The Best Online Associate in Computer Programming Programs

Programming code is a building block of modern technology. Unique code sequences are used to create games, applications and other software programs, and they also play a role in web design. Hundreds of programming languages exist; the most commonly used languages include Java, SQL, C++, Python and Ruby on Rails. The professionals who study these programming languages and write code sequences are known as computer programmers.

A computer programming associate degree program introduces students to the foundational concepts and skills that drive this cutting-edge industry. Coursework will include studies in multiple programming languages, as well as topics like basic computer science, operating systems, software development, web design and database management. The curriculum will also include algebra, calculus and other math subjects. Many of today’s students are choosing to earn their associate degree in computer programming online. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to the same number of job opportunities after graduation. The asynchronous (or self-paced) schedule and study-from-home format are also ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties and other responsibilities that could possibly interfere with campus-based learning.

Learn more about what you can do with an online associate in computer programming and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.


Students who graduate with an associate in computer programming will leave school prepared for most entry-level positions in their field. The best online computer programming associate programs will teach fluency in several leading computer languages, and also equip students with the skill-set to learn new languages as they advance in their careers. Some programs enable students to focus their studies on a particular industry, such as healthcare or business, which can bolster their standing in the job market even further.


Associate online degrees in computer programming offer a flexible alternative to traditional college education. Students can download course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with other students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors ― all with the click of a mouse. Current educational technology also allows them to study away home using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other Wi-Fi-compatible devices.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that most computer programmers working today have earned at least a bachelor’s, but a growing number of employers are hiring candidates with associate degrees. Other popular roles for computer programming degree recipients include web designers, computer systems and support specialists, software developers and network architects.


Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school’s strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online associate in computer programming programs in the United States. If you are considering an online associate in computer programming, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.

18 months to 2 years
Program Costs
$6,000 to $20,000 in annual tuition
Computer Science, Information Technology (IT), Computer Information Systems (CIS), Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Systems Engineering, Information Security, Web Design, Computer Networking Systems, Network Administration, Software or Hardware Engineering, Software Architecture, Software Quality Assurance
What is an AACSB Accredited Online MBA Program?
There is no formally recognized accreditor for associate degree programs in this field. Please defer to an individual school’s regional or national accreditation status.

Job Placement: Associate in Computer Programming

Computing and information technology is one of the most stable employment sectors in the country. According to the BLS, roughly 3.9 million Americans are currently employed in tech-related occupations. Strong job growth is also projected in this sector; the BLS predicts that nearly 500,000 new computing and IT jobs will be created between 2014 and 2024, resulting in a 12% increase over that 10-year period.

However, computer programming jobs are expected to dip by 8% between 2014 and 2024. Outsourcing is a primary reason for this dip; since programming work can usually be done from home, many companies rely on overseas personnel who accept lower salaries. However, the programming industry is still quite sizable: roughly 328,600 employees currently working in the U.S.

U.S. News & World Report notes that the current unemployment rate for computer programmers is 2.5%. How does this stack up against job placement for other tech professions? The following table compares the unemployment rates of eight other popular roles in computing and IT. All nine entries appeared on the ‘Best Technology Jobs‘ ranking published by U.S. News & World Report in 2016

Profession Unemployment Rate
Information Security Analyst 1.4%
Information Technology Manager 1.8%
Computer Systems Administrator 2.0%
Database Administrator 2.0%
Computer Programmer 2.5%
Software Developer 2.5%
Computer Systems Analyst 2.6%
Computer Support Specialist 3.3%
Web Developer 3.4%

Source: ‘Best Technology Jobs’ by U.S. News & World Report

As the table indicates, the unemployment rate for programmers is fairly middle-of-the-road compared to other tech fields. This figure is also much lower than the national unemployment rate for all occupations, which currently sits at 4.7%.

Earning a Living

According to the 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report, students who graduate with an associate degree in computer programming earn a median annual salary of $42,900 during their first five years on the job and $68,800 after a decade in the workforce. This amounts to a 60% earnings increase after the first 10 years of their career.

Using data from the report, the table below looks at 10-year salary projections for computer programming and six other related academic fields.

Associate Degree Field of Study Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years)
Computer Engineering $41,000 $77,300
Computer Programming $42,900 $68,800
Computer Science $40,400 $67,300
Computer Information Systems $40,100 $60,500
Computer and Network Administration $40,200 $58,500
Computer Technology $38,900 $54,800

Source: 2015-16 PayScale College Salary Report

However, degree field of study is not the only predictor for earning potential. Salary expectations for computer programming associate degree-holders will also depend on their specific job title. The next table features salary growth estimates for five of the most popular career paths in computer programming.

Occupation Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years) Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years) Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)
Computer Programmer $51,422 $65,169 $72,883 $76,986
Software Developer $62,448 $76,168 $86,399 $90,105
Web Developer $51,067 $61,591 $69,435 $78,925
Programmer Analyst $57,420 $69,096 $73,783 $78,390
Network Administrator $49,466 $56,158 $61,904 $65,313

All five careers reported career salary growth of at least 32%. Web developers reported the highest rate of salary growth: a 54.6% increase between the entry-level and late-career stages. Computer programmers placed second with a 49.7% growth rate after 20 years in the workforce, followed by software developers with 44.3% growth.

Career Opportunities

Students who graduate with an associate in computer programming will be qualified for dozens of entry-level positions, although individual eligibility will depend on additional factors like experience level, employer size and city/state of employment. The computer programming profession, as well as three related career paths, are highlighted in the next section.

Computer Programmers: Computer programmers essentially translate software and web designs into unique code sequences, which are then used to create a wide range of programs and applications. They also test their programs for glitches, and may be tasked with correcting mistakes made by other programmers.

Software Developers: Software developers create the designs and blueprints for software programs and applications; these directions are then used by programmers to write code sequences. Today’s software developers often utilize models and diagrams, as well as computer-based tools.

Computer Systems Specialists: Computer systems specialists are responsible for improving and optimizing the computing systems used by their company or organization. Their work often entails cost-benefit analyses to ensure these projects are financially feasible, and they are also expected to run tests on new systems before they can be approved.

Computer Support Specialists: Computer support specialists (also known as network support specialists) offer IT-related assistance and advice to various personnel at their company or organization. They also run network tests and perform maintenance checks to ensure their systems are secure and properly functioning.

Profession Median Annual Salary
Computer Programmers $79,530
Software Developers $100,690
Computer Systems Specialists $85,800
Computer Support Specialists $51,470

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Professional Organizations

Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to computer programming is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you’ll find three of the country’s most prominent organizations established for computer programmers and other related tech professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.

  • International Association of Computer Science and Information Technology: IACSIT is a scholarly organization for scientific research in computer science and IT. Members are invited to submit and review academic papers, host workshops, and attend conferences around the world.
  • Association of Software Professionals: The ASP is a trade organization dedicated to software developers and engineers who design programs, apps, and networks. The website features an extensive calendar of upcoming conferences and events, along with full issues of the ASPects monthly newsletter.
  • Association of Information Technology Professionals: Founded in 1951, the AITP is considered one of the largest global organizations for IT managers and personnel. The association hosts 55 U.S. chapters across nine regions of the country, and also sponsors college chapters at postsecondary institutions in 36 different states.

Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.


Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.


Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.


Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.


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