What Does it Mean to Study Computer Programming?
Earning a college degree in computer programming is a learning experience designed to teach students how to develop programs that can solve problems, convert data, store and retrieve information, help individuals communicate, or do just about anything else the programmer can imagine. At its heart, this is done by 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. 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 what becoming one entails.
Types of Computer Programming Degrees
There are many levels of education in the field of computer programming, ranging from certificate programs all the way up to graduate degree programs. Most employers, however, are looking to hire people who have earned at least a bachelor's degree. Needless to say, the more education and experience you have, the more likely you are to find a job or to advance within a company.
That being said, however, a master's degree is not going to be the right choice for everyone to pursue. 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 focus on and quickly learn 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.
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. 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:
- Introduction to computer programming
- Technology basics
- HTML, C++
- Visual BASIC
Associate Degrees in Computer Programming
Associate degree programs in computer programming can be taken 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 sufficient 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. On the other hand, 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 on.
Courses you might need to take during an associate program for computer programming include:
- Computer information systems
- Web development
- Database management
- Introduction to business
Bachelor's Degrees in Computer Programming
Bachelor 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.
These programs are designed to touch on several different programming languages, most commonly Java, HTML and C++. Students should 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.
While bachelor's programs for computer programming majors can vary, here are some examples of courses that might be taken during such a program:
- Database programming
- Cloud computing
- Open source computing
- Operating systems concepts
Master's Degrees in Computer Programming
Master's in computer programming degree programs exist to help students delve deeper into the origins and workings of programming knowledge. 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.
If you pursue a master's in computer programming, courses you might see in your curriculum include:
- Computer and network security
- Artificial intelligence
- Introduction to robotics
- Machine learning
- Database systems
What Can You Do with a College Degree in Computer Programming?
Computer programming graduates have many choices when it comes to pursuing careers. Of course, a natural career to think of in connection to this program is that of a computer programmer. Generally speaking, there are two types of computer programmers: systems programmers and applications programmers.
- Systems programmers deal with creating operating system software programs, such as Windows or Mac OS. They also create system programs that maintain networks and databases.
- Applications programmers concentrate on creating programs that perform a specific task in a specific environment. For instance, they might create a program that can help a library track what books it has in stock, how many are out on loan, and when they are expected back.
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. Here are some examples:
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 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 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.
Associations and Organizations
As a computer programming major, it's usually wise to stay aware of news and trends within your industry. Explore the offerings of these associations and organizations; they 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).
- National Association of Programmers -- This association serves as a resource for computer programming majors who are just starting in their careers. Use the website to find links to career opportunities and networking events, or to learn about news and current events in this field.
- 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.
- Associate of Applied Science in Computer Programming, Mesa Community College, https://www.mesacc.edu/programs/course-sequences/computer-programming-aas
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Programming, Grand Canyon University, https://www.gcu.edu/degree-programs/bachelor-science-computer-programming
- Computer and Information Systems Managers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-26 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/computer-and-information-systems-managers.htm
- Computer Science MS Degree, Stanford University, https://scpd.stanford.edu/public/category/courseCategoryCertificateProfile.do?method=load&certificateId=1240861
- Computer Support Specialists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-26 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-support-specialists.htm
- Computer Systems Analysts, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-26 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-systems-analysts.htm#tab-1
- Database Administrators, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-26 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/database-administrators.htm
- Web Developers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-26 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/web-developers.htm