Study Computer Programming: Associate's, Bachelor's & Online Degree Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate's or bachelor's degree in computer programming? Find out degree program requirements, online options and info on courses and computer programming training programs.
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Computer Programming Degrees at a Glance

Computer programmers create and test computer code using multiple programming languages. They work closely with software developers and oftentimes share overlapping duties. Specialists in the industry work in a variety of environments, including the information technology (IT) department in corporate, government and non-profit settings. Computer programming requires analytical skills and a detail-oriented approach. Employers look for candidates who possess knowledge of common programming languages and experience creating a number of programs.

The associate's degree program can prepare you for entry-level positions in the IT industry. The bachelor's degree program offers the foundation required to pursue a position in IT management once you gain the appropriate experience. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that positions in the industry would undergo average through much-faster-than-average job growth. Computer support specialists and computer and information systems managers could expect 18% growth from 2010-2020 (www.bls.gov).

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals seeking entry-level support positions in a number of industries People interested in a career in IT management
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Computer support specialist ($52,000)*
- Computer programmer ($76,000)*
- Applications software developer ($92,000)*
- Computer and information systems manager ($126,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 60 credits- Roughly 120 credits
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's in Computer Programming

The associate's degree program offers a basic education in modern coding and programming languages. Programs emphasize mathematics and computer technology. You learn a range of technical concepts that develop your understanding of computer operating systems, logic and security. In addition to programming languages, schools plan curricula that provide an education in the design and implementation computer programs. Several institutions offer an associate's degree program in computer science with an emphasis in computer programming.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Computer support specialists could expect an 18% increase in jobs from 2010-2020*
  • Computer programmers earned relatively competitive mean annual salaries of $76,000**
  • Technical training can lead to a wider range of job opportunities outside the programming field

Cons

  • Competition against holders of a bachelor's degree might present a challenge for computer programming positions
  • Pursuing certification extends the time taken to prepare for your career
  • Associate of Science degrees are terminal and credits might not transfer to a bachelor's degree program

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 job growth projections), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Courses and Requirements

Many associate's degree programs require a minimum number of gateway and technical courses. The gateway courses provide a foundation for understanding computer information systems. In addition to programming language coursework, programs offer classes in systems design, database technologies and computer networking. You might be required to participate in a programming capstone project. Following are some common courses offered by the programs:

  • Visual BASIC programming
  • Operating systems
  • Internet programming
  • C++ programming
  • Active server pages
  • Database programming
  • Linux/UNIX

Online Degree Info

The online associate's degree program provides training and courses similar to traditional options. Keep in mind that online programs are generally designed to meet the needs of working professionals or those seeking advancement; some programs provide accelerated courses. You will need to ensure access to modern programming and coding programs to participate in courses and complete your work.

Stand Out with This Degree

Computer programmers should understand the needs of the companies they work with to create stable, productive and powerful software applications. Consider taking courses in the industry that interests you. For example, if you plan to pursue a career in security, take courses in criminal justice to gain an understanding of the issues in the field. In addition, pursuing an appropriate certification demonstrates your knowledge of industry-standard practices. Because employers prefer candidates with sufficient skill in a number of programming languages, taking a range of programming language courses might improve your job prospects.

Bachelor's in Computer Programming

The bachelor's degree program offers courses similar to the associate's degree, although it provides advanced training and access to a wider range of electives. Some schools offer a programming or software engineering concentration through a school of computer science. Keep in mind that these curricula are heavily oriented toward mathematics and science. You learn the historical theories that drive technology combined with hands-on programming techniques in a laboratory environment.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Applications software developers earned competitive mean annual salaries of $92,000*
  • Applications software developers could expect a 30% increase in jobs from 2010-2020**
  • Employers are seeking candidates with higher education for computer programming positions

Cons

  • Outsourcing programming positions to lower-paying locations might influence the availability of software developer positions
  • Some computer programming positions might only require an associate's degree
  • Staying updated on changes in the industry requires a commitment over the lifetime of your career

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 job growth projections).

Courses and Requirements

The bachelor's degree program combines theoretical teaching in computer technology and mathematics with practical programming techniques. Students explore operating systems, database technologies and business topics. You can expect to take courses in discrete structures, networking concepts, Web programming, advanced structured query language, systems integration, Java and Visual Basic.

Online Degree Info

The online bachelor's degree program offers courses similar to traditional programs. You might find that online programs offer a distinction between system and applications programming courses. Keep in mind that the technical nature of the program will require access to updated computer systems and debugging software. You might find that some programs require the completion of a capstone project.

Stand Out with This Degree

Certification, experience and updated technical skills might improve your job prospects. Several vendors offer vendor-based and vendor-neutral certification programs. Following are some steps you can take to stand out with this degree:

  • Pursue certification, such as Microsoft or Cisco's line of programming certifications
  • Participate in internships, field experiences and collaborative projects to gain additional hands-on experience with programming
  • Join an industry-standard association that offers continuing education courses to ensure you remain updated on changes in the industry

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Software Application Programming
      • BS - IT - Web Development
      • Bachelor: Information Technology
      • BS - Business Administration - IT
      • BS - IT - Security
      • BS - Management - Cybersecurity Management
  • Campus and Online Programs
    2. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science - Software Development
      • BS - Mobile Development (Campus)
      • B.S. - Game Development
      • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)
      • BS - Game Design (Campus)
      • B.S. - Mobile Development
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Software Development With No Declared Minor or Concentration
      • B.S. - Software Development: Computer Programming Concentration
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science - Cyber Forensics/Information Security
  • Campus Locations:
    5. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Management Information Systems
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Utica College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Network Forensics and Intrusion Investigation
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Operations
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Information Assurance
      • Online Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity
  • Online Programs Available
    7. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Technology: Software Analysis and Development
      • Bachelor of Technology: Information Assurance and Security
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Southern New Hampshire University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS Computer Science
      • BS in Accounting - Forensic Accounting & Fraud Examination
      • BA Graphic Design and Media Arts/ 3-D Modeling & Animation
      • BS Information Technologies w/conc in Database Administration
      • BA Graphic Design and Media Arts/Web Design
      • BA in Game Art and Development
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Excelsior College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS in Information Technology [Without Concentration]
      • BS in Technology (Computer Technologies)
      • Bachelor of Professional Studies in Technology Management (Information Technology)
      • BS in Cybersecurity (Operations)
      • BS in Cybersecurity [Without Concentration]
      • BS in Information Technology (Cybersecurity)
  • Chicago, IL

    DePaul University

Featured Schools

Colorado Technical University

  • B.S. - Information Technology: Software Application Programming
  • BS - IT - Web Development
  • Bachelor: Information Technology

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Full Sail University

  • Bachelor of Science - Software Development
  • BS - Mobile Development (Campus)
  • B.S. - Game Development

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Herzing University

  • B.S. - Software Development With No Declared Minor or Concentration
  • B.S. - Software Development: Computer Programming Concentration

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Keiser University

  • Bachelor of Science - Cyber Forensics/Information Security

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Virginia College

  • Bachelor: Management Information Systems

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Utica College

  • BS in Cybersecurity - Network Forensics and Intrusion Investigation
  • BS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Operations
  • BS in Cybersecurity - Information Assurance

What is your highest level of education completed?

American InterContinental University

  • Bachelor of Technology: Software Analysis and Development
  • Bachelor of Technology: Information Assurance and Security
  • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology

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Southern New Hampshire University

  • BS Computer Science
  • BS in Accounting - Forensic Accounting & Fraud Examination
  • BA Graphic Design and Media Arts/ 3-D Modeling & Animation

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