Do you have a knack for computer systems and technology? Do you already hold a bachelor’s and master’s degree in a computer science related field? If so, then your next step might be an affordable online doctorate in computer science. In this ranking, we explore the 3 best low-cost online doctoral degrees in computer science. When deciding which programs would make the cut, we only included schools that are under $25,000 in out-of-state tuition and that could be completed fully online. Because there are so few schools that met our criteria, we ranked the programs simply by tuition, with #3 being the most expensive, and #1 being the least expensive.

#3 Northcentral University

La Jolla, CA

Online Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science

Graduate Enrollment: 11,058

3 Most Affordable Doctorate Degrees in Computer Science Online

Accredited by the Senior College and University Commission, Northcentral University offers an online, research-based Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science. In the 60-credit affordable online PhD in Computer Science program, students will take 20 courses and can expect to complete their degree in about 50 months. The program prides itself on being more than just research and writing papers. Instead, it takes an applied, hands-on approach that allows students to add to the computer science discussion through real-world assignments. Students will be required to build a portfolio of work during their studies. Graduates will be prepared to enter high-level careers as Software Developers, IT Managers, Network & Systems Engineering, Data Analysis, Database Specialists, and Business Intelligence. NU offers start dates every Monday and a one-to-one learning model that provides support for all online students. Note that there are no GRE or GMAT test requirements for admission. Northcentral University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Because Northcentral University is strictly an online graduate university, they have the opportunity to hone in on specific groups of studies and provide a quality, innovative education that prepares passionate professionals to excel in their respective careers.
Out-of-State Graduate Tuition: $16,983

#2 Colorado Technical University

Colorado Springs, CO

Doctor of Computer Science Online

Graduate Enrollment: 3,802

3 Most Affordable Doctorate Degrees in Computer Science Online

Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, Colorado Technical University offers a 100-credit online Doctor of Computer Science with available concentrations in Big Data Analytics, Enterprise Information Systems, and Cybersecurity and Information Assurance. A general track is also available. Because the dissertation process is integrated into the program itself, this low-cost computer science doctorate degree online can be completed in as little as 3 years. The curriculum is available fully online; however, students must complete an in-person residency as well. Specific coursework includes classes like Current Topics in Computer Science and Information Systems, Futuring and Innovation, Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods, and Principles of Research Methods and Design. CTU is impressively ranked among the best colleges for online degree programs and veterans by the US News and World Report. One unique feature that sets CTU apart from other programs is its mobile app, which allows students to complete aspects of their education on the go.
Out-of-State Graduate Tuition: $12,529

#1 Aspen University

Denver, CO

Online Doctor of Computer Science

Graduate Enrollment: 2,356

3 Most Affordable Doctorate Degrees in Computer Science Online

As an online-only university providing all levels of degrees and certificates, Aspen University offers an online affordable Doctor of Science in Computer Science. The program is designed for students with a background in computer science who desire to advance their knowledge and skillsets to take on high-level computer science careers. Within the 60 credits are 20 courses, including Automata Complexity Theory, Simulation and Modeling, Technology and Innovation Management, and Discrete Mathematics for Computer Science. After the core requirements, students will take a comprehensive proctored exam and complete a dissertation. In order to be admitted to the program, students must have a Master’s degree from a CHEA accredited school as well as a 3.0 cumulative GPA. Students are also expected to have prior computer science experience and show competency as an Object Oriented Programming Developer.

Aspen University has a unique interest-free payment plan system where students pay only $375 per month for their classes. The monthly payments go towards tuition, but allow students to plan financially for their education. AU’s CEO, Michael Matthews, desires to make education accessible and manageable for all students. By implementing his online payment system, he hopes to reduce student debt after graduation. AU is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).
Out-of-State Graduate Tuition: $3,920

Degree Information

What degrees are available for an affordable online doctorate in Computer Science?

There are two main degrees students can get through an affordable online doctoral program in Computer Science: a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Computer Science or a Doctor of Computer Science (DCS). While the degree paths are similar, they are not considered equal. Most DCS degrees can be completed in 3 years, and if a dissertation is required, it is usually much shorter in length. The PhD degree takes about 4 years to complete, and students will spend a significant amount of time researching and writing their dissertation. A Doctor of Computer Science, though still a terminal degree, won’t have as much merit in the research field. If your desire is to take on management jobs in the corporate world, a low-cost online DCS degree might be your best bet. However, if you’re looking to make your mark as an independent researcher, you will want to lean more towards completing your PhD. In short, a Doctor of Computer Science will produce highly skilled practitioners in your given field, while the PhD will set you up for a career in academia and research. Therefore, it is important to think about what you plan to do after graduation because that will determine which degree you should pursue. Either way, your terminal degree will most definitely boost your paycheck and your career opportunities.

What are some common concentrations or specializations within the Computer Science field?

Below are some common specializations you might find in online doctorate degrees in Computer Science:

  • Big Data Analytics: This focus area is concerned with using data to make more informed business decisions, to create solutions to problems, reduce costs, and develop ideas for new products and services.
  • Enterprise Information Systems: This focus area is the use of information systems to improve various aspects of a business.
  • Cybersecurity and Information Assurance: This specialization focuses on securing online data (Cybersecurity) and any form of information, including paper documents (Information Assurance).


Q: Do I need a Master’s degree for admission to an affordable online doctorate degree in Computer Science?
A: Yes, you will. Admission to doctoral programs require both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in a related Computer Science field.

Q: How long does it take to complete a cheap online doctorate degree in Computer Science?
A: Doctoral degree programs are more intense than Master’s degree programs and for good reason. By getting the highest degree possible, you become an expert in your field, and that doesn’t happen overnight. You can find some programs, that when taken on a full-time basis, that can be completed in as little as 3 years. Other programs can take 4, 5, or even 6 years to complete, depending on your course load. Some programs allow up to 7 or 8 years for you to complete your terminal doctoral degree in online teaching. It is important to check the details of your program prior to admission to make sure the parameters would for you.

Q: What will I study in my low-cost online doctoral degree in Computer Science?
A: The answer to this question will largely be determined by the specific program and concentration you choose. But generally, you will study advanced principles of computer science, including topics like:

  • computer programming
  • data mining
  • cyber security
  • operating systems
  • artificial intelligence
  • software engineering
  • algorithms
  • robotics

Q: Are online doctoral degrees respected?
A: While some students may be concerned that an online degree may not hold the same weight as a traditional degree, as culture changes, employers are thinking less about the nature of the degree and more about the total package of the applicant. In fact, most online doctoral Computer Science programs are geared toward working professionals, so employers 100% understand that students are juggling work and school at the same time, which could most likely say a lot about your ability to manage schedules and work under pressure. And because online education requires a high amount of self-discipline, completing the degree can be a sign of a hard worker that would be an asset to any business’ staff. In addition, most degrees do not reveal that the degree was taken online, and therefore, the only way a potential employer would know if you completed your degree online was if you told them yourself.

Q: Are there any low-cost doctorate programs in Computer Science that do not require a dissertation?
A: While there could possibly be a program available that does not require a dissertation, most programs do, especially all on this rankings list. As a student seeking a terminal doctoral degree in Computer Science, you will be required to research, write, and defend your dissertation. While the process will be arduous and at times, tedious, it will lead you to become an expert in your field of study. Don’t be scared by the daunting task—most online programs in Computer Science have support for your research and writing process like mentorships and online workshops. Check the details of your specific program to see what guidance you will receive.

Q: How much do affordable online doctorate degrees in Computer Science cost?
A: In this rankings list, the tuition for the programs range from $7,000-$17,000 per year (out of state tuition). You could potentially find a cheaper online doctorate degree program, but you’ll want to make sure it fits within your criteria and holds accreditation from a reputable institution. Some schools like Aspen University have innovative tuition programs designed to help you plan your finances for your education. AU utilizes a unique interest-free payment plan system where students pay only $375 per month for their classes. The monthly payments go towards tuition, but allow students to have a better idea of their educational costs per month.

Q: How can I pay for my cheap online doctorate degree in Computer Science?
A: Making room in your budget for school costs can be daunting. But luckily, there are many scholarships and financial aid options available. Most schools have information on their website to help guide you in that process. For military service members, many schools have tuition discounts or special scholarships available, so make sure to look for those in your search. Another option is to talk to the institution where you currently work. Some have tuition reimbursement programs, where they will pay for your education, and you can pay them back through working contracts. Some schools have options for students to become Teaching Assistants, which could help with tuition costs. Don’t forget about Aspen University’s tuition plan mentioned above, which could be a great fit for someone who prefers to pay a set amount per month.

Q: Can I work while I pursue my low-cost online doctorate in Computer Science?
A: Yes, absolutely. Most programs are designed with working professionals in mind and because classes are typically delivered in asynchronous formats, you’ll be able to complete your coursework when it’s convenient for your schedule. Some programs, however, do incorporate synchronous classes, which means you’ll need to log-on at certain times. Either way, it’s important to consider that the coursework will not be easier or lighter because you are taking your classes online. In fact, most work is identical to on-campus programs and the classes are taught by the same faculty. Even though you could technically work, you may not want to, or you may want to back off your hours at work while you are pursuing your degree. Though it might take some figuring out, hopefully, you can find a balance that will work for you.

Q: Does the location of the school matter for my affordable online degree in Computer Science?

A: If you are taking a 100% online doctorate Online Teaching program, the location of the school will not matter, as all coursework will be submitted online and any field experiences can be completed in your regional location. However, you might find some degree programs like Regent University’s that offer blended options or have mandatory orientation or seminar requirements, so make sure to check the details of your program before fully committing. Other students might prefer to live geographically close to their chosen school for support in advising or practicum placements. That decision will be completely up to you and what you prefer. Note that many schools do have online advising and student support, as well as video/Skype capabilities with faculty and mentors. But if face-to-face support is important to you, choosing a school near to you might be a wise choice.

Career Questions:

Q: What kind of careers can I pursue with an affordable Computer Science doctorate online degree?
A: While there are many career options available, it is important to find a niche that you love to do. Some examples include:

  • Network & Systems Engineer
  • IT Manager
  • Database Specialist
  • Software Developer
  • Data Analyst

Q: What kind of salary will I earn with a low-cost doctorate degree in Computer Science?
A: Your salary will vary based on your chosen career, but one thing is for sure; you will certainly make more money with a doctorate degree than any other degree. Your potential for growth in your career is substantial, too. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, some sample salaries include:

  • Information Security Analyst: $95,510 (mean annual wage for 2017)
  • Adjunct Faculty/Professor: $76,000 (mean annual wage for 2017)
  • Computer and Information Systems Manager: $139,220 (mean annual wage for 2017)
  • Software Developer: $03,560 (mean annual wage for 2017)
  • Computer and Information Research Scientist: $114,520 (mean annual wage for 2017)

Q: Are there any professional organizations available for professionals in the Computer Science field?
A:  Yes! Just as careers in this field are widespread, so are the professional organizations. The ones you choose to become a member of will be determined by your specific goals, professional needs, and career aspirations. A few options include:


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