Online Computer Programming Associate Degree Programs

The Most Affordable Paths & Career Potential in Computer Programming

Computer and information technology professionals are some of the highest-paid workers in the United States, earning a median annual salary of more than $86,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Earning an online associate degree in computer programming is an excellent way to break into the growing technology field.

You may be wondering, what is computer programming? This guide provides an overview of the field and explores common computer programming courses and topic areas. The sections below also cover computer programming jobs, scholarship opportunities, and career outlooks for professionals in the field. This information can help you determine whether an online computer programming degree is right for you.

Quiz: Is an Online Computer Programming Associate Program Right for Me?

Q1: Are you fascinated by programming languages such as JavaScript, CSS, and XHTML and by debugging source code within computer systems? Or are you more interested in gaining a broad foundation in information technology?

A: If you have an IT background and love coding, earning an online associate degree in computer programming may be a good fit for you. Students in these programs explore many top programming languages, including JavaScript, Python, C++, Swift, PHP, and Perl.

Students choosing between a programming degree and a general computer science degree should consider their career goals. An online associate program in information technology is well-suited for students who are interested in building and maintaining full computer systems, rather than specific computer programs.

Q2: Does a two-year degree program feel like the right study timeline?

A: Most students earning their computer programming associate degree online complete 60 credits, which typically takes full-time learners about two years. Online courses can allow students to better balance personal and professional responsibilities with academics. Additionally, some online learners take more courses per semester to graduate more quickly.

Students should research each prospective school's computer programming coursework, admission requirements, and class schedule. This information can help learners choose the study pace that fits with their goals.

Q3: Do you have prior credits to transfer?

A: Students can often transfer general education credits completed at another college, although most schools only accept transfer credits from accredited institutions. Additionally, some schools award credit for professional and military programming experience.

Applying transfer credits or credits gained from work experience to your associate degree can reduce your completion time and overall cost.

Q4: Are you interested in eventually earning a bachelor's degree?

A: While educational requirements vary by employer, an associate degree meets the minimum requirement for many entry-level positions in the industry. However, a bachelor's degree can lead to more career options and higher earning potential.

Associate degree-holders often transfer into a bachelor's program after graduation. By applying an associate degree toward bachelor's requirements, students often complete their bachelor's degree in two additional years.

What Will You Learn in an Online Associate Computer Programming Program?

While students earning an associate in computer programming mainly build programming skills, they also explore conceptual knowledge. Basic computer science coursework examines fundamental concepts behind computer design and functionality. Learners gain a general understanding of computer organization and architecture before studying advanced concepts related to operating systems and programming languages.

Introductory programming classes cover the applications of various computer languages. These courses may also explore the fundamentals of networking and computer system design. Some computer programming and computer science degrees also require coursework in subjects such as calculus, probability, statistics, and logic.

Common Classes and Coursework

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    Introduction to Computer Programming: This class helps students gain the conceptual foundation they need for advanced courses in Java, C#, C++, and other languages. Learners solve programming problems and learn about repetition structures, decision structures, and input/output devices. Students become familiar with basic programming concepts such as object-oriented design, data types, and recursion.
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    Web Development: Students learn about major languages used in web development, including HTML, CSS, and XML. Learners explore the fundamentals of building web pages that include features such as multimedia elements, links, forms, and maps. Students also gain an understanding of client-server dynamics to build and maintain complex websites.
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    Database Design and SQL: This course provides an overview of data storage, database programming, and database development. Students become familiar with the relational database model and gain experience using Structured Query Language to write data-query requests. The course may also explore database architectures, such as the client-server and distributed database models.
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    Computer Architecture and Organization: Students in this class explore how modern computers function. Learners examine principles of computer design and examine topics including processors, storage, digital circuits, and data representation. Students deepen their knowledge of computer organization by exploring assembly languages.
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    Foundation of Computing: Many associate in computer programming programs begin with a basic computing course. The course introduces students to computing and information technology topics they will study throughout the curriculum. Learners explore topics like computing history, operating systems, web design, data storage, networking, and software engineering.

Skills You Will Gain

The best associate in computer programming degree programs teach students to work in several prominent programming languages. Students often take both introductory and advanced courses in JavaScript, C++, Python, and HTML.

Students develop skills in Structured Query Language, learning to design databases and manipulate and retrieve information from databases. Gaining experience in HTML, C++, and XML helps students build and maintain websites. Learners also complete courses on JavaScript and Python, preparing to build applications in positions like software developers and computer programmers.

Associate degrees in computer programming provide foundational knowledge that students can apply during their career or while pursuing further studies. This knowledge can help graduates master additional programming languages.

While completing coursework outside of their major, students build general skills they can apply to roles in the IT sector, as well as to careers in other industries. Computer professionals must be able to clearly describe complex technical issues and concepts; therefore, computer programming curricula often include courses on business communication and technical writing. Required general education coursework also helps learners develop skills in quantitative reasoning, public speaking, and project management.

Average Degree Length

An associate degree in computer programming typically requires about 60 credits, which most full-time learners complete in two years. However, many online programs offer students the flexibility to study at a pace that fits their needs.

Students in self-paced online programs complete coursework at their convenience. Students with full-time jobs or other commitments can take their time, while learners who want to enter the workforce as soon as possible can move through courses more quickly.

Part-time students generally take longer than two years to earn an associate degree, while students who pursue an accelerated track may graduate in less than two years. Ambitious degree-seekers can finish the curriculum faster by enrolling in summer and/or winter classes. Learners can sometimes save money by finishing their degree early, since some schools charge a flat, per-semester tuition rate. Schools may also charge different per-credit rates based on how many credits a student takes each term.

Career Opportunities With an Associate Degree in Computer Programming

Associate degrees in computer programming help learners develop skills and knowledge that they can apply to entry-level IT and computing jobs. This section provides an overview of various careers and industries graduates can enter after earning their computer programming associate degree online. The table below details computer programming salary expectations and job responsibilities for various professions; although many of these positions require a bachelor's degree, an associate degree can help put individuals on the right track for many lucrative jobs.

Potential Careers and Salaries

The BLS projects computer and information technology occupations to grow 12% from 2018-2028, which translates to more than 546,000 new positions. These occupations include positions in areas such as data storage, information security, and computer programming.

Professionals with an associate degree in computer programming can pursue computing careers with organizations like software companies, computer systems design outfits, and insurance firms. In addition to preparing students for computer programming positions, these programs teach learners skills they can apply to jobs in systems administration, web development, and technical support.

Computer Programmer

Computer programmers write, test, and debug code written in programming languages such as Java and C++. Programmers often follow instructions from software developers, but they sometimes design programs independently.

Median Annual Salary: $84,280

Systems Administrator

These professionals maintain, upgrade, and secure an organization's computer networks. Systems administrators install new software, respond to security threats, train new users, and troubleshoot issues.

Median Annual Salary: $82,050

Web Developer

Web developers build and manage websites. They may specialize in constructing a website's back end, or they may focus on the site's appearance. Developers need a strong command of HTML and other languages.

Median Annual Salary: $69,430

Computer Support Specialist

These specialists provide technical assistance to organizations and individuals. Computer support specialists may test, troubleshoot, and repair an organization's IT systems. Some support specialists answer questions from customers and teach users to operate new software and hardware.

Median Annual Salary: $53,470

Software Developer

Software developers need a strong background in computer programming, and many positions require a bachelor's degree in a field such as computer science. These professionals design new computer programs and operating systems.

Median Annual Salary: $105,590

Five Computer Programming Scholarships to Apply For

Prospective computer programming students can apply for scholarships, grants, and work-study programs to help pay for college-related costs, such as tuition and textbooks. Many professional organizations and private companies offer funding opportunities specifically for students majoring in computer programming.

PayScale Women in STEM Scholarship

Who Can Apply: PayScale offers this award to women pursuing a college degree in a field related to science, technology, engineering, or math. The program accepts applicants who are planning to attend college, as well as those currently working toward a degree.

Amount: $2,000

Apply for Scholarship

National Society of High School Scholars Foundation

Who Can Apply: The NSHSS Foundation offer scholarships to members of underrepresented groups. Candidates must plan to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering, or math. Applicants must also have at least a 3.0 GPA.

Amount: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

Upsilon Pi Epsilon ACM Student Chapter Scholarship Award

Who Can Apply: The Association for Computing Machinery awards this scholarship to undergraduate and graduate students who demonstrate academic excellence in computing. Applicants must hold membership with ACM and with their school's ACM student chapter.

Amount: $1,000

Apply for Scholarship

Betty Stevens Frecknall Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Applicants must have already completed at least one full semester of college (i.e., 12 semester credits or the equivalent). Candidates must be majoring in computer science, IT, or a similar field and must hold a minimum 3.0 major GPA.

Amount: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

John W. Council Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Foundation for IT Education awards this scholarship to computer programming and technology majors who have a minimum 3.0 major GPA. Applicants must be studying full time and have completed at least one semester of college.

Amount: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

Educational Advancement in Computer Programming

An associate degree in computer programming can lead to more advanced careers than a high school diploma or postsecondary certificate. However, many graduates of associate programs decide to continue their education and earn a bachelor's degree in the computing field. The following sections describe factors to think about when considering whether or not to pursue a four-year degree, along with common bachelor's degree choices for students with an associate in computer programming.

Should You Transfer to a Four-year Degree Program?

Transferring to a bachelor's program after earning an associate degree can lead to increased earning potential and more job opportunities. Students interested in pursuing a four-year degree should begin considering options well in advance of graduation, since transferring between schools can be complicated. Students should try and work with an academic advisor during this process. In addition, learners should independently research transfer agreements, which can help them successfully apply to schools and transfer credits.

What Degree Paths Should You Consider?

Below are some common bachelor's degree options for graduates with an associate in computer programming. These bachelor's programs build on associate-level coursework and explore more advanced programming topics. The following degrees are only a few of the many options available to individuals with a computer programming associate degree.

  • Computer Science: Bachelor's programs in computer science examine computer systems design and operation. Students gain skills and knowledge related to programming, operating systems, computer architecture, and algorithm design.
  • Software Development: Software development students learn to design web applications, computer programs, and operating systems using languages such as C#, C++, and Java. Learners may also study database administration, user experience design, and information security.
  • Information Technology: IT bachelor's programs prepare students for jobs in computer systems analysis, network administration, and cybersecurity. Learners explore topics including networking, scripting, and data management. Students may also take courses in the business of IT to prepare for management roles.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional associations and resources, such as those listed below, can help programmers and computer programming students search for jobs, network with other technology workers, and develop their programming skills.

  • The Art, Science, and Engineering of Programming: This scholarly journal addresses the lack of computer programming material in computer science literature. Students can read about programming trends from scientific, engineering, and mathematical perspectives.
  • Association for Computing Machinery: The world's largest computing society, ACM boasts nearly 100,000 members. Members can access a job center, numerous publications, workshops and conferences, and a learning center that offers IT skills training.
  • Association for Women in Computing: AWC supports women in computing professions. Members include programmers, consultants, and system analysts. Members can take advantage of networking events, continuing education presentations, and mentorship opportunities.
  • CompTIA Association of Information Technology Professionals: This professional association unites technology workers, students, and educators. The organization offers access to IT research, career advice, local events, and soft skills training in areas such as communication and project management.
  • Computing Research Association: CRA advances computing research by supporting researchers in academia, government, and the private sector. Students can access resources related to research opportunities, awards, and applying to graduate school.
  • GitHub: GitHub is an online platform that students and professionals can use to develop software and manage projects. Users can build their skills by reviewing others' code and by contributing to open-source projects.
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society: The IEEE Computer Society supports computer science professionals by hosting conferences, peer-reviewed publications, a digital library, and career webinars. The organization also offers career development resources specifically for young professionals and resources designed for women.
  • International Association of Computer Science and Information Technology: IACSIT is a scientific association that unites technology professors, students, and research scientists. The organization organizes workshops and publishes academic journals. Members can network and exchange ideas at the association's conferences.
  • MIT OpenCourseWare: Through its OpenCourseWare site, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology makes almost all of its course content available to the public. Site visitors can access courses on topics including artificial intelligence, Python programming, and algorithms.
  • Stack Overflow: Through this website, programmers can ask technical questions and learn from more experienced professionals. Stack Overflow also maintains a job board where users can search for technology positions.