15 Best Online Computer Programming Degree Programs [2020 Guide]

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We’ve ranked the 15 best online computer programming degrees for 2020. Compare top colleges, programming degrees, careers, and salaries.

Online Computer Programming Degree

If you have an affinity for technology, computers and/or networking, an online computer programming degree could be a practical and lucrative degree for you.

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

Best Online Computer Programming Degrees

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

Potential careers could include computer programmer, computer engineer, network architect, systems analyst, database administrator and more.

Computer Science Degrees

data engineers checking data center

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

If you’re pursuing a degree in computer science, it’s important you know how to program, but it’s also important you know the broader points of computer science. You’ll especially need a knowledge of IT, troubleshooting and the internet. Furthermore, you need to know a bit about computer engineering, which focuses more on hardware than software.


This gives you a well-rounded overview of both computers and technology, which means you could have access to more jobs, as well. Some of these include web developer, game designer, finance programmer and more.

Software Development Degrees

software developer working on his computer

A degree in software development is probably the most specific and specialized of the three. There’s definitely computer programming in this curriculum and maybe even some IT, but the main focus is on designing and testing software applications and operating systems.

Some specific classes you may be required to take in a software development program include many of the following:

  • 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 include software developer or engineer, systems software engineer, systems analyst, database administrator and more.

Computer Programming Degree Requirements & Curriculum

Computer Programming Degree Requirements and Curriculum

Regardless of which specialization you choose, there are some courses that you’d 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

In this course, you’ll learn the basics of computer programming and software development. Topics covered should include data input and output, control structures, variables, data types, arrays and more.

Introduction to Computer Systems

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

Programming

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

computer programmer working on his laptop

Data Structures and Algorithm Analysis

This course is designed to extend your ability to work independently on developing, designing and debugging software using efficient, clear algorithms and data structures. You’ll 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

With this course, you’ll figure out 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 teaches you about 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, application development and more.

Computer Programming Specializations

Computer Programming Specializations

There are several concentrations on which you could focus with a computer programming degree. Some of the most popular ones include:

  • Game Development: If you earn your degree in game development, you could become a video game developer – designing game features, overseeing game testing, conducting reviews, etc.
  • Computer Security: Prepares you for a careers as a cyber security specialist, security engineer, or more.
  • Machine Learning: Provides you with the skills needed to program and engineer machine systems and could ready you for a career in mechanical engineering.
  • Mobile Application Development: Prepares you to develop, program and test applications for cell phones, tablets and other mobile devices.
  • Data Mining: Helps prepare you for careers in data analysis, data science, data engineering, business intelligence and more.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for computer programmers is $86,550.

What Can You Do with a Degree in Computer Programming?

Computer Programming Careers and Salaries

There are a ton of things you can do with a degree in computer programming or similar computer-related fields. 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, cyber security analyst and more.

Computer Programming Careers & Salaries

According to PayScale, these are ten of the highest paying jobs for people with a computer programming degree.

Careers Average Annual Salary
Software Development Director $157,000
Principal Software Engineer $142,000
Site Reliability Engineer (SRE) $135,000
Security Consultant $111,000
Development Operations (DevOps) Engineer $107,000
Cyber Security Engineer $106,000
Information Systems Security Engineer $102,000
Full Stack Software Developer $98,700
Computer Scientist $93,900
Software Developer $91,300

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 should be one of your first considerations when deciding on a program. You have to find a program that fits within your budget.
  • Credit Transfer Policies: If you’ve attended college before and are looking to return, 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: Consider how much time you want to invest into this 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, consider enrolling in an accelerated program where the “semesters” last only eight weeks or less.
  • Residency Requirements: Ensure your college doesn’t require you to live in a specific state to attend. Also, some colleges require you live on-campus the first year, so make sure that’s not a factor, as well.

There are more considerations, of course, but these are four of the most important.

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 to expect:

  • 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/SAT score. Average ACT score for computer programming is 22; SAT is 1120. Again, these vary by school.
  • Transcripts: All schools require copies of your transcripts from high school and any previous colleges.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Many programs 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, of course, have to fill out an application. This is standard across the board.

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

Accreditation

Computer Programming Degree Accreditation

Accreditation is the single most important thing you can look for when picking the right degree. Without accreditation, nothing else about the program you choose matters because the credits and/or degree you earn will be useless. Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation.

The following are the list of regional accreditation institutions:

There’s also something called programmatic accreditation. This is accreditation 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 ensure your degree has worth.

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 could 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 are money you borrow either from the federal government – by filling out your FAFSA – a bank or a private company. This money must be repaid, so borrow responsibly and only what you need.

Grants and scholarships provide “free money” that generally doesn’t have to be repaid. The best grant is the federal Pell Grant, which the government gives to individuals who fall into a certain income bracket and are seeking an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. 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 is 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:

These are only a few of the many scholarships available 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 programs available in which you can earn your computer science degree online. Just 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 plan at an accredited online or on-campus university.

Approximately 60 hours in the appropriate subjects should earn you your associate’s in computer programming online, and 120 hours should earn you your bachelor’s in computer programming online.

Which degree is best for programming?

There are many computer-related fields which are great if you hope to become a programmer. The best, though, are the computer science or computer programming degrees.

These will be the most specialized and give you 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 learn to be a programmer. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll get a job as a programmer.

Most employers require you to have at least an associate’s degree or certificate before they’ll hire you as a programmer, and they prefer you have a bachelor’s.

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, if you’re taking accelerated courses, whether you want a bachelor’s or associate’s degree, if you take summer classes and more.

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 whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state student will also impact the total cost of your degree. For a bachelor’s degree, most programs range from between $25,000 to $50,000.

There are some less expensive – $15,000 – and some much more expensive – $83,000 – but $25,000 to $50,000 is the norm.

Will employers respect an online degree?

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

Accreditation is accreditation, and that’s all that’s important.

Universities Offering Online Computer Programming Bachelor’s Degree

Each of the universities included below are regionally accredited and offer computer programming bachelor’s degree online.

#1  Baker College

Baker College

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

  • BS in Computer Science – Computer Programming

Baker College is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

#2  Central Methodist University

Central Methodist University

Opening in 1854, Central Methodist University assists students in learning more about themselves and their future endeavors as they achieve in associates, bachelor’s, or 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.

#3  Dakota State University

Dakota State University

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

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

  • BS in Computer Science

Dakota State is an institution accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#4  Davenport University

Davenport University

Davenport University has been providing a private educational track for students since it began in 1866. Status at Davenport University can participate in many academic courses through online and traditional class learning.

Some programs at Davenport University can be completed quicker through an accelerated degree option. DU has a path to undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees.

  • BS in Computer Science

Davenport University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#5  Farmingdale State College

Farmingdale State College

Farmingdale State College has provided public education for students looking to obtain an undergraduate or graduate degree serving more than 9000 students annually.

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

  • BS in Computer Programming and Information Systems

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

#6  Florida State University

Florida State University

Florida State University began as 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 access to over 300 program options that give students access to undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees.

  • BA in Computer Science
  • BS in Computer Science

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

#7  Fort Hays State University

Fort Hays State University

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

Students at Fort Hayes State University have access to various program prospects with several ways for students to obtain a bachelor’s or graduate degree. FHSU has workforce certificates and dual-enrolled students as well.

  • BS in Computer Science

FHSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#8  Franklin University

Franklin University

As a large private university in the state of Ohio, Franklin University opened in 1902 and now serves thousands of students annually through online and campus-based courses. Students who attend Franklin University can complete a 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.

#9  Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University

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

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.

#10  Herzing University

Herzing University

Located in Menomonee Falls, WI, Herzing University opened up in 1965 to provide private education to students hello who wish to earn an associate, undergraduate, or graduate degree. Spanning across nine campuses and through a distance learning format, Herzing University provides students across the globe with a top-notch education.

  • Bachelor’s in Computer Programming

Herzing University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#11  Limestone College

Limestone College

Beginning as a women’s college in 1845, Limestone College is a private, faith-based learning institution that works with students of all genders and religious denominations. Limestone college provides access to a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees and has over fifty program majors 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.

#12  Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University

Old Dominion University sits in the beautiful area of Norfolk, Virginia. This public, academic facility began in 1930 and provides students with more than 100 program areas that lead to undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees. Old Dominion University strives to provide hands-on quality education to all students at an affordable tuition rate.

  • BS in Computer Science

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

#13  Southwestern College

Southwestern College

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

Spanning over five campus locations and through distance learning options, Southwestern College has hundreds of vocational certificates and associate degree options. Training students to exceed their personal and academic goals is vital at SC.

  • Bachelor’s in Computer Programming

Southwestern is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#14  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 two-year, four-year, graduate, and professional degrees, TESU believes learning can be gained from experience and Rigorous instruction.

Students at TSU can use prior 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.

#15  Western Governors University

Western Governors University

Western Governors University began in 1997 and has since strived to bring quality education at an affordable tuition rate, students preferring to study at a private University.

With access to a plethora of bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Western Governors University has continuously performed high in technology-based and hands-on academics.

  • 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 going to remain true for a long time to come. If you’ve any interest and/or skill in computer programming, a degree in the field could be very lucrative. Consider enrolling in the right program for you today.

There’s no better feeling than earning a degree that allows you to get paid – and get paid well – to do what you love.

Conner Thomas
WRITTEN BY
Conner Thomas