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Best Computer Programming Bachelor's Degrees

Oct 20, 2021

What is a Computer Programming Bachelor Degree?

Bachelor's degrees specific to computer programming are rare, but students may consider a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Computer Science to meet their needs. A BS program is a four-year course of study that provides training in the fundamentals of computer science as well as its sub-specialties. Many colleges and universities also offer a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in this subject. Both generally provide the same training in computer science but may differ in other course requirements necessary to complete the degree.

A bachelor's degree in computer science is required for many jobs related to computers. Degree holders work in a wide variety of careers across nearly every industry in areas such as programming and software development, IT systems management, and database management. A bachelor's degree also offers opportunities for further education at the graduate level.

Computer Programming Bachelor's Degree Concentrations

Along with programming and software development, concentrations for computer programming degrees may include Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence (AI), Network/Systems security, computer graphics, database systems, human-digital interface design, and the science of distributed networks. Students should work to assess their interest so they can choose a program whose curriculum meets their needs.

Curriculum for a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Programming

Curriculum for a bachelor's in computer programming can be more general to rather specific. Students can expect to complete classes in areas such as:

  • Programming
  • Software development
  • Mathematics (typically calculus, linear algebra, statistics)
  • General theory of computation, algorithms
  • Data systems
  • Network and Information systems
  • Cybersecurity
  • Human-digital interface
  • Humanities and other general education requirements

How Long Does it Take to Get a Bachelor's in Computer Programming?

The typical BS in computer science takes four years to complete. Along with coursework specific to computer science, most BS programs also require completion of a requisite number of general education courses (e.g., courses in the humanities such as history, literature, and English composition, and courses in basic science such as physics). Degree programs typically require approximately 120 credit hours. Some programs offer the possibility of completing a joint BS/MS (Master's of Science) within a five-year period. Students who struggle with mathematics and logical sequencing will likely face difficulties pursuing a BS in computer science.

Accreditation for Bachelor's in Computer Programming Degrees

Accreditation helps ensure that the degree program you choose meets acceptable standards of quality. Federal, state, and non-governmental accreditation agencies conduct periodic reviews of degree programs. They review the curriculum and how the institution delivers the training that students need to meet the learning outcomes necessary for work in computer science. While any major state university will be accredited, you should check the accreditation status of private institutions. Look for accreditation information on each institution's website, and verify it by referencing the appropriate accreditation agency. Obtaining a degree from an accredited institution can benefit your career options and is crucial if you wish to continue your education at the graduate level.

Computer Programming Licensure and Certification

Unlike fields such as law or medicine, computer programmers do not undergo a process of licensure. A BS in computer science is the most common path providing entry for working in the field. Programmers may obtain certifications in programming indicating additional skill acquisition in programming languages, often gained through work experience and additional trainings completed after completing a degree program.

What Can I Do With a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Programming?

Employment opportunities in programming and software development abound for those with a BS in computer science. To get an idea, you can check out these three examples of career growth opportunities. In addition to software development and programming, the degree can provide entry into several other job and career paths relating to computers and digital systems such as database development and management, network systems management and cybersecurity, web developer, front-end design specialist, digital audio and video developer, robotics, machine learning/Artificial Intelligence (AI), and working as a university professor and/or research scientist. Some of these specialties, such as AI research, typically require graduate degrees. Studying in a BS in computer science program will give you exposure to many of the subspecialties you may want to choose from for your career path. Employment prospects in the field remain strong, with job growth projected in most computer science career paths from 2019-2029, and wages across all career paths in computer science are above the national average of all occupations.

How to Become a Programmer

Programmers typically complete a BS in computer science, although some programmers may get their start by first pursuing an associate degree (see section below in this article) with a concentration in computer programming. While similar to, and in many cases overlapping with, software design, programmers have roles distinct from software designers; for example, programmers may work to fine tune or enhance existing software, correct bugs in code, and write new code for a wide variety of projects. Depending on degree level (BS versus associate degree) and expertise, programmers may begin at entry-level positions writing and editing code and then branch out into other specialties in computer science as they gain more skills. Programmers have expertise in one or more programming languages, such as Java, C ++, and Python, and should expect to expand their coding language skills throughout their career. In 2019, median wage for programmers was $86,550, with mean wages varying from roughly 50,000 to 140,000 across different regions and states. BLS predicts the job market for programmers to shrink 9% from 2019 to 2029 due to global hiring of programmers.

How to Become a Software Developer

Work as a software developer typically requires a BS in computer science. Software developers work across a wide array of industries due to the increasing utilization of digital systems. They may work on mobile applications, data systems, web design, infrastructure/network systems, front-end/user interface or full stack development. They work on the overall design and development of code to meet the needs of specific projects and functions. As such, they typically have greater responsibility for overall design and functionality of programs than workers whose role is limited to coding only. For this reason, the wages of software developers generally exceed that of computer programmers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment opportunities for software developers to grow 22% between 2019 and 2029, a rate of growth exceeding the average for all other occupations. Median wage for this specialty was $107,510 in 2019, with mean wages varying from approximately $49,000 to $145,000 across different states and regions.

Other Specialties in Computer Science

  • Database Management

Database specialists work to ensure that data is properly stored, accessible, and secure from corruption, deletion, and unauthorized access. Degree programs in computer science include training in database programming as a standard element in the curriculum. Annual mean wages for data specialists vary across different states and regions in the US, from roughly $50,000 to nearly $150,000, with a national median wage of $93,750 as of 2019.

  • Network Systems Management

Both small and large organizations hire specialists who provide technical support and management of computer infrastructure, including installation, software and hardware updates, and security. Median wages in 2019 were $146,360, with mean wages varying from roughly $80,000 to $190,000 depending on state and region. These wage statistics apply to manager positions; wages for entry level and support workers within systems management will be lower. Projections for job growth between 2019 and 2029 are at 10%, well above the average of all other occupations.

  • Cybersecurity Specialist

Information security specialists typically work within the network systems/technology department of organizations. Finance and insurance industries are among major employers of cybersecurity specialists. Annual mean wages for these specialists vary across different states and regions in the US, from roughly $42,000 to $122,000, with a national median wage of $98,350 as of 2019. Demand for security specialists is expected to remain very high, with 31% projected growth between 2019 and 2029.

  • Web Developer and Front End Designer

Web developers both design and help update or modify existing websites. They will often meet with clients to provide customized designs for the clients. Front end design specialists focus on ensuring ease of use for the website's users. They may test beta versions and conduct research on user preferences and experiences in order to improve functionality. Web developers will have programming skill in languages specific to web design. Annual mean wages for web designers vary across different states and regions in the US, from roughly $42,000 to $134,000, with a national median wage of $73,760 as of 2019. Projected growth in this field is expected to be 8% between 2019 and 2029.

  • Machine Learning/AI Developer

Specialists in this area work on developing systems and software in which functionality improves through automated processes designed into the systems. Language processing and robotics are among areas utilizing machine learning. A BS in computer science may provide entry into this field, though research scientists in this field often hold a master's or Ph.D degree. Projected growth in this field is expected to be 15% between 2019 and 2029. Annual mean wages for this specialty vary across different states and regions in the US, from roughly $77,000 to $143,000, with a national median wage of $118,370 as of 2019.

  • Graphic Design/Animation Developer

Programmers learn specific languages used for visual design while software developers and research scientists develop and create the actual programs. These programs are used by graphic designers, animators, and other users who utilize more complex visual representation such as 3-D graphics. Programmers with expertise in graphic design languages may have opportunities to explore their own design talents and collaborate with creative design teams such as animators. As noted above, wages for software developers and research scientists tend to exceed that of programmers, so wage expectations for this field will vary accordingly.

  • Computer Research Scientist and/or University Professor

Pursuing a graduate degree is generally the path by which holders of a BS in computer science can work as a computer research scientist. Research scientists are employed by both industry and academia. Scientists work on innovation and development in areas such as machine learning/AI, robotics, quantum computing, distributed networks, cyber security, big data, communications, transportation, user interface, virtual and augmented reality, and more. If you enjoy an academic environment, research and/or teaching, work as a university professor may be a good fit. A Ph.D is required to become a university professor.

Here is a comparison of wage expectations for computer research scientists between academia and industry:

Keep in mind that wages as a university professor vary according to levels of seniority (assistant, associate, full professor) and according to the type of institution. According to the BLS , computer science professors at business schools/computer and management training have a mean income of $169,550 while those at universities, colleges, and professional schools have a mean income of $102,440 as of 2019.

Annual mean wages for computer research scientists vary across different states and regions in the US, from roughly $77,000 to $143,000, with a national median wage of $118,370 as of 2019, with those employed in industry on average earning more than those employed at universities, colleges, and professional schools.

What Other Kinds of Computer Programming Degrees Are There?

In addition to bachelor's degrees, two-year associate degrees provide training suitable for entry level programming work while graduate (master's and doctoral/Ph.D) degrees provide the training for more advanced work and research. With an associate degree, you can learn the basics of the most common programming languages such as Java and C++. Master's and doctoral degrees allow you to develop highly specialized expertise in one or more of the subfields of computer science; work which entails more design and creative control, as well as higher pay, generally correlate with having one of these advanced graduate degrees.

Associate Degrees in Computer Programming

Associate degrees are generally obtained through community colleges and require a two-year course of study. They generally cost less to attend than a university or private institutions. You can find associate degrees in which you can specialize in particular sub-fields of programming. For those interested in moving into the workforce more quickly and spending less on their education, an associate degree may be a good choice. Keep in mind however that while an associate degree is suitable for entry-level employment, many jobs require a BS in computer science and/or several years of work experience.

Master's Degrees in Computer Programming

Master's of science (MS) degrees are generally two-year graduate programs which provide advanced training across a range of specialties within computer science. For example, if you are interested in cybersecurity, a master's program may allow you to grow your expertise in that area in addition to broadening your knowledge of the field of computer science. By obtaining a master's degree, you may qualify for higher-paying jobs and increase your chances of being accepted into a doctoral/Ph.D program. As noted above, some undergraduate programs offer the possibility of a joint BS/MS degree which may be completed in five years.

Doctoral Degrees in Computer Programming

A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) in computer science is the highest degree level and generally takes between four and six years of graduate study. Obtaining this degree qualifies you as a computer scientist and may provide entry into advanced research and development work and/or work as a university professor. The first two to three years are devoted to coursework, research, and comprehensive exams, while the remaining period is devoted to completion of a dissertation. The dissertation is substantive original research project, usually of length exceeding one hundred pages. As with a master's degree, obtaining a doctoral degree will generally increase your earnings potential.

Certificates in Computer Programming

Programmers may undertake training that qualifies them to obtain certification in specific programming languages. These certifications may be sought after or required by employers for certain types of programming jobs, and they may be pursued while in the work force and/or as a means to enhance a degree in computer science. Keep in mind that coursework in computer science may enhance the facility with which you are able to obtain certifications.

1. Farmingdale State College

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8538 55% 52% 74% Yes Yes AP Credits

2. New England Institute of Technology

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$30841 63% 51% 94% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

3. Green River College

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$4141 No Available Data (2019-2020) 38% 49% No Yes AP Credits

4. Rowan University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$14000 74% 73% 86% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

5. SUNY College of Technology at Alfred

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8852 67% 60% 96% Yes Yes AP Credits

6. University of Michigan-Dearborn

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$13529 62% 56% 96% Yes Yes AP Credits

7. Western Colorado University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$10437 84% 51% 95% Yes Yes AP Credits

8. Limestone University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$26300 51% 33% 99% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

9. Fort Hays State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$5280 91% 43% 96% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits

10. University of Cincinnati-Main Campus

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$11154 77% 71% 75% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

11. Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$27296 67% 71% 100% Yes Yes AP Credits

12. University of Akron Main Campus

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$11636 73% 46% 96% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

13. Kennesaw State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$6456 75% 46% 92% Yes Yes AP Credits

14. Youngstown State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8949 67% 41% 98% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

15. Davenport University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$19338 82% 49% 98% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

16. Metropolitan State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8114 56% 34% 86% No Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

17. Columbia College Chicago

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$27756 90% 50% 93% Yes Yes AP Credits

18. Western Connecticut State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$11344 76% 52% 85% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

19. Grand View University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$28678 96% 55% 100% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

To get a more in-depth look at our school ranking methodology, please visit Study.com's ranking methodology page.

Tuition information is based on published tuition and required fees, per data by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Financial Aid and Scholarship Information for Bachelor's in Computer Programming Degrees

In general, financial aid can be categorized as either loans, which require you to pay back the loan over a period of time, or scholarships and grants, which are financial awards you receive and do not require repayment. Both loans and scholarships require you to apply for them by deadlines, so be sure to plan ahead. Both federal and state agencies have student loan programs, and there are a huge range of scholarship and grant categories, so be sure to investigate these thoroughly. One first step for applying for financial aid is to fill out the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. You should budget time to thoroughly investigate all the ways of financing your degree in computer science.

Prerequisites for BS in Computer Science

Completion of high school is required for admission to four-year undergraduate degree programs. Some degree programs may accept a GED in place of a high school diploma. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, requirements of standardized tests such as the SAT have been waived by most institutions for the 2021 application cycle. In other years, most schools have generally required submission of standardized test scores on either the SAT or ACT in their application materials, though there is a growing trend among universities and colleges to waive the SAT requirement altogether.

Proficiency in mathematics is generally a prerequisite for entry into a computer science degree program. Students should complete pre-calculus level mathematics, as coursework in calculus and other areas such as matrix or linear algebra is common in degree programs.

As you research particular BS degrees in computer science, be sure to carefully note the required prerequisites, while keeping in mind that you may be able to fulfill some of these prerequisites, such as completion of pre-calculus mathematics, while enrolled at the degree institution. You can find a quick overview of education requirements for computer programmers here.

Should I Get a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science?

As digital technology and computing systems continue to expand into more and more facets of life, a degree in computer science can open the door to employment across a wide array of fields. Moreover, wage earnings for holders of a BS in computer science are well above the national average for all occupations.

Although wage and employment prospects remain strong, you will want to consider what working in computer science entails. If you have a low tolerance for time in front of a screen and problem solving and/or weakness in logical sequencing and mathematics, then work in the digital field, especially programming and software development, will likely not be a good fit for you.

If you are unsure as to whether pursuing a degree in computer science is right for you, there are free online computer courses which can give you a way to preview what computer science coursework is like and help you start building your programming skills. Check out this list of free online computer courses, which includes course materials from institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Carnegie Mellon University.

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