Is a Computer Programming Degree Right for You?

An online bachelor’s degree in computer programming is a good fit for people who are just as interested in writing the code behind software programs as in using the software programs themselves. The degree is also ideal for lifelong learners, as certain programming languages become outdated over time and are continually being replaced by new ones. Computer programming was ranked No. 5 among Best Technology Jobs by U.S. News & World Report because of its high median salary, low unemployment rate, the number of jobs available, and the potential for upward mobility, among other factors. It’s also a solid bet for tech-savvy students who want careers where it’s possible to telecommute.

Advice for Earning Your Computer Programming Degree Online

In online programs, computer programming is commonly offered as a specialization under a broader computer science degree. Students should look for programs that teach them how to work in common programming languages, such as C++, Python, and Java. When choosing an online program in programming, compare the curriculum and see if courses are available in areas that closely match your career interests, such as game development or programming for mobile apps. We also recommend choosing programs that allow you to earn industry certifications in the field as you proceed through the program as well as programs that incorporate internships, as these will result in a stronger resume after graduation.

Required Courses

Computer programming course work aims to build a student’s understanding of programming languages as well as their broader knowledge of computing in general. Students take introductory courses in programming, as well as courses in operating systems, computer science foundations, and data structures and algorithms. A student’s course work often culminates in a portfolio or capstone project that showcases their programming skills. Some courses you will likely come across in such a program include:

  • Web Design and Development
  • Java Programming
  • Visual Basic
  • C++ Programming
  • C# Programming

Common Career Paths

People who complete online degrees in computer programming often go on to pursue careers as programmers and software developers, and may work in front-end web development or back-end systems development. Salaries in such fields vary greatly depending on your level of experience, the region of the country you work in, and your roles and responsibilities. Common careers for computer programming majors include (but are not limited to):

Computer Programmer

  • Expected Growth: 12%
  • Average Annual Salary: $76,010

Computer programmers primarily write, test, and maintain programs for computers to carry out functions. This involves the coding of instructions into programming languages. These programming languages, or codes, can be used to run applications on computer operating systems, the Internet, mobile devices, or any other system or device that requires a program in order to function, according to the Houston Chronicle.

While it is possible to get started in the field with an associate degree, most programmers are bachelor’s degree holders, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The above job outlook and salary average were provided by the BLS.

Systems Software Developer

  • Expected Growth: 32%
  • Average Annual Salary: $100,420

Programmers and developers work closely together since programmers often take the designs of software developers and engineers and convert them into instructions that a computer can follow, the BLS explains. As a result, their roles and responsibilities often overlap. Systems software developers design the software that runs computers or computer systems. They may build a computer system’s interface or operating system.

A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in computer science or another relevant field is typical for the profession, the BLS explains. The employment growth projection and salary average provided above were drawn from the BLS.

Applications Software Developer

  • Expected Growth: 28%
  • Average Annual Salary: $92,080

Applications software developers specialize in the design of computer applications, such as word processors or games. They test, debug, and maintain these applications. While some applications software developers design custom software for a specific client, others work on commercial software for the general public, the BLS explains.

As with systems software developers, a bachelor’s degree is typical in the field, with computer science degrees being the most common. A specialization in computer programming or software engineering would be helpful since the roles of these professionals often overlap. The above job growth projection and salary average were provided by the BLS.

Web Developer

  • Expected Growth: 22%
  • Average Annual Salary: $81,670

Web developers are responsible for both the aesthetics and functionality of an organization’s website. Since part of a web developer’s job often entails writing code for the site using programming languages, a background in programming is appropriate for such a position.

While degree requirements vary for web developers, those who will have a great deal of coding and other technical responsibilities would benefit from a bachelor’s degree, the BLS indicated. The job outlook and salary figures provided above were taken from the BLS.

Computer or Information Systems Manager

  • Expected Growth: 18%
  • Average Annual Salary: $125,660

Computer and information systems managers are in charge of the computer systems at their organizations and supervise the work of all of an organization’s IT personnel. These managers set and implement IT goals for a company and communicate the company’s technological needs to upper management, explaining both the costs and benefits of software and hardware upgrades.

A bachelor’s degree in a relevant area of computing is a typical minimum requirement to enter this field, although many in the field also hold a master’s degree, the BLS explained. The above job outlook and salary figures were drawn from the BLS.

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