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Computer programming can be an interesting, lucrative career field to pursue if you’re driven toward tech-centric work and like learning programming languages. Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects demand for computer programming jobs to slightly decline — by 9% — between 2019 and 2029, a computer programming degree is still useful to have. While this statistic places the job growth below the national average, it’s worth knowing what a computer programming degree can do for you.
For starters, a computer programming degree is the first step into the tech field, which is full of high-paying jobs. Because this degree goes beyond just computer programming, you can also look for jobs in software development and even game development. And, when studying for this degree, you’ll learn everything there is to know about programming languages like Java, C++, Python, as well as the ins and outs of cybersecurity, software development, and more. Depending on where you choose to get your degree, you also might be able to find a more concentrated program so you can specialize in one aspect of programming.
The beauty of getting your computer programming degree online is that there’s a strong potential to save money, which means you’re entering the workforce with a little less debt and can enjoy those high-paying jobs in tech more comfortably.
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Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.
Top 10 Most Affordable Online Bachelor's in Computer Programming for 2021
Methodology: Here’s How We Rank Schools
We source unbiased data from government and educational databases like the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 6,374 schools across the U.S. We organize that data into five weighted categories to compile our school rankings.
|Academic Quality||Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates||25%|
|Affordability||Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid||35%|
|Reputation||Admission and enrollment rates||15%|
|Program Offerings||Number of program options||10%|
|Online Enrollment Score||Portion of learners taking at least one online course||15%|
What will I learn in computer programming classes?
If you pursue a degree in computer programming, you’ll learn to turn program designs into codes that computers can follow. While the curriculum will vary from program to program, in general, computer programming degree programs will teach you:
- A variety of technical languages, including HTML, Python, C++, Scala, and Java
- How to update existing program designs
- Ways to ensure that all programs are working correctly
- How to use code libraries to simplify computer programming
Is a computer programming degree worth it?
Yes, it can be for the right student. If you’re someone who enjoys STEM concepts like math and problem-solving and you have an interest in computer languages, computer programming can be a great — and rewarding — path to take. The work can be challenging, but majoring in this field can lead you to jobs in in-demand, high-paying fields.
What can I do with a bachelor’s degree in computer programming?
In general, the career path for a computer programmer is to create and troubleshoot code for new and existing computer applications. This could be in a role as a computer programmer or a related role, like a software developer or a computer engineer who deals with hardware. Some computer programmers find work in IT or in tech support, or others work to monitor security breaches or other cybersecurity-related positions. These positions are available in almost any high-tech industry or any industry or field that uses high-tech components for some or all of the work that they do.
How long does it take to earn an online computer programming degree?
In most degree programs, you can earn your associate’s degree in computer programming online in about two years, or a bachelor’s degree in computer programming online in as little as four years if you’re taking a full-time course load. That said, the time it takes for you to earn your degree will depend on the type of program you are enrolled in, the program and degree requirements, and other factors.
How much is an online degree in computer programming?
The total costs for an online degree in computer programming can vary greatly depending on where you go to school, whether the college or university is public or private, whether you’re getting in-state or out-of-state tuition rates, and other factors unique to your circumstances. That said, the average cost of college in the United States is $35,720 per student, per year. That includes tuition costs for all types of students and tuition.
An online bachelor’s degree in computer programming trains students in common computer programming languages. Majors also learn to write and test code for computer applications and software programs. During a computer programming degree, you’ll study programming languages like Java, Python, and C++. In addition to building technical knowledge, computer programming majors build analytical thinking and problem-solving skills.
During a computer programming degree, undergraduates may complete an internship or capstone project to build career-ready skills. An internship strengthens professional skills and connects students with experienced programmers in their field. Capstone projects often emphasize research skills, teamwork, and programming management abilities.
Programmers work with software developers and engineers to create code for new programs. Some programmers create models and flowcharts to organize the code. Programmers must consider user interfaces, database management, and operating systems when creating programs. They also test applications and programs to identify bugs and correct any mistakes in the code.
A bachelor’s degree in computer programming prepares you for in-demand careers in the technology sector. Jobs in Software as a Service (SaaS) offer strong growth potential. Programmers who specialize in SaaS applications design code that works on multiple platforms. Some programmers specialize in fields like business, healthcare, or accounting.
Computer programming majors pursue opportunities in lucrative fields. For example, computer programmers earned a median annual salary of over $86,000 in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while software developers made a median annual salary of nearly $106,000. The degree also leads to opportunities as database administrators, who earned a median annual salary of over $93,000 in 2019, according to the BLS.
Programmers can showcase their skills through professional certifications. Many organizations offer certification in programming languages or programming products. Some employers prefer to hire candidates with certification.
Common Bachelor's in Computer Programming Courses
- Computer Programming
- Database Application Programming
This course introduces students to database models and programming languages that use databases. Programming majors learn to install and configure tables, populate them with data, and query databases. Students learn how to use programming languages to interact with databases and develop web applications to access databases. This course prepares undergraduates for careers in database and applications programming.
- Algorithms and Data Structures
- During this course, students learn about the theory behind algorithms and their application in addressing computational problems. Possible topics include algorithms used for sorting, string processing, and searching. Students also learn strategies to improve algorithm efficiency. Many courses on algorithms and data structures incorporate hands-on activities to build career-ready skills. Students may write code to implement an algorithm concept or demonstrate mastery of a technique.
Many online computer science bachelor's programs incorporate courses in cybersecurity to introduce students to information security. Coursework explores fundamental cybersecurity concepts like data encryption, security policies, and data breaches. Students also learn about legal and ethical concerns in cybersecurity and the process of responding to cyberattacks, including threat analysis, vulnerability assessment, and penetration testing. This course prepares graduates for careers as information security analysts and cybersecurity programmers.
- Cloud Computing
- This course introduces students to cloud service models and infrastructure migration approaches. Students also learn about cloud infrastructure services, common cloud vendor platforms, and configuring cloud services. Coursework may also cover the broader role of cloud computing in the IT industry. During this course, students may develop cloud computing applications and learn how to create new services using the cloud.
Bachelor's in Computer Programming Concentrations
Computer programming students can build advanced skills in a programming field by completing a concentration during their online computer science degree. For example, a concentration in mobile applications provides additional training in mobile app design, while a game programming concentration prepares graduates for careers in game development.
During this concentration, students take courses in operating systems programming and learn common programming languages used in operating systems like C and C++. A concentration in operating systems prepares graduates for careers as systems software developers and systems programmers.
Many computer programmers create code for software applications. A concentration in applications teaches students how to program applications -- such as internet browsers, word processing programs, and business management software -- to perform desired functions. This concentration prepares learners for careers as applications programmers.
A concentration in game programming trains computer programming majors in writing code specifically for games. Coursework may cover mobile gaming, common gaming programming languages like Java, and skills needed in the game development field.
Programmers who specialize in mobile applications learn to create code for applications used by smartphones and other mobile devices. A concentration in mobile applications introduces students to common mobile app programming languages like Java, Python, and HTML5. Majors also learn about mobile app development.
Databases store information and keep it secure. A concentration in databases trains students in database programming and database management. Students often also learn about cybersecurity, common database programming languages, script and query writing, and other tools needed for careers in database programming.
Bachelor's in Computer Programming Requirements
Before enrolling in an online computer science bachelor's program, students must meet that program's requirements. First, applicants must gain admission to the college or university. In general, prospective undergraduate students need a high school or GED diploma and ACT or SAT scores to gain admission. Many schools set minimum GPA and standardized test score requirements. Applicants who do not meet these thresholds can sometimes receive conditional admission.
Schools may also require letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and other supplemental materials. Applicants with prior college experience should also provide college transcripts. Many schools offer a transcript evaluation to determine transfer credits.
After enrolling, prospective computer programming students must meet prerequisite requirements for the computer programming major. In many programs, requirements include introductory courses in Java and Python. Programs may also require coursework in mathematics, computer science, and research methods. In some programs, students must earn a minimum GPA in prerequisite courses to enter the major.
Computer programming majors must then complete graduation requirements within the major. These requirements often include coursework in computer programming, database applications, mobile applications, and operating systems programming.
Many computer programming majors also include a capstone course in which learners apply the knowledge they have gained throughout the program. During the capstone, students may design a program that requires applied research, a feasibility study, and revisions.
In addition to taking courses in their major, computer programming students also complete general education requirements. These courses, which typically include courses in humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, strengthen the critical thinking and analytical skills needed for computer programming jobs.
After meeting all general education and major requirements, students earn their online computer science degree.
How Much Does It Cost to Get an Online Computer Programming Degree?
When considering the value of an online computer programming degree, one of the main factors that can save you money is simply travel and housing. If you’re not moving away for college, you’re likely not spending extra money on moving costs or rent. If you’re a traditional student who is still living at home with family, you’re potentially not spending any extra money besides tuition, which is already a money saver from being a student attending college in person and living on campus.
Aside from that, the cost of your online degree will depend on what school you’ve chosen to enroll in. The average cost of tuition varies greatly by other factors, too. For example, in-state tuition alone is $9,580 per year, while the out-of-state tuition averages $27,437 per year. Whether an online degree falls under in-state, out-of-state, or another tuition rate depends on the school and program.
That said, when you consider the pay for a computer programmer, your tuition cost will likely be worth it. According to the BLS, the median pay for a computer programmer in 2020 was almost $90,000, which is considerably higher than the national median pay for all jobs. Though the demand for computer programming jobs may be on a slight decline, it’s still a job that pays well, and by learning computer programming skills, you can find a number of other computer-related jobs as well.
Computer Programming Software
- Computer Programming
- Debugging Tools
Computer programmers rely on debugging tools to identify errors in their code and correct them. A small coding problem can crash a system or keep a program from running as designed. Computer programming majors learn about the bug testing and debugging process. Depending on their program, they may use many different debugging tools to identify bugs in software and programs. For example, programming students may use GDB, an open source debugging tool, or dbx, a debugger used in many Linux and Unix operating systems. Programmers working in a Windows environment may also use the Windows debugger, also known as WinDbg.
Computer programmers use databases to store files and information for projects. During an online computer science degree, undergraduates learn how to use different databases to organize their code and other information. Programming courses introduce students to common databases like Oracle, a popular database written in C, C++, and Java. Programmers may also use MySQL, an open source database used by many tech companies like Google and Facebook. Other database management systems include Microsoft SQL Server, Teradata, and IMB DB2.
Computer Programming Degree Scholarships and Financial Aid
Students pursuing a degree in computer programming will have many financial aid opportunities available to them. Typically, you’ll have to be in good academic standing to qualify. Scholarships can be found through your university and computer programming organizations.
Anne Maureen Whitney Barrow Memorial Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Female students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer programming, computer science, or computer engineering. Applicants must not have received another scholarship from the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and maintain a 3.0 GPA.
ExCel Computing Scholars Program
Who Can Apply: Students completing a degree in computer science, network security, bioinformatics, computer engineering, computer programming, software development, and information technology. You must also have a track record of academic excellence and maintain a 3.0 GPA.
Google SVA Scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: Military veterans who are currently pursuing a degree (graduate or undergraduate) in computer programming, computer engineering, computer science, or a related field. Applicants must be honorably discharged from the military and have strong academic standing.
Randy Pausch Scholarship Fund
Who Can Apply: For students majoring in computer programming, engineering, music, animation, sound design, game design, art, or computer science. Applicants must have a 3.3 GPA, demonstrate need for financial assistance, and be enrolled full time in an accredited American university.
Angelica Leicht is the schools editor at Best Value Schools who oversees our college rankings, school profiles, and other higher education coverage. She previously served as an education reporter at Kearney Hub, and an editor at the Dallas Observer and Houston Press. Her writing has appeared in Affordable Colleges Online, Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, and elsewhere.
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