Online Associate Degrees in Programming: Degree Options

Dec 03, 2019

Essential Information

Online associate degree programs that cover programming and closely related subjects are available. These programs may be offered in not only programming, but also software development, information systems management and information technology. Some of these are designed for students who intend to transfer their credits into bachelor's degree programs. These programs can be completed entirely through distance learning, with no on-campus visits required.

Associate's Degrees in Programming

A variety of online associate degrees are available for students interested in studying programming. Students may pursue an associate degree in programming and software development or information systems management with a Web programming specialization. Information technology programs with computer programming concentrations are also available entirely online, leading to an Associate of Arts (A.A.) or Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.).

An A.A. degree program is considered primarily a transfer degree, designed to provide the foundation for a 4-year degree. Although credits from other types of associate degree programs may transfer to a baccalaureate program, they are more commonly considered terminal degrees, designed to prepare graduates to enter the workplace. Students enrolled in the above programs become fluent in many programming languages, such as Java and C++, and learn to use these languages to create websites, computer software or other business applications.

Program Information and Requirements

The number of credits needed to complete an associate degree program in programming can range from 60-73, depending on the program. Programs can usually be completed entirely online with no in-person requirements. Classes are generally delivered in an asynchronous format, which means that the materials can be accessed and worked on at any time as long as certain deadlines are met; however, some courses might have some synchronous discussion components. Typically, courses are accessed through an online learning platform such as Blackboard, and students interact with instructors and classmates through e-mail and online discussion forums.

Course Topics

Coursework included in an associate degree program in programming consists of major core courses, technical electives pertaining to a specific area of programming, and general education courses in English, math, the sciences and humanities. An A.A. degree program generally consists of a greater percentage of general education courses due to the fact that it is intended for transference to a bachelor's degree program.

Fundamentals of Program Design and Development

This course introduces the essential principles, practices and concepts of computer programming. Students become acquainted with the various programming languages, including Java, C++ and Microsoft Visual Studio, and learn to use these languages to design, code, debug and test computer programs. Topics such as flowcharting, logical procedures and problem solving are used to complete several programming assignments.

Web Design

A summary is provided of the World Wide Web and the tools used to construct business and professional websites, such as Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), Javascript and Abobe. An emphasis is placed on the key components of layouts, such as navigation, interactivity and the incorporation of multimedia components. Students also learn to publish, promote and increase the effectiveness of completed pages.


Students get acquainted with the syntax and semantics of Java, the object-oriented computer programming language, and its many features, such as enums and autoboxing. Topics such as input and output streams, data structures, multithreading and graphical user interfaces (GUIs) are discussed in detail. The creation and testing of fundamental applets and applications that use a GUI are also studied.

Career Information

Graduates of an associate degree program in programming often find employment in the field of information technology. Specific career titles include computer programmer, network and computer systems administrator, computer software engineer and Web designer. Many employers prefer to hire candidates with bachelor's degrees, but an associate degree is considered acceptable for some positions.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that there were 230,470 people employed as computer programmers in 2018, with a median yearly salary of $84,280 as of May 2018. There were 366,250 people employed as network and computer systems administrators, earning a median yearly salary of $82,050 at the same periods. Additionally, 405,330 people were employed as software developers with a median annual salary of $110,000.

The BLS also estimated an occupational growth of 5% (about as fast as average for all occupations) for network and computer systems administrators and 21% (much faster than average) for computer software developers between the years 2018 and 2028. An occupational decline of 7% is expected for computer programmers. Web developers could expect much faster than average growth of 13% from 2018-2028.

Continuing Education Information

Students who complete an online associate degree in programming have the option of transferring to a bachelor's degree in programming. General education credits and experience with programs like Java may also be sufficient to transfer into related fields, such as information technology and computer science. Many schools offer fully online bachelor's degree programs in these disciplines.

Online associate degree programs in programming and related fields may train students in web and software design, programming languages and business applications. Credits attained may be used toward a bachelor's degree in some cases.

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