Associate Degree in Computer Programming Guide


Updated April 30, 2024

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An associate degree in computer programming explores the fundamentals and principles of programming and information technology. These two-year degrees can provide access to entry-level careers or bachelor's degrees in related subjects.

Since programming associate degrees set the stage for so many professional and educational pathways in a short time, they appeal to a wide variety of students. Whether you have a goal in mind or you're still finding your way in the information technology field, an associate degree in computer programming can work for you.

In this guide, we explore this degree in detail, highlighting possible career paths and methods for choosing the best program for your needs.

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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Why Get a, Associate Degree in Computer Programming?

Offering one of the quickest paths to pursuing a career in the information technology industry, an associate degree in computer programming has plenty to offer. An associate degree requires less of a time commitment than a bachelor's degree and can help you land a job or continue your education after graduation.

Computer programming lays the groundwork for everything devices do, and skills in this critical field can apply to many different IT roles and fields. These degrees can help you join the workforce of over 130,000 programmers and pursue other computer-related careers. As basic programming tasks become increasingly automated, programmers have begun taking on more development and analyst tasks.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment in the information technology field to grow at a faster-than-average rate, which includes computer programmers. For example, skilled programmers can work in computer systems and software design, administration, and analysis, as well as information security and research.

An associate degree in computer programming can also act as a stepping stone to more advanced, specialized, and in-demand computer-related disciplines, such as computer engineering or machine learning.

Here's a quick breakdown of some of the major benefits of an associate degree in computer programming.

  • Foundational Skills: You'll develop skills using the primary programming languages, practice key web development techniques, and learn to analyze various computer systems.
  • Groundwork for Further Studies: Your credits will transfer into various bachelor's programs, and you'll have a solid footing in the discipline should you continue your IT education.
  • Cost Saving: Associate degrees can cost less per credit than bachelor's degrees at community colleges. When you transfer these credits into a bachelor's program, you can reduce your overall cost.

Jobs for Computer Programming Degree Graduates

An associate degree in computer programming can lead to many entry-level computer science careers. Afterward, you can build your experience or continue your education to qualify for more advanced roles.

Here are some of the careers you can look forward to after graduation.

Computer Support Specialist

Computer support specialists assist employees and users with various computer issues. They answer tech-related questions, analyze and troubleshoot problems, and perform maintenance and repairs. With experience and specialized certifications, support specialists can pursue more advanced analyst or management roles.

  • Required Education: Associate degree
  • Median Annual Salary (2023): $60,810
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +5%

Computer Programmer

Computer programmers write and test code to bring the visions of developers and engineers to life. They investigate and troubleshoot issues, improve code, and apply different languages depending on the situation. Computer programmers can pursue web development roles with experience and additional education.

  • Median Annual Salary (2023): Bachelor's degree
  • Median Annual Salary: $99,700
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): -11%

Web Developer

Web developers create websites that perform well in varying traffic levels, function according to the client's needs, and look pleasing. These professionals may write code, design graphics, and monitor site traffic and usage. Experienced web developers and those with bachelor's degrees can pursue back-end engineer, full-stack engineer, and UX designer roles.

  • Median Annual Salary (2023): High school diploma at minimum
  • Median Annual Salary: $92,750
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +16%

Network and Computer Systems Administrator

Network and computer systems administrators set up and maintain technical systems for organizations. They may evaluate and manage system upgrades, handle security, and troubleshoot issues. Administrators can pursue vendor certifications and advanced degrees that qualify them for network architect and management positions.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree
  • Median Annual Salary (2023): $95,360
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +2%

What to Expect From Two-Year Computer Programming Degrees

An associate degree in computer programming focuses on key programming languages and design techniques. These programs teach you to analyze code, identify issues, and build and test computer applications. You also develop a foundational knowledge of computer science that can lead you into other fields, professionally and academically.

Typically, associate degrees feature 60 credits and take about two years to complete. Most credits from accredited associate degrees should transfer into a bachelor's program in a related discipline.

These programs may award AA, AS, or AAS degrees, which can differ slightly. For example, AA degrees include more interdisciplinary courses and requirements, AS degrees focus more on science and math requirements, and AAS degrees offer more career-focused training.

Admissions Process

Admission requirements vary by program but usually include being 18 years old and possessing a high school diploma or GED certificate. More competitive schools may require a minimum GPA. While computer programming experience is rarely required, it can help your admission chances.

When applying, you need to submit your transcripts and standardized test scores (if required). In some cases, letters of recommendation and/or letters of intent may be included.

Associate Degree Options

While most associate degrees focus on general studies, you may have some program choices that can influence the direction of your studies. For example, you might be able to choose a specialization, such as Java or mobile applications.

You may encounter several degree types, including AA, AS, and AAS programs. You can often pick between these options by considering your ideal destination. AA and AS degrees offer more transferability, whereas AAS degrees typically lead into the workforce.

Popular Computer Programming Associate Degree Courses

The courses in an associate degree in programming can vary but usually cover the core concepts of the discipline and major languages. The list below highlights some courses you may encounter in your program.

  • Scripting Languages: Enrollees learn to use scripting languages for various tasks, such as web programming and data processing, along with using scripting principles like iteration and functions to solve problems.
  • C Programming: In this course, you learn to design and develop programs, applications, and interfaces using C programming. You may work with arrays, lists, classes, and arithmetic operations as well.
  • Python Programming: This introduction to programming with Python covers the most commonly used algorithms and libraries. You may get practice designing, testing, and debugging applications using Python as well.
  • Programming Logic: Learn programming fundamentals and development tools, along with best practices for approaching problems and making decisions in this course.

Start Learning About Computer Programming Languages

Cost of a Computer Programming Associate Degree

The cost of a computer programming associate degree depends on school type, delivery mode, and location, among other factors. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average tuition for in-state students was $3,564 at two-year public schools, $9,596 at four-year public schools, and $34,041 at private schools as of the 2021-2022 academic year.

On top of tuition, your education costs may include room and board, transportation, and books and materials. When it comes to paying for your degree, you may have several types of financial aid available, including federal and private loans, institutional and computer science scholarships, and work-study programs.

How Do You Choose the Right Associate Degree Program?

Choosing the right associate degree in computer programming requires you to consider many factors and how they suit your unique needs. Here are some of the considerations you might include in your process:

  • Program curriculum, including courses and any specializations
  • Certifications included in the program
  • Program length, delivery mode, and study schedule
  • Program cost and financial aid opportunities
  • Programmatic and institutional accreditation
  • School and class size and student-to-teacher ratio
  • School location and residency requirements
  • Admission requirements and competitiveness
  • School extracurriculars, alumni network, and support services
  • School, program, and faculty reputation

Should You Get Your Associate Degree in Computer Programming Online?

The flexibility and accessibility of online learning have made it easier than ever to pursue an associate degree in computer programming, but online studies don't suit everyone equally. Consider your learning needs and preferences when deciding if online learning is right for you.

While you can often fit online learning around a busy schedule, it may require more independence, organization, and self-motivation than in-person programs. Online programs feature reduced travel time and costs, but they may not have the same level of hands-on experiences and interactions as on-campus learning.

Should You Go to an Associate, Certificate, or Bootcamp Program?

Associate degrees, certificate programs, and coding bootcamps can all provide entry-level programming skills, making the choice difficult if you don't know how they differ. The following table highlights some of the major program differences.

Computer Programming Associate vs. Certificate vs. Bootcamp Programs
Comparison Point Computer Programming Associate Degrees Computer Programming Certificates Coding Bootcamp Programs
Program length About two years 4-18 months 12-24 weeks
Program cost Average of $7,128 for total tuition at two-year public colleges and $19,192 at four-year public schools $3,000-$12,000+ Average of $13,500 for full-time bootcamps
Course load Part-time or full-time options, taking between 6-15 credits each semester Part-time or full-time options, taking between 6-15 credits each semester Intensive half-day or full-day studies
Program focus Programming fundamentals, computer science foundations, and general education Programming fundamentals with some computer science foundations More specialized and career-focused programming skills
Admission requirements High school diploma, and some schools require a minimum GPA High school diploma, and some schools require a minimum GPA Some bootcamps may require professional experience for admission

Should You Get a Different Degree?

Instead of an associate degree in computer programming, you might opt for a more advanced degree, such as a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's in computer programming can provide a more comprehensive education and expand your career options. They can give you the skills and credentials to pursue careers in cybersecurity, web and software development, and systems analysis.

Compared to an associate degree, a bachelor's degree can result in an average salary increase of more than $425 each week, per BLS data. Bachelor's degrees can also allow you to pursue a master's degree, which can lead to management positions and an average of over $650 extra per week on top of associate degree earnings.

Top Computer Programming Certificates

Top Computer Programming Certificates

Best Bachelor's in Computer Programming

Best Bachelor's in Computer Programming

Master's in Computer Programming Degrees

Master's in Computer Programming Degrees

Best Value Online Coding Bootcamps

Best Value Online Coding Bootcamps

More Questions About Associate Degrees in Computer Programming

What can you do with an associate degree in computer programming?

With an associate degree in computer programming, you can qualify for various entry-level careers in information technology. You can also advance your education by transferring credits into a bachelor's program.

Is an associate in computer programming worth it?

Many people find value in associate degrees in computer programming because they can lead to entry-level positions with a lower time and financial investment than a bachelor's degree. You can also save money by getting the degree at a more affordable community college and transferring your credits into a bachelor's program.

Are computer programming degrees hard?

Computer programming degrees can cover complex concepts, which may be difficult for some learners. At the associate degree level, however, coursework focuses more on introductory topics to ease you into the discipline.

Can I become a computer programmer with an associate degree?

Associate degree graduates usually start in lower-level technician positions. However, some computer programmer employers hire associate degree-holders who can demonstrate requisite programming skills and related professional experience.

What degree is best for learning how to code?

An associate degree in programming is likely one of the best programs to learn how to code because it focuses on the fundamentals and principles. You may prefer a bachelor's degree in programming for more intermediate topics or a coding bootcamp for more condensed and specialized training.

Page last reviewed April 17, 2024.

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