Overview of a Associates in Software Development
Software programs are needed in every industry. Applications, games, web pages, and other software programs require code written by programmers. Today, programmers are writing in many programming languages including C++, SQL, Java, Python, and Ruby on Rails. Associate degrees in software development will teach students several programming languages, algorithms, data structures, operating systems, the software development cycle, design of web pages, and management of databases. These degree programs prepare students for potential employment in junior software development positions.
The best associate degree programs in software development will also provide internships in order to help the student begin to gain the industry experience needed to break into the field. Students who intend to pursue an associate degree in software development need to understand that they will also be taking advanced mathematics courses, such as calculus.
Computer Science Degrees & Career Paths
Some of the benefits of pursuing an associate degree in software development include the fact that it will be completed in half the time it would take to of complete an entire bachelor’s program. Also, some candidates may be working on their second career and already possess a bachelor’s degree in another field of study. They will be able to concentrate their program on the actual software development classes, having already completed many or all of the general education requirements for the associate degree in software development.
Those who complete an associate degree in software development and are able to break into the field can expect to earn around $40,000, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Thus, rather than spending more money attending one's junior and senior year in college, it is possible that someone with an associate's degree in software development can be earning a decent income. They will still have the option of pursuing their bachelor’s degree in a program suited for working professionals while they earn money in the field.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the types of positions available to someone with an associate degree in software development include junior positions in programming, web design, computer systems and support, and network management.
According to a 2017 survey by Stack Overflow of over 64,000 software developers, around 48% had at least a bachelor’s degree, while around 76% had a bachelor’s degree or some higher level of education. Just under 15% had some higher education but lacked a bachelor’s degree. Thus, the industry favors those who have at least a bachelor’s degree or higher. Also, not only are recruiters looking for a bachelor’s degree as a minimum standard for many software development positions, Bloomberg stated that recruiters also look at the university the person attended in order to scrutinize the candidate. One simply cannot count upon being able to get an associate degree in software development and assume they will find work in the field.
Certificate vs. Associates
There are people who gain employment in the software development industry who have bachelor’s degrees in other fields. They get disenchanted with the job prospects or earning power of their present positions and pursue coding certifications through coding bootcamps. This is another option to gain entry into the software development field. The reason people pursue the certification option is that the certification process in the coding boot camps is intensive and short, often only taking a few months.
Those who pursue certifications and lack a software development or computer science degree are often relegated to simply writing code. They usually are not hired for design or management roles because their knowledge of software development is more limited. With some employers, though, an advantage some coding bootcamp graduates may possess is experience in the prospective industry. For example, the coding bootcamp graduate may have experience in the hospital industry and be hired by a company developing healthcare software. In some cases, this experience in the field for which the coding is needed sometimes trumps other candidates' qualifications, who may have little experience in the industry that needs the software.
According to the Center for American Progress, anyone trying to break into software development needs to ensure that their degree program provides ample opportunity for internships or other paid, hands-on experience. Such programs must also provide the basics in the whole skills, such as algorithms and data structures. This type of training helps candidates with higher education in software development be more versatile and adaptable to learn a variety of programming languages and operating system procedures.
Hiring managers of software developers also emphasize soft skills, such as communication skills, meeting deadlines, and teamwork as key for any new hire. It is essential that anyone who has a certificate or an associate's degree, but lacks a bachelor’s degree in the field, convey and demonstrate to their interviewer that they possess these requisite skills.
What Software Development Associate Degrees are Available?
There are various associate degree programs that are available at community and technical colleges. Both the Associate of Arts and the Associate of Science are degree programs that one would pursue if one's intention is to transfer units earned to a four-year institution. If one's goal is to simply take coursework in order to enter the job market, one might instead pursue an Associate of Applied Arts, Associate of Applied Business, or Associate of Applied Science degree.
Often, the software development degree programs, unless they are under a school of business, will be either an Associate of Applied Science or an Associate of Science. The latter are designed to have units that are transferable to a four-year institution upon completion of the program.
The associate degree also may not be specifically in software development. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the programs are often labeled “computer science” or “software engineering.” The BLS advises students to ensure that the coursework to helps them focus on building software.
Often, the admission requirements to associate degree programs are far less stringent than that of a four-year institution. The main requirement is that the candidate possess either a high school diploma or a G.E.D. In more competitive programs, candidates may be required to have a 2.0 or 2.5 high school G.P.A. The more competitive programs may also require candidates to submit a letter of intent or letters of recommendation by teachers and/or employers.
A key is that students take a full four years of mathematics in high school that prepares them for calculus.
How long does it take to earn a Software Development Associates Degree?
An associate degree program in software development is designed to be completed in two years of full-time study. It is exactly half of the time and units of a full bachelor's degree program. Students who are working and/or raising children simultaneously may find that their completion times may end up being longer, as they juggle the demands of school, work, and/or family. Some students find that a full-time class load is just too demanding for their lifestyle.
There are online programs that are touting that one can complete their degree in less time. Some of these allow students to complete the work at their own pace. One needs to examine such programs critically to ensure that they are fully accredited and that their graduates are able to get work in the field upon successful completion of the program.
Potential Careers in Software Development with an Associates
The BLS stated that some who have an associate degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field may be able to find junior or entry-level positions in the field, such as:
Students with associate degrees in the field may be able to find coding positions. These positions will not usually allow the employee to design the software. The employee will be coding portions of larger software designs.
The median salary for programmers with an associate's degree is $69,100 yearly.
- Entry-Level Web Designer:
Other candidates with an associate degree may be able to find employment creating websites for companies. This position requires a combination of coding skill as well as skill in design and placement of information on a page. Also, some skill in search engine optimization may be required. This is work that could be done on a freelance basis as one gains experience before landing full-time employment in the industry.
The median salary for web designers with an associate's degree is $55,100 yearly.
- Computer Systems Support:
Those with an associate degree will often be able to find positions in entry-level support position for computer systems, such as technical support helping a customer with problems they are having with their new cell phone or laptop or with a website used by a business. They must have the skills to troubleshoot and resolve technical problems with computers or networks. They need to have good customer service skills.
The median salary for computer systems support employees with associate degrees is $41,000.
- Network Manager:
A network manager will install, maintain, and troubleshoot the security and efficient performance of business computer networks.
Candidates with an associate degree in software development or a related field can expect to earn about $43,700 yearly as a network manager.
Options to Advance
One obvious means of advancement in the field is completing your bachelor's degree in a related major, such as computer science. It is essential to ensure that the school you will attend for your associate's degree provides credits that are transferable to any university you may choose to attend.
Those with a bachelor’s degree in software development or computer science can expect to earn more money and have greater opportunity to advance to positions such as management and/or design. They also will be qualified to apply for a greater variety of software development positions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a bachelor’s degree is still the minimum level of education required for many software development positions.
Best Associate of Science in Software Development
The following are traditional colleges that provide associate degrees in software development or a related field, such as computer science. They were chosen because of their longevity as institutions, the program's high ranking nationally, and for unique aspects of their programs.
Seminole State College
Central Florida – Four campus locations
Seminole State is one of the nation's fastest growing colleges. They offer an Associate degree in Computer Science as well as many professional certifications, including Network Server Administrator, Information Technology Analyst, and Computer Repair and Installation. They provide students a panoply of financial aid, scholarship, and financing possibilities.
- Associate of Arts in Computer Science
- Several IT certifications
George C. Wallace State Community College
Wallace State serves over 7,000 students yearly. One strong aspect of this program is its transferability to a four-year institution. Wallace State maintains strong ties with the four-year institutions in the area, including the University of Alabama and Auburn University.
Another huge program strength is that one can chose between four different tracks in the program: Cybersecurity, Programming, Software Help Desk and, Internet/Networking Technology. They also offer certifications in the industry for their students.
- Associate of Applied Science in Computer Science
- Associate of Science in Programming
Northwest Iowa Community College
This community college is the oldest and most rural in Iowa, yet it has impressive recommendations from CNN Money and the Aspen Institute, as both the one of the most successful community colleges for its graduates and as one of the top-ranked community colleges in the nation. Their Associate of Science in Computer Science candidates are able to choose from three different tracks: Programming, Web Development, or Networking.
- Associate of Science in Computer Science – Three tracks
De Anza College
On one huge campus, De Anza serves 21,000 students. They are prized for their top-flight programs and rich learning resources. The Associate of Science in Computer Science is designed to help students transfer to the California State College system upon graduation. They also have honors classes that are offered for many of the courses in this program. Certificates offered include Network Administration, Database Design for Developers, and Visual Basic Programming.
- Associate of Science in Computer Science
- Other Certifications
CUNY Kingsborough Community College
Brooklyn, New York
On the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, this is the only community college in Brooklyn. Their A.S. in Computer Science candidates may work within the regular track, the honors track, or the accelerated program. All of the Universities of New York are known for academic excellence. 80% of CUNY graduates are able to complete their programs owing no federal loan debt.
- Associate of Science in Computer Science
- Associate of Applied Science in Computer Information Systems
Traditional Schools Offering an AS in Software Development
An interesting piece of advice from the Stack Overflow study of 64,000 software developers was the fact that they recommend online learning of software development over learning through coding bootcamps, in-person courses, or textbooks. The following are some community and/or technical colleges that offer online associate degrees in software development. They were chosen because they have been in existence for a long time, are ranked highly, and have unique and strong aspects to their programs:
Purdue University Global
West Lafayette, Indiana
Purdue has created an online means of maintaining its public, accredited, non-profit educational programs. The difference here is that these programs are targeted for busy, working professionals who need to fulfill other obligations in their lives during the day and need to be able to pursue their studies in the evenings. There are four concentrations: IT Generalist, Network Administrator, Programming, and Software Development.
- Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology – Four Concentrations
St. Petersburg College
The school is physically located in the Tampa Bay area and serves 20,000 of its student body online. They have 52 online programs. The online computer science associate degree helps students learn multiple computer languages and platforms. An internship is provided within the program. The school is regionally accredited and has served students since 1927.
- Associate of Science in Computer Programming and Analysis
This growing college has been in existence since 1878 and still maintains small class sizes. They have many fully online degree programs and are regionally accredited. This college can accommodate its students through their associate degree, bachelor's, and graduate work. There is an Associate in Software Development and an Associate in Web Design and Development. The former program emphasizes C++ programming, networking, database structures, and algorithms. The latter program emphasizes operating systems, website design, and architecture. Unlike many associate degree programs, Champlain requires a 2.5 GPA minimum.
- Associate of Science in Software Development
- Associate of Science in Web Design and Development
Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College
Shell Lake, Wisconsin
Regionally-accredited, WITC offers an associate degree in information technology. Students will learn Java, .NET programming, SQL, developing mobile apps, HTML, and software design. This program will entail a formal application.
- Associate Degree in Information Technology – Web and Software Developer
Cincinnati State Technical and Community College
C-State provides its students with 200 online courses. The computer science associate program provides students with learning at the intersection of business and technology. Database management and software development are emphasized. System analysis courses, as well as courses on web app development are provided. There is a capstone project that emphasizes both database management and programming.
- Associate of Applied Science in Computer Programming and Database Management - Computer Software Development
One additional point about online programs is that, if the traditional program at Seminole State College in Florida sounded attractive, they do offer their computer science associate program online as well. About half of the students at Seminole State are taking courses online.