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Computer programming careers are on the rise in the 21st century. Well-trained programmers create revolutionary software and applications, life-saving medical technology, and innovative data systems in every industry imaginable. In 2023, computer programmers made a median annual wage of $99,700, while software developers made $132,270. After earning a postgraduate degree in computer programming or computer science, computer and information systems managers made a median of $169,510 — over three times the average wage for all occupations.

Computer programming degree programs incorporate elements of STEM programs and expand on the fundamentals of all types of programming languages, including Java, C++, and Oracle. In 2023, the average tuition and fees for an associate degree in computer programming was $3,885, while a bachelor’s degree cost $17,709, not including the cost of housing. After earning an undergraduate degree, computer programmers often earn a master’s degree, which costs $20,513.

How to Choose a Computer Programming Degree Program

Choose your area of study

Computer programming degree options are plentiful, depending on your desired level of specialization and career goals. Many computer programmers complete general degrees in computer science, including an Associate of Science (AS) in computer science, a Bachelor of Science (BS) in computer science, or a Master of Science (MS) in computer science. In some programs, you can add a programming specialty to your degree, such as a BS in computer science with a concentration in programming.

If you’re interested in a more programming-focused option, pursue degrees such as a BS in computer programming or an MS in software development. You may also find joint computer science majors, such as a BS in computer science and mathematics or an MS in computer and electrical engineering.

Research schools and programs

Choose a school and computer programming degree program that is accredited by both an institutional and programmatic accreditation agency. Institutional agencies, such as the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) or the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), assess schools to ensure they meet academic standards consistent with those of other institutions. Verify the accreditation status of a computer programming program with an agency like the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), which applies professional engineering and technological standards to a program’s coursework.

Once you’ve narrowed your list of accredited computer programming degree programs, take an in-person or virtual tour of each campus. Determine if the city where the school is located is a good fit for you and your interests. If you need housing, learn about the school’s housing options for both undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Prepare for tests and applications

When you apply to a computer programming degree program, you’ll need to demonstrate a mastery of mathematics. Take the SAT and ACT for admission to undergraduate programs, such as an associate or bachelor’s program. For postgraduate degree programs, most computer programming schools have a minimum admission score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), particularly in math.

Other application requirements for computer programming degree programs include a personal statement, letters of recommendation, sealed transcripts with a minimum GPA, and a demonstration of programming experience and skill (such as a software project or website you’ve created).

Select your program

The right program for you focuses on the elements of computer programming that connect to your career goals and your desired coursework. If you’d like a more general computer science program that incorporates programming elements, choose a program from a school’s computer science department. For programs that focus more intently on programming, find a school that offers your degree through an engineering or information technology department.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Paying for a degree in computer programming begins with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which tells you how much aid you qualify for. Add this amount into a budget that includes tuition and fees, room and board, educational materials, and any transportation costs (including cars, gas, or airfare).

You can also contact your school’s financial aid office for information about grants, scholarships, or assistance programs like employer tuition assistance. The program or school’s website might also have recommendations for financial aid that you can pursue before you attend.

Best 50 Accredited Computer Programming Degree Programs

Best Computer Programming Degree Programs_2024 badge

Farmingdale State College

Limestone University

Columbia College Chicago

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How we rank schools

Our list covers associate and bachelor’s degree programs in computer programming. We evaluated programs that offer online, on-campus, and hybrid learning. Degrees offered include Associate of Applied Science in computer programming, Bachelor of Science in computer programming, and Bachelor of Science in software development.

All of the schools on this list are regionally accredited. Many of these options also have programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET), which only approves undergraduate programs that meet particularly high academic standards for STEM education.We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect From a Computer Programming Degree Program?

Computer programming degrees involve extensive hands-on programming work. Students learn and deepen their knowledge of various programming languages and apply that knowledge to real-world programming scenarios. If your program involves concentrations in electrical engineering or cybersecurity, your coursework will also cover those topics and their fundamentals.

Potential courses you’ll take in a computer programming degree program

  • Programming. Students take many programming classes in computer programming coursework. They’ll cover common programming concepts like imperative programming, object-oriented programming, event-driven programming, advanced algorithms, and learn the basics of programming languages.
  • Java Programming. Using principles from computer science foundations, students create and debug Java applications using Javascript. They write loop structures and decision structures within their programming projects.
  • C++ Programming. Students learn and master the basics of C++ programming to build software and solve programming problems. They study encapsulation, polymorphism, abstraction, and inheritance before designing and implementing executable programs.
  • Operating Systems. A course in operating systems teaches future programmers how to build and implement operating systems. It focuses on the relationship between computer hardware and software and how individual operating systems represent data.

Computer Programming Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a computer programming degree program?

A computer programming degree website should have all the necessary information to complete an application. Take note of deadlines and course prerequisites to plan ahead, and try to take required entrance tests in advance so you can retake them if needed.

If you have more questions about applying to your program, contact your school’s admissions office or a representative from their computer programming or computer science program. They can give you more information about how and when to apply for your future degree.

How much does a computer programming degree cost?

In 2023, the average cost of an associate degree in computer programming was $3,885. A bachelor’s degree in computer programming averaged $17,709, while a master’s degree was $20,513. Your costs may vary depending on housing needs, school location, and program delivery method.

How long does it take to earn a computer programming degree?

A bachelor’s degree in computer programming requires around 120 credit hours, which takes four years for full-time students. An associate degree in computer programming requires between 30 and 60 credit hours, which takes around two years to finish, and the average master’s degree in computer programming takes an additional two years after completing a bachelor’s degree. If you need a part-time schedule or an accelerated option, your timing may differ from these durations.

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