Read on for how you can learn more about studying Computer Programming (IT) in the U.S.
Note: Computer programming can be called many things and come in many forms such as software development, computer science, computer engineering, or information technology. For the purposes of this post, we will be using all terms interchangeably.
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Jump to:2-Year Degree 4-Year Degree Beyond a 4-Year Degree
You can begin a career in computer programming with less than a bachelor’s degree. You can read more about this in the Technical Routes section, but we’ll start with what this can look like with a 2-year degree. You can get an Associate’s degree in courses that look similar to or lead to a career in programming. These can be in Computer & Information Science/Engineering, Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Information Sciences & Systems, Computer Information Technology & Systems, Network Systems Technology, Software Development, Computer Programming & Analysis, Web Design & Development, and Information Technology.
Courses for these 2-year degrees will be very heavy in math, sciences and courses to help you understand application software, web systems, and programming languages. These can include:
- Computer & Internet Literacy
- Introduction to Computer Programming
- Programming in C++, C#, Java, and Python
- C# Programming
- Introduction to Microprocessors/Microcontrollers
- Introduction to Computer-Aided Design & Drafting
- Management Information Systems
- Computer Operating Systems
- Database Management
- Ethical & Legal Issues in Information Technology
- Network Systems
- Website Creation & Graphic Design for Multimedia and Internet
Other courses you’ll have to take as part of a 2-year degree program to study computer programming can include calculus, physics, public speaking, economics, project management, and business communications. These subject areas will help you have a strong foundation in understanding the measures behind building systems and software and presenting yourself in a professional setting to work with clients.
Entry-level careers with a 2-year degree can include computer support specialists.
Some schools have career maps to show you how you can progress from studying to working at the highest level in that career field. Click here for a career map for Computer Information Technology from Broward College (Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA). Below, you can see two career maps for information technology and programming & software development:
You can begin a career in computer programming with a 2-year degree and build up your career with experience and upskilling (which means taking courses and certification trainings regularly), but having a 4-year (bachelor’s) degree will help you gain the very-important foundation and skills necessary for working in this field. As mentioned before, programs can go by different names at different institutions. Programs can be known as Computer Engineering, Computer Science, or Information Technology/Systems. When looking at programs, make sure to speak to an academic advisor to make sure you’re on the right track for the degree and career you’re looking to get into.
Similar to a 2-year (Associate’s) degree, your coursework will be very heavy in math, science, communication, and computer subject areas. Examples of this include:
- More calculus, physics and communication classes (sorry LOL)
- Engineering Calculus
- IT & Programming Concepts
- Information Systems
- Computer System Design
- Foundations of Engineering (for basic knowledge in engineering)
- Web Application Design
- Software Engineering
- Programming Languages & Concepts
- Database Design & Systems
- Operating Systems
- Software System Development & Testing
Through these majors, you can become a software developer, computer programmer, computer system analyst, information security analyst, web developer, or computer hardware engineer.
Software developer (applications or systems): Applications software developers create computer applications software to help someone carry out specific tasks, such as games, Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Word. Systems Software Developers create software on a systems level, meaning they write software that makes computers function (i.e operating systems. Examples include Linux, Microsoft Windows, Android OS, and Apple iOS.
Beyond a 4-Year Degree
Having a master’s or doctorate degree will allow you to have an even further concentrated and highly specialized career, but is not necessary if you are satisfied with your career with a bachelor’s degree. A majority of both a master’s and doctoral program will require you to conduct research, present a thesis or dissertation, and possibly participate in a hands-on experience such as a research project or practicum.
Here are some subjects you can study on a master’s level and what the specialization and coursework would look like:
- Master’s in Computer Engineering. Courses can include Computer Architecture, Advanced Machine Learning, Advanced Robotic Systems, Computer Networks, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, Research Methods for Human-centered Computing, User Experience Design, and Embedded Systems.
- Master’s in Computer Science. Courses can include Operating Systems, Computer Architecture, Advanced Robotic Systems, Data Mining, Computer Networks, and Introduction to Artificial Intelligence.
- Master’s in Information Systems & Operations Management. Course can include Information Systems in Organizations, Business Database Systems, Programming for Business Analytics, and Introduction to Python.
- Master’s in Electrical & Computer Engineering. Courses can include Network Science & Applications, Radio Frequency Integrated Circuits, Modern Memory Device Technologies, Foundations of Digital Signal Processing, Semiconductor Physical Electronics, Computer Communications, Advanced Systems Programming, and Principles of Computer System Design.
Here are some programs you can pursue on a doctorate level:
- Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering. Courses can include Operating Systems, Principles of Computer Architecture, Advanced Robotic Systems, Data Mining, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, Digital Image Processing, and Computer Networks. You will also have to complete a certain number of hours for independent study and direct research, and you will have to present a dissertation on your research.
- Ph.D. in Big Dat Analytics. Courses can include Introduction to the Theory of Algorithms, Introduction to Research Methods, Data Mining, Data Science Programming, Machine Learning, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, and Big Data for Business. You may also have to complete a practicum, which is an independent study, where you work on real-world data analytics projects, and you will have to present a dissertation on your research.
- Ph.D. in Electrical & Computer Engineering. Courses can include Network Science & Applications, Radio Frequency Integrated Circuits, Modern Memory Device Technologies, Foundations of Digital Signal Processing, Semiconductor Physical Electronics, Computer Communications, Advanced Systems Programming, and Principles of Computer System Design. You will also have to complete a certain number of hours for direct research, and you will have to present a dissertation on your research.
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The following are technical routes you can take to achieve a career in computer programming:
Jump to:Apprenticeships & Internships Vocational Training
Apprenticeships & Internships
Apprenticeships provide on-the-job training and education while you work. This can look like working or volunteering with little experience but being trained to improve your skills. Not only are you learning the necessary job skills, but also the demands, hours, ways to interact with the public, procedures, and problems that usually arise on the job. This is an all-encompassing experience. Apprenticeship and internship opportunities in computer programming can be hard to find, particularly because these are advanced skills that take time to learn and cultivate. However, you can take this time to build up your skills in coding, programming, and understanding of software to get yourself acquainted with systems and skills to gain relevant job experience like internships.
If there is a business, organization, or person whose work interests you, ask them for the opportunity to intern or shadow them to learn more about the field and career. This is a great way to show your interest in the field and secure future opportunities to gain experience.
Similar to apprenticeships, vocational training provides hands-on learning experiences, but mostly through coursework. It is primarily schooling with an aspect of hands-on learning to teach the necessary skills and later put them into action in a classroom setting. You can find vocational programs at technical colleges. Technical colleges usually provide vocational training in information technology. These programs can cover Applied Information Technology, Cloud & Computing Visualization, Network Support Services, Database Application Development & Programming, Web Development, Computer Systems & Information Technology, and Network Systems Administration. The length of a course at a technical college can last from 6 months to 2 years depending on the program, although courses are based on hours to complete the program. So it is up to you how long you take to complete the program (taking more or less classes than a full load each semester).
Try not to decline unpaid opportunities, especially if you have no experience. Eventually, you may become a paid worker. Through volunteering, you are gaining valuable hands-on experience that can be recorded on your résumé/CV, and you are building a network that you can lean on once you’ve elevated in your career. Ask different departments on campus about job shadowing, internship, or volunteer opportunities on campus or in the surrounding community.
You can review the Minnesota State CAREERwise website to explore careers similar to primary education in the Information Technology and STEM career clusters. Here are more resources to learn more about careers in primary education:
- U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Computer & Information Systems Managers | Computer Hardware Engineers | Database Administrators & Architects | Information Security Analysts | Network & Computer Systems Administrators | Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, & Testers | Web Developers & Digital Designers | Data Scientists | Computer Systems Analysts
- Professional Associations: American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) | Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) | Association for Women in Computing | Association of Information Technology Professionals | Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) | Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) | Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society (ISA) | International Association for Computer Information Systems (IACIS) | International Information Management Association (IIMA) | International Project Management Association | Project Management Institute (PMI) | League of Professional System Administrators (LOPSA) | USENIX Association | International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC)² | Women in Technology International (WITI) | Black Data Processing Associates | Association for Information Systems | Society for Technical Communication | Computing Research Association | Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society | Society for Information Management | Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) | Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) | Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) | Association for Information Science and Technology
Check with your institution of interest to find out more about their admissions application, program requirements, and the best way to map out your future for studying computer programming.
To find out what immigration hurdles you must pass to pursue education in the U.S., click here. For financial 411s click here.
Unsure about what Computer Pogramming is? Read our explanatory post here.