Best Computer Programming Degrees 2021

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With so many processes and jobs going digital, computer programmers and software developers perform vital services for society. These professionals write and experiment with code to ensure software and computers function correctly. Additionally, they write code for new software. Thanks to computer programmers and software developers, many professionals enjoy digital tools that make their jobs easier.

A computer programming degree prepares individuals for employment as both computer programmers and software developers. In terms of salary and job outlook, software development offers better job prospects. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes a median annual income of $107,510 for software developers and projects 22% job growth between 2019-2029. The annual income and job outlook stand at $86,550 and -9%, respectively, for computer programmers.

Keep reading to learn the goals and requirements of a computer programming degree and how professionals and scholarships can aid studies.

Top 10 Best Computer Programming Degrees

Rank School Location
1 Stanford University Stanford, CA
2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA
3 Princeton University Princeton, NJ
4 University of California Berkeley Berkeley, CA
5 Yale University New Haven, CT
6 California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA
7 Harvard University Cambridge, MA
8 Dartmouth College Hanover, NH
9 Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA
10 Rice University Houston, TX
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FAQs

  • What degree do I need to be a computer programmer?

    To become a computer programmer, individuals should earn a degree in computer science or a related subject. Most entry-level computer programming positions require a bachelor’s degree.

  • How long does it take to become a computer programmer?

    Since computer programmers typically need a bachelor’s degree, it takes about four years to complete the required courses. Individuals wanting to start their career earlier can participate in an accelerated program.

  • What kind of jobs can you get with a computer programming degree?

    This degree prepares students to pursue careers as computer programmers, informational technology professionals, and software developers. Most computer programmers work in offices or from home.

  • Is computer programming a good career?

    This career offers a rewarding salary, so many individuals classify it as a promising career. According to the BLS, computer programmers enjoy a higher than average salary.


Best Computer Programming Degrees 2021

  1. Stanford University
    Location

    Stanford, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Stanford’s Computer Science Department was founded in 1965, making it one of the oldest and most prestigious programs of its kind. The research the department has kept up with the times, leading the way in technological development and making it a top institution for studying the discipline. Undergraduates in Computer Science have the opportunity to become thoroughly involved in research, working with faculty and resources that are some of the best in the world.

    Program Features

    While studying at Stanford, students become thoroughly enmeshed with campus culture and learning. Undergraduates in the Computer Science program have the opportunity to get involved in teaching, with many employed in discussion sections for introductory courses. Other students pursue opportunities such as internships and jobs in the nearby Silicon Valley. Required courses for the program include:

    • Computer Organization and Systems
    • Principles of Computer Systems
    • Data Structures and Algorithms
    • Introductory Electronics
    • Programming Abstractions

    Notables

    If you’re interested in performing cutting-edge research while you’re still in your first few years of study, Stanford is the place for you. This university provides students with exemplary training for future work in the field and even hosts a special program called CURIS. This program provides top students with research opportunities throughout the summer months.

  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at Massachusetts Institute of Technology is the largest undergraduate program at MIT. The program is world-renowned for its academic quality and propensity towards innovation. Students in this program learn how to solve problems in unique ways, working with modeling and abstraction methods that prepare them for success in top careers as software engineers or even bioengineers.

    Program Features

    Each flexible, intensive course is taught by world class faculty. Students will gain exposure to high-tech material such as mathematical computer theory to robotics. In addition to optional independent study or research opportunities, students are encouraged to take classes in concentration fields such as:

    • Applied Physics
    • Artificial Intelligence
    • Computer Systems
    • Graphics and Human-Computer Interfaces
    • Materials, Devices, and Nanotechnology
    • Numerical Methods
    • Signals and Systems

    Notables

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology is home to some of the world’s most advanced research laboratories. The four affiliate labs on campus include The Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems, the Microsystems Technology Laboratories, and the Research Laboratory of Electronics. Graduates pursue leadership positions in fields such as finance, law, nanotechnology, biomedical technology, and many others. As a result of these extensive, hands-on experiences, the institute consistently ranks at the top of U.S. News and World Report rankings for its academic excellence and overall quality.

  3. Princeton University
    Location

    Princeton, NJ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Princeton University not only offers a fundamental computer science program, it also allows students to customize their studies in an array of interdisciplinary areas. The program is highly flexible, allowing students to major in computer science through either the A.B. or B.S.E. degree program. Students may design their own programs within a broad framework, and also engage in unique learning experiences such as independent study. The university also offers a certificate program in Applications of Computing.

    Program Features

    In addition to a flexibly designed, customizable program, students also have the opportunity to engage in advanced research or even entrepreneurial product design. This allows them to gain experience in the core areas of computer science and their own chosen disciplines. Required courses for the major include:

    • Compiling Techniques
    • Reasoning about Computation
    • Algorithms for Computational Biology
    • Information Technology and Public Policy
    • Computer Architecture and Organization
    • Algorithms and Data Structures

    Notables

    Students are highly successful upon graduation from this program, with many joining major companies in computing and information technology. Others continue their education with graduate studies at the highest ranked Computer Science graduate programs, or even attend professional schools such as medical school. The program’s success is largely accredited to its thirty-nine experienced, tenure-track faculty, all with extensive backgrounds in machine learning, computational biology, graphics, networks, and other crucial disciplines.

  4. University of California Berkeley
    Location

    Berkeley, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Berkeley’s Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science prepares students both for long-term research careers as well as technical leadership in a variety of industries. The program looks beyond the technology of today and gives students the training necessary to anticipate future developments—as well as to initiate those developments while still enrolled in their studies. The department also features a unique Basic Programming Skills development program for entry-level employment, allowing students to complete the equivalent of a minor to gain some experience in the field.

    Program Features

    Unlike many institutions of its size and caliber, Berkeley offers the unique distinction of having the majority of its Computer Science courses taught by regular Electrical Engineering and Computer Science faculty. These teachers are also renowned researchers in the field, teaching classes such as:

    • Foundations of Data Science
    • Introduction to Computational Thinking with Data
    • Matlab for Programmers
    • Scheme and Functional Programming for Programmers
    • Productive Use of the UNIX Environment
    • JAVA for Programmers

    Notables

    This top-ranked program is offered at a vibrant, diverse community in one of the most technologically-influential areas of the world. The program has close ties to local industry, allowing students to explore internships and research in topics such as Artificial Intelligence, Programming Systems, Security, Communications, and many other fields.

  5. Yale University
    Location

    New Haven, CT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The Department of Computer Science at Yale University offers a range of exceptional programs, including a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science, as well as a combined Bachelor’s and Master’s program. The university also features unique joint majors with the Departments of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics, and Psychology. Because every program at Yale is ingrained in the liberal arts, students even have the opportunity to complete second majors, such as Economics or even Theater Studies.

    Program Features

    This program is supplemented by a wide variety of electives, giving students flexibility in designing their degree pathways. Students also have the opportunity to engage in challenging original research under the guidance of a faculty member. Opportunities exist throughout the year, including over the summer. Required classes include:

    • Introduction to Computing and Programming
    • Law, Technology, and Culture
    • Introduction to Information Systems
    • Mathematical Tools for Computer Science
    • Intensive Algorithms
    • Introduction to Systems Programming and Computer Organization

    Notables

    This program is highly collaborative, allowing students to work with their peers in the department as well as in other disciplines such as mathematics, statistics, music, business, linguistics, and more. These collaborations help the program to fit nicely into the diverse, academically rigorous community offered at Yale. As a result, this large research university is one of the few on this list with a prestigious designation as an Ivy League institution.

  6. California Institute of Technology
    Location

    Pasadena, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    California Institute of Technology offers a Computer Science major that provides students with a solid footing in the mathematical and algorithmic foundations of computing. Students receive access to cutting-edge research in multiple sub disciplines of Computer Science, and also learn how to apply their understandings of computation to other areas. There is notable flexibility in course scheduling, allowing students to engage in several tracks. These tracks include robotics, graphics, database, and many more.

    Program Features

    In addition to selecting a track upon which to focus their studies, students also engage in a set of core classes and design a unique capstone project. This capstone project gives young, aspiring researchers the opportunity to conduct independent work in any area of their choice. Other required classes include:

    • Introduction to Algorithms
    • Fundamentals of Computer Programming
    • Decidability and Tractability
    • Scientific Fundamentals
    • Machine Learning and Data Mining
    • Distributed Computing

    Notables

    While most students will engage in sufficient research throughout the regular duration of their undergraduate studies, the institute also features unique Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships to allow students to gain further experience. Students may also engage in research or internships opportunities outside of the institute, working at external positions that are often paid while gaining vital experience. Students even have the opportunity to double major, making this one of the most versatile and advanced programs of its kind.

  7. Harvard University
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The program in Computer Science at Harvard Unviresity is designed for all styles and levels of computer programmers. Most students admitted to this program have little to no experience in the discipline, making it an excellent option for young, aspiring researchers. Many Computer Science courses at Harvard allow for research experiences, and most students will, at some point in their studies, work one-on-one with faculty to conduct research in all sorts of areas. Common areas of research interest include Architecture, Artificial Intelligence, and Theory of Computation.

    Program Features

    Students will take a range of courses in the liberal arts, as well as in the overall study of information. Programming languages are learned and these skills are honed within this program, but are not the sole focus of the concentration. In addition to these core competencies, required courses include:

    • Computing Hardware
    • Networks
    • Data Structures and Algorithms
    • Fairness, Privacy and Validity in Data Analysis
    • Computational Linguistics
    • Networks Design Projects
    • Artificial Intelligence
    • Cryptography

    Notables

    Harvard features a variety of unique opportunities to tailor their studies towards their interests. For example, motivated students may pursue joint concentrations between Computer Science and another field, allowing them to explore a research problem that bridges the two fields. The university also features a variety of Active Learning Laboratories and related machine shops, which support students by giving them access to training and hands-on work with state-of-the art instrumentation and advanced fabrication tools.

  8. Dartmouth College
    Location

    Hanover, NH

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The undergraduate program at Dartmouth is designed not just to give students experience in modern computation technologies such as hardware and software, but to also give them the tools necessary to innovate and develop exciting new technologies, both on campus and off. The program focuses on design, implementation, diagnosis, communication, and analysis of computers and computer-related problems.

    Program Features

    In addition to a standard Computer Science undergraduate program, students may also take additional classes that will count toward a Master of Science degree with concentrations in Digital Arts or Computer Science. This allows talented students to accelerate their progress towards top-ranked graduate degrees. Recommended courses for the stand-alone major include:

    • Networks in our Social, Technological, and Natural Worlds
    • Problem Solving via Object-Oriented Programming
    • Introduction to Computational Neuroscience
    • Motion Study
    • 3D Digital Modeling
    • Computer Animation: The State of the Art

    Notables

    Dartmouth is one of the few universities on this list to offer study abroad programs uniquely designed for Computer Science majors. Through the Aquincum Institute of Technology, students may study at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics in Hungary. In small class sizes of less than twenty students, Dartmouth students may take coursework in topics such as Design, Entrepreneurship, Computer Science, Mathematics, and even Hungarian Culture. These experiences prepare students to work and to program in a highly diverse, rapidly changing global climate.

  9. Carnegie Mellon University
    Location

    Pittsburgh, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Carnegie Mellon’s rigorous Bachelor of Science in Computer Science combines an in-depth core of computer science courses with substantial coursework through a required minor in a different subject. Many students pursue coursework in the humanities and other sciences, providing them the unique flexibility to engage in studies and employment in other fields. Courses are intensive and project-based, and allow students the ability to receive independent study credit through research.

    Program Features

    This unparalleled program allows students to conduct part-time or summer jobs in independent computer science research. These experiences helps students gain insight into the issues surrounding the building and maintenance of computer-based systems. This four-year program is broken down into three main components: general education, fine arts, and computer science. Students will take a range of versatile, dynamic courses, including:

    • Designing Human Centered Software
    • Green Computing
    • Machine Learning in Practice
    • Natural Language Processing
    • Experimental Animation
    • Computer Game Programming

    Notables

    The university encourages students to engage in study abroad and internship opportunities to enhance and broaden their interdisciplinary experiences. Over thirty percent of graduating seniors study abroad at some point, enjoying programs in countries such as the Czech Republic, China, Peru, Italy, Spain, Thailand, Ireland, and Morocco. Internship opportunities are also encouraged, with students engaging in work experiences at startups, art museums, and a variety of other organizations and companies.

  10. Rice University
    Location

    Houston, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    While Rice University’s program in Computer Science provides students with the training and expertise necessary to solve advanced problems and design challenges in mathematics or computer science, it is unique in that it requires zero programming or coding experience. Students are not required to declare this as a major until after the sophomore year, allowing students to gain experience in other fields before moving on to field-specific and intensive coursework.

    Program Features

    Computer Science is offered via Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science tracks. Students will take courses tailored to their career goals, as well as core coursework in topics such as:

    • Principles of Parallel Programming
    • Probability and Statistics
    • Elements of Algorithms and Computational Thinking
    • Introduction to Program Design
    • Operating Systems and Concurrent Programming
    • Advanced Object-Oriented Programming and Design

    Notables

    Students in this program gain experience through computer science research positions in areas such as Programming Languages, Software Engineering, Algorithms, and many others. Students may become involved in faculty research either during the academic year or through paid summer internships. As a result, graduates are highly successful at finding positions in practically any industry. Computer Science alumni from Rice University are highly successful, working at global powerhouses such as Amazon, Yahoo!, YouTube, and Google. Many have developed nonprofit and for-profit startups, or even gone on to work for government agencies such as the Department of Defense.

What Are the Goals of a Computer Programming Degree?

A computer programming degree prepares students to succeed in the computer science field. Although courses vary by program, most computer programming degrees require coding, ethical hacking, user experience, and mathematics courses.

Most computer programming degrees allow students to select a minor or concentration. This flexibility enables learners to tailor their studies for their career goals. Typical concentrations include big data, cybersecurity, game development, mobile applications, and artificial intelligence. Some courses prepare students to earn certifications by covering the material on required exams. Computer programming offers certifications for C, C++, and Oracle Application Express.

Why Get a Computer Programming Degree?

Investing time and money into any college degree yields benefits. However, completing a computer programming program comes with unique perks. Below, we highlight five specific pros of earning this degree.

High Salary
The BLS reports a higher median wage for computer programmers and software developers than many other careers. The median incomes for software developers and computer programmers stand at $107,510 and $86,550, respectively.
Computer Professionals Can Work From Home
Since most computer programming tasks occur online, many employers let these professionals work from home. Working from home saves time and money on commuting.
Useful for Everyday Life
Technological issues arise regularly, and computer programming knowledge helps individuals troubleshoot these problems. Graduates also use their knowledge to assist friends and family members with technology questions.
Automation Causes an Increased Industry Need
With more jobs going digital and automation increasing, companies need individuals who can develop new computer programs and software. The BLS lists the projected job outlook for computer and information technology occupations as 11% for 2019-2029.
Opportunity for Self-Employment
According to the BLS, self-employed computer programmers comprise 3% of the workforce. Individuals wanting to set their own working hours and rates or work from wherever they wish should consider becoming a self-employed computer programmer.


What Are the Requirements for a Computer Programming Degree?

Colleges and universities set their own admission requirements. Typically, the more advanced the degree, the more competitive the requirements. Applicants must submit an application form, relevant test scores, official transcripts, references, and a small fee. Graduate programs may require a portfolio review or an interview with an admissions panel. Aspiring college attendees should apply for multiple programs due to the competitive nature.

While earning a computer programming degree, learners must maintain a certain GPA. Most computer programming courses include lectures, project-based exams, and hands-on practice. Computer programming programs with a research emphasis may also require a thesis or capstone.

What is Accreditation and Why Does it Matter?

Professional Organizations for Computer Programming Students

Students benefit from joining professional organizations aligned with their desired career outcomes. Typically, professional organizations host events and keep professionals up to date on industry advancements. Oftentimes, organizations extend membership discounts to students. Below, we highlight four professional organizations for aspiring computer programmers and software developers.

  • Association For Computing Machinery

    Since 1947, ACM has sought to advance the computer programming industry. This organization's membership pool totals more than 100,000 students and professionals. Members benefit from access to an exclusive job board and a digital library. ACM also publishes a student newsletter and journal.

  • Computing Research Association

    CRA advances the technological profession through research. Students members gain access to resources for research projects. The organization's Outstanding Undergraduate Researchers Award Program acknowledges students demonstrating computer research excellence. CRA also provides helpful information on selecting graduate programs.

  • International Association of Computer Science and Information Technology

    IACSIT charges an affordable student membership, and student members benefit from a reduced conference admission fee. This international organization connects individuals around the world, so it allows students to learn from mentors with diverse backgrounds.


Scholarships for Computer Programming Students

Scholarships can help fund a computer programming degree. Nonprofits, schools, and corporations all provide financial awards. Most scholarships require an application form, recommendation letters, and essays. Since most of these awards have many applicants and few recipients, we encourage prospective students to apply for multiple scholarships. Take a look at these three options for computer programming students.

Anne Maureen Whitney Barrow Memorial Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Society of Women Engineers administers this scholarship to female students in engineering-related fields, such as computer programming. Both undergraduates and graduate students qualify for this scholarship. Applicants must attend a program with accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

Amount: $7,000



Betty Stevens Frecknall Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Full-time undergraduate students with a declared computer science major qualify for this scholarship. Individuals must complete one full college semester before applying. The recipient needs a minimum 3.0 GPA. This scholarship award honors the memory of Betty Stevens Frecknall and her achievements in the computer science field.

Amount: Varies



Blacks at Microsoft Scholarships

Who Can Apply: Each year, Microsoft sets aside funds to assist Black computer science students. For 2021, the organization offers 27 scholarships. To apply, individuals must submit a photo of themselves, two recommendation letters, transcripts, and two essays. One essay focuses on the student’s financial need. The other details how the individual plans to engage in the technology industry in their future career.

Amount: $1,000-$20,000

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