Computer Programming Degrees and Careers

Computer programmers are in demand. Read up on degrees and what types of jobs are available.

computer programmer at work

French, Spanish … Java and C++? Computer languages may seem intimidating, but computer programmers have the chance to make a positive impact because of their unique ability to create code for advancing technology. Think of all the popular websites and apps you use. There was a computer programmer behind them.

Earning a degree is the first step toward a rewarding career in technology. With a computer programming education, you can find jobs in a variety industries and company size.

What does it take to be a computer programmer?

The majority of computer programmers hold a bachelor's degree in computer science, but some employers accept an associate's degree level education. In some instances, computer programmers graduate with a degree in math or engineering. 

Topics you'll learn in a 4-year undergraduate program include:

  • Computer languages
  • Algorithms
  • Internet programming
  • Programming for multimedia and games
  • Mathematics

Students should graduate with the skills to write programs, debug and work with software developers.

Many employers look for a candidate's experience, which can be a catch-22 for a new college graduate. If possible, secure a computer programming internship at some point in the four years.

Online courses

While some online schools exist for computer programming, you'll find most bachelor's degree programs use a traditional classroom setting. Although online programs may offer a bit more flexibility, learning computer programming in a classroom will give you a chance to meet other aspiring computer programmers and learn from them as well as gain hands-on experience.

Computer programming online courses are popular for those interested in earning a Master of Science in Computer Science degree. Course work will cover advanced areas such as computing theory, computing issues and fixes and user interfaces. Because technology is constantly changing, many computer programmers enroll in continuing education programs to further their expertise during their career.

Profile of a computer programmer

Even with a passion for computers, you'll need to have a good personality fit to enjoy the job. First, throw all your misconceptions about computer programmers out the window. Would you ever think an NBA athlete studied computer programming? Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat did.

As part of a PSA by, a non-profit pushing for more computer education in schools, Bosh talks about learning to code and participating in an after-school group called "The Whiz Kids." The PSA uses Bosh's athlete status and story to shatter those "computer nerd" stereotypes.

But computer programmers do need a certain set of skills. They have to be critical thinkers who love solving complicated problems. At the same time, the job can involve a lot of collaboration so excellent interpersonal skills are a must. 

There's a push to teach more students about computer programming so the employee shortage can eventually end. recently enlisted technology celebrities (Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, to name a few) to promote computer programming education and careers. The group says computer programming jobs are growing at two times the national average, which is promising news for computer majors.

Working as a computer programmer can be satisfying on its own, but some computer programmers advance in their career or take on different responsibilities. Other jobs you can find with a computer science degree include software producers, systems analysts and software engineers.

Computer Programmer Salary

The current shortage of computer science graduates is bad news for tech companies, but great news if you're considering getting a degree in computer programming. According to a 2015 National Association of Colleges and Employers Salary Survey, computer science majors have the highest average starting salaries of all graduates with a master's degree for the class of 2015.

Here's a look at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics salary information:

Median Annual Salary $77,550
Earners in the lowest 10 percent $44,140
Earners in the top 10 percent $127,640

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Computer Programmers.

Earning a computer programming degree can often help boost your salary and help make you an expert in the field of technology.