates in the country.

Graduates of the IT Associates program will learn to solve fundamental technology-related problems, develop verbal and written communication skills to present findings, strategize, maintain and secure existing IT systems. SNHU makes it easy for you to parlay your associates degree with them into the core curriculum requirements for their BS in IT as well, if you choose to continue your education. You’ll develop skills in software development, website design and data management that you can apply to a career immediately. Some of the jobs you’ll be immediately qualified for at the entry-level include systems administrator, IT specialist, security engineer, computer operator and technical support specialist.

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  • Tuition per credit hour: $320

3.)Bluegrass Community and Technical College

BCTC was established through the consolidation of two schools in 2005, but is rooted in an educational past that has been serving the Lexington, KY area for over 75 years. It’s one of sixteen two-year open admissions colleges that make up the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. KCTCS was created in 1997 by the state legislature through House Bill 1 that combined the technical colleges of the Workforce Development Cabinet and the community colleges previously with the University of Kentucky. BCTC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Students from all over the world (Europe, Jordan, Turkey) choose Bluegrass. In 2009 the school had 11,500 students attending.

The only BCTC’s IT Associates program offered online is the Applications track, which deals with productivity software and applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, database management, presentation, geographic information systems, website development/maintenance, and help desk tracking systems. Within the Applications track there are several subsections that students can hone in on including:
Business Software Specialist, created to train students on a variety of software packages and help businesses to developand maintain databases, produce financial statements, and develop applications with those software packages. Computer Application Support, which will give students a meticulous look at application software, computer system configurations, Help Desk Tools/Software, end-user documentation, user training, and other user support skills. Geographic Information Systems which gives students a basis for geographical manipulation through building and deploying GIS Applications. Finally, Software Support, which will teach students in-depth about application software, computer system configurations, and data driven websites.

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  • Tuition per credit hour: $156

4.)Rasmussen College

Rasmussen is a for-profit college originally creating as a business school in 1900. Since then it has grown to include 24 campuses across the country, and a thriving online division. It now offers over 70 programs broken into seven schools including Health Sciences, Design, Business, Justice Studies, Education, Nursing, and Technology. Rasmussen is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Over 13,500 students attend the school. Its online campus opened in 2002. It has graduated over 100,000 students since then. Rasmussen made this list because of its flex choice system allows synchronous or asynchronous courses, so students can seamlessly build a schedule that fits their needs. You’ll be able to combine coursework with self-directed assignments as part of this program.

Rasmussen’s IT associates come in three specializations: Network Administration (learn how to keep complex networks functioning and navigate them), Network Security (keep networks secure, decrease risks, recover after disasters and administer networks), or Computer Information Technology (troubleshoot and repair desktop/mobile, deploy software with the end user in mind, and work as an IT with an understanding/philosophy that embraces the diversity of devices). Rasmussen’s graduates have gone on to work at Best Buy, Microsoft, Target, Wells Fargo, Ikea, State Farm, Verizon and many other luminaries within the technology sector. An associates degree from Rasmussen can be earned in as little as 21 months.

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  • Tuition per credit hour: $281

5.)Penn State World Campus

Established in 1998, Penn State World Campus is the famous state school’s online arm. Over 6,000 people attend the school. The World Campus offers 120 online undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs in partnership with Penn State academic programming. Penn State’s distance learning legacy is built on decades of experience before the Internet’s existence. In 1892 Penn State began offering farmers access to its classes through correspondence. Upon graduation from the World Campus, students can attend the Penn State graduation ceremony, and receive the exact same degree as on campus students. Penn State’s IT associates program made this list in part due to its four distinct tracks.

Penn State World Campus’ IT associates was designed in conjunction with their College of Information Sciences and Technology to give working professionals that have little to zero experience in information technology an entrance into a career in tech management. You’ll have the option to convert this degree into a bachelors, focus in on the business side of IT, develop an individualized concentration based on your own interests or focus on network administration. This associates program also requires an internship, in which you’ll gain tangible, real-life experience to help you segue into a new career. This dedication to hands-on experience will be paired with an in-depth virtual classroom inspection of information systems and practice with cutting edge tech in the creation, organization, storage, analysis, evaluation, communication, and transmission of information.

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  • Tuition per credit hour: $542

6.)Indiana Wesleyan University

Indiana Wesleyan University is a private, evangelical Christian university affiliated with the Wesleyan Church. It is also the largest private university in Indiana. Founded in 1920 IWU now has over 16,000 students. Over 10,000 of them attend classes at education centers in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, and online. IWU has been paying close attention to the needs of professional adults who are looking to achieve new degrees since 1983. It’s grown by 200% since 1990 as well. IWU has received many awards and ranks highly by many esteemed ranking sources. It notably placed 17th out of 150 universities in the midwest in 2013 on the U.S. News and World Report rankings.

IWU’s IT associates program promises to blend the ethical decision-making of Christianity with the thrill of Information Technology expertise in approximately 24 months. This program is very flexible with transfer credits, and depending on what you have, you may be able to quickly parlay your previous schooling into a bachelors in IT. No one describes the focus/overlap of IT and biblical foundations quite like IWU. The program promises to help students create Computer Information Technology analysis skills within a Biblical framework. “You’re able to go from zero to being able to get a job in IT, develop your career, and then move on to higher education if you want to,” says Joe Snider, an assistant professor at IWU.

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  • Tuition per credit hour: $283

7.)Grantham University

Grantham is a for-profit school based out of Lenaxa, Kansas. Established in 1951, the school has over 17,000 students, many of which attend online. In total, Grantham offers over 40 accredited online certificates and degrees. Its College of Engineering and Computer Science is a pride of the school, offering associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees and courses in project management, digital systems, physics, calculus, differential equations, and programming. Just this fall, Grantham received specialized accreditation for its Bachelor of Science in electronics engineering technology program. It’s now been recognized by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) as an excellent purveyor of this degree. In 2006, eLearning World University Rankings ranked Grantham University 13th out of 27 American online colleges. Grantham has also been ranked highly as a military friendly school.

Grantham’s IT program focuses on the physical, electric engineering side of IT. They call it an associates in Electronics and Computer Engineering Technology. The program promises to give students in depth knowledge through specific courses in DC/AC circuit principles and design, digital electronics and analog electronics, and computer programming. It takes 63 credit hours and approximately 24 months to complete the program, and it can immediately be used towards a bachelors from Grantham in Electronics Engineering Technology. The program costs $265 per credit hour, and can be started at students’ discretion.

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  • Tuition per credit hour: $250

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9.)Florida State College at Jacksonville

This state school was founded in 1965 as a junior college, eventually upgrading to a community college, and eventually being converted by the Florida Legislature into a state school. Florida State College at Jacksonville has gone from 2,610 students in Fall 1966 to over 80,000 students currently. During that time it’s offerings have exploded to 13 bachelor’s degrees, 45 associate degrees and over 100 technical certificates and workforce certifications. It ranks among the top 25 most affordable four-year schools in the nation, and its students hail from over 146 countries, ranging in age from 15 to 77. It was ranked 11th in the nation out of 4,548, and in all disciplines granted among public, four-year colleges and universities granting associate degrees by Community College Week.

Florida State College at Jacksonville’s associates in Computer Information Technology degree program gets students ready to begin careers as developers, programmers, programmer-analysts, database developers or web developers. In order to accomplish this, students will be inundated in courses on program and systems design, computer communications, database development, web development, customer support and programming in specific languages. A 50-hour internship is part of the degree to translate what’s discovered in the classroom to real world experience. Students may also choose from three tracks, including: Programming, in which students will learn modern languages like C language, C++, C#, Java, J2EE or Visual basic.NET. Web, in which students will focus on web design by learning web management, UNIX/Linux development or server development. Finally, Database, in which Oracle SQL, PL/SQL, database administration, M.S. SQL Server database or M.S. Access database are used to learn database development/maintenance.

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  • Tuition per credit hour: $466

10.)University of Massachusetts Lowell

The University of Massachusetts Lowell is a public research university with just under 18,000 students. It’s the second largest public university behind UMass Amherst. It’s a prestigious public school in a state known for its higher education, and offers 122 bachelor’s, 43 master’s and 36 doctoral degree programs, with esteemed courses in engineering, criminal justice, education, music, science and technology. UMass Lowell has been ranked extremely highly on a number of criteria, especially in recent years. U.S. News & World Report ranks UMass Lowell at 152 among top-tier National Universities list in 2016. UMass Lowell is one of only six schools to rank higher on that list each year since 2010. It gained 27-spots in the past five years, second-fastest in the nation. They also ranked it 78th among top public universities and second in the state. Forbes rated UMass Lowell the 10th best value among all universities and colleges nationwide in 2013, and fourth in value among non-military academies.

UMass Lowell’s IT associate’s program is geared towards giving students the skills they need to enter rapidly growing, lucrative occupations like network systems and datacom analysts, database administrators, software engineers, computer and infosystems managers, network and system administrators, computer specialists, and more. All of these jobs have been ranked in Fortune’s top 20 fastest growing occupations. If you visit their website, they offer prospective students the ability to sample a course to determine its worth for themselves. The cost per course is approximately $1155. For a full list of courses and descriptions in this program, look no further.

  • Homepage
  • Tuition per credit hour: $375

Computer Science Degrees: What Are They? And What’s the Difference?


In the age of technology that we live in pursuing an education in computer science is simply a sure bet, or at least as sure as they come in higher education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost every job in the industry of computer science is showing growth well above the national average, an exciting prospect for anyone interested in obtaining a computer science degree. Obtaining the degree that best suits your interests and leads to your ideal career, however, is another story. There are a staggering number of computer science degrees and specializations, sub-specialties, and degree combinations. The differences between them can be both very subtle and highly consequential, having an enormous impact on learning paths and career outcomes down the road. So below you can find our exploration of the three main degrees in the field computer science: Computer Science, Computer Information Systems, and Information Technology.


Computer Science simply put is the scientific study of computers, their processes, and why they work. This study of computers delves into computer software, information systems, artificial intelligence, programming languages, information technology, machine programming, and cyber defense. A degree in computer science can lead to any number of lucrative and in high demand occupations including: web developers, data scientists, IT technicians, programmers, computer scientists, and more. All of which can excel in a wide array of industries, meaning that students with a computer science degree have an enormous amount of freedom to choose how, when, and where they work while maintaining impressive financial freedom as well. Seem too good to be true? Well for once it’s not. The only trouble though is deciphering which of the many, many paths you will take–for there are countless options and many of which can appear identical on the surface.

As a degree defined by technology, it should be no surprise that many top computer science degree programs can be earned entirely online. While many students require the platform of traditional schooling to best meet their education goals, many of the tech-minded students see enormous opportunity in online degree options. The freedom to learn when, where, and how you want is something that empowers many prospective students and busy professionals to earn their degree when they otherwise would not have been able to–whether due to busy work schedules, demanding personal lives, or other factors. You can find our article exploring the best of the undergraduate options for obtaining such an online computer science degree here.


Computer Information Systems is the branch of study wherein students explore the vast number of practical applications of technology, and how these applications might best support other business/organizations, applications, or research. Computer Information Systems is often confused with Information Technology. They are indeed similar, however, the CIS degree empowers students to explore areas and subject matter that are often peripheral to IT degrees. Essentially, the IT degree is for the most part designed to prepare students to take on roles in tech support or in IT services where they employ existing technology to tackle current problems, while the CIS focuses on teaching students how to develop new technology to tackle future problems. The degree will deliver an education wherein students tackle a variety of areas such as business systems, programming, social networking, software design, and intensive mathematics. This effectively grants students more freedom to choose their own career paths and choose in which niche market they will attempt to develop new technology–an impressive amount of personal choice.

It is important to note here that computer information systems as an area of study often presents itself in many different names. CIS degrees can be called Information Systems, Business Information Systems, or Management Information Systems. And these alternative names conveniently illuminate what makes the CIS degree unique: it focuses on the bridge between information system technology development and the business world, meaning that students necessarily keep up with both of these worlds and determine how new information systems might best bridge the gap between them. This makes the CIS degree an absolutely incredible tool for any up and coming entrepreneurs in the tech world, as it prepares them to stand at the apex where business technology needs and business technology development meet–an excellent place for any entrepreneur to be.

Check out our ranking of the 20 Best Online Masters in CIS

Check out our ranking of the 20 Best Online Bachelors in CIS

Information Technology is the field of study that is defined by a clear dedication to the practical applications of computers in a work environment. While the CIS degree focuses more on developing new technology to meet pressing needs of the business world, the IT degree focuses more on teaching students how to best implement computer and information technology into the current workplace. The most popular careers in IT are software/app development, computer systems analytics, information security analytics, and computer user support specialty. The IT degree offers students a unique opportunity to both work with technology and serve people in tech support, which is also one the highest in-demand markets in IT.

Students may also find it game-changing to note that the IT degree requires significantly less math than the Computer Science degree or CIS degree. In this same vein, the IT degree also offers several routes of study that focus on applied tech such as database management, security, or networking, which are characteristically different in that they don’t require an enormous dedication to writing code–a perk that some students will likely love. Essentially, there are two main learning options that are uniquely tied to the IT degree. This is is all the more noteworthy because the three degrees explored in this article are similar to begin with, and become near indistinguishable when adding degree specializations and sub specializations to the mix, but despite this characteristic homogeneity the IT degree distinguishes itself through offering these exclusive perks.

Check out our Ranking of the 20 Best Online Bachelors in Information Technology
Check out our Ranking of the 20 Best Online Masters in Information Technology

So What’s the Difference? As mentioned above there are numerous distinctive characteristics between the Computer Science degree, the CIT degree, and the IT degree. But these characteristics are for the most part only apparent at a very micro level. So for students, who are looking for a more basic understanding of the differences between these three degrees, we can distinguish between them at the macro level. Each of the degrees at its core seeks to answer a fundamental philosophical question:

CS: how might we develop, test, and hone computing systems that mechanize repetitive tasks?
CIS: how might computing solutions be used to answer an organizational or research problem?
IT: how might we ensure uptime or repair existing hardware systems?