Now, You Can Major in Mobile Apps

"There's an app for that!" has become a pop culture catchphrase, and for good reason. Mobile applications, or application software designed to run on smartphones and other handheld devices, have taken the modern world by storm. App development has become a real career path, and now one college is offering degree programs specializing in mobile apps.


John Mindola III, center, a member of Rasmussen College’s Multimedia Faculty, works with computer technology students at a Minnesota campus. Credit: Rasmussen College

John Mindola III, center, a member of Rasmussen College’s Multimedia Faculty, works with computer technology students at a Minnesota campus. Credit: Rasmussen College


According to CNET News, iPhone maker Apple saw a whopping $1.78 billion in mobile app sales in 2010. That trend is not about to slow down anytime soon: Global sales of mobile apps are expected to increase by 81.5 percent in 2011, to a total of almost $4 billion, according to CNET News. At Apple's June 2011 Worldwide Developers Conference, executives announced that the company had paid out $2.5 billion to third-party app developers since 2008.

Rasmussen College, which offers online and campus classes, is taking advantage of the surge in mobile app design and demand by offering degrees with a specialized curriculum in mobile applications. Two flagship programs, an associate degree in software application development and a bachelor's degree in computer science, were launched in April 2011 at Rasmussen College campuses in Florida and Minnesota.

Training programs like these can be useful in obtaining employment. Gary Shea should know. He works for the firm Morgan King, which creates and markets FlipFlash academic review mobile apps, designed especially for high school Advanced Placement students and beginning college students.

"The providers I have dealt with would like to have more app programmers to meet the demand," he said. "My series of iPhone apps was delayed for nearly a year due to a shortage of qualified app programmers."

Learning about mobile apps and more  

Students enrolled in either of Rasmussen's two programs can expect a well-rounded education in computer science that also prepares them for specific work in the world of mobile application development, according to Hap Aziz, director of Rasmussen's School of Technology and Design.

"We cover content on the Android and iOS platforms and ecosystems, and we establish a foundation in object-oriented programming, which is essential for both traditional software engineering as well as mobile app development," Aziz said.

The associate degree program in software application development includes courses in software design and programming, including classes on applications specifically meant for mobile devices. These courses teach the skills necessary for an entry-level position in the field. The bachelor's program in computer science includes instruction in object-oriented languages, algorithm analysis, applied math and more, as well as classes in mobile application design and implementation. This program can give students entry-level and advanced skills.

Students excited about 'next-gen tech'

Students enrolled in the two new degree programs are still completing the core requirements of the program and have not yet encountered the courses specific to application development. Still, they are enjoying the beginning of their degree programs and excited about where their coursework could go.

"I have always wanted to work with computers, and the mobile app program makes sense because technology is moving so fast," said Cheyenne Burnham, the first student to sign up for mobile app classes at the Ocala, Fla., campus. "I plan to get my associate degree in mobile applications and then get my bachelor's degree in computer science."

Burnham hopes to use his skills to join a powerhouse like Google or Microsoft, or open up his own shop.

Rick Wilder, a student in the software application development program, sees it as a stepping stone to his eventual career goal of designing video games. Wilder has a nine-month-old son and works full-time, so the option of taking classes online is also a boon. "I can log into the computer at one in the morning when I get home from work, or at six in the morning before I leave," Wilder said.

Aziz said that the overall response to the offerings has been positive.

"The students that have enrolled have a demonstrated passion for the industry and area of study, and they're excited to be out ahead of the curve when it comes to a program that focuses on mobile apps and next-gen tech," he said.

Upward mobility for a mobile app career

Mobile app developers could find their skills in high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that computer software engineers, including mobile app developers, could see job opportunities grow by 32 percent between 2008 and 2018. Additionally, software engineers earn high wages. The mean annual wage for a computer software engineer specializing in applications was $87,900 in 2008, the last year for which data is available.

The U.S. is facing a shortage of computer-science professionals. This is exactly why mobile app coursework is important, said Aziz, who noted that the school spent two years developing the curriculum for the new program.

"The BLS has pinpointed mobile application development as one of the highly in-demand areas," he said. "I like to think of Rasmussen's new computer science and software application development degree programs as a way to help the U.S. stay on the forefront of the latest and upcoming technologies, leading to solid career options for our graduates."

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