Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Programming

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What Is a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Programming?

Computer programmers solve logical problems, create code for programs, and find creative ways to improve existing functions. To learn these skills, students may choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer programming.

Graduates with a bachelor’s in computer programming can pursue entry-level and mid-level programming positions. These professionals enjoy strong job prospects. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 12% growth rate for all computer and information technology professions between 2018-2028.

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This guide covers important information for students considering a bachelor’s in computer programming, including admission requirements, potential careers and salaries for graduates, and answers to frequently asked questions.

Should I Get a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Programming?

Earning a bachelor’s degree in computer programming offers many potential benefits, several of which we highlight below.

Career Opportunities:
A bachelor’s degree demonstrates specific skills and knowledge to prospective employers. Many companies prefer hiring computer programming professionals with a relevant bachelor’s degree.
Higher Salary:
Earning a bachelor’s in computer programming requires a significant time and financial investment, but employers often pay higher salaries to professionals with the degree compared to those without it.
Personal Development:
Undergraduate computer programming programs help individuals develop new skills and learn more about technology. Bachelor’s programs also include courses in other fields, such as communication and mathematics, which give learners a well-rounded education.
New Skills:
Computer programming bachelor’s programs offer core and elective courses that teach specific skills, such as artificial intelligence or database management. Students can enroll in courses related specifically to their interests.
Preparation for Further Education:
Some positions require graduate degrees. Learners must earn a bachelor’s degree before pursuing an advanced degree.

Advice from a Computer Programming Graduate and Professor

Portrait of Dave Hatter

Dave Hatter

Dave Hatter has nearly 30 years of experience in IT as a software engineer and cybersecurity consultant. He holds a bachelor’s degree in information systems from Northern Kentucky University and nearly 15 years of experience teaching programming- and technology-related courses, primarily at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.

  • Why did you decide to enter the field of computer programming? How are you now using your degree?

    I grew up in the late ’70s and early ’80s and was fascinated with video games and PCs. I graduated from high school in 1986, and it was obvious that computers were playing an ever-larger role in all businesses, so after switching majors a few times during college, I decided to give programming a shot and found that I enjoyed the challenge of solving business problems with software solutions and knew that it would be a good career option for me. That has proven to be the case after more than 25 years. I still enjoy programming and love the puzzle-solving aspects of the job.

  • Why do you see students pursuing bachelor's degrees in computer programming?

    I think many realize that as businesses are increasingly reliant on technology, there are many opportunities for people that can write the software that powers our modern economy. I think they also realize that the jobs are plentiful, pay well, and in many cases, allow remote work, so people can live where they want. It’s a great fit for people who love to solve puzzles and want freedom and flexibility.

  • From your perspective, what makes a bachelor's in computer programming a great degree option?

    The BLS (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) says that software developer jobs will increase by 21% from 2018 to 2028, and the median pay is $105,000. This is a field that provides flexibility, excellent pay, remote work, and can be extremely rewarding for individuals who enjoy solving puzzles and learning new things, since the technology is always advancing. Additionally, most programmers/developers end up learning a lot about the businesses they work and can use that knowledge to transition into other IT or business roles over time.

  • What should students consider when selecting a school and program for their bachelor's in computer programming?

    I suggest that they find a school where they will have the opportunity to get a lot of hands-on experience programming in different languages and environments, so that they not only learn many valuable skills, but also can determine a career path that they will enjoy. Additionally, I encourage students to find a school that places emphasis on co-ops and/or internships, so that students have the opportunity to get out in the real world and work with professionals who are doing the work every day. I was a co-op during college, and it was both exciting and enjoyable. I learned an amazing amount from the professionals I worked with and was eventually hired full-time by that company.

  • What do students find most valuable about their computer programming education?

    Most students I talk to enjoy the problem-solving aspect of writing code and are also excited about the relatively lucrative and expanding career prospects.

  • What careers are your computer programming students prepared for after this degree?

    Careers in general IT and, of course, software development/programming jobs. I also strongly believe that the skills and mindset required to be a good programmer can help someone no matter what field they are interested in. Being able to focus on solving problems and think through the logic of a process from beginning to end, then implement it, is a very valuable skill.

  • What are your students' job searches like after graduating with their bachelor's in computer programming?

    To be clear, my students at Cincinnati State are only earning an associate degree or a certificate, but many go on to earn a bachelor’s degree after transferring to another college, and I encourage them to do so. In general, for those students that do well and get experience through a co-op or internship, they are highly sought-after and quickly employed.

  • What are some of the most rewarding aspects of working in computer programming? Some of the most challenging aspects?

    Rewarding:

    • Great feeling of satisfaction when code performs as required
    • Great feeling of satisfaction when you help people improve their lives and businesses
    • Intellectually stimulating
    • Pays well
    • Lots of opportunity
    • Always something new to learn

    Challenging:

    • Always something new to learn
    • The technology changes rapidly
    • May be working against tight deadlines
    • Occasionally you run into issues with the tool or the environment that can be difficult to solve
    • Can be stressful

  • What advice would you give to students considering pursuing a bachelor's in computer programming?

    If you have even the slightest interest in it, check it out. Learn about the many career options and opportunities, take a few intro-level courses to see if you like it, try some online tutorials, talk to some professionals in the field, and shadow them, if possible, to get a feel for what it’s like to work in the field. I still love the gratification of working with clients to understand their processes, write the code to implement the processes, and deliver software that solves the client’s problems. It’s a great feeling, and I’m still thrilled that I chose this career.

Admission Requirements for a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Programming

Before applying to any college-level program, students must earn a high school diploma or GED. Most colleges require students to earn at least a 2.0 GPA, though a higher GPA increases applicants’ chances of enrollment. Colleges and universities may also require SAT or ACT scores for admission, but many schools waive this requirement for applicants with a strong academic or personal record.

Applicants typically must also submit transcripts, an application fee, personal information, and a personal essay. Many colleges and universities standardize applications through The Common App, allowing student to apply to multiple schools through one application.

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

Many students complete a bachelor’s degree in computer programming to learn new skills and increase their chances of finding a well-paying position immediately after graduation. Other students earn the degree to prepare for graduate school.

Career and Salary Outlook for Computer Programming Graduates

A bachelor’s in computer programming can lead to many different careers in computer programming and related fields. Many graduates work as computer programmers. According to the BLS, computer programmers earn a median wage of $86,550 per year.

Graduates can also work as software developers. According to the BLS, software developers earn a median annual wage of $105,590. The BLS also projects a 21% job growth rate for software developers between 2018-2028.

While a bachelor’s degree does not guarantee a specific salary or position, the following list outlines several common positions for graduates.


  • Computer Programmer

    Computer programmers write code in various languages, update and create new programs, and test code for errors. They work with other computer science professionals to implement designs and plans. Most computer programmers work in computer system design services, though some programmers are self-employed.


  • Database Administrator

    Database administrators ensure that data is stored properly in virtual systems. Day-to-day tasks include organizing secure data, identifying user needs within the database, and maintaining existing databases. Some database administrators advance their careers and become computer and information systems managers.


  • Web Developer

    Web developers create websites. In addition to ensuring the technical quality of a site, web developers adjust the look of websites and improve site performance and speed. Many web developers work with computer systems design and advertising industries, while others start their own web development businesses.


  • Network and Computer Systems Administrator

    Network and computer systems administrators manage complex computer networks for businesses and organizations. Day-to-day tasks include installing new systems, making upgrades to existing systems, and evaluating the effectiveness of older systems. After earning some experience, network and computer systems administrators can work as computer network architects.


  • Software Developer

    Similar to computer programmers, software developers create computer programs. However, software developers focus more on the creative side of programming, including the design process. These professionals routinely test programs and software to ensure they meet customers’ standards. Software developers usually specialize in either applications or systems. Some software developers eventually become IT project managers.


Job TitleEntry Level (0-12 Months)Early Career (1-4 Years)Mid-career (5-9 Years)Experienced (10-19 Years)
Computer Programmer$52,000$57,000$70,000$78,000
Database Administrator$55,000$63,000$79,000$91,000
Web Developer$50,000$57,000$66,000$71,000
Network and Computer Systems Administrator$53,000$58,000$65,000$74,000
Software Developer$62,000$69,000$82,000$91,000
Source: PayScale

Continuing Education in Computer Programming

Some careers in computer science require a master’s or Ph.D., so bachelor’s in computer programming graduates should consider additional education. Aside from a graduate degree, computer programming professionals can earn certifications to advance their careers.

Master’s:
Master’s degrees in computer programming introduce students to advanced topics and usually offer specializations in areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and software engineering. Master’s degrees typically take 1-2 years of full-time study to complete.
Ph.D.:
Learners may complete a Ph.D. after a master’s degree, though some programs accept applicants with only a bachelor’s degree. Ph.D. students specialize their skills in a particular niche. These research-intensive programs usually take five years to complete, though some programs offer shorter or longer timelines.
Additional Certifications:
Some professionals earn certifications through businesses and organizations to advance their careers. Candidates for certification usually need to pass an exam. Certifications typically cost less and take less time to complete than graduate degrees.

MASTER'S IN COMPUTER PROGRAMMING

Earning Your Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Programming

Bachelor’s in computer programming programs typically comprise 120 credits and take four years of full-time study to complete. Because these programs include mathematics and science courses, many schools offer the degree as a bachelor of science rather than a bachelor of arts.

Courses cover concepts in computer science, programming, and data, along with core topics such as mathematics, science, and English. Learners may also complete a thesis or final project.

Online bachelor’s degrees in computer programming often offer more flexibility and affordability than on-campus degrees. However, some students prefer the structure and face-to-face interaction of on-campus programs.

Comparing Bachelor’s Degree Options

Instead of earning a bachelor’s in computer programming, students may choose to complete a different degree with similar career outcomes. Related bachelor’s degrees include computer science, software development, and application development. Specific degree subjects and titles vary by institution, but many share the same curriculum. BS in Computer Science – Programming A BS in computer science with an emphasis in programming explores more general computer science topics than a bachelor’s in computer programming. Those interested in a range of computer science careers benefit most from this degree. BS in Software Development BS in Computer Programming BA in Application Development

Popular Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Programming Courses

Courses vary by school, but many computer programming bachelor’s degrees feature similar coursework. Along with general education courses in areas such as English, mathematics, and history, computer programming students complete introductory computer science courses and core computer programming classes. Some BS in computer programming degrees also require students to complete computer-related electives. Most undergraduate programs also require a capstone project.

The following list outlines common courses found in bachelor’s in computer programming degree programs.

Enterprise Application Programming
Programming Sometimes offered as a core course, enterprise application programming teaches the fundamentals behind the design and implementation of programs and applications for businesses. Students learn about the basics of C# and .NET, various debugging techniques, and object-oriented programming. Students typically complete this course before studying advanced topics.
Algorithms and Data Structures
A lower-division course, algorithms and data structures courses cover the application of classical algorithms to solve real-world problems. Learners discover various algorithms used for searching, sorting, and graphing. Students also evaluate the effectiveness of algorithms in different situations.
SQL Fundamentals
This upper-division course introduces SQL Server and teaches students how to use databases. Topics covered include data retrieval through queries, summarization of data through advanced queries, and the combination of data from multiple tables. Some programs also introduce the display and visualization of data.
Java Programming
Sometimes split into multiple courses, the Java programming component introduces Java object-oriented programming logic and teaches concepts such as operations, control statements, and primitive data types. Java plays an integral role in many business operations.
Introduction to Cybersecurity
Sometimes referred to as cybersecurity foundations, this course introduces the basics of system architecture and operating system analysis with a focus on data security. Topics covered include security policies, security awareness, and the evaluation of different types of digital attacks. Learners also discover the legal and ethical issues surrounding cybersecurity.

Pairing Internships With Your Education

Internships provide undergraduate students with the opportunity to gain industry experience. Many bachelor’s programs offer college credit to those who complete an internship. In some instances, students might receive a combination of experience, payment, and college credit for completing an internship.

Students often apply to internships independently, based on their interests and the type of business or organization they would like to work for after graduation. Many schools help connect students with opportunities through the career services office. Some universities have special partnerships with local organizations to provide students with internship opportunities.

Selecting Your Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Programming Program

Students researching prospective accredited bachelor’s in computer programming degree programs should consider factors such as:


  • School Size The size of a school influences the student-to-faculty ratio, the number of students per course, and how accessible professors might be outside of class. Smaller schools may offer more personalized attention from faculty, but larger schools often offer more program options.

  • Location Schools in large cities may offer more job opportunities after graduation than schools in smaller cities.

  • Program Length Most bachelor’s degrees take four years to complete, though some schools offer accelerated programs that take around three years to complete.

  • Outcomes A degree in computer programming leads to many career opportunities, but some programs do a better job of connecting graduates with opportunities than others. Students should investigate each potential school’s job placement rate.

  • Online vs. In Person Online programs often offer more flexibility and affordability than on-campus programs, but in-person programs offer more structure and engagement.

  • Accreditation Prospective students should only apply to accredited schools. Accreditation indicates that a school meets high standards with respect to academic rigor, faculty qualifications, and student learning outcomes.

Should You Get Your Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Programming Online?

Many students choose to complete an online bachelor’s degree in computer programming. Online education continues to grow in popularity. Online education provides several benefits to students. Learners with busy schedules and full-time jobs benefit from the flexibility of online learning. Some programs offer courses asynchronously, meaning students can complete coursework and watch lectures at their own leisure within set deadlines.

Many schools offer discounted tuition rates to online learners, and online learners often avoid some fees charged to on-campus students. Learners work closely with computers for most computer programming courses, so the material easily translates to distance learning.

While online education offers benefits over on-campus education, many students still prefer to earn their degree on campus. Prospective computer programming students must decide which option suits their style of learning best.

Accreditation for Computer Programming Schools and Programs

Before applying to any school, students should research accreditation. Accreditation verifies that a school and/or program meets the academic standards set by an accrediting body. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) oversee accrediting bodies.

Colleges and universities can receive regional or national accreditation, with regional accreditation generally considered the more prestigious of the two. Many graduate programs and employers only recognize degrees earned from regionally accredited schools. Additionally, only students at accredited schools qualify for federal financial aid.

Programmatic accreditation indicates that a particular program or department meets high professional standards for a particular field. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) Computing Accreditation Commission accredits computer science programs.

Resources

Professional Organizations for Computer Programming

Bachelor’s in computer programming students and graduates can take advantage of professional organizations. Many professional organizations offer benefits such as networking, professional development, and continuing education opportunities.


  • Association for Women in Computing Founded in 1978, AWC promotes women in technology. The association helps women find positions as programmers, operators, and IT specialists through networking and mentoring.

  • IEEE Among the largest organizations for computer professionals, IEEE connects students with professionals in various fields, offers learners access to forums, and provides individuals with industry information.

  • CompTIA Aside from discounts on CompTIA professional certifications, student members receive access to competitions, career advice, and scholarships and grant opportunities.

Scholarships for Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Computer Programming

Scholarships provide students with money to help cover tuition, fees, books, and other educational expenses. The following list outlines several scholarship opportunities for computer programming students.


  • Dell Scholars

    Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports 500 students each year. Recipients receive not only scholarship funds, but a yearly stipend for textbooks, personal support, and access to the Dell Scholars Resource Network. Applicants should have a minimum 2.4 GPA, complete a college readiness program, and eligibility for the Pell Grant.

    Amount: $20,000, plus $500 each year for textbooks

    Apply for Scholarship


  • Rural Tech Fund Cyber Security Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Awarded to students from rural communities, the Rural Tech Fund Cyber Security Scholarship goes to students pursuing a degree related to computer technology. Applicants must answer a series of essay questions and display leadership.

    Amount: $1,000

    Apply for Scholarship


  • Destination z Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: The IBM Destination z Scholarship assists undergraduate students pursuing a degree in computer programming or a related field. Applicants must demonstrate academic excellence and plan on a career in computer programming after graduating.

    Amount: $500-$1,500

    Apply for Scholarship


  • Blacks At Microsoft

    Who Can Apply: Available to African American high school seniors, the BAM scholarship requires two letters of recommendation, two essays, transcripts, and a resume. Applicants must plan on pursuing a bachelor’s degree related to computer science or engineering.

    Amount $5,000

    Apply for Scholarship


  • Google Student Veterans of America Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: The Google Student Veterans of America Scholarship helps student veterans afford a bachelor’s degree in the computer science field. Applicants must be currently enrolled in an undergraduate computer science program and demonstrate academic excellence.

    Amount: $10,000

    Apply for Scholarship

Explore More Scholarships

Frequently Asked Questions


  • How long does it take to get a bachelor's degree in computer programming?

    Most bachelor’s degrees take four years to complete. However, online students in accelerated programs could complete the degree in as little as three years.


  • Is computer programming a good degree?

    Computer programming explores in-demand topics and teaches highly sought-after skills. For those interested in high-growth positions, computer programming is a good degree.


  • How much does a computer programmer make with a bachelor's degree?

    According to the BLS, computer programmers earn a median wage of $86,550, with the top 10% of earners making over $140,250.


  • What can I do with a computer programming bachelor’s degree?

    Graduates with a bachelor’s in computer programming find positions as computer programmers, web developers, and database administrators, among other careers.


  • What degree do you need to be a computer programmer?

    Computer programmers must demonstrate analytical skills and general programming knowledge. While some employers do not require a degree, most require at least a bachelor’s.


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