Careers in software programming typically require an educational background in computer science or software engineering. Students can enroll in bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in these subjects.
At the undergraduate level, programs emphasize the fundamental theories and principles of software design and architecture as well as testing and operations. A bachelor's-level education typically provides sufficient training for graduates to pursue optional certification in various software programming languages.
Graduate studies address advanced software design, project management and program analysis. As in a bachelor's degree program, master's and doctoral programs provide extensive hands-on training. Master's degree programs typically take two years or less, while doctoral programs can take 3-5 years.
Bachelor's Degree in Software Programming
Software programming bachelor's degree programs stress strong technical skills and knowledge in computer science. Through coursework and extensive practical application, programs develop students' critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. Students also look at the development, operation and testing of software from a user standpoint, while taking into account financial and operational issues. A high school diploma, or its equivalent, and SAT or ACT scores are required for entry into a bachelor's degree program.
Bachelor's degree programs are a combination of general education courses and introductory and advanced courses in the software programming major. Course topics include:
- Software specification and design
- History and evolution of software
- Software architecture
- Database networks
Master's Degree in Software Programming
Software programming master's degree programs combine the scientific and artistic theories and practices of software engineering with practical application. In addition to a bachelor's degree in a related field, letters of recommendation, previous academic success, scores on the graduate record examination and any applicable job experience are all taken into consideration by the admitting college or university.
Students develop comprehensive and advanced knowledge of programming, developing and testing computer software. The goal of a master's degree program is to develop students' problem-solving capabilities, technical savvy and the ability to evaluate a software program's effectiveness, efficiency and financial feasibility. Students attend lectures that cover the following topics:
- Advanced software design
- Software testing
- Software project management
- Web application development
- Data modeling
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Doctoral Degree Programs in Software Programming
The Doctor of Philosophy in Information Technology (Ph.D. in IT) with a concentration in software programming or the Doctor of Engineering (D.Eng.) in Software Programming degrees are available for students wanting to study software programming at the doctoral level. The D.Eng. program is geared for students interested specifically in software programming and takes a more narrow approach, while a Ph.D. in IT program covers software programming as a part of a more comprehensive curriculum.
When considering applicants for either program, colleges and universities generally take into account previous professional experience, scholarly achievements and letters of recommendation in addition requiring a master's degree in a related field.
Doctoral degree students in both programs are immersed in academic research and technological courses. In addition to a doctorate, course topics may include:
- Program analysis for software testing
- User interface and design
- Software generation and maintenance
- Object-oriented analysis and design
- Software engineering and economic logistics
Popular Career Options
A bachelor's degree is often considered the minimum requirement for some internships or entry-level employment in computer science, computer programming or information technology. Graduates with a bachelor's degree in software programming are eligible for a number of positions including:
- Computer programmer
- Database administrator
- Web page designer
Graduates of a doctoral degree program are poised to take on many supervisory and managerial positions in computer science, software programming, software engineering information technology and education. Some of the most popular career paths include:
- Software engineering project manager
- Independent consultant
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated a 17% growth in employment for all software developers in the years 2014 through 2024. The BLS reported in 2015 that the median annual salaries for systems software developers and applications developers were $105,570 and $98,260, respectively (www.bls.gov).
Depending on a student's past education and future career goals, he or she can choose to study software programming at the undergraduate or graduate level. Bachelor's degree programs in software programming help students gain the basic computer science and programming knowledge needed to enter this field while graduate programs prepare them for advanced careers or allow them to narrow their focus on a specific area within software programming.