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Can You Get a Programming Job with Just an Associate's Degree?

By Lane Wagner on Mar 22, 2021

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Changing majors is a tale as old as time. A degree that would normally require four years to complete can quickly turn into a more expensive endeavor that takes five or six years for a student that can’t decide what they want to study. The interesting thing about programming jobs is that they don’t require a degree at all, but if you at least complete an associate’s degree, you’ll have a better chance of landing that first job.

Do associate’s degrees exist for computer programming? ๐Ÿ”—

There are plenty of associate’s degrees for programming and computer science offered by colleges all over. Need some proof? Here are some examples.

If what you’re looking for is a physical college that offers a 2-year degree in programming, you can likely find a similar program near you.

What kind of jobs are available for those with an associate’s degree in computer science? ๐Ÿ”—

Very few jobs in the programming industry explicitly require a degree at all. There’s a reason why famous programmers like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of college - they already had the career they wanted, so they saw no point in finishing. However, there are core concepts, mostly dealing with math and computer science, that make it much easier to get your first job.

Assuming you plan to attend a university, it could make a lot of sense to supplement your formal education with online training and extra-curricular projects so that you can get a coding job before graduation. If you like your job, it might make sense to cut the bachelor’s degree short at 2 years or so. All of the following jobs are potentially available to non-graduates.

  • Engineering manager: $152k
  • Engineer, site reliability: $140k
  • Data scientist or machine learning specialist: $125k
  • DevOps specialist: $125k
  • Engineer, data: $125k
  • Developer, back-end: $120k
  • Developer, embedded applications or devices: $120k
  • Developer, mobile: $120k
  • Scientist: $120k
  • Developer, desktop, or enterprise applications: $115k
  • Educator: $115k
  • Developer, full-stack: $112k
  • Developer, game, or graphics: $112k
  • Database administrator: $110k
  • Developer, front-end: $110k
  • System administrator: $110k
  • Developer, QA, or test: $105k
  • Academic researcher: $100k
  • Data or business analyst: $100k
  • Designer: $100k

For a deep dive into how much the various job titles earn on average check out my other article, The Highest-Paying Computer Science Jobs.

Is an associate’s degree in programming worth it? ๐Ÿ”—

Associate’s degrees and full bachelor’s degrees can be great options for prospective students. They have the advantage of providing face-time with professors, the opportunity to network with students and faculty, and a rigid structure that incentivizes you to keep moving forward. Some jobs, like the ones listed here on Jooble, are specific to associate-level programmers.

If however, you’re interested in getting the same quality programming education on a more flexible schedule, it could make sense to opt for an online CS program that offers certificates.

How much do computer programmers make? ๐Ÿ”—

Programmers and software engineers are some of the most well-compensated career paths, especially for not requiring a four-year degree. As you’ve seen from the jobs listed above, and if you need more information you can check out my other article, How Much Do Software Engineer’s Make?, engineers in the US typically make low six figures per year. Salaries in the $70k-150k are commonplace.

What is an associate’s degree? ๐Ÿ”—

An associate’s degree is a quick ~2-year degree. Sometimes they’re generalized, giving a student a basic overview of core higher-education subjects. In other cases, they can be focused on specific industries that provide training for a specific career.

There are four different kinds of associate’s degrees.

Associate of science (AS) ๐Ÿ”—

An Associate of Science degree does what the name implies, it focuses on science and STEM-related topics. An AS is intended for students who intend to go on to finish a Bachelor’s degree.

Associate of arts (AA) ๐Ÿ”—

An Associate of Arts degree on the other hand is typically issued when the focus of the curriculum is on anything other than STEM. An AA is intended for students who intend to go on to finish a Bachelor’s degree.

Associate of applied science (AAS) ๐Ÿ”—

An Associate of Applied Science helps students prepare for a specific career, for example, maybe they are studying to work as an x-ray technician. It’s similar to an AS but typically the student has no plans to finish a four-year degree.

Associate of applied arts (AAA) ๐Ÿ”—

An Associate of Applied Arts helps students prepare for a specific field in the arts or another non-STEM career. It’s similar to an AA but typically the student has no plans to finish a four-year degree.

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