The diverse, growing field of computer science offers some exciting career options on the cutting edge of technology. Earning a computer programming degree online can be the first step toward starting or advancing your career. Earning a computer programming degree online allows students to continue working while they pursue their degrees, and they sometimes costs less than their on-campus counterparts.
Overview of Computer Programming Degrees
Computer programming makes up the part of computer science that focuses on creating and modifying code to instruct software. This area of study may seem narrow, but computers cannot function without software, making programming a cornerstone of all computing technology. As computers have grown in popularity over the past few decades, the web-connected devices require new software to perform more advanced functions, a job which an online computer programming degree prepares for.
This degree best suits people with an interest in software, a strong attention to detail, and with acute analytical ability. In order to fix a software problem or create a new line of code, you must understand what the code is doing and how to improve it. To create new software, you must use the right tools to make the software meet your expectations. People with a gift for math or languages, or who multi-task successfully, can also excel in programming.
Online computer science degree programs entail a similar application process as most other bachelor's degrees. Once you decide where to apply, you must submit transcripts from your previous schools to demonstrate your academic performance. Your prior schools should be able to send your transcripts directly to your prospective universities, usually for a nominal fee. Most universities require a personal essay, statement, or other piece of writing to help admissions officers understand you. You must also pay an application fee, which averages about $50.
Some online programs, especially those serving working adults or returning students, require applicants to submit a resume or letters of recommendation. Accelerated and intensive programs often implement this requirement as well. Tailor your statement to each program rather than using a generic piece of writing.
What Will I Learn?
A bachelor's degree typically comprises 120 credits: half from general education courses, a quarter from required major courses, and a quarter from elective classes. The best online computer science degree programs equip you with the tools you need to pursue any kind of career in programming and software development. The following example courses establish a broad foundation for aspiring computer programmers.
Web Page DevelopmentThis course introduces you to the foundations of web page design and development. This might include using HTML5 and CSS to build stable pages or implementing tables and other useful tools into those pages.
NetworkingThese courses are often available in foundational and advanced formats to teach students about network programming. These courses cover topics like TCP/IP, security, and servers, and students can choose to focus their degrees on networking.
C++ ProgrammingC++ is one of several common programming languages you can expect to learn in a computer programming program. You might only take a foundational course in any given language, or complete several courses as either requirements or electives. Many programmers learn multiple languages.
Systems AnalysisWhen software misbehaves, computer programmers are responsible for diagnosing and fixing the problem. To do this, programmers must possess the analytical tools taught in systems analysis courses, which can cover a wide range of topics, from security to code.
TelecommunicationsThese courses explore the challenges of telecommunications and communications resource management, often within the business environment context. Such courses also explore how to design solutions for those challenges.
Database SystemsMany businesses rely on computers to store and manage data, such as customer records. This course explores common challenges to and solutions for these systems, and best practices to ensure they work properly. Coursework may include programming, architecture, and security.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor's Degree in Computer Programming?
Graduates with online computer programming degrees can choose from a variety of potential career paths, as demonstrated by the sections below.
Online computer programming degrees help students develop a variety of skills to prepare for a career in computer science. Computer programming graduates understand and write code to manipulate software. Several coding languages, like Ruby, JAVA, C++, and Python share the same basic foundation, which students learn in their computer programming courses. Computer programming students typically become proficient in one or more programming languages, as well, qualifying them for positions in several industries.
Computer programming students might also explore networking, telecommunications, and systems security as they complete their degrees. Each of these specializations can lead to exciting careers or help students become well-rounded programmers. These skills form the basis of most computer science fields, and should serve graduates in any career path. Each student must determine which specializations they want to pursue, if any, and whether they want to pursue them during your bachelor's studies or later in their careers.
Potential Careers and Salaries
Online computer programming degrees apply in many fields, both within and outside of the technology industry. Education, government, and nonprofits make extensive use of computer science on the consumer end. The examples below represent a small sample of the careers a computer programming graduate might pursue, including position descriptions and earning potential.
Many companies employ different titles for the same job, and professionals in the technology industry often fulfill multiple roles over the course of their career, especially if they work for smaller organizations. An online degree in computer programming provides a broad skill base, and graduates can combine this foundation with specialized skills to qualify for an array of career paths.
Annual Median Salary: $82,240
These professionals create and test the code that allows computers to run software. They develop solutions to existing problems while making sure not to introduce new issues into the code. They also write new code.
Annual Median Salary: $67,990
Web developers create and maintain websites. They might take charge of the look of the site and its content, or focus on providing the code and support needed to maintain a site designed by someone else.
Information Security Analyst
Annual Median Salary: $95,510
These professionals analyze networks, computers, or software to find security risks. They must understand code and implement it to fix errors or prevent breaches.
Annual Median Salary: $103,560
Software developers provide the creative force behind software, coming up with new ideas to implement or design. They might write code for that software or pass on that work to programmers, depending on the position and the company in which they work.
Annual Median Salary: $87,020
These professionals use software to store, manage, and retrieve data from computers and networks. They may design code to do this, or make use of existing software to do their job.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Computer Programming?
A bachelor's degree suffices for most computer programming positions, though some may also require work experience. Some professionals pursue more advanced degrees to further specialize their expertise. Advanced degrees can help increase your earning potential, and better qualify you for certain positions.
Advanced degrees in computer programming equip graduates to conduct research and teach at the college level. Research positions don't necessarily require advanced degrees, but graduate degrees prove helpful for research, in part because graduate school provides valuable networking opportunities. Primary and secondary education generally require teachers to hold an education degree, while teaching above the high school level requires at least a master's degree.
Accreditation for Computer Programming Bachelor's Programs
The accreditation process allows colleges and universities to prove their qualification to teach students and award degrees. Make sure your prospective schools hold accreditation from either a regional or national accreditation board. Regional boards usually accredit public universities, while private colleges and technical schools are more often accredited by national boards.
Some programs will also hold programmatic accreditation, such as that from the Computing Accreditation Commission. A program with this accreditation has been reviewed and approved by the commission, verifying a high standard of education. Programs without degree-specific accreditation may still offer a perfectly good education, but those with the additional, programmatic credentials often look more impressive on a diploma or resume.
Computer Programming Professional Organizations
Joining a professional organization provides access to networking and professional development opportunities as well as job boards and financial aid. These organizations offer students tools and resources to help them excel in their degrees. The three organizations below represent just a small selection of the groups you might consider joining.
Association for Computing Machinery
Founded in 1947, ACM brings together more than 100,000 professionals from around the world to pool their knowledge and experience to continue developing the field of computer science. The association hosts conferences, maintains publications, and promotes diversity and professional development among its members.
Black Data Processing Associates
Founded in 1975, BDPA has worked to promote the needs and upward mobility of minority IT and STEM professionals and students. The group achieves this through its National High School Computer Competition, scholarships, and professional organization including conferences, publications, and networking opportunities.
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
The global CPSR started in 1981 to promote the responsible use of computing and computer technology for the benefit of society as a whole. To that end, the group promotes internet access, cyberrights, and an increased female presence in the programming field.