Computer Programming Majors Guide


Table of Contents

What Does it Mean to Study Computer Programming?

Earning a computer programming degree can help students learn how to develop programs that can solve problems, convert data, store and retrieve information, communicate using technology, and more. At its heart, this field of study involves converting the programmer's directions for the computer into one or more "programming languages." In other words, computer programmers act as translators between people and computers, writing the specifications of a desired program in a language that the computer can understand.

Computer programming can unlock a plethora of career opportunities for individuals who love technology and its real-world applications. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that computer-related careers may grow by as much as 12 percent from 2018 to 2028.

If you're thinking of becoming a computer programming major, it's crucial to understand the degree types and potential careers this field encompasses. Keep reading to learn about computer programming majors and everything they entail.

Types of Computer Programming Degrees and Specialties

Most employers are looking to hire people who have earned at least a computer programming bachelor degree at minimum. The more education and experience you have, however, the more likely you are to find a job or to advance within a company.

Before you decide to become a computer programming major, you should research and understand the different types of programs available in this field. Let's go over some of the basics.

Certificate Programs in Computer Programming

If you want to master one aspect of computer programming, you don't have to complete an entire degree program to do so. Certificate programs in computer programming are available for those who wish to learn a programming language, perhaps to design a website for their business or build a simple program to help with their work.

Factors prospective students should consider

These programs can often be completed in a period of months rather than years, making them convenient when time is of the essence. However, because they are so quick, certificate programs rarely cover any more than the bare minimum of their specified subject.

Type of courses and clinical experiences offered

It is important to research and study which program is right for your needs and appropriate to your skill level before enrolling. Examples of courses you might take during a certificate program include Java, introduction to computer programming, HTML, C++, and Visual BASIC.

Jobs related to this degree

While a certificate program may not be enough for a full-time career as a computer programmer, you may be able to parlay this program into several careers including:

  • Computer Support Specialist
  • Customer Service Representative
  • Help Desk Support

Computer Programming Associates Degrees

Computer programming Associates degrees can be completed at many community colleges or universities, as well as through online or distance learning degree programs. Earning such a degree can be a wise move, as it can help you qualify for an entry-level position in the computer programming industry.

Be aware, however, that — depending on your location and the complexity of the position — an associate degree may not be enough for you to get ahead in the industry. An associate degree program generally covers a wider grounding in the basics of computer programming than a certificate program, but it does not cover all the bases that a bachelor's degree program in the subject does.

Factors prospective students should consider

It is also usually easy to transfer credits from an associate degree program to a bachelor's degree program, should you decide to continue your education later in life.

Type of courses and clinical experiences offered

While curriculum can vary depending on the computer programming school you choose, courses you might need to take during an associate program for computer programming include computer information systems, web development, database management, Java, and introduction to business.

Jobs related to this degree level

Careers a computer programming associates degree can lead to include:

  • Computer Support Specialist
  • Customer Service Representative
  • Computer Programmer

Bachelor's Degrees in Computer Programming

Bachelor's degree programs in computer programming are usually four-year programs that combine programming languages with a liberal arts education. About half of a bachelor's program's curriculum typically consists of general education in the fields of math, English, science and social studies. Most of these courses are meant to be taken during the first two years of schooling, so the last two years can be dedicated to the student's computer programming training.

Type of courses and clinical experiences offered

While bachelor's programs for computer programming majors can vary, courses you can expect to take as a computer programming major pursuing a bachelor's degree include database programming, cloud computing, cybersecurity, and operating systems.

Skills students can learn

These programs are designed to touch on several different programming languages, most commonly Java, HTML and C++. Students may also learn how computer systems work in various settings, including databases, mainframes, personal computers and networks. This general computer knowledge can contribute to a larger understanding of the role of written code in the computer industry as a whole.

Jobs related to this degree

Jobs you can pursue with a bachelor's degree in computer programming include:

  • Computer Programming
  • Database Administrator
  • Information Security Analyst

Master's Degrees in Computer Programming

Master's degrees in computer programming exist to help students delve deeper into the origins and workings of programming knowledge.

Factors prospective students should consider

Typically requiring two years of study for students who have already earned a bachelor's degree, computer programming master's programs introduce students to subjects of greater complexity than those covered in associate or bachelor's programs.

Types of courses and clinical experience offered

While completing a master's degree program as a computer programming major, you can expect to take courses in computer and network security, artificial intelligence, introduction to robotics, machine learning, and database systems.

Jobs related to this degree level

These two years of education can help any computer programming major climb the corporate ladder to top positions within their organization. Jobs you may be able to compete for with a master's degree in computer programming include:

  • Computer and Information Research Scientist
  • Computer and Information Systems Managers
  • Computer Network Architects

Online or Campus-Based Computer Programming Degree Programs?

Because the nature of computer programming is so conducive to remote work, pursuing an online computer programming degree is a popular option. Online degrees in this field allow individuals who need to work and care for family to study and pursue their computer programming major on their own time and anywhere with an internet connection. And since distance learning typically requires the exact same coursework and curriculum as similar on-campus programs in computer programming, students can pursue the same high-quality education without having to move to a college campus or commute back and forth to attend school.

Still, online education isn't for everyone, so there are myriad colleges with computer programming majors offering on-campus degrees and a more traditional college experience. There are also hybrid degree programs in this field that allow students to complete at least part of their coursework online, and these programs tend to be a good option for students who want a more "normal" college experience but still crave the flexibility online education provides.

Financial Aid for Computer Programming Students

No matter which level of computer programming degree you want to pursue, your first step is filling out a FAFSA form, or a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This form helps schools determine the types of aid you may qualify for, as well as how much. The FAFSA form is also a requirement if you want to borrow money using federal student loans.

You can also apply for scholarships, including those that are specifically for the computer programming or computer science major. For example, consider the Google Student Veterans of America scholarship, which awards up to $10,000 for college students pursuing a degree in a computer science-related field. Also make sure to search for scholarships, grants, and other types of aid that may be available to you.

What Can You Do With a College Degree in Computer Programming?

Computer programmers can work for large corporations, small businesses, or be their own boss by working on a freelance basis. Many computer programmers begin their careers by writing code for a software company. However, as they gain experience, these professionals often find themselves branching out into more specific careers in more specific areas of programming.

With that being said, it's important to evaluate each career option in this field in terms of average pay, potential job growth, and other factors. The following table can help you figure out which careers for computer programming majors might make sense for your future.

CareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean WageProjected Job Growth Rate
Computer Network Support Specialists181,360$68,0506.4%
Computer User Support Specialists630,700$55,05010.6%
Customer Service Representatives2,871,400$36,470-1.7%
Database Administrators110,090$92,0309%
Information Security Analysts108,060$102,47031.6%
2018 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Computer Systems Analyst

Computer systems analysts are responsible for studying their organization's technology systems in depth so they can devise strategies to help the systems become more efficient. They troubleshoot problems, determine their company's technology needs, and suggest software programs or new systems that could help improve operations.

  • A bachelor's degree in computer science or computer programming is the typical requirement for this career.
  • Certification is not common for these workers.

Web Developer

Web developers conceptualize and design websites, which might be used for any variety of purposes. Using their knowledge of coding and programming, web developers create backend website functionality that makes websites both attractive and functional for the user.

It is important to note that a "web developer" is different from a "web designer": a designer is responsible for the graphic design of a website, while a developer is responsible for the code that actually develops a website. While their job is notably different from a web designer's, developers may work with designers and/or other professionals to integrate graphics, video or other features into their finished product.

  • An associate degree in computer programming or a related field may be enough for entry-level work as a web developer.
  • Certification is not common for web developers.

Computer and Information Systems Manager

Computer and information systems managers plan the computer and software-related activities for their firm. They troubleshoot their company's technology programs and suggest alternative software programs. They also assess the costs and benefits of new projects, then create presentations to inform company executives of the proposed changes. Last but not least, these professionals may be tasked with determining technology personnel needs for their organization, and then may go on to interview and hire new workers.

  • A bachelor's degree is common for this career, although many workers instead have a graduate degree in computer programming or computer science.
  • Certification isn't a common requirement for this career, although it may help you stand out from the competition.

Computer Support Specialist

Computer support specialists, fittingly, provide support to computer users and individuals within their organization. They may troubleshoot common computer programs, suggest useful updates or system strategies, or perform direct technical fixes to machines. It is also common for these workers to test and evaluate computer networks regularly in order to prevent problems before they occur.

  • An associate degree or bachelor's degree is common for these workers.
  • Computer support specialists do not need to become certified to work in their field. However, they may need to become certified in specific software programs if their employer requires.

Database Administrator

Database administrators use special software that helps them track and organize their organization's data. They identify user needs in order to make their company data searchable, and they test their company's database to check for errors or required updates. These workers also contribute to keeping their company databases secure, and it may fall to them to merge old data with new data when required.

  • Database administrators have usually earned at least a bachelor's degree.
  • Certification for specific software programs may be required by an employer, although there is no standard certification for this career.

Computer Programming Certifications and Professional Organizations

As a computer programming major, it's usually wise to stay aware of news and trends within your industry. These top organizations within the computer science and computer programming niche offer notifications, support, certification exams and educational opportunities for individuals who have earned computer programming degrees.

  • Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals — In order to verify that computer programmers are emerging from school with the knowledge they need, the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP) was established. Individuals with four years of work experience or two years of work experience and a college degree may take a core exam and two other exams in specialized areas in order to acquire the title of Certified Computer Professional (CCP). If the person seeking certification does not have the required experience, they may take a different exam in order to acquire the title of Associate Computer Professional (ACP).
  • International Association of Computer Science and Information Technology — This organization features opportunities for continuing education, seminars, networking events and more. They also host multiple conferences annually in destinations around the world.
  • Association for Computing Machinery — This organization aims to advance computing as a profession, offering membership, research, and direct links to related publications as part of their process. You can also check out the website for continuing education and networking opportunities.
Article Sources
Article Sources

Sources:

  1. Bachelor of Science in Information Technology - Software Application Programming, Colorado Technical University, https://www.coloradotech.edu/degrees/bachelors/it/software-application-programming
  2. Computer Programmers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2018-28 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-programmers.htm#tab-6
  3. Computer Programming Certificate, Harvard Extension School, https://www.extension.harvard.edu/academics/professional-graduate-certificates/programming-certificate
  4. Master of Science in Computer Science, Northeastern University, https://pages.northeastern.edu/STEMMSCSPSCH2016-03Search_LPFA.html?utm_medium=Search&utm_source=Google&utm_campaign=mofu-niche&utm_content=c&campaign=MS_Computer_Science&keyword=%2Bcomputer%20%2Bprogramming%20%2Bdegree&gclid=EAIaIQobChMInKvQ0IPu5wIVUPDACh0O8gfNEAMYASAAEgIcwfD_BwE
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