There's an App for That! Degrees in Mobile

For much of the plugged-in generation of Millennials, mobile technology is an integral part of their personal lives and social interactions. Now, thanks to new degree programs from online schools, it can be part of their professional lives as well. The latest educational offering for tech majors comes in the form of mobile application development degrees.


Careers for the 21st century

App development is a career path spurred by the increasing popularity of smartphones and mobile devices. The International Data Corporation (idc.com) estimates that the market for smartphones will grow at a rate that is four times that of the general mobile phone market. Add to that estimates by Chetan Sharma Consulting that the mobile app market will hit $50 billion by 2012, and you have the makings of an industry ready for explosive job growth.

However, current training for software developers does not always easily translate to the mobile market. Mobile devices present developers with unique challenges including small screen sizes and limited hardware options. In addition, clean and user-friendly interfaces are paramount.

Studying for a degree in mobile applications

The new degree programs in app development are geared specifically toward students planning to work on these mobile platforms and who need expertise in the Android and Apple operating systems. While several schools offer individual courses in mobile development, Rasmussen College and Full Sail University are two of the first to offer entire degree programs focused on mobile software.

Full Sail University offers a Bachelor of Science in mobile development while Rasmussen College has both two-year and four-year degree options. The Full Sail program focuses on design, usability and programming. Students take classes such as Mobile User Experience in addition to learning about software languages such as Java and MySQL. The mobile development degree is available through Full Sail's online campus. Students must complete eight semesters of coursework, which is priced per credit.

Although Rasmussen College offers online classes, its mobile development programs are currently only available at its Florida and Minnesota campuses. The two-year associate degree curriculum is intended to help students gain entry-level positions in computer software development. Those who wish to expand their career options can move on to the bachelor's degree program which includes learning computer languages such as Java and C++. The cost of the Rasmussen College degree programs depend on the location--so Florida courses are a different cost than those in Minnesota.

Job opportunities for mobile application graduates

Students entering online degree programs for mobile development may find themselves graduating with a number of employment options. While some mobile developers work independently or on a contract basis, others are employed by large firms such as Microsoft and Google.

Although the government doesn't track employment information specifically for mobile app developers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics does compile data on the more general category of computer software engineers working with applications. In 2009, those professionals earned a mean annual wage of $90,170. In addition, jobs opportunities for this occupation are expected to grow 34 percent from 2008 through 2018.

Today, mobile development degrees remain a niche educational product. For prospective students who do not have access to a nearby on-campus program, an online campus offers virtual classrooms that can be accessed from across the country. In addition, online learning provides adult students with the flexibility to schedule classes around family and work obligations.