Computer programmers play an integral role in the world of computer science. Programmers create the code that software applications read; without them, software programs wouldn't function properly. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows how important this field has become to everyday life and commerce. There has been a dramatic increase in the amount of computer and information sciences degrees conferred from 1970-2011. In 1970, colleges and universities awarded less than 2,500 computer science degrees; by 1985, that number jumped to a little over 42,000.
Trends in the economy have contributed to an increased demand for computer science majors, and the need for programmers is only set to grow. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the yearly salary for programmers averaged over $80,000 in 2017. The BLS notes that many companies outsourced their need for programmers, but many are now hiring in-house talent to reduce project management costs. This shift in hiring practices helps current programmers and prospective graduates receive better job opportunities in the long run.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Computer Programming?
A computer programming degree offers more than just an education. For example, many students take advantage of their school's career and networking services to connect with like-minded individuals and learn more about the industry. They may participate in different student organizations and associations geared towards computer science majors, or they can leverage the school's partnerships with local organizations to secure internships and job placements. All of these tools develop students into well-rounded graduates prepared to enter a competitive job market. Online students are eligible for these opportunities as well, and they should meet with an adviser to learn more about getting connected.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Computer Programming?
The career path for computer programmers is pretty straightforward: they create and troubleshoot code for new and existing applications. However, some of their responsibilities mirror those of software developers. In these instances, programmers work as software developers and computer hardware engineers building and testing the software. Programmers also work in other IT occupations analyzing computer systems, offering tech support and monitoring security breaches. As long as programmers know the basics of computer science, they can work at just about any level and industry. The following list highlights popular IT occupations for graduates of the best computer science degree programs.
- Computer Network Architects
Network architects create local area networks and wide area networks for data communication purposes. Employees in this field typically need a bachelor's degree in computer science, though a computer programming degree is ideal.
Median Annual Salary: $104,650
Projected Growth Rate: 6%
- Database Administrators
Database administrators manage a company's data and data processes. They create systems to store, retrieve, and collect data. Administrators also work with varying types of data sets, including financial information or patient health records. These professionals must have a computer programming degree to qualify for entry-level jobs.
Median Annual Salary: $87,020
Projected Growth Rate: 11%
- Information Security Analysts
Security analysts find and fix security breaches in network operating systems and applications. They can read and write code, and they know how to hack systems to test their efficiency. A computer programming degree with a concentration in cybersecurity offers good preparation for this field.
Median Annual Salary: $95,510
Projected Growth Rate: 28%
- Web Developers
These professionals build websites by writing the code to format the look and functions of the site. They are responsible for the performance and design of the site, and they use analytical tools to track the site's metrics, such as traffic and bounce rates.
Median Annual Salary: $67,990
Projected Growth Rate: 15%
- Computer and Information Research Scientists
Researchers examine ways to improve computing technology. Many research scientists work in academia and invent computing languages and tools. They also develop theories regarding their inventions and create models for testing.
Median Annual Salary: $114,520
Projected Growth Rate: 19%
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Computer Programming Program
Before students commit to a computer programming degree, they should find a program that meets their personal and professional goals. The biggest factor to consider is a program's length. Programmers with an associate degree may find work, but many employers expect a bachelor's degree. Typically, it takes students four years to complete a bachelor's program. If students transfer prior college credits into the program, it may take less time to graduate. Therefore, students should examine the program's curriculum, and specifically which core and elective courses are required to graduate. Core courses pertain to one's major, while electives tend to focus on other areas or emphases. Some schools may offer specializations to their programs, in which students take concentrated courses in one particular area of a subject. Each school creates its own curriculum with specific credit requirements, so you should review your prospective programs carefully.
Another consideration for most students is the cost of a program. Generally speaking, schools either charge a flat fee per semester or a per-credit cost; the latter option is usually beneficial for students taking classes part time. Full-time students usually pay a flat fee per term, with room and board and other expenses added on top. To pay for school, most students use some combination of financial aid, such as grants, scholarships, and/or loans. Employers may also offer tuition assistance to their workers. It's also important to check that the programs you're pursuing hold national or regional accreditation.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's in Computer Programming Programs
Accreditation validates a school's program and faculty. Accrediting bodies partner with the Department of Education to evaluate school curricula and instructors, and to ensure their programs effectively prepare graduates for careers in their field. Once the accrediting body gives its seal of approval, the school can receive and distribute federal funds.
Regional accrediting bodies monitor public and private colleges and universities, while national accrediting agencies review vocational and trade schools. Programmatic accrediting bodies are reserved for industry-specific degrees and programs. For instance, computer programming degrees are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), which implements the Engineering Criteria 2000 to test the learning outcomes of programs. Currently, ABET accredits over 3,800 programs throughout the country, so students should find a program that meets their qualifications. In general, you can receive a quality education if your school carries both regional and programmatic accreditation.
Bachelor's in Computer Programming Program Admissions
Gaining admission into a computer science degree program requires a few different things. First, students should learn whether the online admissions process differs from the on-campus admissions process. At certain schools, a separate distance education department handles online admissions. Next, most students apply to a school or university at the general level, and once admitted, they can then declare their major. Some institutions also appoint an adviser to help students choose a major. Unlike traditional undergraduates, those looking to transfer schools apply directly to the department of their intended major.
Most students submit an application, transcripts, test scores, resumes, letters of recommendation, and application fees. Online portals allow students to create personal profiles, complete applications, and upload important documents. Typically, students apply to at least two to three schools by the application deadline.
- Minimum GPA: A minimum GPA is the lowest possible GPA a student can have and still gain acceptance to a school. Schools usually require at least a 2.75 cumulative GPA for first-time applicants. Transfer students commonly need a 3.0 or higher.
- Application: A college application can take an hour or more to complete. Students fill out basic information such as their name, age, and address, and also submit a fee for processing the application. The CommonApp lets students fill out one application and send it to multiple schools.
- Transcripts: Schools need high school and college transcripts to verify course and GPA information. High school transcripts are free, but students must pay to access college transcripts.
- Letters of Recommendation: Schools that request references may require up to three letters of recommendation. Students should ask their coach, instructor, supervisor, or another well-respected individual for a letter. Give them at least two months to write it.
- Test Scores: The SAT and ACT are the two main aptitude tests schools use to evaluate first time applicants. Students with high scores in the math and science sections of the ACT and SAT typically gain entry into computer science programs.
- Application Fee: College application fees range from $43 to $90, but students that meet certain income requirements qualify for fee waivers. Qualifying students should talk to a guidance counselor or enrollment counselor to receive a waiver.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Computer Programming Degree?
This section compares different computer programming degree concentrations. Students interested in a concentration explore a unique aspect of the programming field, such as creating mobile applications or computer games. Use the list below to learn more about common specializations.
|Data Analytics||Students use mathematics -- specifically statistics -- to analyze large amounts of data within a computer system. The concentration strengthens problem-solving and critical thinking skills. With their knowledge, graduates can head a department of database administrators at private tech companies or the government.||Database administrator|
|Computer Systems||This concentration provides students a comprehensive knowledge of computer systems. Classes center on operating system design and resource management for parallel systems. Students also explore cloud computing and data virtualization.||Network engineers, systems architects|
|Cybersecurity||The cybersecurity field includes different types of companies such as product design firms and energy management organizations. The concentration teaches students about storing and protecting data. It defines data breaches and helps them develop strategies to minimize and fix security breaches. Courses focus on network security and cryptography.||Information security analyst|
|Gaming Developers||Students in this concentration explore game design and development. Courses include computer graphics, display hardware, geometric modeling, and graphics software systems architecture. A capstone project requires students to create their own computer game using two- and three-dimensional graphics.||Gaming developer|
|Mobile Computing||Writing and understanding code for mobile devices requires specific skills. Mobile applications dominate the digital landscape, with most people using at least two or three mobile apps per day. Students learn the lifecycle of a mobile app, from conception to deployment.||Mobile application developer|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Computer Programming Program
Course offerings depend on a school's curriculum and emphasis, and schools may also use different names and classifications for courses. However, the basic foundational coursework remains the same and includes computer science basics like program design, networks, systems, and computing. A sample curriculum is listed below.
- Computer Networks
This is a foundational course that introduces students to the terminology used in computer networking, computer design issues, and network protocols. Students learn how computers send messages to each other through cables, and how to apply the basic functions of a network to different devices.
- Program Design
Students in this course explore topics like programming concepts, control structures, aggregate data structures, procedural programming, and exercises. Depending on the curricula, the course can be separated into two divisions (program design I and II) or taught as one intro course.
- Mobile Computing
This course provides an overview of mobile computing and its components and is a foundational course for students building mobile apps. Learners also get an inside look at sensors, telephony, location, and their importance in multimedia.
- Systems Programming
Systems programming takes a more in-depth approach to programming by describing the interaction between a computer network and an application. Students discover virtual memory, management, and code optimization.
- Operating Systems Design and Implementation
This course highlights the techniques and skills necessary to manage an operating system. Course objectives stress the management of machine resources, client-service systems, allocating resources, and scheduling them.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Computer Programming?
It takes students approximately four years to earn a bachelor's degree in computer programming; however, several factors can affect the length of the program. During the first two years, students take general courses such as science, math, english, and history. Students may take a couple of major-related courses during their freshman or sophomore year, but usually the majority of their computer science coursework is reserved for their junior and senior years.
Students transferring with an approved associate degree can bypass most of the general coursework and dive straight into major-related courses. For those without prior college credits, taking the maximum number of credits per term can help them earn their degree faster. Most schools limit students to four or five classes per semester, but students can also enroll in summer courses or classes during winter and spring breaks. Most schools require at least 120 credits to graduate with a bachelor's degree.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Computer Programming?
The cost of a degree depends on the school; some schools price programs differently, while others offer the same rate for every program. Public colleges and universities tend to charge less than private institutions, which is largely due to the government funding they receive. Private schools, on the other hand, rely heavily on nongovernment funding, so their tuition rates are higher. Another factor to consider is that some schools have phased out the standard computer programming degree, and instead added the curriculum to a computer engineering or information technology major. This can affect a program's cost if the school classifies computer programming as a degree concentration that requires additional coursework.
Payscale created a list of best value colleges for computer science majors. At Stanford University, computer science programs can cost $255,000, which averages out to $63,750 per year. The second school on the list, the University of California-Berkeley, is a public institution that costs $139,000 for a similar degree. The yearly tuition rate breaks down to $34,750 for in-state students; however, the rate for out-of-state students is comparative to private school tuition. In general, state universities and colleges charge resident students less than out-of-state students, which prompts many learners to choose local schools. On average, computer science degrees cost approximately $35,000-$64,000 per year.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Computer Programming Prepares For
- CompTIA A+
A common certification that many programmers obtain while completing their degree. The certificate demonstrates its holder knows how to troubleshoot common IT issues within networking and operating systems. They also possess cybersecurity knowledge and work on a variety of platforms including mobile devices.
- Oracle Java SE 8
- GIAC Secure Software Programmer
A Java-related certification, this exam tests the programmer's coding security skills. These programmers fix coding issues that lead to security breaches and know how to write secure code, as well as fix vulnerable code. The certification test is 75 questions and applicants get three hours to complete it.
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer-App Builder
This certificate is for programmers interested in mobile and web application development. Applicants must first obtain their MCSA certification in web applications or Universal Windows platform. They must then pass one of the six Microsoft exams, such as Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions.
- CompTIA Network+
This certificate enables individuals to showcase their design and implementation skills on functional networks. The exam is 90 questions and takes 90 minutes to complete. To pass, applicants need a score of 720 or higher. Most of the questions are multiple choice.
Resources for Computer Programming Students
This website provides links to several sites that offer advice to students seeking a degree in computer programming. It features advice on finding and applying to graduate schools and research opportunities.
Students can use this website to find scholarships for computer science degree programs. It also provides information on specialty scholarships for students of color and disabled learners.
A job board curated by the Computing Research Association, it lists jobs geared towards programmers working in research, computer scientists, and engineers. Users can find different faculty positions and posts stay on the site for two months.
This book explores cryptography, the basis of information security, and is helpful to students with computer programming degrees. The book is available as a free download through this link.
The database features a vast array of information on data structures, algorithm techniques, and archetypal problems. Students use it to study for tests and to understand complex IT problems.
Professional Organizations in Computer Programming
Joining a professional organization makes it possible for students with a computer programming degree to secure internships, job placements, scholarships, and mentorships. Professional organizations welcome students, and many of them dedicate divisions to student members. As a member of an organization, students gain access to career services, networking events, and conferences. Organizations stay up to date with the latest technology news to keep members informed and prepared to take their continuing education courses to sharpen their skills.