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.
What are the best computer programming programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:
|1||Southeast Technical Institute||Sioux Falls, SD|
|2||Cochise College||Douglas, AZ|
|3||St. Petersburg College||Clearwater, FL|
|4||Minnesota State Community and Technical College||Fergus Falls, MN|
|5||University of Toledo||Toledo, OH|
|6||St. Johns River State College||Palatka, FL|
|7||Seminole State College of Florida||Sanford, FL|
|8||Daytona State College||Daytona Beach, FL|
|9||Hinds Community College||Raymond, MS|
|10||Central Texas College||Killeen, TX|
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 career 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.
Choosing a Program
WILL AN ONLINE ASSOCIATE IN COMPUTER PROGRAMMING PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
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.
WILL AN ONLINE ASSOCIATE IN COMPUTER PROGRAMMING WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?
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.
WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY ASSOCIATE IN COMPUTER PROGRAMMING?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that most computer programmers working today have earned at least a bachelor's degree, 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.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE COMPUTER PROGRAMMING ASSOCIATE PROGRAMS?
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.
Accredited Online Associate in Computer Programming Programs
Southeast Technical Institute
|Sioux Falls, SD||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 45%||
Based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Southeast Tech offers an online associate degree in computer programming that trains students to collaborate with software developers and write new computer programs. The degree offers both full-time and part-time enrollment options.
Southeast Tech participates in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, which makes it easier for out-of-state students to participate in online programs.
|Douglas, AZ||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 26%||
Cochise's associate of applied science in computer programming teaches distance learners to develop software applications for various professional needs, emphasizing programming issues in a variety of computing environments. This Arizona-based public school helps students transfer seamlessly to many four-year institutions.
Learners complete 64 credits while earning this associate in computer programming, including 18-19 credits of general education requirements and 45 credits of core courses. The program core introduces major topics in computer programming, including applied technical writing, systems analysis, programming logic, and operating systems.
Successful completion of the program gives online students a broad understanding of information system functions, preparing them to devise solutions to typical IT problems. Participants also learn to program in several languages, including Perl and Python.
St. Petersburg College
|Clearwater, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 32%||
A public college based in St. Petersburg, Florida, SPC offers an online associate of science in computer programming and analysis that teaches students the skills needed to create and run applications using a variety of programming languages. Participants never need to visit campus.
This associate program includes 36 major credits, covering key topics such as operating systems, web foundations, system analysis and design, and Java programming. Students also choose from several electives, including mobile device programming, application programming, web programming, and augment/virtual reality programming.
SPC emphasizes experiential learning and practical preparation, and all students in the program can complete an internship during their final semester. The program also prepares graduates to sit for the Oracle Java certified associate industry certification.
Minnesota State Community and Technical College
|Fergus Falls, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 45%||
M State's online associate degree in computer programming teaches students the skills needed to design, code, document, and implement computer programs and information management systems. The program offers fully online and on-campus delivery methods.
The program's 60-credit curriculum covers the technical and professional skills required to succeed as a programmer, including research and presentation skills. All students learn at least one command-level language, operating system, and database management system, along with other programming languages.
M State's Steps to Success Program provides support for first-generation college students and women of color, providing mentorship, success coaching, networking and leadership opportunities, and a free laptop for incoming students.
University of Toledo
|Toledo, OH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 47%||
A major public university based in Ohio, UT offers an online associate in programming and software development. The degree prepares graduates to transfer into a bachelor's in computer science program or immediately enter the workforce as a programmer, data manager, or software developer.
Most full-time students earn this 60-credit degree in two years. The curriculum covers information technology and business topics. Required courses include workplace communications, application programming, financial accounting, and network technologies.
Learners can also earn a programming and software development certificate by completing a specialized subset of courses. Students planning to earn this certificate can work with an academic advisor to determine an appropriate course sequence.
St. Johns River State College
|Palatka, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 46%||
A public college with multiple campuses in Florida, SJR State offers a fully online associate degree in computer programming. This program builds foundational programming skills that students can apply to business practices, preparing graduates for work as information systems programmers and programming specialists.
The program's 60-credit curriculum covers web programming, mobile app programming, information systems, and advanced database concepts. The program also helps learners build the skills needed to automate business systems and facilitate IT operations for businesses.
SJR State's associate in computer programming transfers seamlessly into the school's bachelor's in organizational management. Students can also transfer into other information technology bachelor's programs or proceed directly into the workforce.
Seminole State College of Florida
|Sanford, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 41%||
Seminole State's online associate of science in computer programming and analysis emphasizes the skills needed to design, develop, and implement IT solutions. Students can also select from concentration options in programming, simulation, and web development. The program boasts a job placement rate of over 90% among its graduates.
Seminole State's associate in computer programming includes 42 credits of major courses, divided between 30 core credits and 12 concentration credits. The core covers topics such as network concepts, operating systems, and web programming. Students can also complete an optional three-credit cooperative education internship in computer programming.
Concentrations build knowledge in specialized topics related to a specific field. For example, the simulation concentration includes courses in gaming and simulation, C++ programming, and data analytics.
Daytona State College
|Daytona Beach, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 37%||
DSC offers an associate of science in computer programming and analysis that prepares graduates to design and develop computer programs for business situations. The program uses a hybrid format that combines online courses with classroom sessions held on the school's campus in Daytona Beach.
Learners complete required and elective courses, building foundational knowledge in programming languages and computer concepts. Required courses include C# programming, mobile device programming, and software design and development. Electives explore topics such as web design, microcomputer applications, and Linux fundamentals.
Students can also complete a certificate in computer programming as part of the curriculum. The certificate builds additional skills that can help graduates distinguish themselves on the job market.
Hinds Community College
|Raymond, MS||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 26%||
A community college based in Raymond, Mississippi, Hinds offers an online associate degree in computer programming that prepares students to pursue entry-level employment or a bachelor's degree in the field.
The program's curriculum explores fundamental topics in computer programming and information technology, giving students a broad overview of the field and its basic concepts. Required courses include computer applications, programming with C++, discrete structures, and data structures.
Admission into the program requires an ACT score of at least 17. Alternatively, students can complete a placement assessment, which evaluates their preparedness in English, math, and reading.
Central Texas College
|Killeen, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 17%||
A Texas community college based in Killeen — about an hour north of Austin — CTC offers an online associate of science in computer science that prepares graduates to use computer languages to design applications and software. The program offers a fully online format, as well as daytime and evening/weekend options on campus.
The program's 60-credit curriculum includes introductory computer science courses and general education requirements. Required classes include programming fundamentals, computer organization, and introduction to computing. Full-time students typically complete the program in two years.
CTC also offers an online certificate of completion in web technologies that emphasizes programming in the context of web design.
What Else Can I Expect from an Online Computer Programming Associate Program?
|Timeline||18 months to 2 years|
|Program Costs||$6,000 to $20,000 in annual tuition|
|Concentrations||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.|
Employment Outlook for Associate in Computer Programming Graduates
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
|Information Security Analyst||1.4%|
|Information Technology Manager||1.8%|
|Computer Systems Administrator||2.0%|
|Computer Systems Analyst||2.6%|
|Computer Support Specialist||3.3%|
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 Information Systems||$40,100||$60,500|
|Computer and Network Administration||$40,200||$58,500|
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)|
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.
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 Systems Specialists||$85,800|
|Computer Support Specialists||$51,470|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
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.
Financing Your Online Associate in Computer Programming Program
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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