Computer programming majors study programming languages like C++, Java, and Python in order to produce the codes for software applications and operating systems. Programmers turn software designs into instructions that a computer can read and follow. Programmers also test programs, fix errors, and debug systems. While an accredited online computer programming degree prepares graduates to work in many different industries, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that most programmers work in computer systems design and related fields. According to BLS, computer programmers earned a median annual wage of $82,240 in 2017—80% higher than the median salary for all occupations.
While the BLS also projects slowed job growth rates for computer programmers through 2026, the skills learned in a computer programming bachelor’s degree can apply to several other jobs in IT. The BLS projects a 13% growth rate for all computer–related occupations in the same time period.
Professionals with a bachelor’s degree or higher and individuals fluent in several programming languages should enjoy excellent job prospects. Candidates may further strengthen their resumes by combining an online degree in computer programming with supplemental business or science courses. Some students round out their online computer programming degree by pursuing a concentration or by taking technical elective courses in areas like data structures, artificial intelligence, and computer graphics.
Online Computer Programming Program Ranking Guidelines
We selected the programs based on the quality of the program, the types of courses offered, the faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation, including the school’s reputation for effectively providing online degree programs.
The Best Online Bachelor’s in Computer Programming Programs
1. Western Governors University
Salt Lake City, Utah
With a main campus in Salt Lake City, Utah, Western Governors University’s BS in software development degree is available through a competency–based online program. This track prepares students for careers in web development, app development, and computer programming. The program focuses on practical applications of course material, ensuring that everything students learn in the classroom can be directly applied to their professional lives.
The program is different from other computer science online degree programs in that it is competency–based, meaning students advance through the curriculum at whatever speed fits their learning style and professional background. Students with prior knowledge or experience can test out of courses and advance rapidly. Dedicated individuals often finish the program ahead of schedule, sometimes in as few as six months. The median time frame is two years, and the average students transfers 31 credits into the program.
This online degree consists of 34 courses, all which can be completed online in an asynchronous format. Students take one course at a time, completing papers, projects, and assessments. Individuals progress to the next course in the degree track once they pass a final competency test.
Course offerings include scripting and programming foundations, user interface design, and software engineering. Students also complete a capstone course where they develop their own software application. The program offers built–in certifications, including CompTIA and CIW, which students earn without taking extra courses or paying extra fees. WGU charges a flat–rate tuition for each six–month term, no matter how many courses a student completes in that time frame.
Western Governors University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
2. Fort Hays State University
Based in northwestern Kansas, Fort Hays State University’s virtual college offers students a convenient and affordable way to earn an undergraduate degree. The school’s online BS in computer science is a relatively new program that prepares students for careers in web development and computer engineering. Graduates can pursue jobs at universities, leading tech companies like Google and Facebook, and regional companies like Cargill.
The school’s computer programming online degree uses a flexible structure that allows full– or part–time students to take as many courses as their schedules can handle. Students can even skip a semester if they need to. To help interested students decide whether distance learning is right for them, the school’s website offers a short 15 question quiz.
The program requires students to complete 120 credits. The three–part curriculum consists of general education courses, including computer literacy and elements of statistics, as well as a selection of major courses and an emphasis track in either business or networking. Major coursework features classes in java programming and software engineering. The networking emphasis focuses on interworking and advanced LAN networking, while business courses include principles of accounting and managerial finance. Students also take a one–credit capstone requirement to complete the program.
Fort Hays State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
3. Champlain College
Based in Burlington, Vermont, Champlain College offers several online programs. The school’s bachelor’s in online software development track is one of the best online computer science degree programs of its kind. Champlain designed this program for working professionals who want to break into the field of computer programming. The curriculum teaches students the skills necessary to design, develop, and manage computer programs, web applications, and databases. Graduates can pursue a growing number of tech–based careers.
The school’s online computer programming degree requires individuals to earn 120 credits, 90 of which can be transferred from another institution. With the exception of a few intensive, 15–week long courses, such as data and algorithms, most classes last seven weeks. Semesters consist of two, seven–week sessions. Students can access online coursework 24 hours a day, without set class meeting times, allowing individuals to complete assignments at their convenience.
Students take 63 credit credits of professional courses, including introduction to computer systems, networking fundamentals, and foundations of cyber security. Distance learners also complete general education courses in technical writing, ethics in the profession, and discrete mathematics.
Champlain offers six different start dates throughout the year. The program also offers certifications in C++ programming, Java programming, software development, and visual C#, which students can earn before graduating.
Champlain College is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Higher Education (NEASC–CIHE).
4. Davenport University
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Davenport University is a nonprofit school that boasts diverse online course offerings and a small student to teacher ratio. The school’s online BS in computer science program teaches students how to write software, qualifying them for jobs in the fields of IT, telecommunications, education, and finance. The program encourages students to explore a range of programming interests, including gaming, robotics, and artificial intelligence. Graduates can become software engineers, mobile app developers, and game developers.
Distance learners pursuing this online degree in computer programming must complete 120 credits, and they can take classes online or in–person. Required courses include database design, diversity in society, and software engineering. After completing required courses, students specialize in one of three areas: biometrics, computer architecture and algorithms, or gaming and simulation. Distance learners take 12 credits of coursework focusing on their chosen specialization. Interested students can also add a specialty in math modeling.
Davenport University accepts many types of transfer credits, including some qualifying high school courses. Students can also earn several certifications, including certificates from Adobe and Microsoft, which can set individuals apart from their peers when it comes time to look for a job. 97% of Davenport University’s student body receive some form of financial aid.
Davenport University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
5. Husson University
With a dedication to social responsibility, Husson University in Bangor, Maine helps professionals from New England and around the country advance their careers. The school offers an online BS in integrative technology that equips individuals with the skills necessary to begin a career in software development. Students learn how to build hardware, analyze data, and communicate with clients, qualifying them for high–paying careers in the tech field.
Distance learners pursuing this computer programming degree online complete 121–122 credits. Students typically finish in one to two years, depending on their course load and number of transfer credits. In addition to 50 general education credits, which focus on the humanities and core sciences, students take 33 credits of classes related to software and business. These major–related courses include introduction to computer programming, workflow management, and theory and practice in IT security. Students also complete 6–7 credits of advanced mathematics, choosing from courses such as logic and problem solving and calculus with applications. Students round out the program by taking 30 elective credits, six of which must directly relate to integrative technology.
All online students pay the same tuition, regardless of their state of residency. Additionally, Husson lets students apply up to 90 transfer credits to their degree. Applicants submit all their official transcripts as well as their SAT or ACT scores.
Husson University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Higher Education (NEASC-CIHE).
6. Hodges University
Hodges University is a nonprofit, international school that offers several affordable online degrees. Working professionals and nontraditional students with busy schedules may find the school’s online programming particularly appealing. Hodges’ online BS in software development program prepares students for careers in computer programming, teaching them how to address the needs of clients with technology. Graduates of the program can go on to work computer and electronic product manufacturing, finance, and software publishing, among many other fields. The school’s career services help current students and graduates find employment.
This online degree in computer programming is offered entirely online through a self–paced format. Students can also opt to earn this degree in–person at the school’s campus in Naples, Florida. Full–time students who take 12 hours per semester usually complete the program in four years.
The degree consists of 120 total hours of coursework, including 80 hours of software development courses, 32 hours of liberal arts courses, and eight hours of electives. Major courses include classes in computer information technology (CIT), software development, and business. CIT courses include hardware support essentials and introduction to web design, while courses in the software development core include game program design, software engineering, and mobile applications development. Students also take personal finance and principles of accounting classes.
Hodges University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
7. Limestone College
Gaffney, South Carolina
Established as one of the first women’s colleges in the country, Limestone College became fully coeducational in the late 1960s. This non–denominational Christian liberal arts college has a main campus in Gaffney, South Carolina. The school boasts a small student to teacher ratio and affordable courses that can be taken both online and face to face. Limestone’s BS in computer science – programming track teaches students how to write code and design and maintain information systems. Graduates can go on to work as software analysts, application developers, and programmers.
This online computer programming degree consists of 123 credits. In addition to general education courses, students take major–related classes such as operating systems and networking fundamentals, information system analysis and design, advanced microcomputer applications, and introduction to calculus for business. Distance learners also complete a capstone project where they write weekly reports and put together a final research paper.
An affordable degree option, 98% of the student body at Limestone College receives some form of financial aid. Interested students should be comfortable taking courses in a Christian learning environment that seeks to uphold Christian ethics and ideals. Interested students can apply for free online.
Limestone College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
8. Bellevue University
Based in eastern Nebraska, Bellevue University consistently ranks as one of the top military–friendly universities. The school is also known for offering a variety of affordable online degrees. Bellevue’s online BS in software development teaches students how to maintain, develop, and design software for individual consumers and businesses. The school designed this program for professional coders who need a four–year degree for career advancement and for students interested in starting a new career in computer programming.
Students can complete Bellevue’s accelerated online computer programming degree the internet or in–person. Graduates leave the program with expertise in software development and analysis as well as professional skills in business, writing, and communication.
The degree consists of 127 credits: 36 general education credits, 55 elective credits, and 36 major–related credits. Major courses include business system programming, intermediate and advanced Java courses, and information security. In addition to major requirements, all students at Bellevue must take the school’s Kirkpatrick Signature Series, a trio of courses designed to educate students about the traditions of Western Civilization and the history of American values. The series includes courses in American vision and values, tradition and change, and freedom and responsibility.
Online students pay the same tuition, regardless of their state of residency, although active duty members of the U.S. armed forces receive a substantial tuition discount. Applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED certificate, and individuals who want to transfer credits into the program must submit official transcripts from all previously attended schools.
Bellevue University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
9. Southwestern College
Ranked as one of the top providers of online bachelor’s programs in the U.S., Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas specializes in online courses designed for working professionals and military members. The school’s online BS in computer programming teaches students how to program computer applications, beginning with the development of algorithms and ending with the maintenance of completed applications. Courses use HTML, XHTML, Java, and Visual Basic, while also emphasizing related career skills like communication and problem solving.
Foundational requirements include courses in ethics, professional communication, and composition. Students also take six humanities credits, six social science credits, and four natural science/mathematics credits. The major–related coursework in this program includes SQL fundamentals and Java programming. Distance learners also complete a senior capstone requirement where they create a portfolio related to their career interests. The program delivers online classes in flexible, six–week terms.
To earn this online computer programming degree, students complete 124 credits of coursework. Southwestern is a transfer–friendly institution, but students must complete at least 30 credits of coursework through the college. Learners may also qualify for credit based on previous military and work/life experiences. Applicants must possess a GPA of 2.0 or higher and six post–high school credits.
Southwestern College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
10. Baker College
Based in Flint, Michigan, and hosting 10 additional locations across the state, Baker College is Michigan’s largest independent not–for–profit college. The school focuses exclusively on degrees that qualify students for jobs in growing fields, helping graduates gain meaningful employment quickly. The school’s flexible scheduling is well–suited for working students with busy schedules. With 70% of students receiving some form of scholarship assistance, Baker is an affordable option for individuals seeking an online degree.
The school’s BS in computer science with a concentration in computer programming prepares students for careers in the burgeoning field of software development. Students learn about the fundamentals of mobile technologies, computer languages, and internet communications. Graduates can pursue work in the areas of program development, computer analysis, and mobile app design.
Baker’s online computer programming degree contains 120 hours of coursework. 72 of these relate directly to computer science and involve classes in database management and design, data structures and algorithms, and programming for mobiles devices. Students also take concentration courses in Python programming and advanced computer architecture. Additionally, they choose one science elective course, such as introduction to healthcare, principles of astronomy, or environmental science. General education requirements at Baker include composition and cultural diversity classes.
Baker College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The school is also an approved institution of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact and a participant in the Academic Quality Improvement Program.
The Advantages of a Computer Programming Education
In today’s competitive job market, computer programmers who hold a bachelor’s degree and understand multiple programming languages gain an edge over less–educated candidates. An associate–level online computer programming degree may lead to internship opportunities or entry–level positions in web development or computer support. However, many professionals are expected to hold a bachelor’s degree, including computer programmers, software developers, and information security analysts.
Individuals who earn a computer programming degree online also enjoy greater opportunities for professional growth, particularly in the computer science and information technology industries. For example, experienced computer programmers often transition to high–level software developer roles. BLS projects a 24% job growth rate for software developers from 2016 to 2026. Graduates can also improve their professional skills and increase their career advancement opportunities by pursuing vendor certifications and mastering specialized concepts in networking, systems analysis, database management, and mobile applications development.
Computer Programming Degree Salary Information
In the ever–expanding tech industry, earning a computer programming degree online can lead to a variety of career opportunities in many different settings. A bachelor’s degree in computer programming qualifies graduates for entry–level positions in software development, network and system administration, and other computer science and information technology fields. While job requirements vary considerably between employers, gaining additional work experience and specialized skills can help advance your career. Below are a few of the most common jobs for computer programming graduates.
- Computer Programmer
- Computer programmers write code, test programs, and fix bugs. Most possess a bachelor’s degree and a working knowledge of one or more computer languages, such as C++ or Java. Using programming languages, they translate designs or applications into code that computers use to produce meaningful output.
Salary based on experience:
- Entry Level: $54,419
- Mid-Career: $68,440
- Experienced: $77,950
- Late Career: $84,220
- Software Developer
- Most software developers focus on designing either operating systems or computer applications. These professionals must possess strong computer programming skills.
Salary based on experience:
- Entry Level: $65,699
- Mid-Career: $79,424
- Experienced: $89,223
- Late Career: $95,663
- Network Administrator
- Charged with maintaining local area networks, wide area networks, and intranets, network administrators ensure that an organization’s computer network and operations run smoothly. They administer updates, install upgrades, and maintain network security. They also troubleshoot any network–related problems that may arise.
Salary based on experience:
- Entry Level: $53,554
- Mid-Career: $60,601
- Experienced: $66,285
- Late Career: $69,878
- Database Administrator
- These professionals create databases to store and organize data. Their daily duties include testing and modifying database structures, merging databases, and protecting data from unauthorized access. Database administrators typically hold a degree in computer science or information systems.
Salary based on experience:
- Entry Level: $61,107
- Mid-Career: $77,837
- Experienced: $89,178
- Late Career: $92,576
- Computer Systems Analyst
- Also known as systems architects, computer systems analysts improve organizational efficiency by overhauling, updating, and modifying computer systems. Many systems architects benefit from an academic background in computer programming, especially when creating data models.
Salary based on experience:
- Entry Level: $58,474
- Mid-Career: $70,042
- Experienced: $77,593
- Late Career: $85,719
Choosing an Online Computer Programming Degree Program
It is important to research and compare potential schools before selecting an online computer programming degree. As you explore your options, be sure to consider factors such as school accreditation status, residency requirements, admission prerequisites, and available concentrations. A degree should fit your career goals, lifestyle, and budget. Below are a few variables to keep in mind as you investigate program options.
- Program Cost
- Online college computer programming degrees tend to cost less than their on–campus counterparts, and distance learners avoid many expenses like room and board and transportation. While many schools charge higher tuition rates for out–of–state students, others offer flat or discounted tuition for all online students, regardless of their state of residence. Learners who have previously completed college–level coursework may also save money by transferring their credits.
- Transfer Policies
- Before applying to a program, prospective transfer students should research any restrictions, such as their previous school’s accreditation status and minimum GPA requirements. Many state colleges and universities maintain articulation agreements with local two–year colleges, offering transfer–ready degrees that guarantee graduates admission to a bachelor’s program.
- School Size and Type
- Small colleges and universities enroll fewer than 5,000 students each semester and tend to feature low student–to–faculty ratios. While small schools typically provide candidates with more individual attention, they may offer fewer programs and course options than larger universities. The College Board’s Trends in College Pricing 2018 report [PDF] found that the median in–state tuition for nonprofit private vs. public colleges was $36,890 and $8,600, respectively. The same report determined that out–of–state public university tuition rose to $26,290 in 2018.
- Program Length
- Most full–time students can complete a 120–credit bachelor’s program in around four years. Part–time learners may take up to seven years to graduate. However, some schools offer accelerated program options that let candidates earn a degree in less time.
- On–Campus Requirements
- A few online programs include on–campus components, such as mandatory orientation, testing, lab work, or seminars. Students who earn an online degree for computer programming usually take proctored exams at approved nearby locations.
Accreditation for Online Computer Programming Degrees
Accredited schools provide the best online bachelor’s degree programs in computer science. Accreditation is a review process used to ensure that a school or program meets or exceeds quality standards. There are two types of accreditation: institutional and programmatic. While entire colleges and universities receive institutional accreditation, programmatic accreditation applies to programs, curricula, and departments within larger academic institutions. For example, many STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs hold accreditation from the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology.
Institutions may be regionally or nationally accredited. The U.S. is home to seven regional accrediting bodies, which mainly review nonprofit, degree–granting institutions. In contrast, national accrediting organizations typically assess for–profit, single–purpose schools, such as technical and vocational institutions. Nearly 3,000 American colleges and universities hold regional accreditation. Students should attend a regionally accredited school to qualify for federal financial aid eligibility and transfer credit acceptance.
While the U.S. Department of Education (ED) recognizes all seven regional accrediting bodies, it does not approve all national accreditors. The ED works alongside the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to review and recognize accreditation standards and accrediting organizations. Both the ED and CHEA maintain comprehensive databases of accredited schools and programs on their respective websites.
Computer Programming Concentrations
Many programs offer computer programming as a concentration under a computer science or information technology degree. A standalone BS in computer programming may offer specializations in areas such as game development or mobile apps.
- Computer Security
- Cybersecurity is an increasingly in-demand subfield of information technology and computer science. Students pursuing this concentration explore topics such as computer network security, data mining, cryptography, computer forensics, and secure software systems. Candidates learn to protect data, computer networks, and databases from unauthorized access or criminal threat.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: Information Security Analyst, Forensic Computer Analyst, Security Architect
- Game Development
- An online computer programming degree with a game development specialization explores the algorithms, processes, and technologies involved in video game creation. Along with courses in game design and development and computer graphics, students take highly specialized classes like human-computer interaction, artificial intelligence, and modeling and simulation.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: Game Programmer, Game Designer
- Mobile Application Development
- This concentration imparts the skills needed to develop software and design mobile apps for the iOS and Android operating systems. Candidates explore programming languages like Swift, Java, Python, and PHP. Common course topics include mobile backend service, web/mobile user experience, and mobile interface implementation.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: Computer Programmer, Mobile Developer, Mobile Game Developer
- Data Mining
- Students pursuing a computer programming degree online can broaden their computer science expertise with a concentration in data mining. This track teaches candidates to work with big data and large databases. Along with courses on data structures and discrete structures, students explore topics like assembly language programming, probability, and statistics.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: Data Mining Specialist, Database Programmer
- Machine Learning
- Computer experts use machine learning techniques and applications in many different fields, including bioinformatics, finance, and information retrieval. Typical course offerings include data mining, computational learning theory, computer vision, robotics, and natural language processing.
- Careers this concentration prepares for: Computer Programmer, Data Mining Specialist, Machine Learning Engineer
How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Computer Programming?
The average online college computer programming degree includes roughly 120 course credits. Full–time students typically graduate in four years, while part–time learners tend to spend an additional 2–3 years on their studies. However, there are many variables that can influence a program’s duration, including semesterly course load, program format, and any transfer credits a student may hold.
While many online programs offer accelerated, self–paced schedules, others use a cohort learning model. Students in a cohort complete courses with the same peer group, from the first day of class to graduation. This lock–step approach fosters student–faculty collaboration and peer interaction, but typically takes longer to complete. In contrast, competency–based programs allow learners to move through courses as quickly as they can master a skill or lesson.
Transfer credit can also shorten program length. Most schools accept 30–90 credits of prior coursework. Some two–year degree completion programs admit students who already hold an associate degree.
Courses in an Online Bachelor’s in Computer Programming Program
Typical courses in a computer programming bachelor’s program address operating systems, networking, troubleshooting techniques, and algorithms. Most curricula culminate in a final capstone project, during which students synthesize and demonstrate their acquired skills.
Professional experience plays a critical role in finding employment, and many online computer programming degrees include internship opportunities. Internships provide an effective way to gain hands–on experience in tech–based work environments. They can also prepare students for program–specific certification exams. Candidates who obtain certification in products such as Microsoft or Cisco often enjoy an edge over competitors in the job market.
While every program is different, an online computer programming degree usually offers one or more of the following courses.
- Game Programming
- This course presents the basic programming and design skills used to create personal computer, console, and mobile games. Class topics include problem-solving, level design, physics laws within gaming environments, and 2D and 3D design.
- Data Warehousing
- Students in this online computer science course explore major data warehouse design concepts, including data modeling, database access, and implementation. Candidates acquire the concepts, methods, and skills needed to mine data warehouses for information and create new data acquisition strategies.
- Object–Oriented Programming
- This class surveys introductory concepts and principles related to object-oriented programming, including encapsulation, abstraction, inheritance, and polymorphism. The best online bachelor’s degree programs in computer science typically begin an object-oriented programming course with a review of control structures and data types, then move on to paradigms.
- Operating Systems
- In an operating systems course, students examine the core concepts behind operating systems such as UNIX, Windows, and iOS. Typical course topics include OS processes and threads, memory management, file systems, CPU scheduling, input/output, and synchronization. Security is also an essential topic when discussing operating systems. Students learn about threats like malware and common security techniques like access control and intrusion detection.
- Software Testing
- Emphasizing hands-on learning, this class presents integral methods and specialized strategies for unit and mutation testing. Candidates master object-oriented, component-based, distributed, and concurrent testing phases for different types of software.
Computer Programming Membership Associations
Students who join computer science or information technology membership associations establish valuable contacts, build professional networks, and gain new skills after graduation. Professional organizations like the groups below provide members with a host of benefits, including continuing education opportunities, industry publications, and career services. Many host networking events like annual conferences and workshops and provide special benefits for student members.
- IEEE Computer Society
- The IEEE Computer Society works to advance the theory, practice, and application of computer and information science. The association provides more than 60,000 members with networking opportunities, career resources, and recognition opportunities. Members can also access discounts on conferences, events, and publications.
- Association for Women in Computing
- Established in 1978, AWC was a pioneering organization for women in the computing field, and to this day, the association continues to support women in technology. Most chapters hold monthly meetings, which typically include an informative presentation related to information technology and professional or personal growth.
- CompTIA Association for Information Technology
- As a premier advocate for technology professionals, CompTIA AITP serves individuals looking to start, grow, and advance their IT careers. State chapters allow members to stay current on industry trends and collaborate with peers.
- Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence
- This international society promotes AI research and responsible practices. AAAI also helps the public better understand AI and its potential. AAAI hosts conferences, symposia, and workshops, and members can apply for grant and scholarship opportunities.
- Association for Computer Machinery
- ACM unites more than 100,000 computing professionals from around the world. Members receive access to continuing education programs, career development opportunities, and events.