Online Computer Programming Degrees

Two computer programmers working in different industries will inevitably have vastly different job responsibilities. A computer programmer at a startup might write code from scratch to build a new online tool or app, while a veteran at Microsoft with a similar job title might not write any code at all, and instead be tasked with troubleshooting existing problems on various interfaces. Regardless of the exact job description, a computer programmer’s core responsibility is to ensure that software can function properly.

Computer programmers are among the most highly sought-after professionals in the private and public sectors today. Seemingly every business has a digital dimension, and the demand for computer programmers has skyrocketed as a result. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the median annual income for programmers is just under $80,000, and salaries only rise with experience. Looking forward, all organizations will continue to need skilled programmers on their staff, and the field offers excellent job security.

If you are detail-oriented, have a passion for computers and software, and excel in math, programming might be the right academic field for you. Read on to learn more about the discipline, and how a degree in computer programming could help you take the next step in your career.

Meet our expert

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Jeff Tindall Computer Programming

“Logic, empathy, and problem-solving are key skills students should build upon in a strong computer science program.”

Online Computer Programming Degree Overview

Like many other professions today, the higher the degree you have, the better your job prospects are; if you have an associate degree, you will be facing a tougher job market than if you hold a master’s. A bachelor’s in computer programming online will qualify you for most positions in the field though, and the degree offers a solid financial return on investment.
Degree Avg Degree Cost Avg Loan Default Rate Time Commitment Early Career Pay Mid-Career Pay Unemployment Rate
Associate $11,659 17.12% 2 years N/A N/A 8.3%
Bachelor's $19,180 16.07% 4 years $53,000 $93,000 4.3%
Master's $19,158 8.57% 1.5+ years $83,000 $107,000 2.9%
Whether you are new to the field, or looking to advance in your current career, you should weigh the costs and time of getting a new degree against its benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all degree. The best choice for you will depend on your current educational background, financial standing, employment history, and area of interest. For instance, those with no experience may want to consider an associate degree, due to its shorter time commitment and lower cost. If finances are tight for you, then you should prioritize the student loan debt and default categories, as you will want to choose a degree that offers you the best chance of improving your financial standing with minimal risk. If your employer or someone else is paying for your education, then you might want to consider the degree that will offer you the highest salary. All salary information is sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and/or PayScale

Online Computer Programming Degrees

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Online Associate’s Degree in Computer Programming

Online computer programming associate degrees qualify graduates for a range of entry-level positions in the field. They can also serve as the first step toward becoming a software or web developer, or a computer systems analyst. Coursework can usually be completed in two years.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Object-Oriented Programming, Introduction to Assembly Language Programming, Applied Mathematics, Telecommunications and Computer Networks

  • COMMON MAJORS

    Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Web Development, Software Engineering

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    Web Developer, Computer Programmer, Software Developer, Information Technology and Systems Specialist

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    $44,450 per year

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    Between 2014-24, there will be a 27% job growth rate for web developers; a -8% growth rate for computer programmers; a 17% growth rate for software developers; and an 8% growth rate for computer systems specialists.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Programming

An online bachelor’s in computer programming is a common degree for programmers. You will be better positioned to get a higher-level position right from the start than if you just have an associate degree.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Fundamentals of Database Systems, Introduction to IT, Systems Analysis, Project Management, Information Technology Architectures

  • COMMON MAJORS

    Systems Analysis, Software Engineering, Information Security Analysis, Data Analysis

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    Systems Analyst, Information Security Specialist, Database Manager, Software Engineer, IT Systems Engineer

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    The median for the profession is about $80,000 annually, and bachelor’s-holders can expect to fall into this range.

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    Between 2014-24, there will be a 21% job growth rate for computer systems analysts; an 18% growth rate for information security specialists; an 11% growth rate for database administrators/managers; a 17% growth rate for software engineers; and an 8% growth rate for IT systems engineers.

Online Master’s Degree in Computer Programming

An online master’s in computer programming will give you a specialized skill set in the field. Most master’s programs take at least two years, but master’s degree-holders are very qualified within their chosen field, and stand to earn significantly higher salaries than those with just a bachelor’s. Common specializations include computer forensics, cloud development, embedded systems, and mobile development.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Database Management, Internet Security, Introduction to Mobile Development, Network Administration, Software Engineering

  • COMMON MAJORS

    Internet Security Management, Database Analysis, Computer Forensics, Mobile Management, Network Management and Analysis

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    Network Administrator, Mobile and Web Developer, Computer Forensics Specialist, Information and Communications Technology Security Specialist, Database Manager

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    Expect to be on the high end of the spread, earning $100,000 annually.

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    Between 2014-2024, there will be an 8% job growth rate for network administrators; a 27% growth rate for mobile/web developers; an 11% growth rate for computer forensics specialists; an 18% growth rate for information/communications technology security specialists; and an 11% growth rate for database administrators/managers.

Online Doctorate Degree in Computer Programming

A doctorate in computer programming can prepare you for positions in academia and signify your expertise in a dimension of the field. Primarily research-based, doctoral candidates should already hold a master’s and be motivated by a desire to expand the field.

  • SAMPLE COURSES

    Concurrent and Distributed Systems, Simulation and Modeling, Algorithm Design, Artificial Intelligence, Dissertation: Methodology and Ethics

  • COMMON MAJORS

    DBA and PhD

  • POTENTIAL JOBS

    Systems Architect, IT Risk Manager and Analyst, Statistical Researcher, Computer and Systems Manager, Chief Information Officer

  • AVERAGE INCOME

    The highest 10% of computer programmers earn $124,000 annually.

  • EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS

    Between 2014-2024, there will be a 9% job growth rate for systems architects; a 14% growth rate for IT risk managers/analysts; a 30% growth rate for statistical researchers; a 15% growth rate for computer and systems managers; and a 15% growth rate for chief information officers.

Online Computer Programming Choose Your Career

Average Computer Programming Salaries

$100,690
$64,970
$85,800
$131,600
$79,530

Software Developer

Salary: $100,690
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
7% 1,114,000 Bachelor's N/A

If you are interested in creating software, you may want to consider becoming a software developer. Software developers can either work individually or in teams, and will need to be quick thinkers and well-versed in a variety of programming languages. They research, design, program, and test computer software.

Web Developer

Salary: $64,970
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
27% 148,500 Associates N/A

An online computer programming degree can also prepare you to develop and design websites. Most organizations need a website, and the internet’s seemingly limitless growth provides a variety of opportunities for web developers. You will need to understand basic HTML and code, and you should also have a passion for design, aesthetics, and functionality.

Computer Systems Analyst

Salary: $85,800
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
21% 118,600 Bachelor's Several available, none required

After completing your computer programming degree online, you may be interested in a position as a computer systems analyst. Rather than write code, computer systems analysts are tasked with assessing how programs and information systems are functioning. If you have a knack for identifying inefficiencies in code, this is the right job for you. Perhaps the most exciting duty is the opportunity to work with both the business and technology sides of an organization, finding ways to streamline and improve processes for both dimensions of your company.

Computer and Information Systems Manager

Salary: $131,600
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
15% 348,500 Bachelor's Several available, none required

Computer and information systems managers are responsible for a variety of tasks across the information technology spectrum, including programming and data processing. Most computer and information systems managers have a master’s degree in the field. In addition to the mathematical skills and attention to detail the position requires, you will also need to be a master organizer and strong leader to excel in this job.

Computer Programmer

Salary: $79,530
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
-8% 328,600 Bachelor's

Programmers need to be fluent in at least a few programming languages, and they should be able to learn new languages quickly. Binary, coding, and testing all fall under this umbrella, and you’ll learn each through a bachelor’s in computer programming online program. You will be responsible for bridging the gap between computers and software, and you’ll test, write, and adjust code to ensure functionality. The slight decline in job growth for this field is attributed to a trend among companies to hire programmers in countries where wages are lower. However, managing programmers overseas tends to be expensive in the long run, and an increasing number of companies are expected to bring back programming jobs in the U.S.

Online Computer Programming Degree in Action

Jeff Tindall Computer Programming

Jeff Tindall is a technology executive with 20 years of experience in the healthcare software industry. His primary focus has been on Microsoft technologies, distributed networked applications, and parallel data processing. He started his technical career in healthcare documentation management software with Healthcare Technologies, Inc. while attending the Georgia Institute of Technology where he graduated with a bachelor of science in computer science.

When and how did you begin pursuing a career as a computer programmer?

My father started a healthcare software company in the late 1980s, so I was very fortunate to grow up around computers and have access to them from an early age. In the early 90s I was helping build the machines for the company. I knew early on that I wanted to work with computers. When I started college at Georgia Tech, I was enrolled as a dual major in computer science and computer engineering. As I completed by junior year, I knew that programming was the right path for me -- I loved the "programming" circuits with VDHL and finished my computer science degree with a focus in networking and parallel systems. I worked at the family business through college and beyond until ultimately selling the company in 2009.

What skills does a student build upon in a strong computer programming (or computer science) program?

Computer programming is a massive game of Simon Says. You must treat the computer like a three year old and tell it exactly what you want it to do. It will not infer context and will help assume anything. Logic, empathy, and problem-solving are key skills students should build upon in a strong computer science program. You must first understand the user, how they see the world, and what is the best way for them to interact with the technology. Then you have to figure out which components you need to orchestrate in order to accomplish those goals. Finally, you must put it all together in a logical manner while handling a myriad of potential error conditions in order to deliver a stable solution.

What type of person excels in this type of career?

Luckily, modern software brings many roles together in order to deliver software solutions. So there are more opportunities to specialize if you are really interested in one thing. The most successful software developers transcend the technical and are able to bridge the gap between the business, users, and programming. This often means we need to get outside of our comfort zone and get beyond the computer screen. Software is created on a computer, but is implemented in the real world with real users.

What advice would you give to students considering a degree in computer science/computer programming?

In many ways, computer programming is magic to most people. But it is much more of an art -- anyone can pick up a brush and put paint to canvas, but it takes an artist to make something that the masses will appreciate. In the same way, anyone can make a computer say "Hello world!", but it takes an artist to orchestrate the data, algorithms, and user experience to create a meaningful and intuitive experience.

Online Computer Programming Professional Requirements

Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer

There are five different certifications under the MCSD certification, including Windows Store Apps, Web Applications, SharePoint Applications, Azure Solutions Architect, Application Lifecycle Management, and Universal Windows Platform, each coming with different requirements. All of these certifications can significantly improve your job prospects. Those who have the certificate will thoroughly know all of Microsoft’s core programs, which are widely used among organizations. There are no prerequisites to take the exam. Depending on which certification program you take, the exam time will generally fall within two to six hours.

Is it required?

Recommended

How long will it take?

Varies

Adobe Certified Expert

Adobe products are widely used for a range of information technology needs, making the ACE a great addition to an online computer programming degree. There are three categories of certification: Print, Web, and Video Specialist, and each comes with varying requirements. You will need to take between two and three core exams, and one elective. Depending on your interests, you can master a variety of Adobe products, including InDesign, GoLive, Acrobat, Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere, and After Effects. Each exam should take only a couple of hours, depending on which certification you are looking to complete.

Is it required?

Recommended

How long will it take?

Varies

(ISC)2

Graduates from a computer programming program are well-positioned to pass the (ISC)2 test. You will also need to have at least five years of full-time work experience in several domains under the (ISC)2 standards. The exam is demanding and long, and essentially works toward a final CISSP certification, which can take as many as six years to acquire.

Is it required?

Recommended for Security-Focused Jobs

How long will it take?

Up to 6 years

Google Apps Certification

Google’s apps are very common today, and those certified in the various tools will be in high demand going forward. While not required, you’ll do better on this test if you already have a programming degree, as the language will be foreign without some foundation in computer science. Google also recommends that you have some experience managing Google Apps before taking the exam as well.

Is it required?

Recommended for IT Managers

How long will it take?

2 Hours