Computer programming degree programs train students to execute software designs, transforming logical flowcharts into computer code. Using programming languages such as C++, programmers develop detailed lists of instructions that computing devices--PCs, networking systems, smartphones, industrial robots and more--rely on to perform tasks.
Computer programming degree: Overview
Advanced programming technology makes formal training a requirement for computer programmers. Computer programming degree programs offer a foundation in computer science, networking and systems technology, as well as applied training in the current programming languages. Programmers also learn to use automated CASE (computer-assisted software engineering) tools and programmer environments, applications that increase productivity by combining discrete programming functions (compiling, code walk-through, test data generation and debugging).
Computer programming courses & degree types
The standard qualification for a career in computer programming is the four-year Bachelor of Science in computer programming or computer science degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over half of programmers hold a bachelor's degree or higher. The undergraduate curriculum combines core courses in math, science and liberal arts with courses in computer programming training.
Computing or IT professionals in need of targeted computer programming training will find a more targeted curriculum at the associate degree and certificate level. The Associate of Applied Science degree may be completed in 18 to 24 months, and offers an overview of computer technology and programming skills. Certificates may be as short as several weeks and generally focus on developing skills in a specific vendor technology.
Both associate and bachelor's degrees adopt a comprehensive computer programming curriculum that covers:
Computer systems technology: Courses introduce computer hardware and systems design, exploring personal computers, LAN and wireless networks, databases and mainframes. Programming students learn how these systems work as well as the skills for implementing and maintaining them. Sample course titles: Systems Analysis and Design, Database Management, Operating System Development Platforms.
Programming languages: Courses in programming languages focus on the most popular coding conventions for different purposes. Python and C++ are versatile languages in heavy use today. Web programmers use Java, HTML, PHP and Perl. Database programmers will find Structured Query Language (SQL) training indispensable. Sample course titles: Data Structures in C++, XML Programming, J2EE Application Development.
Vendor-specific technologies. Certification courses enhance programmers' ability to develop solutions using specific technologies or languages. For example, programmers who intend to work in enterprise (e.g., business intelligence) or scientific (e.g., pharmaceutical test data) contexts may benefit from courses in SAS (Statistical Analysis Software) technology. Web programmers can hone Java programming skills through Oracle Certified Professional courses.
Computer programming specialties. Some programs offer elective courses or entire degrees in programming specialty areas such as Web, game, or information security programming. Sample course titles: Decision Support Systems, Advanced Database Programming, Website Development.
Campus and online computer programming classes
Computer programming degrees are available from both online and campus-based programs. The traditional campus format offers access to college computing facilities, giving students access to industry-standard technology. Online computer programming degrees feature flexibility and accessibility. Working professionals who already have access to advanced programming technologies on the job can take advantage of the convenience of online education.
Computer programmers in the making
Who is best suited to a computer programming degree? Computer programmers are problem-solvers talented in deductive reasoning and logical analysis. They are detail-oriented and patient, able to break down tasks into minute steps and articulate each step with precision. Their math skills are as strong as their writing skills.
A computer programming degree opens doors to a range of programming jobs. According to the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), the majority of computer science graduates pursue a career in implementing and developing software. Popular jobs include Web programming, interface design, security programming, and mobile computing.
A bachelor's degree qualifies graduates to work as a:
- Programmer analyst
- Software programmer
- Systems programmer
- Web programmer
- Database programmer
- Network programmer
- Business programmer
- Scientific programmer
With experience and/or additional training, computer programmers can take on software development and design roles. These jobs are in high demand and pay more than programming jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 3 percent decline in programming jobs in the 2008-to-2018 decade. Software developers and engineers, on the other hand, rank as one of the fastest growing occupations in the nation, with 32 percent projected growth. Computer programmers earned mean annual wages of $69,620 in 2008, while computer systems software engineers commanded $92,430 and applications software engineers brought home $85,430.
Computer programming is ubiquitous in today's digital information economy. Programmers can find opportunities creating software for mobile phones, developing business intelligence applications, troubleshooting security issues and many other areas. A computer programming degree empowers programmers to communicate with electronic devices, developing a skill that is indispensable in software development.