Have you ever been curious about what goes on behind the scenes of the software that runs your phone? How about how Candy Crush knows which piece is which, or how Facebook and Google use your Web history to choose the ads they serve you? Training in computer programming can help you understand all these things and more, with the added benefit of giving you highly marketable job skills in an employment sector that's been growing for years.
We asked Craig Brown, tech lecturer and president of data education startup PicoCluster, about opportunity for skilled computer programmers on today's job market. "IT in general and computer programming specifically have a great deal of demand in every area," he told us. "It's one of the few areas of our economy that has a growing number of high-paying opportunities."
Brown went on to say that online computer programming courses at colleges around the country can also give you the skills you need to find a high-mobility position in more ways than one. "There are opportunities to move up in the field or specialize in different areas or industries. You can work almost anywhere in the world if you want to."
What to Know About Online Degrees in Computer Programming
Students at all academic levels can find one-off courses as well as degree training online at computer programming schools across the country. Associate degree and undergraduate certificate work tends to focus on the fundamentals, featuring introductions to programming concepts, systems analysis, human-computer interaction and popular coding languages like C, Java, and Visual Basic.
At the bachelor's level, the subjects studied in online computer programming courses become more in-depth and cover a broader range of concepts. Here's a quick rundown of the sort of courses you can expect during your bachelor's degree study online at computer programming colleges:
- Data security
- Website development
- Networking fundamentals
- User interface design
- Calculus and discrete math
- Data structures
- Software design
- Project management
The study of languages can get fairly advanced at the bachelor's level, with as many as 20 credit hours sometimes devoted to an individual programming paradigm over the course of a degree plan. Some online computer programming schools may structure their study plans as general computer science degrees with a focus on programming, while others may fold their programming concentrations into degrees named for software development, Web development or other associated disciplines.
Programming-related options for graduate study in computer science include artificial intelligence programming, application engineering, advanced use of particular programming languages and more. Although master's degrees at online computer programming schools and colleges are typically grouped under the computer science umbrella, Craig Brown suggests that you shouldn't be discouraged. "Most employers don't care about the name of the degree," he said. "Most good employers will value experience over an equivalent degree."
What is the Career Outlook for Computer Programmers?
Computer-focused tech jobs are set to increase 12 percent between 2014 and 2024, according to projections published by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is nearly twice as fast as the average expected growth for the job market at large. On top of that, Indeed.com reported 339,499 IT job postings in November 2015 alone, an increase of 17 percent over the previous year.
Here are a few of the top careers for graduates of online computer programming schools, along with job growth data and average salary figures provided by the BLS:
|Occupation Title||Projected Job growth (2014-2024)||National Mean Annual Salary (2014)|
|Systems software developer||13 percent||$106,050|
|Applications developer||19 percent||$99,530|
|Computer systems analyst||21 percent||$87,320|
|Database administrator||11 percent||$82,280|
|Information security analyst||18 percent||$91,600|
Once you've graduated and found a job in the industry, remember to stay up on your programming education. "There are few careers that require such constant education as IT and programming specifically," says Craig Brown. "You have leading edge technologies that change on a monthly or even weekly basis. No matter what path you take, programming requires constant education."
How Can I Know How to Choose the Right School?
There are a few important caveats to keep in mind when shopping around for degree plans at online computer programming colleges. Perhaps most importantly of all, make sure that the program you choose is accredited by a reputable regional or national accrediting agency.
Accreditation is one of the most important things in higher education, and not everybody knows to look for it. Programs become accredited when the education they provide is determined to meet a set of standards shared by established colleges and universities. If you don't make sure you're choosing an accredited degree, you may not get the full measure of education that you pay for.
Beyond accreditation, Craig Brown suggests looking into the program faculty before committing to a particular school. "You really want professors that are industry professionals and have ties to the local business community," Brown said. "The more you're able to work on real projects before graduation, the better off you'll be."
1. School pages, accessed December 22, 2015: AAS in Computer Programming, Brigham Young University, http://www.byui.edu/online/degrees-and-programs/computer-programming; Undergraduate Certificate in Computer Programming, North Carolina State University, https://distance.ncsu.edu/programs/undergraduate-certificate-in-computer-programming; Online Computer Programming Languages Certificate, Penn Foster Career School, http://www.pennfoster.edu/programs-and-degrees/computer-programming-and-support/computer-programming-languages-certificate; Computer Technologies Associate Degree, Excelsior College, http://www.excelsior.edu/programs/technology/technology-computer-technologies-associate-degree; courses, Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, Software Application Programming, http://www.coloradotech.edu/degrees/bachelors/it/software-application-programming#parentHorizontalTab2; Bachelor of Science in Software Development, Western Governors University, http://www.wgu.edu/online_it_degrees/software_development_degree; Master of Computer Programming, Atlantic International University, http://aiu.edu/master%20of%20computer%20programming.htm; Online Master of Science in Computer Science, New Jersey Institute of Technology, http://graduatedegrees.online.njit.edu/masters-computer-science/; MS in Artificial Intelligence, Franklin College, http://www.ai.uga.edu/content/ms-artificial-intelligence; Masters in Computer Science and Engineering, Barcelona School of Informatics, http://www.fib.upc.edu/en/masters/mai.html; Artificial Intelligence Graduate Certificate, Stanford University, http://www.fib.upc.edu/en/masters/mai.html
2. US Industry Employment Trends, Indeed.com, accessed December 22, 2015, http://www.indeed.com/jobtrends/industry3
3. Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed December 22, 2015: Computer Programmers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-programmers.htm; Software Developers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Computer-and-Information-Technology/Software-developers.htm; Computer Systems Analysts, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-systems-analysts.htm; Database Administrators, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/database-administrators.htm; Information Security Analysts, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm;
4. May 2014 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed December 22, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
5. Interview, Craig Brown, conducted October 23, 2015