Computer Information Systems

Associate Degree

Program Outline

This outline covers all four semesters of your at-home degree program. You will receive credit for previous college coursework if you meet Penn Foster standards. If you wish to receive credit for previous coursework, contact the college you attended and ask that your transcripts be forwarded to Penn Foster for evaluation. All previous college work must have been completed with a grade of "C" or better, and as much as 75% of the required credits may be transferred. We will also credit your tuition for all the courses that are acceptable.

Computer Specifications
As you know this is an online academic program. This means you will need access to high-speed internet to begin your program. In addition, you will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows 10® or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running macOS® or later, Microsoft® Office 2019 or Microsoft 365® and an email account to complete this program with Penn Foster.

Online Library and Librarian
Students at Penn Foster College have access to an online library during their college studies. Students can use the library to do the required course research or for general reference and links to valuable resources. The library contains helpful research assistance, articles, databases, books, and Web links. A librarian is available to answer questions on general research-related topics via email and will assist students in research activities.

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal
The Computer Information Systems Associate's Degree program prepares students for an entry-level position in the field of computer and information technology.

Program Outcomes
Upon completion of the program, students will be able to...

  • Demonstrate the ability to create programs following basic problem solving principles and guidelines common to all programming languages
  • Demonstrate the ability to create and integrate documents using word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software applications
  • Demonstrate an understanding of communication systems used by computers to form networks; identify different networking implementation strategies and technologies available
  • Demonstrate the ability to create and maintain a database and how the collected data can be deployed
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the system development cycle and the role of the systems analyst in developing business applications
  • Demonstrate a high level of inquiry, analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Demonstrate effective written and interpersonal communication skills
  • Demonstrate a high level of inquiry, analytical, and problem-solving skills
  • Demonstrate effective quantitative skills
  • Demonstrate computer and information literacy
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the liberal arts, natural sciences, and social sciences


Semester 1

Computer Technology Orientation (1 credit)
Succeed by learning how to use your Penn Foster program, and learn about the role of technology in society.


  • Understand how to use your Student Portal.
  • Access the Penn Foster Community and use it to find answers.
  • Connect with Penn Foster on various social media sites.
  • Explain the impact of technology on business and the economy.
  • Understand the social implications of technology and its benefits and trends.
  • Identify technology careers and what skill sets they require.

Information Literacy (1 credit)
Get better at finding and using information!


  • Search the Internet more effectively.
  • Get tips about search engines and reliable websites.
  • Learn how to search libraries and other information centers for important, useful information.

Intermediate Algebra (3 credits)
Algebra is the mathematical language used to interpret and represent patterns in numbers by using variables, expressions, and equations. Algebra is an essential tool used in business, science, and computer technology. Throughout this course, you’ll be introduced to algebraic concepts, along with real-world application problems from a variety of fields. In addition to providing a springboard to the discovery of underlying mathematical properties, these applications illustrate the importance of mathematics in your world.


  • Solve algebraic equations, linear equations, inequalities, and absolute value equations
  • Solve and graph linear equations and inequalities
  • Solve polynomials
  • Apply algebraic operations to rational expressions and rational equations
  • Solve problems involving radicals and complex numbers
  • Solve quadratic equations, rational inequalities, nonlinear equations, and nonlinear inequalities
  • Calculate exponential and logarithmic functions
  • Solve binomial expansions, sequences, and arithmetic and geometric series
  • Prepare for the final exam

Textbook: Intermediate Algebra

Computer Applications (3 credits)
Microsoft® Office allows people to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and databases. This course will teach you how to use three popular tools from the Microsoft® Office Suite — Word™, Excel®, and PowerPoint®. In this course, you'll learn how to use Word™ to create and edit text documents, insert figures and tables, and format pages for a variety of uses. You'll then learn how to use Excel® to organize and format data, including charts, formulas, and more complex tables. Next, you'll learn how to use PowerPoint® to create and deliver slide shows. Finally, you'll complete a graded project, which will test the skills acquired in Word™, Excel®, and PowerPoint®.


  • Create various Microsoft® Word™ documents.
  • Produce a thorough Microsoft® Excel® spreadsheet.
  • Identify the basic skills needed to use Microsoft® PowerPoint®.
  • Synthesize what you’ve learned by integrating Word™, Excel®, and PowerPoint®.

Introduction to Programming (3 credits)
Examines the basic logic common to all programming languages; shows students how to create their own programs not based on any particular programming language; concentrates on the basic guidelines and best practices for developing good programming skills.


  • Describe the steps for creating a program
  • Analyze the use of Boolean, loops, and functions in a program
  • Show the use of various types of arrays and menu-driven programs
  • Explain the use of text processing, recursion, object-oriented programming, and GUIs
  • Design pseudocode, a flowchart, and a GUI for an app

Social Science Elective (6 credits)
(Choose two) ...

SSC105 - World Civilizations
This course serves as an introduction to many of the major events of the fifteenth through twenty-first centuries. It also examines the causal relationships between events and trends all across the globe.


  • Identify the causes and consequences of global trade and its conflicting worldwide impact
  • Describe the impact of social and industrial revolutions, fifteenth century onward, on various nations
  • Recognize the conditions that led to the World Wars, decolonization, and the Cold War
  • Summarize post–World War II effects on the economic and political structures around the world
  • Discuss an event that occurred after the fifteenth century and had an impact on a world civilization
  • Explain the effects of World War II on the world population

Textbook: A History of World Societies, Volume 2 

SSC125 - Introduction to Sociology
This course is designed to introduce you to social structure and social interaction through groups, networks, and organizations. Study politics, the economy, population, social movements, technology, and social change.


  • Describe deviance, crime, and social control.
  • Discuss the effects of stratification, racial and ethnic inequality, sex, gender, and sexuality.
  • Examine the role of health, family, education, and religion in human behavior.

SSC130 - Essentials of Psychology
This course will introduce you to the relationship between biology and behavior. You will learn about human development throughout the life span.


  • Identify major psychological theories.
  • Discuss consciousness, memory, thought, and language.
  • Define intelligence, personality, and stress.
  • Analyze the role of gender in psychology.
  • Explain how community influences behavior.

Proctored Exam
You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.


Semester 2

Advanced PC Applications (3 credits)
In this course, you'll learn to use computer software that's important to any business.


  • Learn about Microsoft® Access®
  • Create new Access® databases, forms, and reports.
  • Sort and filter your data with queries.
  • Analyze your data using Access.®
  • Create PowerPoint® presentations by placing and manipulating clip art.
  • Choose a background template and add notes to a PowerPoint® slide show.
  • Embed and link Word™ and Excel® material in PowerPoint® presentations.
  • Add sound, movie files, and hyperlinks to PowerPoint® presentations.
  • Embed an Excel® worksheet, chart, or graph into a Word™ document.
  • Learn the difference between object linking and embedding.
  • Study the procedure for linking an object to a Word™ document.
  • Use Microsoft® Access® to create a data source.
  • Develop a form letter with form fields.
  • Merge a database with a form letter.

HTML Coding (3 credits)
This course teaches how to create web pages with hypertext links, tables, frames, and forms.


  • Create a simple HTML webpage that contains lists, links, images and tables
  • Recognize how to add forms, extra arkup, flash, video and audio
  • Make a webpage using CSS rules and CSS elements
  • Identify elements in HTML5, aspects of design theory, and practical tips for launching a site
  • Create a professional looking website

Textbook: HTML & CSS Design and Build Websites, First Edition

English Composition (3 credits)
This course teaches the skills and techniques of effectively developing, drafting, and revising college-level essays toward a specific purpose and audience: active reading, prewriting strategies, sentence and paragraph structure, thesis statements, varied patterns of development (such as illustration, comparison and contrast, and classification), critical reading toward revision of structure and organization, editing for standard written conventions, and use and documentation of outside sources. Students submit two prewriting assignments and three essays (process analysis, comparison and contrast, and argumentation).


  • Use writing skills to construct well-written sentences and active reading skills to understand and analyze text
  • Develop paragraphs using topic sentences, adequate detail, supporting evidence, and transitions
  • Contrast the revising and editing steps of the writing process
  • Distinguish between different patterns of development
  • Write a process analysis essay using prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing skills
  • Recognize how to determine the reliability of secondary sources and to give proper credit to sources referenced in an essay
  • Write a comparison and contrast essay by using persuasive writing techniques to defend a claim
  • Create a sound written argument using techniques of drafting and evaluating sources

Network Protocols and Internetworking (3 credits)
This course covers topics related to how computers communicate with each other, how computers are grouped together to form networks, networking concepts and issues that are key to the successful implementation of computer networks, and the different networking implementation strategies and technologies currently available.


  • Categorize the application of network, OSI model, TCP/IP, and protocols
  • Analyze the function of topologies, numbering systems, and IP addresses
  • Point out the function of cabling, device functions, and LAN operations
  • Show the configuration procedures for routers and switches

Textbook: Cisco Networking Essentials

Precalculus (3 credits)
This course covers precalculus concepts that all college students need as prerequisites to calculus and other related courses required in many undergraduate majors. Specific topics include exponents, logarithms, sequences, series, trigonometric functions, analytic trigonometry, systems of equations and inequalities, matrices, conic sections, polar coordinates, and limits.


  • Solve and graph exponential, logarithmic, and trigonometric equations
  • Convert angles from radians to degrees and vice versa
  • Verify trigonometric identities
  • Use right triangle trigonometry, the Law of Sines, and the Law of Cosines to solve problems and plot points in the polar coordinate system
  • Use multiple techniques to solve and graph systems of linear equations and inequalities
  • Recognize, graph, and use equations for parabolas, hyperbolas, and ellipses
  • Solve basic concepts of derivatives
  • Demonstrate various analytical and problem-solving skills that involves math calculations related to precalculus

Textbook: Precalculus 6E

Proctored Exam
You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.


Semester 3

Business and Technical Writing (3 credits)
This course provides an introduction to the various methods of organizing material for a professional setting. Students will compose business documents using the ABC method. These include memos, emails, outlines, reports and proposals, descriptions, and organizing materials. Students also work on honing their grammar skills.


  • Describe the basics of the writing process and the ABC method of organizing material for a document
  • Identify the parts of speech in a sentence
  • Demonstrate correct pronoun use
  • Choose proper and effective words for writing documents
  • Identify the elements of a well-written sentence
  • Demonstrate how to use length, directness, emphasis, and variety to craft impactful sentences
  • Explain how to construct a coherent paragraph
  • Describe how to write an effective cover letter and resume
  • Format and write an interoffice memorandum, a routine business letter, and an effective email
  • Identify the different ways to write for blogs, the Internet, and social media
  • Describe how to create an organized formal outline
  • Identify the types of research and methods of documentation used in business and technical writing
  • Explain how to create visual interest and clarity in reports with illustrations, tables, graphs, charts, and overall design
  • Explain the purpose and importance of various types of informal reports
  • Describe the nature of formal reports and identify their components
  • Differentiate among external, internal, informal, and formal proposals
  • Describe an object or a process and prepare a set of instructions
  • Describe the preparation and submission of professional and technical articles and manuals

Visual Basic® (3 credits)
This course provides an introduction to Visual Basic.®


  • Use Visual Basic® to create computer programs.
  • Write programs to solve real-world problems.
  • Understand flowcharting.
  • Understand the stages in the development life cycle.
  • Create a Windows® Forms application.

Textbook: Beginning Visual Basic®

Introduction to Database Technology (3 credits)
This course provides an overview of essential database concepts, with a focus on the relational model of database management.


  • Know what a database is and isn’t.
  • Understand what goes into creating and maintaining a database.
  • Understand how massive databases can be deployed to benefit organizations and their customers.

Textbook: Hands-On Database

Science Elective (6 credits)
(Choose two) ...

SCI110 - Earth Science
This course covers a number of topics which are concentrated in four main categories: geology, meteorology, oceanography, and astronomy. Geology is the study of Earth, its minerals and rocks, and the many varied processes that formed our planet and continue to reform it today. Oceanography is the study of Earth’s oceans. Meteorology is the study of Earth’s atmosphere and astronomy is the study of Earth’s place in space and all things related. These four elements combined make up the Earth and are essential in understanding how the world works and how it’s evolving.


  • Categorize the matter, minerals, and materials that compose the Earth
  • Distinguish between the various theories about the forces behind the Earth’s history
  • Differentiate between the elements and their ways of sculpting the landscape
  • Point out the geological features of oceans and the important concepts of geology
  • Categorize the causes and effects of various phenomena affecting Earth’s atmosphere
  • Analyze the components of the solar system and the universe
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the fundamentals of earth science by completing an open-book proctored exam

Textbook: Earth Science

SCI120 - Introduction to Biology
An introductory course that explains the origin of life and the relationships between all living things. It describes how a significant number of organisms are structured and how they work, in order to enable students to discuss intelligently the various forms of life and their processes.


  • Analyze cells and their processes for obtaining energy and reproducing.
  • Explain how traits are passed on from one generation to the next.
  • Explain how different species of living things have evolved and are classified.
  • Write responses to fundamental biology essay prompts.
  • Identify the characteristics and behavior of plants and animals.
  • Diagram the anatomy and physiology of the human body.
  • Describe the ecology of living things.
  • Summarize complex biological issues using research articles.

Textbook: Essentials of Biology

SCI140 - Nutrition
Nutrition is the science that investigates how the body takes in, breaks down, and uses foods. The course will provide you with basic information on how these processes take place, including information about nutrients and how they contribute to the way the body functions. This will help you to have a better understanding of your decisions about food and diet. You’ll also learn about physical activities that can contribute to a healthier lifestyle. Because a central focus of nutrition studies is on health promotion, suggestions for individual nutrition choice will be discussed, as well as tactics for maintaining a healthy weight and keeping food supplies safe.


  • Describe how nutrition supports a body's wellness
  • Recognize the body's use of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
  • Identify the body's use of water, minerals, and micronutrients
  • Discuss what nutritional needs are for a healthy weight and for an athletic lifestyle
  • Define food safety and the nutritional needs of humans over a lifetime
  • Prepare a research paper on a nutritional topic

Digital Textbook: Nutrition for Healthy Living

Proctored Exam
You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.


Semester 4

Programming in Java™ (3 credits)
This course introduces programming using the Java programming language and takes a hands-on approach from the start. Each lesson builds upon the previous one, layering concepts and growing skills through the creation of real-world applications. The first few lessons will ease you into the rich development world of Java, but by the end of the course, you’ll have a fully functional application and the associated skillset to create many more.


  • Write, compile, and run Java code
  • Implement common coding algorithms in Java
  • Create applications with object-oriented design principles
  • Use Java I/O and multithreading in applications
  • Create Swing-based applications
  • Develop a multithreaded, object-oriented game application with a GUI

Textbook: Java, A Beginner's Guide

Structured Systems Analysis and Design (3 credits)
This course covers the system development cycle, information gathering and reporting activities on the analysis phase, interaction of various participants in the systems process, and the role of the systems analyst in developing business applications.


  • Analyze a business and determine its information needs.
  • Understand the methods for assessing project feasibility.
  • Select the best design strategy using qualitative and quantitative methods.
  • Understand how to generate alternative strategies.
  • Learn Internet and personal security as well as network and enterprise security.
  • Incorporate the steps involved in recovering from an attack and create an attack-recovery plan.
  • Use spyware tools to detect viruses.

Textbook: Essentials of Systems Analysis and Design

Core Electives (6 credits)
(Choose two) ...

CSC275 - Computer Forensics


  • Understand the concepts and practices involved in computer forensics.
  • Identify the tools ranging from graphical user interface (GUI) acquisition software to hex editors.
  • Understand report writing, following rules of evidence, and giving testimony in court.

Textbook: Computer Forensics JumpStart

INT114 - Internet Marketing and E-Commerce


  • Contrast E-commerce with traditional commerce.
  • Identify major market and enterprise issues that impact electronic commerce.
  • Explore how firms conduct business on the Internet, including their selling and marketing strategies.
  • Examine legal and ethical challenges that are unique to E-commerce.
  • Discover the major steps in implementing an E-commerce venture.

Textbook: Complete B2B Online Marketing

INT130 - Internet Security


  • Explain the value and importance of information security
  • Explain personal security defense tools and their usage
  • Describe the role of physical security for a network or organization

Textbook: Web Project Managment

INT203 - Extensible Markup Language (XML)


  • Create XML documents.
  • Understand how to extract data from XML documents.
  • Add XML attributes.
  • Connect CSS to an XML document.
  • Create an XHTML document.

Textbook: XML: A Beginner’s Guide

INT205 - Introduction to Internet Multimedia


  • Understand how to make Web sites more attractive and popular to users.
  • Understand the importance of planning out your Web site ahead of time.
  • Understand the various types of media and the best ways to include them in your Web site.
  • Add a database.
  • Know the best practices for using a Web site for business purposes.
  • Effectively advertise an online business.
  • Plan and design an attractive Web site using multimedia.

Textbook: Multimedia: Making It Work

INT210 - Creating Web Pages with PHP


  • Understand the technologies that will work together to create dynamic, database-backed Web sites.
  • Install, configure, and set up the PHP scripting language, the MySQL database system, and the Apache Web server.
  • Create a Web-based discussion forum or mailing list, or a storefront and shopping cart to a Web site.

Textbook: PHP, MySQL and Apache

INT220 - Programming in CGI/Perl


  • Create online forms.
  • Work with CGI scripts.
  • Write cookies.
  • Manipulate and process data via the Internet using Perl.

Textbook: CGI/Perl

INT238 - Streaming Technology


  • Use tools to create Web pages, multimedia, and animation.
  • Work with Adobe Dreamweaver® to create Web sites.
  • Use Adobe Flash® to add interactivity to your projects, particularly with animation.
  • Use Adobe Fireworks® to create graphics for the Web and Integrate Dreamweaver,® Flash,® and
  • Fireworks® to create unique Web sites that contain interactivity, graphics, and/or animations.

Textbook: The Web Collection Revealed

INT242 - Advanced Database Technology

This course will give you the necessary background in relational database theory and Oracle Database concepts. It will show you how to implement an Oracle Database correctly and give you significant insight into the routine of a database administrator. Lastly, you'll learn about the fine art of performance tuning.


  • Explain relational databases and set up the tools required for the database
  • View data using Structured Query Language (SQL) queries
  • Write SQL queries to add, update, and remove data from tables, and create and drop tables
  • Describe how to view data from multiple tables, use SQL functions in SQL queries, and group results of SQL queries
  • Write commands for performing various tasks in SQL

Textbook: Beginning Oracle SQL for Oracle Database 18c

Arts and Humanities Elective (6 credits)
(Choose two) ...

HUM102 - Art Appreciation
In this course, you will gain an understanding of artistic media, historical periods and artistic movements, the roles of the artist and the viewer, and the principles of art criticism.


  • Define the language, visual elements, and principles of design of art
  • Identify two-dimensional media
  • Identify three-dimensional media
  • Explain the evolution of art from ancient Mediterranean cultures through eighteenth century Europe
  • Identify features and popular examples of art throughout the history of African, Asian, Pacific, and American cultures
  • Compare the genres of the Modern and Postmodern eras of art from around the world

Textbook: Living with Art, 11th Edition

HUM104 - Music Appreciation
In this course, you'll practice the skill of active listening. Learning to listen differently will allow you to experience all kinds of music in a new way. Most listeners are familiar with how music makes them feel, and we often say we like a particular piece of music because it has a "good beat" or a beautiful melody. This course will allow you to go deeper. You'll identify what the composer might have been trying to convey and listen for the way elements of musical composition and performance make each piece unique.


  • Identify the building blocks of music a composer can use to create a piece, such as rhythm, melody, harmony, texture, form, and timbre
  • Differentiate between the music of the baroque era and the musical styles of previous time periods
  • List the major characteristics of classical music, including form, melody, and instrumentation
  • Describe the musical trends and innovations that occurred during the romantic era
  • Relate musical styles of the early twentieth century to comparable movements in art and literature
  • Explain the evolution of American popular music in the twentieth century
  • Describe the influence of world music on modern western composition
  • Synthesize research comparing composers' influence in their respective genres

Textbook: Experience Music

ENG115 - Introduction to Literature
This course will allow you to develop your critical thinking skills and broaden your knowledge of the main genres of literature — fiction, poetry, and drama.


  • Explain how to effectively read fiction for both knowledge and enjoyment
  • Identify different styles and forms of poetry
  • Use what you've learned in this course to discuss, write about, and understand literature
  • Prepare a critical interpretation of fiction or poetry based on what you've learned in this course
  • Discuss how literary dramas differ from fiction and poetry
  • Identify different strategies of critical literary analysis

Proctored Exam
You will be required to complete a proctored exam on selected courses each semester. These assessments will evaluate the knowledge and skills that you learned during the semester. You choose the time, the location, and the qualified exam supervisor.


We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.

* As a degree candidate, you will take a proctored examination at the end of each semester on selected courses within that semester. We make it easy because you pick the location and the person you want to supervise the exam, as long as Penn Foster College's established policy and qualifications are met. Complete information packets with procedures will be provided well in advance, before completion of final semester coursework.

NOTE: Advanced standing student shipments may vary from the above schedule.

A High School Diploma or GED is required to enroll in this degree program. Although this outline covers all four semesters of the Computer Information Systems Degree Program, you receive lesson materials for each semester as you enroll.

Microsoft and Windows are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.

Apple, Mac, and macOS are trademarks of Apple, Inc. registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.