November 30, 2022

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Best online computer programming degrees 2021: Top picks

With a computer programming degree, you can create and test the code for software and applications people use daily. 

Computer programmers play an integral role in developing new technology and work closely with software engineers and developers. Because computer science careers often overlap, many of the best computer programming degrees focus on software development or computer science as a whole.

Graduates with a bachelor’s in computer programming can land programming positions in numerous industries or pursue similar occupations like computer systems analysts, network administrators, or software developers. Varied career opportunities combined with the annual median pay of $89,190 attract many aspiring programmers. 

Explore the best online computer programming degrees below to begin a successful computer science career. 

The best online bachelor’s in computer programming degrees

Our experts examined federally-reported datasets and used a proprietary ranking algorithm to create the following list of the best online computer programming degrees. Learn more about the professional contributors and unique formulas behind ZDNet’s ranking methodology here. 

Unless otherwise indicated, data is drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, College Scorecard, and each program’s website.

1. Fort Hays State University

Hays, Kansas

About the program: FHSU offers a bachelor’s in computer science with four mandatory web development classes. Other courses include programming languages, data structures, and computer graphics.

  • Acceptance rate: 91%
  • Graduation rate: 58%
  • Annual net price: $12,053
  • Years to degree: Four
  • SAT range: 1080 minimum
  • Minimum GPA: 2.5 for high school courses; 2.0 for college courses
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery methods: Online and asynchronous

Accreditation: Fort Hays State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

2. Champlain College

Burlington, Vermont

About the program: Champlain’s bachelor’s program in software development covers over 20 programming languages, software, and platforms and prepares graduates for C++ programming certification. 

  • Acceptance rate: 85%
  • Graduation rate: 61%
  • Annual net price: $33,561
  • Years to degree: Three to four; part- and full-time options and accelerated 7-week terms available
  • SAT range: 1110-1320
  • Minimum GPA: Recommended 2.5
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three; rolling transfers
  • Course delivery methods: Online and asynchronous

Accreditation: Champlain College is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

3. Husson University

Bangor, Maine

About the program: Husson offers a 121-credit online software development degree program full of hands-on courses. The curriculum includes programming, IT trends, marketing, and management classes.

  • Acceptance rate: 85%
  • Graduation rate: 59%
  • Annual net price: $18,286
  • Years to degree: Four
  • SAT range: 960-1140
  • Minimum GPA: Not required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery methods: Online and asynchronous

Accreditation: Husson University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

4. Limestone University

Gaffney, South Carolina

About the program: Limestone’s bachelor’s in computer science — programming prioritizes problem-solving skills. Classes like object-oriented programming, project management, and microcomputer applications prepare students for the workforce.

Acceptance rate: 51%

Graduation rate: 48%

Annual net price: $22,707

Years to degree: Three to four; part- and full-time options available

SAT range: 970-1160

Minimum GPA: Not required

Enrollment periods per year: Rolling

Course delivery methods: Online and asynchronous

Accreditation: Limestone University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

5. Davenport University

Grand Rapids, Michigan

About the program: DU’s bachelor’s in computer science allows students to specialize in artificial intelligence, gaming and simulation, or computer theory and algorithms. The focus on C# programing prepares graduates for C# certification. 

  • Acceptance rate: 82%
  • Graduation rate: 27%
  • Annual net price: $16,098
  • Years to degree: Four 
  • SAT range: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: Not required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery methods: Online; asynchronous or synchronous

Accreditation: Davenport University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

6. Bellevue University

Bellevue, Nebraska

About the program: The bachelor’s in software development at BU combines theory with applied learning to aid success post-graduation. The curriculum also develops skills needed to pass the CompTIA+ certification exam.

  • Acceptance rate: 100%
  • Graduation rate: 46%
  • Annual net price: $15,616
  • Years to degree: Four; accelerated undergraduate cohort program lasts 72 weeks
  • SAT range: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: Not required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery methods: Online and asynchronous

Accreditation: Bellevue University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

7. Hodges University

Naples, Florida

About the program: Hodges’ bachelor of science in software development incorporates project-based learning to prepare students for industry jobs. Graduates may work in app or game development. 

  • Acceptance rate: 61%
  • Graduation rate: 33%
  • Annual net price: $21,577
  • Years to degree: Three to four
  • SAT range: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: Not required 
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery methods: Online and asynchronous

Accreditation: Hodges University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

8. Baker College

Owosso, Michigan

About the program: Baker offers a bachelor’s degree in computer science with a concentration in computer programming. The core courses include Java programming, computer architecture, a senior project, and a 150-hour internship. 

  • Acceptance rate: 73%
  • Graduation rate: 23%
  • Annual net price: $15,049
  • Years to degree: Four 
  • SAT range: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: Not required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Four
  • Course delivery methods: Online; asynchronous or synchronous

Accreditation: Baker College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). 

What to expect in an online bachelor’s in computer programming degree program

Pursuing a bachelor’s in computer programming means numerous projects and extensive homework. While a computer programming curriculum includes some theory classes, most core courses involve practical application through individual and group projects. 

You can expect to create applications and database systems, write stored procedures, and implement algorithms and data structures. 

As you master complex concepts and tackle hands-on challenges, you may find programming courses rigorous. However, each class builds upon prior classes to strengthen core skills and programming languages. Many curricula expect students to complete a final capstone project or internship to apply everything they have learned. 

Students need drive and problem-solving skills to succeed in an online computer programming degree. Programmers must also hold sharp analytical and interpersonal skills to create practical solutions with a team.

Computer programming courses

Some computer programming curricula cover all major programming languages and platforms, while others focus on the easy programming languages to learn, like JavaScript and Python. Degrees that prepare students for certification prioritize languages like C++ or C#. 

Apart from learning how to code, degree-seekers can expect numerous classes on networking, algorithms, web development, advanced mathematics, and operating systems. Explore a few standard computer programming courses below.

Database development and design

A database development and design class generally covers relational database structures, constructing table structures, and defining value pairs. Students often use the Structured Query Language (SQL) to create a functioning database as the final project. 

Data structures and algorithms

Once students have mastered core programming languages, they use them to analyze software algorithms. This core course explores various algorithms and what makes them effective while examining data types like stacks, trees, and queues. 

Discrete mathematics

Computer programming requires advanced mathematical skills to understand the theory behind programming languages and algorithms. A discrete mathematics course explores sets, graphs, Boolean algebra, probability, logic, and relations.

Software development capstone 

Many computer programming degree programs include hands-on experience. The curriculum often culminates in a capstone project, requiring students to combine methodologies and technical skills to develop useful software.

Computer programming degree levels

Choosing the right degree level takes careful consideration. You must ensure your choice aligns with your professional goals, budget, and time constraints. 

A certificate program or associate degree may work well if you want to enter the workforce quickly. A bachelor’s in computer programming requires more time and financial investment but prepares graduates for higher-level tech careers. 

A master’s or doctoral degree allows students to pursue the most prestigious programming positions. These degree levels may also suit professionals looking for a career change. Explore the different degree levels below. 

Computer programming certificate

Length: 4-24 months

Cost: $3,060-$11,308

Post-grad careers: Information systems technician, computer support specialists, app developer

Universities offer non-degree computer programming certificate programs. Some focus on one programming language, like C++ or C#, while others explore programming foundations. Additional certificates with a programming core include software development and web programming.

Computer programming certificate curricula often include individual and team projects to practice developing webpages and software. Courses impart problem-solving and interpersonal relationship skills so graduates can become successful team members in the workforce. 

Associate in computer programming

Length: Two years 

Cost: $12,112-$35,870 per year

Post-grad careers: Computer system analyst, computer programmer, information security analyst

Like certificates, an associate degree in computer programming covers programming foundations so graduates can quickly secure entry-level tech jobs. 

Courses generally include a few core programming languages, webpage development, and networking fundamentals. Students work with the latest technology and complete hands-on projects such as app or webpage development and database design. 

Most associate degree programs require general education classes to develop the problem-solving skills necessary to excel in programming. 

Bachelor’s in computer programming

Length: Four years 

Cost: $12,112-$35,870 per year

Post-grad careers: Software developer, computer programmer, database administrator

Most computer and information technology occupations require a bachelor’s degree in computer programming or a similar field for entry-level positions. Graduates can work as information security analysts, software developers, network administrators, or IT specialists.

A bachelor’s in computer programming includes courses in programming languages, database management, networking fundamentals, and several general education requirements. Classes emphasize hands-on projects to develop problem-solving skills and teamwork. Some universities offer specialization and certification opportunities. 

Master’s in computer programming

Length: One to two years 

Cost: $4,500-$17,100 per year

Post-grad careers: Computer and information research scientist, computer network architects, computer and information systems managers

Master’s degrees in computer programming can provide a career change for professionals in other industries or open the door to prestigious computer science positions. Courses generally focus on practical approaches to real-world problems.

Universities often provide specialty options for master’s degrees in computer science, such as software engineering or data analytics. Classes may include product management, object-oriented programming, and C++ for advanced programmers. Many curricula also require an internship.

Doctorate in computer programming

Length: Three to eight years

Cost: $4,500-$17,100 per year

Post-grad careers: Professor, market research analyst, information technology specialist

As a terminal degree, a doctorate in computer programming prepares individuals for specialized positions. The program’s length depends on the university and the student’s chosen concentration. 

In addition to completing courses, students spend months to years researching a specific topic, such as artificial intelligence, computational geometry and robotics, or design and analysis of algorithms. To graduate, students must present a thoroughly researched and impeccably written dissertation.

In conclusion

A bachelor’s degree in computer programming prepares students to excel in the growing technology industry. If you want to develop the applications and software of the future, explore the bachelor’s programs listed above. 

If any catch your eye, your next step is preparing your transcripts and filling out your chosen university’s application. Remember to apply for computer science scholarships to help make the degree more affordable.