As technology's influence grows, fluency in programming languages and media have become a valuable asset across career fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that an associate degree in computer programming is usually the entry-level educational requirement for web developers, who in 2017 earned a median salary of $67,990. An associate degree in computer programming can also serve as a gateway to further education, bolstering students' knowledge in ways that can lead to plentiful career opportunities in a dynamic, lucrative field.

Should I Get an Associate Degree in Computer Programming?

Those with an interest or background in basic computer skills like networking, office software, and introductory programming make ideal candidates for an associate degree in computer programming. Students can pursue their associate in computer programming on-campus or online. Online programs in particular provide flexible options for students seeking to accommodate work and family obligations. On-campus programs, however, may be more attractive for recent high school graduates who enjoy the structure of an in-person program.

Though the specific skills a student develops while pursuing this degree may vary by institution, students can expect to learn the programming mindset, create object-oriented programming, and use languages like JavaScript, CSS, and XHTML to create interactive webpages, among other important digital creation tools.

Students earning their associate in computer programming degree also benefit from networking opportunities with faculty and fellow students, a valuable professional skill that can help them find employment after graduation. Schools often have job and internship placement assistance services, including resume workshops and job fairs, available to students and recent graduates.

What Can I Do With an Associate in Computer Programming?

An associate degree in computer programming prepares students for many careers in technology fields. As this work generally involves a lot of screen time, collaboration, and presentation of work, professionals in this field must be clear communicators comfortable with fluidity in job expectations.

Programmer Analyst

Programmer analysts design, code, and test programs. They troubleshoot, debug, and maintain their coding, sometimes customizing outsourced programs for their companies. As they write programs, programmer analysts typically must document their work in flowcharts or diagrams.

Median Annual Salary: $65,067

Computer Programmer

Computer programmers generally work in offices as salaried employees, working to write software while maintaining, troubleshooting, and debugging source code from computer programs. They must ensure that all source code can be understood by an office's computers so that it can be effectively translated to end-users.

Median Annual Salary: $60,971

Software Engineer

Software engineers typically work with designers to consolidate program functions, mapping programming tasks and smaller functions. Usually, software engineers work in design and development stages of software creation, plotting out aspects of automated tasks and defining basic function expectations for programming.

Median Annual Salary: $82,866

How to Choose an Associate in Computer Programming Program

There are many factors involved in choosing an associate degree in computer programming: program length, instructional method (i.e., online versus on-campus), available financial aid, and specific coursework suited toward a student's professional goals. Students should contact the admissions department at their prospective schools, as well as faculty in the computer programming department, if they have questions about program particulars. For students choosing an on-campus program, also consider the school's location, and evaluate whether you'd be graduating into a healthy local job market.

Associate in Computer Programming Program Admissions

The admissions process varies from school to school, but typically, schools require an application, transcripts, and an application fee. Additional requirements, such as a statement of purpose, interview, or entrance exam, may apply as well. Admissions tend to be more involved for online programs than for on-campus programs, as online programs often require applicants to schedule meetings with admissions counselors. No standard dictates how many schools a student ought to apply to, but generally speaking, applying to at least four and as many as eight schools enhances a student's chances of admittance.

Admission Materials

  • Application: Applications for college admissions may include standardized test scores, a personal statement, and essays.
  • Transcripts: Transcripts are a documentation of the courses a student has taken. An official copy is usually required, which can be requested from high school guidance counselors and is typically free. Students with prior college coursework may also be required to request college transcripts, which usually require a processing fee.
  • Application Fee: Some schools require an application fee, usually between $25 and $60. They may waive application fees for select students, including those demonstrating significant financial need.

Educational Paths for Computer Programming Associate Programs

An associate degree in computer programming, in itself an excellent investment, also allows for easy transfer into a bachelor's program. The higher degree typically provides students with a deeper, wider education and offers more opportunities for professional experience. The BLS reports that the median salary for computer network architects, a job for which a bachelor's degree is typically required, is $104,650. The associate in computer programming prepares students for transfer into several bachelor's degrees.

Bachelor of Science in Computer Programming

A bachelor of science in computer programmingg emphasizes software and database application development, preparing students for new technology trends. Students study algorithm and data structures, operating system concepts, and enterprise applications planning, among other topics. A bachelor's in computer programming on average requires three to five years, as opposed to the two-year average for an associate degree.

Bachelor of Science in Computer Science

A bachelor of science in computer science teaches studies about network systems, computer programming languages, and software engineering. Coursework in fields like project management and systems security and concentrations in data science and cybersecurity make students versatile candidates for jobs in a number of computer science fields.

Bachelor of Science in Information Technology

In bachelor of science in information technology programs, students study basic business concepts and practical applications of technology in corporate settings. Coursework includes classes on cybersecurity, software development, and cloud networking.

What Else Can I Expect From an Associate in Computer Programming Program?

Details about associate computer programming programs vary depending on the school. However, coursework usually covers programming languages, information studies, and technology.

Courses in an Associate in Computer Programming Program

Programming Foundations

In this course, students study fundamental programming concepts, including design techniques like pseudocoding and programming test techniques. Learning to apply principles of selection and iteration to their work, students learn about practical applications for programming concepts.

Business Systems Analysis and Design

This course teaches students about analysis and design processes. Students study industry-standard framework and methodology as they develop their own business information systems, applying these ideas to practical business context.

Emerging Topics in Computer Software Development

In this course, student study current and developing topics in computer software development, including creating and maintaining software components, XML, and data reporting. Specific topics in this course change frequently as programs adjust their curriculum to reflect new developments in the field.

Computer Programming and Database Management Capstone

This course culminates in a design project, which combines elements of computer programming with database management. Topics may include game programming, mobile app development, platform coding, or database creation and implementation.

Java Programming I

This course introduces students to the foundational elements of the Java programming language, covering topics like string manipulation, database programming, object-oriented development, and loops. Students learn how to create software with real-world problem-solving capabilities.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate in Computer Programming?

An associate degree usually requires 90 credits, which can typically be completed in two years of full-time study. Students working toward their degree part time typically take longer. Some programs offer accelerated options, wherein students take larger course loads or summer classes. If a program accepts transfer credits, students with prior relevant coursework may graduate more quickly.

How Much Is an Associate in Computer Programming?

The cost of an associate degree in computer programming depends upon several factors. Generally, public schools cost less than private schools. Online and on-campus programs may have different costs attached, including variable tuition rates and varying technology fees. Beyond tuition, students should be aware of fees for books.

On-campus and commuting students must also consider room and board fees and transportation costs. Many schools offer financial aid opportunities, including scholarships and government grants for students with financial need. When applying, students should consider filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which will calculate aid eligibility and is often required for students seeking funding opportunities.

Professional Organizations in Computer Programming

Professional computer programming organizations can benefit current students and recent graduates significantly. Professional organizations offer regular networking events, which provide students opportunities to meet peers and working professionals in the field, enrollment in continuing education programs, and access to job listings and career services. Organizations may also publish magazines or scholarly journals, which provide members updates about new developments in the field.

Association for Computing Machinery

The world's largest computing society, ACM brings professionals, educators, and researchers together to share resources, inspire conversation, and address challenges within the field. The organization offers job postings and subscriptions to a number of scholarly sources.

Association for Women in Computing

The AWC works to promote the advancement of women in computing professions. Members include programmers, operators, system analysts, technical writers, consultants, and trainers. The organization is divided into chapters, which often hold monthly meetings, and offers a mentorship program.