Is a Computer Science Degree Worth It?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Let’s take a closer look at what a CS degree can mean for your career path, salary, and skills development.

[Featured Image] Two students earning a computer science degree are sitting together and studying while looking at their computers.

If you want to work in a technical field, earning a computer science degree can prepare you for a wide range of high-paying, in-demand careers. At the same time, pursuing any degree has several associated costs that are important to consider.

In this article, we’ll discuss factors that may make a computer science degree more or less “worth it” to you depending on your goals, where you are in your career, and the resources you currently have available to you.

Computer science degree return on investment

Computer science degrees tend to be highly valued among employers. In fact, the Education Data Initiative determined CS degrees to be the most cost-efficient bachelor’s degree available, with a lifetime return on investment (ROI) of 716.6 percent. They also calculated the unemployment rate among CS degree holders to be 90.8 percent lower than the bachelor’s degree unemployment rate across all majors [1].

Let’s take a closer look at what a CS degree can mean for your career path, salary, and skills development.

Linked image with text "See how your Coursera Learning can turn into bachelor's degree credit at University of London"

Career opportunities

One of the reasons computer science degrees tend to be so valuable is because of their versatility across in-demand fields. These degree programs can lay the foundation for careers in data science, artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, cloud computing, robotics, and even video game design.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), common occupations for people with a CS degree are [2]:

In addition to preparing to launch your career in a range of fields, you’ll also be well-equipped to change your career path across these fields as you hone your interests and gain work experience. For example, you may start out as a computer programmer, and later decide you want to move into software development. Since you already have a CS degree, you’ll be a bit more prepared to make that change than you would if you only had a programming background.

Learn more: What Can You Do with a Computer Science Degree? 10 In-Demand Fields

Salary potential

Computer science degrees tend to be associated with above-average salaries. According to the BLS, people with this degree earn a median annual wage of $90,000, which is noticeably higher than the median salary across all degree fields, $63,000 [2].

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reports that the projected base starting salary for 2023 graduates with a bachelor’s degree in computer science is $72,843—the second highest-paid major after engineering. They also note that computer science majors are the second most in-demand graduates among employers (behind finance), with two-thirds of employers surveyed expecting to hire CS graduates [3].

Learn more: Computer Science Salary Guide

Skills development

As you work toward your degree, you can expect to build several in-demand technical (“hard”) and workplace (“soft”) skills through your computer science courses. 

Some technical skills you can expect to learn are:

  • Mathematics

  • Programming languages

  • Software development

  • Quality control analysis

  • Project management

  • Data analysis

  • Systems analysis

Some workplace skills many programs incorporate are:

  • Attention to detail

  • Active listening

  • Communication

  • Time management

  • Problem-solving

  • Organization

  • Leadership

Learn more: Is Computer Science a Good Major?

Computer science degree cost

There are two major costs when it comes to earning a degree: financial and time. Traditionally, both costs were fairly steep—and in some cases, still are—but in recent years, some schools have found ways to offer more affordable and flexible options for students pursuing a degree. Let’s take a look at both.


The cost of your degree will vary depending on where you decide to enroll. According to the College Board, for the 2022-2023 school year, the average tuition and fees for a full-time undergraduate student at a public in-state school was $10,940 per year, and at a private nonprofit school was $39,400 [4].

As you pursue your degree, you may find additional costs beyond tuition and fees, such as books and materials, housing, and transportation expenses. However, you may find lower tuition costs and avoid some additional spending by pursuing an online bachelor’s degree.

Learn more: What to Do if You Can't Afford College (Even With Financial Aid)

Time commitment

Most full-time students take between four and five years to earn their bachelor’s degree, however for part-time students, the timeline can be longer, depending on how many courses they take each semester. Enrolling in an accelerated degree program can enable you to complete your degree on a quicker timeline.

Computer science has a reputation for being a difficult major due to the rigorous technical coursework standard for these programs, so as you consider how much time you’ll be able to put toward learning, you may want to build in extra study time.

Learn more: Is Computer Science Hard?

Other ways to learn computer science

Although computer science degrees tend to yield high returns, pursuing your degree now may not fit with your current lifestyle and responsibilities. Fortunately, there are many alternatives to college that can enable you to begin your career in a computer science field.

Consider whether a bootcamp, certificate program, associate degree, or—depending on your education history—a master’s degree is a better fit for you at this time. With each of these credential types, you can find programs intended to help students qualify for entry-level computer science roles. You may even be able to earn college credit for these programs to apply to a bachelor’s degree program in the future.

Let’s take a closer look at these popular options:

  • Bootcamps are intensive programs that focus on a specific skill that you can learn in about three months of full-time study, such as a coding language. In some cases, you may be able to find an entry-level job using the skills you gain through a bootcamp, while other bootcamps are designed for people looking to upskill in their current field.

  • Associate degrees take about half the time to complete than a bachelor’s degree and can help you qualify for some entry-level jobs. When you’re ready to advance your career, you may find that with a bachelor’s degree, you qualify for more roles, and with your associate degree, you’ll already be halfway there.

  • Master’s degrees typically require that incoming students have a bachelor’s degree, but if you are considering a CS degree and already have a bachelor’s degree in another field, it may make more sense for you to pursue a master’s degree in computer science than a second bachelor’s degree. Some CS master’s programs are designed for students without a computer science background and generally take less time to complete than a full bachelor’s degree program.

Next steps

Keep learning with an online computer science degree on Coursera. Explore open courses from the University of London with their Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Specialization to see if an online degree is right for you.

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Article sources


Education Data Initiative. “College Degree Return on Investment,” Accessed August 28, 2023.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.