Just like there are greats in the science fields, there are greats in the computer programming field. Just think of the enterprising programmers who helped found Facebook, Google and Twitter, to name a few. And with computers being a relatively new invention, we've only scratched the surface on the possibilities that can be realized through them. If you'd like to be involved with the next advances of the computer industry, earning an online computer programming degree might be a wise move to make in order to start off your career on the right foot.
Best Online Colleges for Computer Programming in 2018-19
Are you trying to find the online computer programming degree program that's right for you? Our ranking of the 10 best online colleges for computer programming might be able to help you find what you're looking for. Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and our unique methodology, we have identified the top 10 accredited colleges for the subject in the U.S. For more details on our methodology, see the bottom of this page.
Georgia Piedmont Technical College
Laramie County Community College
University of Toledo
Sinclair Community College
University of Maryland-University College
University of Phoenix-Arizona
Pitt Community College
Why Pursue an Online Computer Programming Degree?
Computer programming is a technical field, requiring an understanding and knowledge of basic and more advanced computer languages. Degree programs in computer programming can enable students to build skills in these languages and to learn how to apply them in specific ways, i.e., to application development or software design.
What Online Computer Programming Courses Can I Take?
Online computer programming degrees are available at a variety of levels, in both undergraduate and graduate programs. Undergraduate programs can help students to develop basic skills and knowledge in programming while graduate level degrees are more advanced, sometimes even providing opportunities for research. More details on coursework in these programs are listed directly below.
- Certificates and diplomas are the most short-term programs available to students interested in computer programming. Most courses in these programs are foundational in scope, allowing students to learn the likes of Visual Basic, Java and Microsoft Access.
- Continuing on, students enrolled in online colleges for computer programming at the associate degree level will generally find themselves taking general education coursework along with computer programming classes. The Linux operating system, object-oriented programming and C# are common themes explored in associate programs.
- Online bachelor's degree programs in computer programming can help students to understand programming in a much broader context, including its application in business, information technology and computing. Students may be able to learn about algorithms and data structures, programming enterprise applications and IT case planning. Research methods, cyber-security and cloud computing could also be addressed. A senior project is necessary in some programs.
- Students enrolled in online master's degrees in computer programming may have an increased ability to steer their coursework toward desired learning goals, after completing required courses. Advanced programming and algorithms may be topics in a master's program, along with software program management and software design.
- At the PhD level, most degrees are available in computer science rather than the field of computer programming. However, many PhD degrees give students an opportunity to pursue very specific work, and so specializing in programming can be done. Keep in mind that PhD degrees can be quite rigorous and require research, an oral exam or a dissertation.
What Skills Are Necessary to Become a Computer Programmer?
Computer programmers need to have specific knowledge and skills to be successful on the job. Students seeking online education for computer programming may want to think about finessing the following skills while they are enrolled in a program.
- Concentration: Computer programmers spend a lot of time focused on a computer or computer screen, examining and writing lines of code. The ability to concentrate and not be easily distracted by co-workers, the smell of coffee or a jingling phone can be an asset on the job.
- Detail-oriented: The ability to concentrate is one thing, but the ability to discover the small details that are creating large problems is entirely another. Attention to detail is particularly important to computer programmers looking through long, continuous lines of code.
- Troubleshooting: When a good computer programmer runs their newly-finished program and it crashes their computer, it is important to immediately start thinking about how to find and fix the issue in the code. Learning multiple ways to test for and isolate an issue is a crucial step of the coding process, and therefore important to a computer programmer.
- Critical thinking: Troubleshooting relies in large part upon being able to think critically about the problem being presented. Critical thinking skills allow professionals to consider a problem from many different perspectives, considering this possibility and that possibility in order to find the best solution for their situation. The knowledge imparted by a computer programming degree program can provide such different perspectives, facilitating the troubleshooting process and by extension many computer programming careers.
What Computer Programming Certifications Are There?
Many different types of certifications are available to computer programmers, including in specific programming languages, specific products or through specific platforms. Computer programmers often choose to become certified in the languages or products that they most commonly use in order to demonstrate to prospective employers where their skills lie. The Bureau of Labor Statistics even reports that some employers may outright require their employees to be certified in the products they specialize in on the job. The Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) credential may be among the most prevalent certifications in this field; it even appears as a requirement on some job board posts. There are actually five different certifying areas within this credential, and a test is required for each. Once an MCSD credential is obtained, re-certification is required in most of the fields each year. Other types of certifications are available through organizations such as:
- IEEE Computer Society
Computer Programming Career Opportunities
Computers and their programs are going to continue to be an integral part of our society, and many people will be needed to build, improve and fix them. However, since programming is so easily done remotely, programming opportunities are sometimes hired out of country. As such, you'll want to make sure your skills and resume are well polished when you start your career in this field.
Every program that exists was once just a vision in somebody's head, and every program that will ever exist is going to start the same way. Software developers dream up new ideas for computer programs and processes, then design documents and flowcharts for how the pieces of the project will fit together so that computer programmers can make it a reality.
A developer's involvement doesn't end after the software is coded, either. Software developers must keep notes on the systems they design, figure out and implement fixes as the inevitable bugs pop up, and work with with other computer specialists to think up, outline, and program new or related products. Knowledge of programming languages is obviously a must, but people in software developer careers need to be problem-solvers as well.
Computer and mobile applications are the forte of applications developers, who have the brains and pizzazz to design brand-new applications that satisfy the unfulfilled needs of their customers. Like software developers, applications developers outline the pieces and requirements of their upcoming undertaking, then work with computer programmers to ensure the finished product is in line with their initial concept.
Applications developer careers require an ability to work independently, but also to work in groups to resolve problems, often under deadline as their applications prepare to head out the door for public consumption. Their work doesn't end once the product ships, either: monitoring the performance of their applications, both to produce necessary bugfixes and gather information for their next project, is of vital importance.
"Code" is the key word in the world of computer programmers. Since these professionals often know several different computer languages, programming is like a second tongue to them. They are experts in writing code, but also in tracking down coding errors and making requisite changes. While developers often paint a picture of where to go, computer programmers write the code to make it happen, then test the result, experimenting to see whether the code is working correctly and correcting any bugs that might be causing errors.
Computer programming can be done from just about anywhere in the world, making it a versatile career for somebody who has a lot of other obligations to juggle.
Creating an attractive, easily-navigable website does not occur with the snap of the fingers. That is why companies hire professionals to do the planning and heavy lifting. After all, working with HTML is not a simple task; web development takes technical skills, patience and a well thought-out plan.
Web developer careers require knowledge of software, like Notepad++ for text editing and Browserstack to carry out cross-browser testing, but this software changes over time, making up-to-date knowledge important. Having a solid grounding in these programs from a Computer Programming education is therefore valuable to the fledgling web developer. Monitoring website traffic, adding graphics and interactive features, and using the latest markup language, like HTML5, are other aspects.
Computer programming may not be the best way for you to learn about computers, or the best approach to your career goals. In such a situation, one of these related programs may be a better fit for what you need.
Using the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), we generated a list of colleges and universities that met the following four criteria for the specific subject being ranked:
- Offer a degree or certificate program in that subject, either in an online or hybrid format
- Have at least 1% of students attending some form of distance education
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in 2016-17
- Have reported data for all 11 ranking variables listed below
We ranked 1,813 colleges and universities in the United States on 11 criteria, using 2016-17 data from IPEDS:
- Program prominence, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded via distance education in 2016-2017 were in this particular subject
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered via distance education at any level
- Ratio of students participating fully or partially in DE to Total Enrollment
- Average in-state tuition for undergraduates
- Graduation rate
- Retention rate
- The availability of any tuition plans (Payment, Prepaid, Guaranteed, Other)
- Services (Academic/Career, Placement for Completers)
- Credit offerings (Dual, Life, AP, Military)
- Percent of undergraduate students awarded federal, state, local, institutional or other sources of grant aid
- Average amount of federal, state, local, institutional, or other sources of grant aid awarded to undergraduate students
All schools were scored on a 10-point scale for each of the points listed above. Individual data point scores were then multiplied by their respective weights, and the scores were added together, for a maximum possible score of 10 points.
NOTE: Schools' tuition amounts are based on 2016-17 undergraduate and graduate data reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2017-18, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/