15 Best Online Computer Programming Degree Programs [2021 Guide]

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Here you can explore online computer programming degrees for 2021 and compare colleges, programs, careers, and salaries.

Online Computer Programming Degree

If you have an affinity for technology and computers, an online computer programming degree may be a practical and lucrative degree for you.

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Careers in computer science, computer programming, and other computer- and internet-related fields are some of the most popular, fastest-growing careers today.

Online Computer Programming Degrees

The following are often considered the best computer programming degrees you can work towards. They’re similar, but they each have subtle differences.

Computer Programming Degrees

computer programmers working on their computers in an office

If you’re interested in a degree in computer programming, the most obvious skills you need are computer skills. You’ll also need to learn many different types of programming languages that’ll allow you to design computer code—instructions—to create software and operating systems.

You may design code for computers, smartphones, tablets, iPods, and other automated systems. In addition to designing programs and software, as a programmer, you may also test for bugs, create updates and patches, and remove errors.

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Potential careers for those with this degree include computer programmer, computer engineer, network architect, systems analyst, and database administrator.

Computer Science Degrees

data engineers checking data center

An online computer science degree is typically a little more comprehensive than a computer programming degree because it covers not only computer programming but also computer engineering, information technology (IT), and other computer science topics.

Most computer science degree programs cover the broader points of computer science, especially knowledge of IT, troubleshooting, and the internet. You’ll likely also need to learn a bit about computer engineering, which focuses more on hardware than software.

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Earning a computer science degree can help you develop a well-rounded overview of computers and technology, which can give you more access to jobs. People with computer science degrees often become web developers, game designers, and finance programmers.

Software Development Degrees

software developer working on his computer

A degree in software development is the most specific and specialized of the three degree programs we are listing here. Computer programming is a common part of this curriculum, and it may even include some IT, but the main focus is usually on designing and testing software applications and operating systems.

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Some specific classes you may be required to take in a software development program are:

  • Information Technology Foundations & Applications
  • Critical Thinking and Logic
  • Introduction to Communication
  • Applied Probability and Statistics
  • Ethics in Technology
  • Web Development Foundations & Applications
  • Scripting and Programming

These are only a few examples of possible classes you might have to take. Potential jobs for those with this degree include software developer or engineer, systems software engineer, systems analyst, and database administrator.

Computer Programming Degree Requirements & Curriculum

Computer Programming Degree Requirements and Curriculum

Regardless of which specialization you choose, there are some courses that you’ll likely be required to take for any of the above-listed degrees. In addition to core education classes, some of these include:

Introduction to Software Development

This course can help you learn the basics of computer programming and software development. It typically covers topics such as data input and output, control structures, variables, data types, and arrays.

Introduction to Computer Systems

The goal of this course is to provide students with a relatively comprehensive understanding of system-level issues and how they can affect computer systems. You’ll likely also explore distributed and multiprocessor systems.

Programming

This is an intermediate course that teaches students various programming languages, such as C++ and Java.

computer programmer working on his laptop

Data Structures and Algorithm Analysis

This course can help you learn how to work independently on developing, designing, and debugging software using efficient, clear algorithms and data structures. You’ll likely also learn to write recursive methods.

Computer Graphics

This is a broad overview of computer graphics—software, hardware, and algorithms.

Theory and Practice of Garbage Collection

This course can help you learn all about garbage collection—a process that automatically reclaims storage space an app doesn’t need.

Computer Security

This particular course is important because it covers information security in computers, particularly the practical, theoretical, and ethical issues surrounding the protection of digital information.

Additionally, you’ll likely be required to take various courses on subjects such as artificial intelligence, image recognition, theory of computation, and application development.

Computer Programming Specializations

Computer Programming Specializations

There are several computer programming specializations that can be pursued as well. Some of the most popular ones are:

  • Game Development: If you earn your degree in game development, you could pursue a career as a video game developer. You might design game features, oversee game testing, and conduct reviews.
  • Computer Security: This specialization can help prepare you for a career as a cybersecurity specialist, a security engineer, or another career within the field of computer security.
  • Machine Learning: This concentration can help you develop the skills needed to program and engineer machine systems and prepare you for a career in mechanical engineering.
  • Mobile Application Development: This specialization can help you learn how to develop, program, and test applications for cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices.
  • Data Mining: Earning a degree in data mining can help prepare you for careers in data analysis, data science, data engineering, and intelligence.

These are just a few of the concentration options that are available. The specific specializations available will vary from school to school.

What Can You Do with a Degree in Computer Programming?

Computer Programming Careers and Salaries

There are many different jobs that can be pursued with a degree in computer programming. We’ve covered many of them already in the above sections. Other potential careers include IT technician, IT specialist, IT director, program analyst, web designer or developer, full-stack developer, and cybersecurity analyst.

Computer Programming Careers & Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some careers in the computer programming field and their average annual salaries are:

Careers Annual Median Salary
Computer and Information Systems Managers $151,150
Computer and Information Research Scientists $126,830
Computer Network Architects $116,780
Software Developers, Software Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers $110,140
Top Executives $107,680
Information Security Analysts $103,590
Database Administrators $98,860
Computer Systems Analysts $93,730
Computer Programmers $89,190
Network and Computer Systems Administrators $84,810

These higher-than-average salaries are a large part of why so many people are turning to tech fields.

How to Choose an Online Computer Programming Degree

IT students working in computer room

There are several factors to consider when choosing the right computer programming degree.

  • Tuition: Tuition will likely be one of your first considerations when deciding on a program. It is important to find a program that fits within your budget.
  • Credit transfer policies: If you’ve attended college before and are looking to return, then it can be very beneficial to find a program that will accept all or most of your previous college credits. You don’t want to retake classes if you can help it.
  • Program length: Another thing to consider is how much time you want to invest into earning a degree and how quickly you can work. If you think you can keep up with a faster pace and don’t want to spend as many years in college, you might want to consider enrolling in an accelerated program where the “semesters” last only eight weeks or less.
  • Residency requirements: It is important to ensure your college doesn’t require you to live in a specific state to attend. Also, some colleges may require you to live on-campus the first year, so it is important to make sure that’s not a factor as well.

There are likely more considerations, but these are four important ones.

Computer Programming Admissions Requirements

computer programming student in an admissions interview

Different programs have their own specific admissions requirements, but here are some of the most common ones:

  • GPA: Most programs require applicants to meet a certain GPA. This is usually at least a 3.0, but some schools go lower, and some go higher.
  • Exam scores: Most colleges will request a copy of your ACT or SAT scores. The average required ACT score for computer programming is 22. The average required SAT score is 1120. Again, these vary by school.
  • Transcripts: Almost, if not all, schools require copies of your transcripts from high school and any previous colleges.
  • Letters of recommendation: Many programs will require you to provide them with anywhere from one to three letters of recommendation. These can come from employers, previous professors, or co-workers.
  • Application: You will also have to fill out an application. This is standard across the board.

Other schools and programs may require additional admissions requirements. You can check the admissions tab on the school’s website for everything you need.

Accreditation

Computer Programming Degree Accreditation

Accreditation may be the most important thing you can look for when picking the right program. Accreditation helps to ensure that your credits and degree will be respected and acknowledged by employers and other schools. Regional accreditation is typically considered the most prestigious type of accreditation.

The following is the list of regional accreditation institutions:

There’s also something called programmatic accreditation. This type of accreditation is specific to degree programs, not schools. The programmatic accreditation for computer programming is ABET, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

Accreditation from either ABET or one of the above-listed regional accreditation agencies will help ensure your degree is worth your time, effort, and money.

Professional Associations in Computer Programming

Professional Associations in Computer Programming

If you earn your computer programming degree, you have the potential to be accepted into one of the field’s numerous professional associations. These include:

These are all professional organizations that may help further your computer-related careers.

Financial Aid

financial aid for Online Computer Programming Degree students

There are three main types of financial aid: grants, scholarships, and loans. Loans can be borrowed from the federal government—by filling out your FAFSA—a bank, or a private company. This money must be repaid, so it is important to borrow responsibly and only what you need.

Grants and scholarships provide “free money” that generally doesn’t have to be repaid. One of the best grants is the Federal Pell Grant, which the government gives to students seeking associate or bachelor’s degrees who fall into a certain income bracket. You can apply for this grant on the FAFSA website.

Whether you’re pursuing a campus-based computer programming degree or an online computer engineering degree, the first step for obtaining financial aid is typically to fill out your Federal Application for Student Aid.

Scholarships can be found locally, on your school’s website under the financial aid tab, or on dedicated scholarship sites.

Computer Programming Scholarships

computer programming student studying on his laptop

There are also some scholarships awarded specifically to students seeking degrees in computer science fields. These include the following:

  • Adobe Research Women-in-Technology Scholarship: This scholarship is awarded to selected women seeking a degree in a technology-related field and pays $10,000.
  • Betty Stevens Frecknall Scholarship: This scholarship is awarded to either a male or female student enrolled at an accredited U.S. university in the field of computer science, CIS, MIS, or IT.
  • ESA Foundation Scholarship Program: This scholarship is awarded to selected students majoring in computer science with a focus on video game design.
  • IEEE Presidents’ Scholarship: This scholarship is awarded to a student who completes an award-winning project focused on computer science, electrical engineering, or another IEEE-related field.
  • Stokes Educational Scholarship: This is a scholarship open to students in many different fields of study that could lead them into a career in intelligence, such as cybersecurity.

These are only a few of the many scholarships you may apply for to help you pay for your college education.

computer programmers working together on a project

Is It Possible to Get a Computer Science Degree Online?

Yes, there are many online computer science degree programs available. As you research options, it is important to ensure your program is accredited.

How Do I Get a Computer Programming Degree?

You can earn a computer programming degree by taking classes in a computer programming degree program at an accredited online or on-campus university.

For most programs, approximately 60 credit hours in the appropriate subjects will earn you your associate’s in computer programming online, and about 120 hours will usually earn you your bachelor’s in computer programming. Some students find it beneficial to continue on and earn an online masters in computer programming, which may qualify them for more advanced positions in this field.

Which Degree Is Best for Programming?

There are many computer-related fields that may be great options for you if you hope to become a programmer. However, computer science and computer programming degrees are often considered the best. These tend to be the most specialized and give students the most pertinent information to the programming field.

Do You Need a Degree in Computer Science to Be a Programmer?

computer programmers collaborating on a project

Technically, anyone with the skills and the drive to learn can become a programmer. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll get a job as a programmer.

Most employers require their computer programmers to have at least an associate’s degree or certificate, and many prefer bachelor’s degrees.

How Long Does It Take to Earn an Online Computer Programming Degree?

This answer depends entirely on you. The length of time it’ll take you will depend on a number of factors, including whether you’re a full-time student, are taking accelerated courses, want a bachelor’s or associate’s degree, or take summer classes.

Some students finish in a little over a year, while others go a full four years or longer.

How Much Does an Online Computer Programming Degree Cost?

Different schools have different tuition rates, and for many schools, whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state student will also impact the total cost of your degree.

Most bachelor’s degree programs range from between $25,000 to $50,000. There are some that are less expensive, around $15,000, and some that are much more expensive, around $83,000, but $25,000 to $50,000 is the norm.

Will Employers Respect an Online Degree?

As long as your degree comes from a regionally accredited school, employers should respect your online degree just as much as any on-campus degree.

Universities Offering Online Computer Programming Bachelor’s Degree

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Baker College

Baker College

Known for its size and quality academics, Baker College was established in 1911 as a private school and now serves more than 35,000 students over twelve campuses. Baker College offers small class sizes, both online and on-campus, in order to provide students with the individual attention they need to obtain associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees.

  • BS in Computer Science – Computer Programming

Baker College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Central Methodist University

Central Methodist University

Opened in 1854, Central Methodist University assists students in learning more about themselves and their future endeavors as they work towards obtaining associate, bachelor’s, and graduate degrees.

Central Methodist University has more than forty academic programs that can be completed in a traditional classroom setting or through its distance learning platform.

  • BA in Computer Science
  • BS in Computer Science

Central Methodist University is accredited and/or recognized by the Higher Learning Commission.

Dakota State University

Dakota State University

Endeavoring to achieve a positive change in the community and the world, Dakota State University opened in 1881 as a public postsecondary school.

With a variety of programs that lead to associate, bachelor’s, or graduate degrees, Dakota State University has four academic colleges, including schools for education, computer science, cybersecurity, arts, science, and business.

  • BS in Computer Science

Dakota State is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Davenport University

Davenport University

Davenport University has been providing a private educational track for students since it began in 1866. Students at Davenport University can participate in many academic programs through online and traditional classroom learning. Some programs can be completed quicker through an accelerated degree option.

DU has paths to undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees.

  • BS in Computer Science

Davenport University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Farmingdale State College

Farmingdale State College

Annually, Farmingdale State College provides public education for over 9,000 students who are looking to obtain undergraduate or graduate degrees.

Farmingdale State College has over 45 program options to consider. FSU is a federally funded Green Building Institute that uses solar energy and electric-powered campus vehicles to cut its carbon footprint.

  • BS in Computer Programming and Information Systems

Farmingdale State College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Florida State University

Florida State University

Florida State University began as a space- and sea-grant research university in 1851 and now serves more than 40,000 students worldwide. This public school is made up of sixteen academic colleges and several other learning centers.

Florida State University has over 300 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs for students to choose from.

  • BA in Computer Science
  • BS in Computer Science

Florida State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Fort Hays State University

Fort Hays State University

Established in 1902, Fort Hays State University strives to blend practical experience with rigorous course studies to give students a valuable public education.

Fort Hayes State University provides a variety of bachelor’s or graduate degree programs and allows dual enrollment. FHSU has workforce certificate programs as well.

  • BS in Computer Science

FHSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Franklin University

Franklin University

Opened in 1902, Franklin University is a large, private university that serves thousands of students annually through online and campus-based courses. Students who attend Franklin University can complete bachelor’s, master’s, and professional degree programs in various academic subjects.

  • Bachelor’s in Computer Science

Franklin University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University is one of the most affordable and flexible private educational facilities in the nation. Established in 1949, GCU has hundreds of programs to help students obtain undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees.

With a dynamic distance learning program, hybrid course options, and an enormous traditional campus, GCU works to meet the needs of all students.

  • BS in Computer Programming

Grand Canyon University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Herzing University

Herzing University

Located in Menomonee Falls, WI, Herzing University was opened in 1965. It provides private education to students wishing to earn associate, undergraduate, and graduate degrees.

Herzing University provides students across the globe with a top-notch education through its nine campuses and distance learning program. It is considered one of the top colleges in the Midwest according to U.S. News & World Report.

  • Bachelor’s in Computer Programming

Herzing University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Limestone College

Limestone College

Begun as a women’s college in 1845, Limestone College is a private, faith-based learning institution that provides educational opportunities to students of all genders and religious denominations. They have over 50 different undergraduate and graduate degree programs to choose from.

Each degree from LC is grounded in liberal arts.

  • BS in Computer Science – Programming

Limestone College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University sits in the beautiful area of Norfolk, Virginia. This public university began in 1930 and now provides students with more than 100 different undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs to choose from. Old Dominion University strives to provide hands-on quality education to all students at affordable tuition rates.

  • BS in Computer Science

Old Dominion University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Southwestern College

Southwestern College

Southwestern College began in 1961 as a public community college that served students in and around the San Diego community.

It now has five campus locations and distance learning options that provide access to hundreds of vocational certificate and associate degree programs. Training students to exceed their personal and academic goals is vital to Southwestern College.

  • Bachelor’s in Computer Programming

Southwestern is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Thomas Edison State University

Thomas Edison State University

Thomas Edison State University was established in 1962 and is a leader of alternative public instruction. Giving students access to 2 year, 4 year, graduate, and professional degree programs, TESU believes learning can be gained from experience and rigorous instruction.

Students at TSU can use qualifying military and career experience to obtain program course credits.

  • BA in Computer Science

Thomas Edison State University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Western Governors University

Western Governors University

Western Governors University began in 1997 and has since strived to provide quality education at affordable tuition rates to students preferring to study at a private university.

WGU has continuously performed high in technology-based and hands-on academics and provides a plethora of bachelor’s and master’s degree programs.

  • BS in Computer Science

Western Governors University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Should You Get an Online Computer Programming Degree?

web developer working on her laptop

For a few decades now, computers have been the future, and that’s likely going to remain true for a long time to come. If you have any interest or skill in computer programming, a degree in the field may be a lucrative option for you. You can start looking for a program to enroll in today.

Earning a degree that allows you to get paid—and potentially paid very well—while doing something you love is probably one of the best feelings a person can have.

Ready to start your journey?
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.