Online Degree in Computer Programming

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Learn to Code,
Launch a Career

As more and more companies go digital with their products and services, learning to code with computer programming has become a popular way for individuals to stand out in the job market. With a generally high median salary and low unemployment rate, it has many thinking about going back to school, so they can switch careers or advance their current one. There are online options available for those who don’t have the time to return to academics in a traditional manner. Read on to find out more about online programs and careers following graduation.

Milestone Map for Programmers

A career in computer programming can lead to any number of opportunities. Below is a map that outlines key milestones for one computer programmer.

High School

Takes computer science course and maintains school website

Bachelor’s
Degree in Computer Programming

Interns at digital advertising agency during school

Entry-level Job

Provides help desk support for employees at city development office

Database Developer

Writes code for internal database system at transport company

Promotion

Directs team of IT employees as database administrator

Thought Leader

Presents on database security at major industry conference

Earning a Computer Programming Degree Online

An online degree is ideal for individuals who are already working in another field and are ready for a career change or advancement, or traditional students who are seeking a more flexible approach to their education. Earning your computer programming degree online is also a natural segue into the day-to-day routine you will have after graduation. You will gain a familiarity with a variety of technologies and become comfortable with communicating clearly with peers via online platforms.

As a student in an online computer programming degree program, your education will differ from those taking classes at a traditional university but the quality of your education will not be compromised. Accredited online universities offer the same curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts. The number of individuals entering the workforce with online degrees continues to grow and employers recognize the quality of online degrees.

Degree Options in Computer Programming

Most online computer degree programs are found at the undergraduate level. The specific types are outlined below:

  • Certificate/Diploma (1 year)
  • Associate’s (2 years)
  • Bachelor’s (4 years)

Certificate programs often compliment an existing bachelor’s degree or can be earned while enrolled in an undergraduate program. Some examples of certificates related to computer programming or computer science include game development, information security or mobile computing.

Associate degrees in computer programming are a good stepping stone for entry-level positions or for transfer to a four-year program. While employers often prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree, when combined with work experience, can be sufficient. Upon completing an associate degree, you can expect to have a good understanding of Java programming, systems analysis and design, Linux operating systems, and more.

Most computer programmers have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related subject such as computer science or information systems. Programmers who are interested in working in specific fields such as government or finance may find it helpful to take classes specific to that industry to gain a better understanding of its nuances.

Computer Programming Course Information

Depending on the specific area of your studies, computer programming majors may take different courses but all tend to focus on analytical thinking and computer science. Examples include:

Computer Systems

Learn the fundamental concepts of computer architecture and factors that affect the performance of a system. The goal is to apply practical skills to computer systems architecture. Topics covered in this class are generally data representation, assembly language, central processing unit architecture, memory architecture, and input/output (I/O) architecture.

Analytic College Algebra

Following a review of elementary algebra, students gain a general understanding of rational and radical expressions, functions, general properties of zeroes, extreme values and more. Additional topics may include computation with complex numbers and solving systems of linear equations with matrices and determinants.

Operating Systems and Client/Server Environments

An introduction to the basic concepts of operating systems and specialized networking operating system models. Students will learn the fundamentals of common operating systems, client/server environments, network infrastructure, and security processes utilized in today’s enterprises.

Software Engineering

This course covers software processes, project management, software requirements, system models, software tools and more.

Data Structures and Algorithms

Students learn the skills necessary to analyze data structure and algorithms, as well as hands-on practice devising algorithms for various problems.

Selecting a Computer Programming School:
Tips and Advice

When selecting an online degree program, take into consideration the type of job you hope to seek following graduation, the timeline you would like to complete your degree within and what specific area of study you are most interested in.

  • Does the college offer the type and level of degree necessary to enter into the type of job that interests you?
  • Understand the academic prerequisites before enrolling – minimum GPA, recommended core classes.
  • Ensure that the college to which you are applying is accredited – while employers understand that more candidates are receiving their degrees online, it is still important that degrees were earned through reputable institutions.
  • Get feedback directly from current students or recent graduates, if possible. Most online universities also have representatives available to answer questions.
  • Determine what, if any, additional services are available to students and new graduates, such as career counseling and assistance with planning your curriculum.
  • Confirm that financial aid is available through the school, or that federal aid can be used at the university.
  • Understand additional costs related to your online education and ensure that they will work within your planned budget. These can include books or programs you may need to purchase, any possible travel for on-site projects, and technology you will need regular access to (laptop, printer, etc.).

The Importance of Proper Accreditation

Selecting an accredited program is important when choosing a school for an online computer programming degree because it means the program meets certain academic standards. This in turn tells prospective employers that graduates have gained the necessary skills to successfully enter the workforce. For more information on accreditation, visit our accreditation guide and computer science homepage

Enrollment Process for an Online Bachelor’s in Computer Programming

In order to reach your goal of completing an online degree in computer programming, it can be helpful to map out the steps you need to complete before beginning classes. Outlining important dates can ensure you feel prepared and don’t miss any important deadlines. The following table shows what some of those steps may be.

Time Before Program Start Date
Step 1

Take SATs or ACTs

1 year
Step 2

Apply to online colleges

9-12 months
Step 3

Submit financial aid documents

9 months
Step 4

Determine coursework and register for classes

4-6 months

Step 5

Graduate from high school

3-4 months

Before your college education begins and while you are still working toward your degree, there are things you can do to prepare yourself for upcoming classes and the roles you will fill once you enter the workforce. If available, classes, groups and activities related to computer science and computer programming can give students an advantage when being considered for online schools and jobs.

  • Become familiar with basic coding languages. If your high school offers a computer science class or computer club, you can gain hands-on experience and a better understanding of the applications of the information you will learn in college classes.
  • Take advanced math classes in high school to better prepare for upper-level math classes in college.
  • Take a language class. It may not occur to many people to focus on humanities, but learning another spoken language will help you more easily learn and retain computer coding languages.
  • Enroll in an online class to familiarize yourself with how online learning differs from traditional classroom learning. This will help you become more comfortable managing your time and communicating with instructors and peers without face-to-face opportunities.

Career Opportunities for Programming Grads

With an online computer programming degree, there are many ways to tailor your career path to suit your specific interests. Perhaps you would like to work in a particular industry such as healthcare or finance, or have an aptitude for database administration more so than analyzing systems. Most employers prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree and supplementing your education with internships and other hands-on experience will give you an advantage when applying for jobs.

Computer Programmer

These are the people responsible for writing and testing computer code. This code makes computer applications and software programs function correctly. Computer programmers also test new applications to ensure they work as expected, and if not, they check the code for mistakes and fix it.

Database Administrators

Database administrators are all about problem-solving and critical thinking skills to succeed in this role. They are responsible testing databases and in turn, making necessary correction and modifications. This requires writing and coding of database descriptions, both logical and physical. Database administrators are often also involved with planning and implementing security measures to safeguard electronic information.

Information Security Analyst

With more and more personal information being stored electronically, information security is a very important topic on the minds of business leaders. Information security analysts are responsible for protecting the computer networks of a company or government agency. Entry-level roles may monitor and analyze information while more senior-level positions could be called upon to do investigative work in the case of a possible security breach. This is an in-demand position and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 18 percent employment growth for this profession by 2024.

Software Developer

Software developers are the minds behind the technology we use every day – cell phones, video game systems, software programs and even apps. These individuals oversee everything involved in the process of creating the software that makes these devices functional. In addition to a working knowledge of code, software developers also need to be able to troubleshoot issues, think creatively to understand user needs and feasibility of projects, and collaborate with other stakeholders in the organization.

IT Manager

Information Technology (IT) managers help organizations navigate technology in order to optimize performance and efficiency. While IT managers have a technical background, they are more likely to be found coordinating technology-related matters with executives, planning upgrades of current software or hardware, and negotiating with vendors for services or products.

Career National Job Growth(2014-2024) National Median Annual Salary (May 2014) Minimum Education
Computer Programmer -8% $77,550 Bachelor’s degree
Database Administrators 11% $80,280 Bachelor’s degree
Information Security Analyst 18% $88,890 Bachelor’s degree
Software Developer 17% $97,990 Bachelor’s degree
IT Manager 15% $127,640 Bachelor’s degree

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Computer Programming Certifications


Many organizations will need their IT professionals to be certified in a specific language (or languages). Here are a few certification examples:

Related Computer Science Programs

There are several fields closely related to computer programming, so don’t feel limited to schools only offering that degree. Here are a few other degrees whose curriculum and job opportunities following graduation are similar.

Online Data Science Degrees:

A degree in online data science focuses on problem solving and preparing to creatively apply methods of data collection and analysis. Students will use the latest tools and practices to identify patterns in and gain insights from complex data sets.

Online Web Development Degrees:

Learn to create and maintain web sites with an understanding of user experience, design, usability, multimedia design, emerging technologies and various graphic applications.

Online Software Engineering Degrees:

Software engineers combine engineering, computing, project leadership, and software construction. Students pursuing this degree can expect to take classes focused on mathematics and computer science

Resources for Computer Programming Students