Best Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Programming 2021
| Staff Writers
A bachelor’s in computer programming prepares students for lucrative computer and information technology (IT) careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that computer and information technology professionals earned a median annual salary of $88,240 as of 2019, significantly more than the median for all occupations of $39,810.
The BLS projects this field to grow by 11% from 2019 to 2029, as demand for computer and IT professionals rises to match industries’ ongoing digitization.
This guide explains what to expect when earning your computer programming degree, including admission requirements, degree type and concentration options, popular courses, and cost. We also discuss career and salary expectations for computer programming graduates.
Prospective students may wonder, “What is computer programming?” Computer programming degrees teach students to encode programs designed by software developers and engineers. Programmers use coding languages like C++, Java, and Python to create applications. They also fix programming errors, test programs, and debug systems.
Computer programming majors also qualify for jobs beyond computer programmer, including software developer, information security analyst, and computer and information analyst.
There were 213,900 computer programming professionals working in the U.S. as of May 2019. However, the BLS projects that number to decline by 20,100 positions from 2019 to 2029, primarily due to outsourcing to other countries. Though this specific career is projected to shrink in the coming years, the computer and IT field can expect strong growth overall.
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Why Get a Computer Programming Bachelor’s Degree?
Earning a bachelor’s in computer programming teaches students new skills and qualifies them for lucrative positions in the technology sector. The BLS projects the addition of 531,200 new jobs in the computer and information technology field for 2019-29.
Though coding bootcamps offer sufficient preparation for some positions, many employers require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree. Below, we describe some benefits of earning your computer programming bachelor’s degree:
Coding majors study the basics of computer science while developing expertise in computer programming. They learn in-demand computer programming languages like Python, Java, and C#.
Variety of Career Paths
A computer programming degree opens the door to many careers in the computer and information technology field, including software developer, database administrator, and computer and information services manager.
The median annual salary for computer programmers was $86,550 as of 2019, and other jobs in the field have even higher earning potential. The BLS projects job growth for the computer and IT field will be faster than average.
Top 5 Bachelor’s in Computer Programming Schools of 2021
Whether you want to study online or in person, read on to discover five of the best bachelor’s in computer programming options you can pursue in 2021.
To learn more about how we rank programs, visit the link below.
Located in Farmingdale, New York, FSC is the largest college of applied science and technology in the State University of New York system. Approximately 10,000 students attend each year, pursuing opportunities in business, technology, science, and design.
FSC's undergraduate computer programming degree offers a practical, hands-on learning experience. The program introduces students to various technology aspects with an emphasis on solving business problems.
Required courses include foundations of computer programming, systems analysis and design, and management information systems. Twenty-one credits of open computer science electives allow learners to complete internships and customize their degree plan according to career goals.
The bachelor's in computer programming requires a writing-intensive senior project, in which students integrate technology skills and concepts to produce results for real-world use. The program prepares graduates for careers as IT specialists, quality assurance technicians, network administrators, and programmers.
Applying to FSC
To apply for the programming major, high school graduates need a minimum B+ average, and college transfer students need a minimum 2.5 GPA. Applicants must provide official transcripts. FSC highly recommends providing letters of recommendation and a personal statement.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: MSCHE Tuition: $3,535/semester (in state); $8,490/semester (out of state) Required Credits: 121-123 credits Delivery Format: On campus
Each year, Columbia welcomes nearly 7,000 students to its campus located in downtown Chicago's Cultural Mile. The private institution builds its academics around three essential competencies: problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity.
Columbia students interested in earning a computer programming degree can pursue either a bachelor of arts or bachelor of science. Major core requirements are similar, covering scripting, programming, and physical computing. Those enrolled in the bachelor of science option take additional math courses.
Learners select from two concentrations. The application programming concentration develops skills in C++ and advanced topics like artificial intelligence and database design. The game programming concentration introduces game engines like Unity and provides the opportunity to develop entire games from idea to product.
While enrolled, Columbia encourages students to participate in real-world events like the Chicago Toy and Game Fair.
Applying to Columbia
Prospective first-year students may complete either Columbia's online application or the Common App. Columbia requires submission of transcripts and a writing sample. Test scores are optional.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Private Accreditation: HLC Tuition: $13,305/semester Required Credits: 120-128 credits Delivery Format: On campus
The New York School of Career and Applied Sciences (NYSCAS) — a division of Touro — offers a programming concentration as part of its bachelor's in business management administration. The 120-credit program develops students' proficiency in Java, database systems, and operating systems.
All concentration track students complete an internship in computer science, requiring a commitment of at least nine hours per week. The business management major core builds additional knowledge of accounting, economics, and statistics. Four open electives offer the opportunity to study advanced topics and specialized subjects like web design and system security.
NYSCAS offers individual career advising, twice-a-year job fairs, and a one-on-one workshop series.
Applying to Touro
NYSCAS accepts new students on a rolling basis. Candidates must complete an online application, submit official transcripts, and schedule an interview with an admissions counselor. SAT and ACT scores are optional, but placement exams may be required.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Private Accreditation: MSCHE Tuition: $7,690/semester Required Credits: 120 credits Delivery Format: On campus
As Michigan's largest independent nonprofit college, Baker enrolls over 7,500 students each year. The college prepares graduates for careers in business, health, human services, and technical disciplines.
Baker constantly updates its bachelor's program in computer science to keep pace with the latest advances in technology. The 120-credit program features a computer programming concentration with courses in advanced computer architecture, engineering programming languages, and big data analytics.
The computer science core builds competencies in other key areas, like application security, database management, and Python, Java, and C++ programming languages. All students must complete a senior project and satisfy a 150-hour work experience requirement.
Baker's computer programming degree offers several flexible learning options. Students can attend class online or study in person at one of the college's convenient Michigan campuses.
Applying to Baker
Prospective students must submit a completed online application and a copy of official transcripts. Baker is a test-optional institution, but SAT or ACT scores may be submitted to determine scholarship eligibility.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Private Accreditation: HLC Tuition: $425/credit Required Credits: 120 credits Program Length: 4 years Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous) or on campus
Limestone is a small, nondenominational Christian institution located in Gaffney, South Carolina. Just over 2,000 students attend each year, pursuing on-campus and online degrees in the liberal arts and sciences.
Limestone's computer science program is ideal for problem-solvers with a passion for technology. The degree's programming concentration builds a strong foundation in key areas like programming, systems administration, security, and architecture.
The 120-credit curriculum, available entirely online, covers both introductory and advanced topics. All students complete a final capstone project in accordance with their career goals. This project requires planning, research, development, extensive writing, and comprehensive exams.
Limestone's computer programming degree challenges students to approach problems with creative and constructive thinking. Graduates can apply their knowledge and skills to careers in software engineering, software analysis, project management, and application development.
Applying to Limestone
Prospective first-year students must submit an online application and a copy of their high school transcript or GED certificate. Candidates under the age of 21 should provide ACT or SAT scores.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Private Accreditation: SACSCOC Tuition: $441/credit Required Credits: 120 credits Program Length: 4 years Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
What the Best Computer Programming Degrees Have in Common
No two students have the same college experience, but many top schools share key characteristics relating to accreditation, academic quality, and affordability.
They are accredited. Attending an accredited school should be a top priority for all prospective college students. Accreditation acts as a form of quality assurance. This impacts the relevance of your education, the transferability of your credits, and the professional value of your completed degree. All five schools included in our ranking hold regional accreditation from one of the following agencies:
Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
They promote academic excellence. We can measure a school’s overall academic excellence by looking at metrics such as retention and graduation rates. These two factors indicate both student satisfaction and the level of academic support students receive during their enrollment. At Touro College, for example, 84% of full-time undergraduates who enrolled for the first time in fall 2018 returned to continue their studies in fall 2019.
They maintain a high reputation. Attending a college with a top reputation can positively impact the experience of enrolled students and the success of graduates. Top schools offer robust career support services and prepare students to compete successfully in the job market. This holds true at Farmingdale State College, which reports that 94% of bachelor’s program graduates find employment within six months.
They are affordable. Affordability is a concern of many prospective college students. This metric reflects tuition prices, financial aid availability, and post-graduation debt. The most affordable schools tend to offer low net tuition costs because a large percentage of students receive scholarships, grants, and federal aid. At Baker College, 86% of students pursuing a bachelor’s in computer programming receive some form of financial aid.
What To Expect From a Bachelor’s in Computer Programming
Computer programming bachelor’s degrees build a foundation in computer science, with a focus on developing computer programming skills. Typical curricula cover topics like software development, hardware engineering, software testing, and computer systems analysis.
Most computer programming bachelor’s degrees require 120 credits. Full-time students usually complete their degrees in four years and qualify for a variety of entry-level computer-related occupations upon graduation. Cost expectations for the degree vary by school, but public colleges where learners can pay in-state tuition are usually the most affordable.
Computer programming degrees typically offer several concentrations, including data analytics, cybersecurity, mobile computing, and computer systems. Popular courses include software testing, mobile computing, and program design.
Admission requirements for bachelor’s in computer programming degrees vary by school, usually entailing a high school diploma with a minimum GPA of 2.5-3.0 or a GED certificate. Most universities require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores, letters of recommendation, and admission essays.
Many schools use the Common App, which lets students upload their application materials and send them to multiple schools simultaneously. More than 900 public and private colleges use the Common App.
Degree and Concentration Options
Prospective students often wonder, “What degree do you need to be a computer programmer?” Most computer programmers hold a bachelor’s in computer programming or a related field. Programs typically offer a BS or BA in the discipline.
BS in Computer Programming
A BS in computer programming includes a math and science focus. These degrees may focus more on the analytical aspects of computer programming. A BS is ideal for students interested in working for engineering and science firms.
BA in Computer Programming
A BA in computer programming often requires more liberal arts coursework than a BS. This degree is ideal for learners seeking employment outside engineering and science companies. Many BA students add a minor or double major in a field outside of computer science.
Many computer programming schools offer concentrations that let students focus on a subdiscipline. Learners choose specializations relevant to their career goals. Popular concentrations include data analytics, cybersecurity, and mobile computing.
A data analytics concentration includes coursework that provides students a foundation in statistical analysis of data.
A cybersecurity concentration teaches students about data security and protection. This specialization is particularly useful for aspiring information security analysts.
A mobile computing concentration develops students’ coding skills for mobile platforms like cell phones and tablets.
Comparing Computer Programming to General Computer Science Degrees
When researching prospective programs, students should consider whether their needs are better suited by a computer programming or general computer science degree.
A general computer science degree provides a broad survey of computer science concepts and practices. While a computer programming degree also covers the basics of computer science, there is a curricular emphasis on computer programming languages and developing coding skills.
Students who know they want to work as programmers may benefit from a programming degree, while those unsure of their specific career path may want to pursue a computer science bachelor’s.
The chart below compares key differences between a bachelor’s in computer programming and a general computer science degree:
Bachelor’s in Computer Programming
Bachelor’s in Computer Science
Computer science theory and practice
Types of Classes
Introduction to computer programming; systems programming; mobile computing; program design
Introduction to computer programming; computer networking; data structures; algorithms
High school diploma or GED certificate; SAT/ACT scores
High school diploma or GED certificate; SAT/ACT scores
Computer programmer; software developer; database administrator; computer and information systems manager
Computer and information research scientist; computer and information systems manager; software developer; information security analyst
Computer programming degree requirements vary, but a typical curriculum focuses on topics like programming languages, information systems, data structures, and professionalism and ethics. Our list below describes several common computer programming courses.
This class teaches students fundamental computer programming theories and terminology. Topics include debugging, integrated development environments, and self-documenting code. Learners practice coding simple computer programs.
This class introduces students to data structures and algorithms. Topics include using search algorithms, sorting, and string processing. Learners master concepts like recursive backtracking, divide-and-conquer, and algorithm efficiency.
Building on students’ knowledge of system architecture and operating systems, this course teachers learners about information security. Topics include security awareness, data encryption, and legal and ethical issues of information security. Students also explore forensics, threat analysis, and security domains.
In this course, students learn about the MySQL relational database model, including how to install, configure, and populate these databases with data. Learners also study programming languages like Python and PHP to build web applications and interfaces.
This class explores the importance of ethics and professional issues in the IT world, including the social and legal aspects of computing. Students gain professional communication, teamwork, and critical thinking skills.
How Much Will a Bachelor’s in Computer Programming Cost?
The cost of earning a computer programming bachelor’s degree varies. Factors that impact price include program format (online or in-person), school type (public or private), and student residency (in-state or out-of-state).
The most affordable schools are usually public, in-state institutions. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), undergraduate tuition and fees for public, in-state universities cost $20,598 on average as of the 2018-19 academic year.
Private and out-of-state schools often cost significantly more, respectively averaging $44,662 and $26,382 for undergraduate tuition and fees as of the 2018-19 academic year, according to NCES. Online programs may charge all learners in-state tuition regardless of their home state.
Computer programming majors should consider other costs, including textbooks, technology, and housing. Most colleges offer financing options for computer programming degrees, including scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study programs. See the link below for more information about how to pay for your bachelor’s.
Jobs for Bachelor’s in Computer Programming Graduates
What jobs can you get with a computer programming degree? There are many careers available: Computer programmers, for instance, earned a median annual salary of $86,550 in 2019. However, the BLS projects computer programming jobs in the U.S. to decline from 2019 to 2029 due to outsourcing, though programmers with bachelor’s remain more competitive and often qualify for higher-paying programming positions.
Other jobs are equally or more lucrative. For example, according to the BLS, computer and information systems managers earned a median annual salary of $146,360 in 2019, and the field is projected to grow from 2019 to 2029.
Below, we describe popular careers for graduates of bachelor’s in computer programming programs:
Computer programmers develop code for software programs and computer applications. They also test new applications, fix coding mistakes, and update software. Computer programmers can stay competitive by learning a variety of programming languages and keeping abreast of industry trends.
Computer and information systems managers oversee computer-related activities for their organization. Job duties include recommending technology upgrades to managers, analyzing costs and benefits of computer-related projects, managing other IT employees, and overseeing the organization’s information security.
Software developers create operating systems and applications. They need strong communication, analytical, and problem-solving skills. Software developers work in the computer systems design, manufacturing, and software publishing industries. Typical responsibilities include designing software that meets user needs, recommending upgrades, and documenting designs.
Database administrators organize and store data. They analyze user needs, back up information to prevent data loss, and update permissions. Database administrators find work in computer systems design, educational services, and management. Industry certifications can improve employment prospects.
Our rankings for the best computer programming bachelor’s degrees is a great place to begin your search, but consider other factors when choosing a program. Below, we discuss additional criteria to consider as you find the right computer programming degree.
Prospective coding majors should make sure any school they consider is regionally accredited, an indicator that it offers high-quality education. Attending a regionally accredited university also makes it easier to qualify for financial aid, transfer credits to another institution, and apply for graduate school or professional certifications. Some programs may hold programmatic accreditation from the Computing Accreditation Commission, which ensures coursework prepares students for careers in the field.
The typical computer programming bachelor’s degree takes four years of full-time study to complete. Students with a certificate or associate degree in computer programming may graduate more quickly because of transfer credits.
Consider the estimated cost of tuition and fees, the cost of housing, and financial aid options. Apply to programs that fit your budgetary restrictions.
Future Education Opportunities
Students who plan to pursue a master’s degree may want a computer programming program that offers graduate-level opportunities.
Should You Get Your Computer Programming Degree Online?
Benefits of an online computer programming degree include flexibility, convenience, and cost savings. Distance education programs often feature asynchronous coursework, which lets students complete coursework according to their schedules. This convenience is particularly valuable for learners with full-time jobs, families, and other personal responsibilities who want to earn their degrees amidst these obligations.
Given the technology-heavy nature of programming as a field, a computer programming degree may be especially suited to the online learning experience. Many of the courses required in an on-campus computer degree translate easily to a distance format because of how much coursework must be completed on a computer. The innovative educational technology used for online learning also allows for meaningful engagement with class materials and peers.
What degree do you need to be a computer programmer?
Consider a bachelor’s degree in computer programming if you want to become a computer programmer. Most employers in the field require or prefer job applicants with at least a bachelor’s.
How long does it take to become a computer programmer?
A computer programming bachelor’s degree typically takes four full-time years to complete. Students usually qualify for entry-level computer programmer positions immediately after graduating.
What jobs can you get with a computer programming degree?
A computer programming degree qualifies graduates for a variety of computing and IT jobs, such as computer programmer, software developer, database administrator, and computer and information systems manager.
Is computer programming a good career?
Computer programming can be a rewarding career for individuals who enjoy working with technology and have good analytical and troubleshooting skills. Computer programmers may also qualify for other high-salary computer and IT careers.