Computer Programming Degree

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What is Computer Programming?

Computer programming is the area of study and field of employment that deal with constructing software that communicates with the hardware within a computer in order to successfully run applications. The types of software programmers will write can vary from  video games to phone applications and from image development to video editing.   Computer programmers are required to understand in depth of the chosen language in order to be able to program effectively and minimize bugs within the coding of the software.

How to Become a Computer Programmer

To help you efficiently navigate the process to become a computer programmer, we have provided a series of steps to help guide your process.  It is critical to remain detail-oriented, organized, and follow directions as you move towards your goal in computer programming.

We will start with the basics and move through the process to ensure students of all levels understand the heuristics behind how you become a computer programmer.  A decision tree to assist you in the process includes the following:

  1. Establish a Priority List – Your unique goals and aspirations should be placed front and center during your college selection process.  As such, you will need to establish a personal priority list that reflects your objectives of attending school.   Start your journey by investigating our College Admissions Guide.  It will help you understand the admissions process and stimulate ideas on what items are most important to you.  Many college-bound students also read our guides on how to get into your top school and ways to reduce college costs.
  2. Request Feedback – Ask counselors, teachers, family members, school alumni, and friends for feedback on your newly created priority list to elicit valuable input prior to making any formal decisions.
  3. Perform a Self-Assessment – By taking stock of your strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes you will more readily be able to winnow down school options leading to a computer programming degree. Your self-assessment should include items such as grades to work experience and from career goals to lifestyle objectives.
  4. Gather Information – Gathering information from accredited colleges and universities that offer computer programming degrees will allow you to overlay their programs with your priorities. When you use your priorities as your true north, decisions about your future become much easier.  Simply utilize the resources on this page or with our proprietary matching system for colleges or online degrees.
  5. Getting Matched & Apply – Once you have received information from a handful of quality schools, you can then assess your likelihood of admissions. Knowing a school’s admissions policies, requirements, education parameters, work experience, cost, and program length is essential prior to sending in your college application.  Take the time to highlight all work experience related to computer programming and extracurricular activities in your application to help you stand out from other qualified applicants.
  6. Financial Aid – With your college application in queue, you will need to invest  time to understand your financial aid package.  Connecting with the financial aid team at schools will allow you to get your arms around available grants, loans, scholarships, and work-study programs.
  7. College Acceptance – Aligning your goals with the school’s offerings and overall costs will allow you to make a quality decision about schools offering computer programming degrees. Once you accept a school’s offer of admissions, you will need to understand the orientation process, timing, and resources needed to begin matriculation.
  8. Earn Your Degree – Earn your degree from an accredited college or university in computer programming and dedicate yourself to learn your craft. Pay special attention to skill development and projects that offer the opportunity to learn transferrable skills in the workplace.
  9. Work Experience – While in school, build your professional network by conducting informational interviews with professionals in the field along with opportunities to work for or with computer programmers. Once you land a great job in computer programming, continue to learn about programming on your own through continuing education programs, MOOC’s, or additional college classes.

Top Computer Programming Degrees Online

Accredited colleges and universities across the country have a myriad of computer programming degrees to choose from.   With the choices at hand, we have broken down the degree types below to further help you understand your options.

From certificate programs through graduate degrees, you can simply request information from schools offering such programs after establishing your personal priority list to determine which type of degree and which school is best for you.

Online Certificate in Computer Programming

Certificates in computer programming can be offered by schools at two different levels which are utilized by students for varying reasons.  First, the undergraduate certificate in computer programming is a series of classes clustered together teaching foundational elements of computer programming.

The design and intent of an online undergraduate certificate is to prepare students to enter the field of computer programming and expand a set of current skills.  The graduate certificate in computer programming, on the other hand, is for professionals in the field or students with an associated degree looking for career growth, preparing for a job transition, or to upskill in their field.

Online Associate Degrees in Computer Programming

The online associate degree in computer programming can be conferred as an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) or as an Associate of Science (AS) correlated to the design of the school’s curricular program.  Associate degrees are 2-year programs that combine liberal arts classes such as sociology, English, communications, and philosophy with core computer curricula to provide students with a set of holistic thinking tools.  C

ore classes will help students understand and apply computing concepts, mathematical models, design applications with various code, and solve problems through the use of various programming languages.

Online Bachelor Degrees in Computer Programming

An online bachelor’s degree in computer programming can be conferred as either a Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS).  The bachelor’s degree is a 4-year program blending general education courses with core computer programming classes.  Core classes may include: programming concepts, website development, database management, C, C++, C#, JavaScript, Perl, HTML, scripting languages, technical writing, systems analysis, and operating systems.

Online Master’s Degrees in Computer Programming

A master’s degree in computer programming is typically a 1-2 year program designed for graduate students or technical professionals intimately familiar with the theories and concepts in programming.

At the graduate level, students will typically be asked to select an area of specialization along with a research thesis project and/or a project thesis project.  Graduate students will need to focus on gaining career-specific skills and knowledge that are readily transferrable to the workplace.  In addition, graduate students may seriously consider engaging in projects with real-world applications in programming work relative to your career trajectory.

Educational Requirements in Programming

A degree in programming demonstrates that an individual has all the skills to write and maintain software on a given platform. Computer programming requires an individual to be analytical, have a good knowledge of math, and to approach problems with logic.

There are various educational programs offering certificates or degrees available to aspiring computer programmers, though the most common one pursued is the bachelor's of science.  Classes offered in programming will typically include the following:

  • Introduction to Computing
  • Programming Concepts
  • Data Structures
  • Discrete Mathematics
  • Concepts and Facilities of Operating Systems

Top Skills for Computer Programmers

A common set of requirements for incoming college students and working professionals looking to upskill in computer programming includes math, physics, engineering, and computing essentials.  The math and physics requirements will vary by school but an advanced set of both educational domains will help immensely.

A healthy understanding of sociology, linguistics, anthropology, and psychology can be very helpful tools for many students as these disciplines help reveal how humans think and their associated patterns of behavior.  The better you understand how others think, the better the programs and applications can be constructed to maximize usage and impact from region to region.

The obvious skills required of a computer science student is to learn a programming language.  With the myriad code camps and free tools available on the internet today, students should be able to have a working knowledge of a programming language or two prior to college matriculation.  Prior to taking any online class, do your homework to ensure the course or program utilizes good coding practices as unwinding bad coding habits can be a formidable challenge.

Employment in Computer Programming

Jobs for computer programming are expected to grow well above average as the demand for software, middleware and applications continues to grow. Some computer programmers may wish to obtain certification for a particular tool or piece of software as the job demands to increase his or her value and income.

Though it is possible to obtain work as a programmer without a formal education; most companies look for individuals with at least a bachelor's degree and practical demonstrable experience. Some individuals may pursue an education in computer programming to assist them in their primary field, such as accounting or business management, and some jobs will prefer individuals whose background relates to the software being developed.

How Much Can I Make as a Computer Programmer?

College graduates earning a degree in computer programming can expect to receive a higher than average rate of compensation.   Our broad-based employment survey indicates programmers continue to be in high demand and compensated accordingly.   In fact, two of the top five spots on the list are for computer science and information technology.  A common entry point into both jobs is through computer programming.

According to the BLS, the median annual income for a computer programmer is $82,240.  It is important to note the mean range for programmers is quite large.  Meaning, the top 10% average $132,530 while the bottom ten percent make $47,090 on average.  All-in compensation will vary based on your work experience, geographic location, degree type, organization type, and skill set.

Top Jobs of Computer Programmers

A computer programming degree is a window into a variety of computer-based specialties within technology companies or various industries needing programming specialists.  A programmer may find themselves working for a public company, private corporation, non-profit organization, or a government agency performing a variety of technical tasks.

As a result of this diversity, we have assembled a list of common jobs of a programmer that you can further research as you move closer to a decision on colleges.  The areas of specialty associated with computer programming can include:

Artificial Intelligence Cryptography
Computer Design Software Systems Development
Information Technology Computer Forensics
Computer Architecture Operating Systems
Database Management Computer Networking
Computer Engineering Computer Installation and Repair
Software Engineering Software Applications
Computer Graphics Web Design
Cloud Computing Computer Security

Top Paying Computer Programming Jobs

  1. Principal Software Engineer            Salary Range: $103,179-$173,233
  2. Senior Software Developer               Salary Range: $77,827-$139,688
  3. Senior Software Engineer                 Salary Range: $87,154-$149,786
  4. Software Programmer                       Salary Range: $66,246-$122,939
  5. Software Development Engineer    Salary Range: $81,451-$123,878

Median Income for Computer Programmers

  • Less than 1 Year Experience   $72,238
  • 1-4 Years’ Experience               $81,608
  • 5-9 Years’ Experience               $99,119
  • 10-19 Years’ Experience           $113,195
  • 20 + Years’ Experience            $127,233

Top Paying States for Computer Programmers

  1. California        $92,380
  2. Texas               $85,210
  3. New York        $88,520
  4. Illinois             $83,350
  5. New Jersey     $85,100

Resources for Programmers

Individuals interested in a computer programming degree may also be interested in mathematicsactuarial science, and physics.  For additional information on a future in Computer Networking, check out our Career Guide for Computer Systems Analyst and Web Programming Professions on our blog.  Our guide includes an in-depth look at programming and analyst jobs that rely upon problem solving and computing power.  As careers in technology continue to flourish, it is important to posture yourself for a bright future.

Top 10 Associations for Computer Programmers

  1. Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
  2. National Association of Programmers (NAP)
  3. Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP)
  4. Association for Women in Computing (AWC)
  5. Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR)
  6. International Association for Computer Science (IACS)
  7. Network Professional Association (NPA)
  8. Society for Technical Communication (STC)
  9. Software Development Forum (SDF)
  10. Women in Technology (WIT)

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Career Summary: Computer programming Major




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