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Online Computer Programming Schools and Colleges: How to Choose

Learn about important considerations when selecting an online computer programming school. Keep reading to get an overview of the program options, delivery methods, and common topics offered for the field of study.

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Computer programming degree and certificate programs are widely available online, but you'll want to determine whether or not a program can help you reach your career goals before enrolling. Depending on how well credentialed you want to be in computer programming, you can choose from among certificate, associate's degree and bachelor's degree programs.

How to Select an Online Computer Programming School

Students considering online computer programming schools must make their decision based on several key factors. Numerous schools and colleges offer flexible online or distance learning options for computer programming degrees. Programs are offered at various levels, for students with different career goals. Certificate, associate's degree and bachelor's degree programs are available to accommodate working individuals or those seeking to enter the computer programming field.

Program Level

Certificates can either be offered pre- or post-baccalaureate. Most certificates take a year to complete, and students must earn about 20 credit hours. Associate's degree programs typically take two years to complete and bachelor's degree programs take four years to finish. Some schools require that students complete specific prerequisite courses in areas such as computer information systems, business or mathematics before they can enroll in computer programming degree programs.

Career Goals

Certificate programs prepare students for entry-level careers for writing, testing and maintaining detailed computer instructions. Associate's degree programs are ideal for those who want to be computer support specialists. Most employers seek computer software engineers who have at least a bachelor's degree in computer programming.

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Online Programs for Learning Computer Programming

Online Certificate in Computer Programming

Distance learning certificates in computer programming teach students about basic computer programming in specific programs. Students can take the courses at their own pace and learn through DVDs and online discussion boards. Course topics might include:

  • Java applications
  • C++ program loops
  • Operating systems
  • Desktop virtualization

Online Associate of Applied Science in Computer Programming

Online associate's degree programs in computer programming often require the use of textbooks as well as written and audio materials. Courses are covered through interactive television, DVDs, CDs or audio recordings. Common programming languages learned include Linux, C++ and Visual Basic. Students may be required to take proctored examinations, which can be completed off-campus. Typical courses cover:

  • Database and web page programming
  • Computer law
  • Networking concepts
  • Specific computer programming languages

Online Bachelor of Science in Computer Programming

A distance learning bachelor's degree program in computer programming covers advanced programming courses. General education courses are also required. Common courses include:

  • Data structures and algorithms
  • Computer hardware and software
  • Structured systems analysis and design
  • Database management
  • Network protocols

Schools with Online Programs in Computer Programming

The online post-baccalaureate Computer Programming Certificate at North Carolina State University requires students to have a bachelor's degree in order to apply and is best suited for those who have a background in a field unrelated to computer science or computer engineering. This certificate can help students trying to fulfill the prerequisites for a master's degree program in computer science.

At Penn Foster College, students can pursue an associate's degree program in computer information systems that includes instruction in HTML coding as well as Visual Basic and Java programming. To take this four-semester program, you must have technical capabilities such as Windows 7 or later and Microsoft Office 365. Associate's degrees awarded from Penn Foster are under licensing given to the school from the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education.

Colorado Technical University offers an online Bachelor of Science program in information technology with a focus on software application programming. The program involves 184 total credits, including lower division courses like basic algebra and writing. Included in this program is a requirement that students complete a capstone project to demonstrate their mastery of the content.

When looking for an online program in computer programming, consider whether you want a certificate or undergraduate degree. The decision depends on your career goals and how well trained you want to become, as well as the amount of time you're willing to commit to your education.

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