The increasingly tech-driven nature of the modern world has resulted in an increased demand for individuals who can understand computers, networks, and other aspects of technology (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020). So, it is not surprising that the availability of traditional and online degree programs covering computer programming and similar fields of study like computer science has been increasing at breakneck speed in the past decades.
By earning a bachelor’s degree in computer programming, students acquire knowledge of various programming languages and understand how to update programs and test them for errors. As such, they go on to build careers not only as computer programmers but also as software developers, computer systems engineers, or business intelligence analysts.
If you are interested in pursuing this field through an online program, this guide will help you understand its pros and cons. Among the crucial discussion points are how online computer programming programs differ from traditional ones and what to expect from an online curriculum. The requirements and considerations will also be discussed so that you can better gauge whether an online bachelor’s degree in computer programming is a suitable choice for you.
Computer programming is among the multitude of degrees that a student can earn completely online. Unlike programs in medicine, animal science, or environmental studies, which have classes that can only be conducted in physical learning environments, computer programming courses only require the use of computers and the internet. As such, most, if not all coursework can be done at home.
This kind of learning setup has been growing in popularity in recent years, with distance education enrollments continually increasing since 2002 (Seaman, Allen, & Seaman, 2016) and more online learning opportunities becoming available due to the COVID-19 pandemic (Pang, 2020). In fact, 71% of online students enrolled full-time as of 2019 (Aslanian, Clinefelter, & Magda, 2019). With this kind of demand, it is not uncommon for aspiring computer programmers to find degree programs that are available 100% web-based.
Similar to traditional computer programming programs, an online degree program requires students to complete 120 to 124 credits. This can take roughly four years to accomplish for full-time students.
However, keep in mind that computer programming programs differ from school to school. For example, there are educational institutions that may require computer programming students to take up a communication or public speaking class as a requirement. As such, you may need to visit the campus from time to time.
Online degrees used to have a bad reputation, especially during the 90s when there were plenty of online diploma mills that issued degrees and transcripts for very little coursework (Koeppel, 1998). In recent years, however, this stigma has slowly been erased.
Statistics on online education show that more prestigious and well-known universities started offering online degree courses and programs. As a result, employers have also begun to take these degrees more seriously. In fact, in 2017, 51% of recruiters as well as 44% of employers revealed that they do not have any preference between traditional and online degrees when assessing candidates (The Martec Group, 2017). Meanwhile, a more recent survey revealed that more than half (61%) of human resource professionals say that online credentials are equal in quality to credentials earned in-person (Gallagher, 2019). The number of employers sharing this belief may only grow in the coming years, considering the number of colleges and universities that are currently holding classes 100% online due to the pandemic.
While this is the case, it is still important to note that there are employers who may be more discerning about online degrees. For instance, if you earned your online computer programming degree from lesser-known tech schools, recruiters would probably want to look into the institution’s reputation or see if the school’s online computer programming program is accredited. That said, choosing where you earn your online degree plays a crucial role when it comes to improving your job prospects and impressing employers.
Source: Online Education in 2019
In many cases, online degrees are recognized by employers. In fact, 42% of employers consider applicants with online degrees (Lytle, 2015) and a more recent study has revealed that more recruiters are being considerate about candidates with nontraditional educational backgrounds, such as online schooling and self-education (Maurer, 2019). However, if you earned your online degree from an educational institution based in the United States but live overseas, there might be a chance that employers in your country might not recognize the degree. One probable reason for this is that each country has different academic standards and education systems.
For example, United Arab Emirates employers, particularly in the medical field, started to be wary of accepting candidates with online degrees regardless of whether the degree or school is accredited (Swan, 2012). This is unless the country’s Ministry of Education approves the certification or degree in advance (UAE Ministry of Education, n.d.). A similar case can be observed in other countries and industries.
Luckily, as there are not many differences in computer programming standards across the world, employers in the industry are more accepting of online degrees, especially if they are accredited.
However, if you are still having second thoughts about getting an online degree in programming, you can avoid career roadblocks by checking first with your country’s Ministry or Department of Education. By doing so, you can determine whether the curricula of your prospective school will be recognized in your country and can be acknowledged as equal to a traditional degree.
Online and traditional programs are similar in a lot of ways and both have their advantages. In fact, almost 9 in 10 students who have enrolled in both traditional and online courses previously reported that their experience learning online was the same or even better than face-to-face classes (Busteed, 2019). However, they do have their differences.
If you plan on taking up computer programming online, you will be glad to know that the curriculum does not differ too much from traditional programs. As it is a tech-oriented degree, most of the coursework is done on a computer and class activities do not always require face-to-face collaboration. However, the two diverge when it comes to other aspects of post-secondary learning.
Online courses afford students a high level of flexibility with their schedules, allowing them to focus on endeavors other than their current program. It helps them become more independent when it comes to dealing with coursework and it even aids them save on transportation and accommodation.
On the flip side, traditional programs help students foster interpersonal relations, which may help develop a collaborative attitude as they start their careers. There are also cases where students learn better in a face-to-face setting.
With the current pandemic, there’s a good chance you have already had a taste of what online programs offer and were able to compare these two approaches to learning. However, to help you determine the ideal structure for you, here are the details you might want to consider:
The biggest difference between on-site and online computer programming courses is flexibility. On-site learning usually follows a strict schedule as the mode of instruction is synchronous. Plus, students have to take into account the time it takes to commute to their campus, should they be living far away.
Through online learning, on the other hand, students can earn the degree without leaving their homes, making it highly advantageous to working students or students who have commitments, such as taking care of their children or families. Moreover, this type of program allows overseas students to gain access to education from foreign universities without actually having to leave their country.
One thing to note here, however, is that with great flexibility comes great self-discipline, especially if your program is asynchronous. As online students are responsible for their own schedules, you must have the ability to regulate your time and motivate yourself to keep up with the pace you have set.
Computer programming students can benefit from either traditional or online learning environments. However, the impact of these approaches largely depends on a student’s mindset, learning attitude, goals, and preferences.
A traditional learning environment allows computer programming students to interact with fellow learners and instructors face to face. With this, they can develop interpersonal skills as well as foster a sense of competitiveness when participating in class. In addition, it allows learners to hone their leadership skills as they work on group projects. What is more, they get access to state-of-the-art academic facilities and even specialized references that are not available in virtual libraries. With these, they can expand their understanding of their chosen major beyond what is discussed in class.
Online learning, on the other hand, allows students to develop independence and self-discipline, as mentioned earlier. With this environment, computer programming students can focus more on their coursework as there are no distractions in their study space. They can still interact with their peers, albeit virtually, to learn together. Plus, if they are engaged in asynchronous learning, they may experience a better and more sophisticated discussion structure as students have more time to articulate their questions and discussion points.
The cost of earning a bachelor’s degree in computer programming is almost the same whether you choose to enroll online or in face-to-face classes. However, it is important to take a look at the differences in what a student spends on during the program.
For tuition, a traditional degree would set you back by $35,000 to $64,000 depending on what type of university or college you are enrolled in. Meanwhile, for online students, you can expect to pay around $42,000 to $60,000.
Meanwhile, when it comes to indirect costs, it seems that online learners are at an advantage as most of the expenses can be treated as investments on things they may need beyond the program.
A traditional learners’ expenses largely revolve around accommodation, transportation, as well as campus-based services, like parking and meal plans. Online learners’ indirect costs, on the other hand, focus on the school’s learning management infrastructure and IT services. The student may also be charged for virtual libraries. However, the rest goes to the technological requirements, which include their internet service, the computer they will be using, and the software solutions that will be required for their coursework.
Looking at only tuition fees, an online degree can cost almost the same as a traditional degree. However, once a student takes into account the expenses one makes when attending face-to-face, it becomes clear that opting to earn your degree online can be cheaper.
As mentioned earlier, the expenses associated with online learning, beyond tuition, mostly focus on the software and hardware that you can use well after your schooling. Plus, with online classes, you do not have to pay for lodging, meal plans, transportation, and student health insurance. You will also be exempted from additional expenses, like laboratory fees, facility maintenance fees, equipment fees, as well as student health and treatment services.
An online degree, in many ways, is as good as a regular degree. In this day and age, most online classes are conducted using advanced learning management systems, video conferencing tools, and tech-driven teaching techniques. These level up the quality of online learning, allowing students to be more engaged with their coursework.
Plus, most online programs nowadays are already being vetted and accredited by different agencies such as the U.S. Department of Education, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), as well as other industry-specific organizations. This allows students to separate the diploma mills from legitimate online programs that are on par with traditional degree programs.
As a result, students get access to coursework that is as rigorous, if not more difficult, as traditional learners. Plus, it requires students to develop their skills in time management and self-motivation—two qualities that all computer programmers must have to thrive in their careers.
Similar to other distance learning programs, an online bachelor’s degree in computer programming is often charged on a per-credit basis. This can cost around $350 to $480 per credit, which translates to about $42,000 to $60,000 in total tuition. In many cases, this is already inclusive of the “e-tuition” rate, which is what pays for tech maintenance and the learning management systems used to conduct online classes. However, one thing to keep in mind here is that public educational institutions may not always offer separate in-state and out-of-state rates to online enrollees.
In addition, online students also need to shoulder a few indirect costs. For instance, virtual access to course materials is often charged separately. They may also need to purchase software solutions or devices required for the courses they are taking. Plus, depending on the courses an online student takes and the curriculum of their college or university, there may be times when they need to visit the campus or proctored locations for exams which means spending on transportation.
With these in mind, one can surmise that studying computer programming can still be costly even if it’s being taken online. Luckily, there are many ways by which you can alleviate this burden.
For starters, you may ask the university or school of your choice if it has financial aid plans. Alternatively, you can apply for online college scholarships from private organizations. These include the Google Lime Scholarship, which primarily helps students with disabilities, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, which offers scholarships to both online and onsite students, and the Anne Maureen Whitney Barrow Memorial Scholarship, which aims to help women pursuing ABET-accredited programs.
Online students may also curb overall tuition costs by transferring credits if they have already earned them in a previous school. Meanwhile, working students may want to consider asking your school if they can provide college credits for work experience.
Computer programming degree holders often find themselves landing dynamic, high-paying jobs. As such, taking it up is well worth the investment.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of May 2020, computer programmers can make an average of $89,190 per year (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020). Another study by PayScale reveals a similar number with average wages ranging from $56,000 to $86,000, depending on the experience level of the programmer.
Plus, while there is an expected 9% decline in employment in this industry from 2019 to 2029 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020), students who major in computer programming can still go on to build careers in adjacent fields, such as software development, computer systems engineering, or business intelligence (U.S. News, 2020). This can only mean that having a computer programming degree can only improve your odds of thriving in the steadily growing IT industry.
Gaining admission to an online degree program is more or less similar to traditional programs. Both require applicants to pass the entrance exam, have good academic standing, as well as have a history of participating in extracurricular and co-curricular activities.
While this is the case, it is recommended that you check in with your prospective schools to find out whether the admissions process for online applicants is different. For instance, try to inquire if you may take the test online as opposed to onsite. In addition, you may want to ask whether you will only need to take a general admissions test or if there is a test designed specifically for computer programming degree applicants.
Another thing that aspiring computer programmers need to note is that there are universities and colleges that no longer offer computer programming as a degree. Rather, it may be available as a major under computer engineering, computer science, or information technology. As such, you would not want to be too quick to rule out certain schools that do not list this as a degree program.
Students looking to earn an online bachelor’s degree in computer programming must be able to submit the following:
These are among the standard admission requirements but there are schools that may have additional requirements. It is best to get in touch with the admissions office of your prospective universities and colleges to have a better idea of what documents you should prepare for your application.
Becoming a computer programming major takes a little more than good grades. So, aside from the abovementioned requirements, students must also possess the following qualities:
Upon getting accepted into a computer programming degree program, you also need to prepare for technological requirements.
As you will be taking the courses online, you will need to have a stable internet connection and a laptop or desktop computer through which you can access your course materials. However, as you will be coding and, perhaps, handling large datasets, you may have to be discerning about the specifications of your computer. For starters, you could try choosing one with at least 8GB of RAM, an Intel Core i5 processor, a dedicated graphics card, and a 256GB solid-state drive. These will help you make sure that your computer can handle any project that will be required of you without our system crashing. If you are taking synchronous classes, it is also ideal to have a webcam, headphones, and a microphone in handy.
Aside from investing in hardware, there may be some software that you need for your classes as well. For starters, you will need Microsoft Office or similar productivity suites, which will come in handy for coursework, such as research papers. You will also need a text editor like Notepad or Sublime Text for coding and debugging tools, which may come in handy for your projects. In addition, investing in a database for file storage may also be necessary.
Degree programs follow a standard curriculum that has been developed based on what is currently required in the industry. As such, you can rest assured that any online computer programming program you choose will help you prepare to enter the workforce. Among the courses that you should expect are:
Aside from these, you may want to explore more advanced courses during your program. This could involve courses focusing on a specific programming language, advanced algorithms, or programming for specific operating systems. You may also want to look into courses that can expand your skills beyond programming, such as business intelligence, project management, or communication.
Please note, however, that there are schools that may offer a more extensive list of advanced courses than others. So, if you are interested in specific advanced courses, it might be best to check if the school of your choice offers them.
Not all online degree programs are created equal. This is why aspiring computer programmers must pull all the stops when it comes to choosing an online program. By thoroughly assessing your prospects, you can make sure that you are getting the best possible learning experience and that you can make the most out of the money you are investing. To help you out, this guide details some of the factors you should consider when choosing an online program.
Perhaps the most important thing you need to check when searching for an online computer programming program is its accreditation. This serves as proof that the online bachelor’s program you are enrolling in can equip you for the computing industry.
You can verify a program’s accreditation status with the Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Additionally, for computer programming degrees, you may want to check if they are accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission (CAC). This commission is operated by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and focuses on vetting computer-related courses.
When choosing a program, make sure that the school can offer your preferred method of instruction. After all, online classes can take many forms.
For starters, it could be self-paced. In this asynchronous approach, students are given modules that need to be completed at set deadlines. Online classes can also be synchronous. Meaning, students will have to attend classes at a particular time via conference call. In addition, there are also online programs that are not 100% conducted online. In these cases, you will either attend some classes on-site or take your exams in proctored locations.
Learning management system (LMS) downtime and network issues are inevitable no matter what online program you enroll in. This is why one of the most important factors in choosing a school is whether they provide technical support services. By choosing schools with in-house IT personnel, you can be sure that there are professionals ready to help you troubleshoot and fix technical problems that you encounter. This is especially helpful when you are unable to access certain course materials or if there are issues with submitting coursework.
The reputation of a college or university can be measured using a variety of metrics. Among online college applicants, 36% choose a program or school because of the institution’s reputation. Meanwhile, 21% choose a program because of the quality of the faculty (Magda, Capranos, & Aslanian, 2020).
In addition to this, it also helps to check out forums to get an idea of how students perceive your prospective schools. Lastly, it may help to check out the school’s faculty roster and famous alumni. In this way, you get a good idea of what kinds of professionals the school can hone.
Source: Wiley, 2020
With the increasing availability of technologies, such as learning management systems and online communication tools, earning a degree online is no longer an impossible feat. In fact, elearning statistics show that more students now enroll in either online degree programs or distance education courses. This can only mean that aspiring computer programmers should have no trouble finding great online programs that will allow them to learn everything they need to thrive in the industry.
Much like traditional degree programs, online programs are also able to cover the fundamentals of the field, from programming languages to software development. What’s more, this type of learning environment offers more flexible schedules to students.
However, as online degree programs have only started to gain popularity in recent years, they have their fair share of pros and cons. For starters, while it is increasingly recognized in the United States, online degree holders from overseas may have to go through additional steps to get their degrees acknowledged. In addition, not all schools can provide fully self-paced, online programs.
As such, it is important to carefully gauge the best value colleges in the United States as well as in other countries so you can pick a program that meets your requirements. For starters, try to choose a school that offers the program at a tuition fee that falls within your budget. Moreover, check whether your prospective school supports the type of learning environment that you prefer. In doing so, you will surely be able to find the ideal online program for you and earn your bachelor’s degree in computer programming.