Studying Computer Applications: Degrees at a Glance
Computer applications specialists apply their knowledge of software to the development, analysis and implementation of computer systems. Specialists in the field use their strong foundation in mathematics and programming, refined analytical skills and technical competence to manage computers in business or scientific settings. Graduates of degree programs find work in manufacturing, telecommunications, research, government, law enforcement, medical and transportation settings. Associate's degree programs offer a foundation in mathematics and technology and provide training that will prepare you for the appropriate technology-related certifications. The bachelor's degree delivers a focused curriculum that prepares graduates for leadership roles.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed that you can expect average (18%) through faster than average (31%) job growth for multiple occupations. Technical degrees require a lifelong learning commitment to maintain current knowledge and advance through a career path. Consequently, seeking certification and continuing education courses are essential to career success.
|Who is this degree for?||People seeking entry-level technical support opportunities in multiple sectors||People who want to pursue a career in software engineering, database administration or systems management|
|Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary)|| - Computer support specialist ($52,000)*|
- Computer programmer ($76,000)*
| - Database administrator ($77,000)*|
- Computer systems analyst ($82,000)*
- Software developer, applications ($92,000)*
- Computer and information systems manager ($126,000 - people with at least 5 years' experience earned this salary)*
|Time to Completion||2 years full-time||4 years full-time|
|Common Graduation Requirements|| - Roughly 60 in general education, elective an core courses |
|- Roughly 120 credits in general education, subject matter and elective courses|
- Cooperative education or internship requirement
|Prerequisites||High school diploma or equivalent||High school diploma or equivalent|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).
Associate's in Computer Applications
Associate's degree programs provide the basic knowledge required to implement, maintain and manage information technology solutions. Colleges design programs to provide proficiency in the management, implementation and design of computer networks and other devices. You will master data communications and programming techniques through a combination of coursework and capstone projects. Some programs require extensive laboratory work where you will apply theory in a controlled environment.
Pros and Cons
- Job growth for computer support specialists (18%), computer programmers (12%) and network or computer system administrators (28%) was expected to be strong over the 2010-2020 decade*
- Career opportunities pay a relatively competitive salary once you gain the appropriate amount of experience
- Many associate's degrees will transfer to a bachelor's degree program in a related discipline
- Advancement may require that you seek higher education and obtaining a position in management almost always requires a bachelor's degree, at minimum
- You will be competing against people who hold a bachelor's degree for several career opportunities
- Seeking certification will extend the amount of time required to finish your training and become marketable
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 job growth projections).
Courses and Requirements
The associate's degree program offers a foundation in technical skills through roughly 60 credits of general education, science, and technology and mathematics coursework. The program provides hands-on learning experiences through directed study and capstone projects. You will gain knowledge of networking, programming languages and computer maintenance during laboratory training taken in conjunction with theoretical courses. Some programs offer an A+ certification preparatory class. Following are some common courses offered by the program:
- Network diagnostics
- Digital electronics
- General physics
- Data communications
- Programming and algorithms
- Database systems
- Introduction to UNIX
Online Course Info
Some colleges offer an online associate's degree program. The program may require limited campus visitation to attend some courses. Complete online programs may emphasize computer applications from a productivity or administrative angle. You may also find computer science degrees offered as a complete online experience. Schools usually design programs for working professionals seeking advancement and provide an accelerated learning experience.
Stand Out with This Degree
Preparation for entry-level computer support, computer programming or computer systems administration opportunities require that you validate your skills through certification and possess some experience, depending on your career path. In addition, knowledge of general business operations will provide an edge when seeking employment. Following are some steps you can take to stand out with this degree:
- Take business courses in finance or business operations. Employers may prefer candidates with a strong background in business operations, which is integral to designing and implementing efficient software applications.
- Participate in internships, collaborative projects or cooperative education opportunities. Gaining experience plays a significant role in gaining technical positions.
- Seek the appropriate certification. Validating your skills will set you apart. You can choose from multiple certification options, including Microsoft or Cisco's lines of examinations.
Bachelor's in Computer Applications
The bachelor's degree program takes your education further through upper-division courses and a deeper focus on science and mathematics. Universities structure programs to provide training in the application of technology to business operations and problem solving. In addition, programs offer a range of electives and develop software engineering skills. You will master the development of software systems and apply current techniques and technologies to the resolution of complex business problems. Cooperative education programs will provide a meaningful income and practical experience during the last two years of your education.
Pros and Cons
- Job growth for software developers (30%) and database administrators (31%) was expected to be much faster than average over the 2010-2020 decade*
- You stand to earn a competitive salary (computer and information systems managers earned $126,000 annually) once you gain enough experience**
- Programs offer a range of knowledge suitable for career opportunities in virtually any sector where employers seek technology professionals
- Salaries are comparable to those earned by associate's degree holders e.g., computer programmers earned $76,000 vs. database administrators who earned $77,000**
- Continuing education courses and certification exams can cost thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your career
- Online programs may prove difficult to locate and may not offer the course balance that interests you
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 job growth projections), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).
Courses and Requirements
The bachelor's degree emphasizes critical thinking and analytical skills through a range of mathematics, programming and technical courses. Programs require roughly 120 credits in general education, subject matter and upper-division coursework. The degree also places emphasis on the development of collaborative communication, business and ethical concepts. You will take courses in computer science, industrial practice, object-oriented programming, discrete mathematics, compiling and debugging, numerical methods and theoretical foundations.
Online Course Info
You may find an online information technology or computer science program offered through a university's school of continuing education. Programs offer a broad degree plan that may provide a number of electives in programming languages or software engineering. You may need to participate in a capstone project and general education courses round out the online experience.
Stand Out with This Degree
The technologies used by businesses change rapidly and applications specialists need updated skills to keep computer systems relevant. Taking advantage of continuing education courses will keep your technical skills fresh and provide information about modern technologies. In addition, software development and systems management roles may require knowledge of government regulations that affect business operations. For example, if you work in healthcare, the HIPAA will affect how your company manages its information. Consequently, taking courses in health information, or a topic related to your selected industry, will increase your marketability.