Is an Associates Degree in Computer Programming Worth It? [2021 Guide]

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Is an associates degree in computer programming worth it? Explore career paths, salaries, and job growth projections to see if an associate’s in programming is the right fit for you.

Is an Associates Degree in Computer Programming Worth It

Are you wondering if associates degrees are worth anything?

Obtaining your associates in computer programming online or on-campus can help demonstrate to your future employer that you are well-educated in computer programming.

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This can lead to a higher pay rate, even at an entry-level position. Computer programmers are and should continue to be in high demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the Computer and Information Technology industry will grow 11% for the next decade.

Associate’s degrees typically only take about 2 years to complete which means you can likely begin working in your chosen career sooner than if you spent 4 years pursuing a bachelor’s degree.

Is An Associates Degree in Computer Programming Worth It?

computer programmer working on her computer

Yes, an Associates degree in Computer Programming is worth it for many professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information technology jobs are set to grow at 11% over the next 10 years, much faster than the average for all occupations. Some programming careers in this field include application developer, computer programmer, software developer, and web developer.

Companies that rely on technology usually prefer working with professionals who have a background in computer programming and hands-on experience.

Even an Associates degree can help you grow in your career and show that you have potential when it comes to problem-solving and practical application.

Associate’s in Computer Programming Careers & Salaries

Computer Programming Associate Degree Jobs

An Associates degree in Computer Programming can help students develop in-demand skills that tech companies need. You may need to pursue a bachelor’s degree in this field to qualify for some of these positions.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some computer programming careers and salaries include:

Careers Annual Median Salary
Database Administrator $98,860
Computer Systems Analyst $93,730
Computer Programmer $89,190
Network or Computer Systems Administrator $84,810
Web Developer $77,200
Computer Network Support Specialist $65,450
Computer User Support Specialist $52,690

Some companies may prefer you to have a bachelor’s degree in computer programming when applying for these jobs. Note that experience, job performance, industry, and location also factor into compensation.

Computer Programming Jobs With an Associate’s Degree

computer programmer working on his computer

Wondering if you can get a programming job with an associate’s degree?

An associates degree in computer programming covers the fundamentals that can help prepare you for various careers in the field of computer technology.

Computer Systems Analyst – Businesses that employ computer system analysts refer to this position as systems architects. They are responsible for the organization’s information infrastructure, including the maintenance and possible ways on how to improve its efficiency.

Software Engineer – The job of software engineers revolves around working with designers to consolidate program functions and mapping programming tasks.

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Programmer Analyst – This position covers everything from creating up to maintaining business programs. They are responsible for designing, coding, testing, and customizing applications and software for businesses.

Computer Programmer – Computer programmers work with everything related to software that businesses use. They often work in offices as a regular salaried employee with the responsibility to maintain, troubleshoot, and debug source code from computer programs.

Associates in Computer Programming vs. Bachelors in Computer Programming

computer programmer working on her laptop

A bachelor’s degree in computer programming, is, no doubt, often more preferred by employers. The coursework in a bachelor’s involves advanced programming, computer, and networking skills.

An Associates degree, however, has its merits to students who take advantage of transfer credits. You can enroll in a community college and take a transferrable Associates program, and then transfer to a bachelor’s degree in computer programming.

Although it may take a bit longer than the usual four years, you may be able to earn the same degree with the same credentials, only cheaper.

Associates Bachelors
Semester Hours Required 60 Hours 120 Hours
General Education Curriculum Social science, math, English, and science Social science, math, English, and science
Introductory Computer Courses Computer programming, discrete mathematics, data organization, and algorithms Computer programming, discrete mathematics, data organization, and algorithms
Advanced Computer Courses Data structures and computer architecture Calculus, data structures, advanced programming, and computer architecture.
Networking Opportunities Community college Professional internship
Job Opportunities Quickest way to buff your resume Highly credible to employers

The cost of courses offered at the Associate-level is often only a fraction of the same courses offered in bachelor’s programs.

It can help you earn a higher degree without incurring massive student loans, and without compromising the flexibility that you have for future job positions and career advancement.

Associate’s in Computer Programming Curriculum

computer programming students listening to their professor

The typical associate’s level computer programming degree covers the following topics:

Programming Foundations covers the fundamentals of programming concepts and designs, including pseudo-coding and test techniques.

Business Systems Analysis and Design takes advantage of the corporate world’s high demand for professionals who understand the framework and methodology of developing business information systems. Students learn about design analysis, design processes, and practical application in a business context.

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Emerging Topics in Computer Software Development focuses on the study of current and emerging computer software development, including software components, data reporting, and XML.

Introduction to Operating Systems prepares students for different career paths in computer programming by helping them understand the foundations and standards of different operating systems.

Computer Programming and Database Management Capstone is a course that combines the design elements of computer programming and database management. The topics covered throughout this course include game programming, platform coding, mobile app development, and database creation and implementation.

Associates in Computer Programming vs. Self-Taught

Associates in Computer Programming vs Self-Taught

Can you teach yourself computer programming? Definitely! If you spend enough time online, you will find almost every coding tutorials and digital resources that you will need.

All of these, together with online communities and micro degrees, make it possible to become a self-taught computer programmer.

The challenge with it, though, is that you won’t have the guidance of a seasoned professor and a streamlined curriculum.

It also lacks different advantages of proper education, such as networking opportunities, credible educational achievement, an in-depth foundation in programming, and a set of well-rounded soft skills.

Self-Taught Associates
Semester Hours Required Indefinite 60 Hours
Knowledge Availability N/A Social science, math, English, and science
Computer Courses Flexible yet overwhelming and unoptimized. Streamlined with proper guidance
Proper Knowledge Foundation N/A Yes
Soft Skills Development Very limited Focused development
Networking Opportunities N/A Community college
Job Opportunities Freelance Quickest way to buff your resume

Self-taught computer programmers may do well as freelancers and might end up working for a company. However, it will probably be very tough, especially without a credible degree.

Want the convenience of getting your degree online? Check out our in-depth guide: 15 Best Online Computer Programming Degrees

Accreditation

beautiful university campus

Accreditation remains a crucial factor that you need to consider when looking for a school where you can take a degree in computer programming. Although the Department of Education does not certify schools, they enforce a standard for regional and organizational accreditation.

The Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation closely monitors accrediting bodies to ensure that they follow the standards for education.

You can transfer credits from regionally accredited schools to another school. Students who apply for federal financial aid or corporate tuition reimbursements will only qualify if their school is regionally accredited.

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Computer programming is unique when it comes to evaluation because, unlike other industries where multiple agencies monitor educational institutions, this degree mainly relies on the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) for organizational accreditation.

Currently, there are more than 3,400 programs from 700 colleges and universities that are ABET-accredited. These programs include degrees in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology.

Computer Programming Professional Organizations

computer programmers working together on a computer

Computer programmers network and connect to improve their skill set. Consider joining one of these associations.

The Association for Computing Machinery, or ACM, is an international organization for professionals in computing. It is currently the world’s largest scientific and educational organization for computing machinery with over 100,000 members worldwide.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE, is an organization for electronic and electrical engineers and all Associated disciplines. It is currently the world’s largest organization for technical professionals, with over 423,000 members from 160 countries. IEEE focuses on pushing the technological advancement and development of electrical and electronic engineering, computer engineering, and telecommunications.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology, or IET, is a multidisciplinary professional organization with its roots tracing back from 1871. It currently has over 168,000 members who are all working together and contributing towards the advancement of engineering and technology industries.

The International Association of Computer Science and Information Technology is an international scientific association that focuses on building society for scholars. As a member of the IACSIT, you can make connections with R&D center heads, research scientists, faculty deans, directors, professors, and engineers.

The Computing Research Association is a nonprofit organization that consists of North American academic departments in computer science and computer engineering. The focus of CRA is to innovate the computing industry and continuously increase the standard for information technology.

Financial Aid

Financial Aid for an Associates in Computer Programming Online

An Associates degree in Computer Programming may be a crucial stepping stone in building your tech-related career. Finishing this two-year degree can help you qualify for different entry-level jobs.

Many students consider it to be the most inexpensive way to get ahead in computer programming. You may reduce the cost of earning your degree even further by applying to various financial aid programs.

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The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step that you should take when looking for financial aid. This form can help you determine your eligibility for grants, scholarships, student loans, or work-study programs.

Your state government may also have similar assistance to reduce the cost of your education further. Other possibilities include scholarships from your college or from businesses and other organizations looking to sponsor students.

Can I Get a Programming Job With an Associate’s Degree?

computer programmer working on her desk

Yes, you may get a programming job with an Associates degree. An Associates degree in Computer Programming can provide you with the foundation and skills you need to apply for entry-level programming jobs.

How Much Do Computer Programmers Make With an Associates Degree?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the bottom 10% computer programmer earners made $51,440 per year, further saying that some companies employ workers with an associate’s in computer programming degree.

Your education can help prepare you for entry-level jobs such as web developer, computer programmer, and software developer, to name a few.

What Can I Do With an Associates Degree in Programming?

There are a lot of job opportunities available for students with an Associates degree in Computer Programming.

Common careers may include computer programmer, computer support specialist, IT specialist, and web developer. Salaries vary depending on your work experience and education level.

Is It Worth Getting an Associates Degree in Computer Science?

computer programmers working together in office

Yes, it is worth getting an Associates degree in Computer Science for many professionals.

Even though it focuses on theoretical applications of programming, many students still take Computer Science because the courses are less expensive and can often be transferred to computer programming.

An easy way to differentiate both degrees is if you only need a pen and paper to analyze something, it’s computer science. If you need to write the code to see a program work, it is computer programming.

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Jordan Meeks
WRITTEN BY
Jordan Meeks
Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and earned her Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Jordan's research focuses on adults returning to college and online degree programs.