Software Programming Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Class Info

About this article
What will you learn in a software programming degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
View available schools

Study Software Programming: Associate's and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance

A degree program in software programming prepares you for a career in the fast-growing information technology (IT) field. In one of these programs, you learn about various programming languages, applications and network technologies as they relate to software development and programming.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a bachelor's degree is the typical requirement for most IT careers, such as computer programming and software development. The BLS also states that an associate's degree may qualify you for an entry-level position as a computer support specialist or computer programmer. The BLS expects employment for software developers to grow much faster than average, at a pace of 30% between 2010 and 2020. Jobs for computer-related occupations overall are predicted to grow 22% from 2010-2020, according to the BLS.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? People with little or no experience who want to begin a career in the field of technology Individuals interested in working as software developers or programmers
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) -Computer support specialist ($52,000)*
-Computer programmer ($76,000)*
Systems software developer ($100,000)*
-Applications software developer ($92,000)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED
Online Availability Yes Yes

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

Associate's Degree in Software Programming

Coursework in software programming associate's degree programs teaches you how to design, develop and program software and other computer applications. In these programs, you complete introductory IT and business classes. Completing an associate's degree program prepares you for entry-level IT positions, but you may want to continue your studies in a bachelor's degree program to gain advanced knowledge of the field.

Pros and Cons


  • Fast job growth for computer-related jobs predicted (22% from 2010-2020)*
  • May enter the IT field in 2 years or less
  • Earned credits may transfer to a bachelor's degree program, shortening the length of time required to earn your bachelor's degree


  • Most IT positions require 4-year degrees or higher
  • Associate's degree programs only provide basic knowledge of IT topics
  • Can take up to 4 years with part-time study to complete a program

Source: *The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

Coursework in software programming associate's degree programs introduces students to computer programming methods and languages, databases and applications. Some schools allow students to specialize in a field such as Web design, Oracle SQL or video game development. Examples of courses students might take include:

  • Introduction to computers
  • Computer programming
  • Computer hardware
  • Network technology
  • Database design and implementation
  • Web development

Online Course Options

Fully online software programming associate's degree programs are available, but they're not as common as hybrid and on-campus programs. Although the curriculum of an online program is similar to that of their on-campus counterparts, attending a hybrid or in-person program allows you to use a school's advanced programming software and interact with professors during lab classes.

Stand Out with this Degree

Programming tools and languages are progressing and changing at a fast pace. Therefore, to stand out with this degree, you might need to learn how to use newly developed tools and languages. According to the BLS, many companies are outsourcing computer programmer jobs, but highly-skilled programmers will continue to have the best job prospects in the industry.

Additionally, you might consider focusing your studies on a particular area, such as programming or video game development, to build your skills and experience. Having advanced or specified knowledge may make you more attractive to employers.

Bachelor's Degree in Software Programming

The curriculum in a software programming bachelor's degree program covers more advanced programming subjects. Completion of one of these programs may qualify you for a position as a software developer, computer programmer, or another higher-level IT position. Software programming is typically offered as a specialization or emphasis in an IT-related bachelor's degree program. The coursework in this specialization typically covers advanced programming language and design.

Pros and Cons:


  • Much faster than average job growth for software developers predicted (30% from 2010-2020)*
  • Curriculum teaches you a wide range of programming and development skills
  • May qualify you for a high-wage position upon graduation


  • Companies are outsourcing computer programming work to foreign countries, which may make finding employment after graduation difficult
  • Employers may prefer candidates with master's degrees and/or programming certifications
  • Can take up to 8 years of part-time study to complete

Source: *The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

Students in a software programming bachelor's degree program learn about software design and testing, application development, interface design and software programming. They may also be required to take various electives, general education and business-related courses. Examples of coursework at the bachelor's level are:

  • Advanced programming
  • System analysis and design
  • Database systems design
  • Project management

Online Info

Software programming bachelor's degree programs are rare in general, but some schools offer fully online programs. Available online programs have curriculum that are generally the same as on-campus programs and take about the same amount of time to complete.

Stand Out with this Degree

To stand out with this degree, consider keeping up with the latest advancements in software and applications development as well as programming languages. Similarly, the BLS reports that employers prefer to hire applicants with master's degrees, which may mean that you can benefit by continuing your education.

Finally, you may also want to focus your studies on a particular area that the BLS states is in demand, such as cyber security, mobile application development and healthcare software design. Having advanced technical knowledge in this field can help your resume stand out against your competition.

Popular Schools

Featured Schools

Purdue University Global

  • AASIT: Network Admin

Which subject are you interested in?

Colorado Christian University

  • Computer Information Technology, A.S.

What is your highest level of education completed?

Yakima Valley Community College