Computer Programmers

This article acts as an extensive career guide that elaborates on the career path of computer programmers, the job outlook, salaries, qualifications required and much more.

Updated by Rakshitha.N on 30th September 2020

What do they do: Computer programmers write, develop, test the codes which help the software and computer applications to function as desired. Also, they correct the codes by eliminating the errors to derive the necessary output. 

Working environment: They work full-time indoors in an office setting, in front of computers, sitting through the shifts. They are mostly hired in the computer systems design and related services industry.

How to become: To become a computer programmer, one requires a bachelor's degree in computer science and certification with specialization. Also, an associate’s degree is also considered eligible to be hired. 

Salary offered: The salary offer is about $86,550 and can range between $55,970 and $73,147. 

Career Outlook: Career growth is on the negative side where there is a decline rate of 7 percent between the period of 2018 to 2028.

Similar careers: With similar degrees and qualifications, you have alternative options with higher potential, salary, growth and other benefits. 

Top Computer Programming Jobs

DevOps specialists

The DevOps specialists learn the requirements of both software developers and IT operations and focus on refining the modes of testing the codes, tools and infrastructure changes. They earn more than all tech workers and the median wage is about   $116,317. 

Data scientist

Data scientists analyze the organization’s data and predict the trend, pattern and uncertain risks with use of statistical, mathematical, analytical tools and engines. They are technically sound and have deep knowledge in programming skills with R and Python, database query language SQL. The median wages can be expected to be about $107,801 annually. 

Back-end developer

A back-end developer works on the software used on servers, modern web services,  user interface design. They are well versed in programming languages like Java to Python, HTML and CSS. The average salary offered for this profile is about $100,281. 

What do Computer programmers Do?

Computer programmers are technically sound professionals who write and test the programming codes that help in software and computer application to function as desired. Software developers and engineers pass on the program design they created into computer-readable instructions to function. Also, they test all the codes to ensure the derivation of expected results by making necessary changes and corrections. The roles and responsibilities of Computer Programmers also include,

  • Design programs with the knowledge on computer languages such as C++ and Java

  • Test the programs and correct the errors in he code

  • Develop the concepts created by software developers into reality by writing the codes.

  • Update the existing program codes

  • Use the integrated development environment (IDE) to create and test the program codes

  • Form instructions or codes understandable by the computer to perform the function

  • Also create softwares that can be used in personal computers, tablets, smartphones or automated systems

  • Work on user interface and installing updates.

  • Work on Software-as-a-service (SaaS) which is used to write programs. 

The duties of a Computer programmer and a software developer overlap and are interconnected where the designing programs, writing and debugging code, and designing applications can be performed in both profiles. 

Working Conditions of Computer programmers

Computer programmers work indoors in office settings and spend most of their time sitting in front of the computer. They are hired in most industries as information technology and programmers are in demand. He overall positions held by the Computer programmers are about 250,300 jobs and the largest employers are,

  • Computer systems design and related service: 38%

  • Finance and insurance: 7%

  • Software publishers: 7%

  • Manufacturing: 5%

  • Self-employed workers: 5%

The working conditions of computer programmers include,

  • They work indoors in office settings with colleges and coworkers. 

  • They have high social contact with Clients, workers and other superiors.

  • They communicate through email, telephone, and in-person

  • Work individually while working coding and also part of the team

  • They work accurately to meet deadlines as the company could face costs with delayed work.

  • The work environment is competitive and can cause physical and mental stress

  • Make decisions and also look after the team assigned.

  • Work on a fixed schedule of 40 hours per week and the time can be extended as the deadlines near.

How to Become a Computer Programmer?

A computer program must first earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science or in any related major and it takes about 4 years to become a computer programmer. 

Most employers may also hire programmers with associate's degrees for an entry-level job. 

Becoming a Computer programmer has certain clear steps you must follow to achieve a successful career depending on your goals. You could enter various fields of work such as web design, operating systems, video games, or mobile apps however the initial steps are the same. 

  • Complete your education through an accredited program

  • Choose specialization base on your goals and interests

  • Gain experience through an internship in the fields of your choice

  • Earn certification in a specialization 

  • Gain job experience and training, land on a job

Educational requirements for Computer programmers

The educational requirements for a computer programmer is to earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science which is accredited, some employers can also prefer to hire associate’s degree graduates as well as ones who specialise in specific programming languages.

An associate’s degree is a 2 years program that offers 60 credits to complete coursework like Introduction to computing, programming fundamentals, java programming, data structures and C++. The course helps in learning diverse concepts on the surface level also helps in easy transfer of credits to further education.

A bachelor’s degree in computer science is a 4 years program which offers course work such as Algorithm, discrete mathematics, computer architecture and computer architecture. Students also get internship opportunities in while gaining formal education

Prospective students can also choose a Bachelor’s of science to pursue this career path. Online computer degrees are also a great source to obtain the qualification and skills at an affordable cost and flexible schedule. 

Most students prefer to specialize in a programming language which helps in getting hired easily when the job profile describes the skills you possess. Here the skills and knowledge play a major role compared to the degree.

Licenses and Certifications for Computer programmers

Computer programmers can choose to become certified by volunteering to take up the certification programs. Gaining experience also helps in advancing your career. With constant learning and enhancing skills, Computer Programmers can convert into developers or start-up as an independent professional. 

Certification: Obtaining certifications are a great way to demonstrate your skilled level of competence. Also choosing the Professional and academic organizations which offer certification help in increasing your credibility and also market yourself better to the employers. Also, most professionals own certificates in programming languages like C++ or Java.

  • The Institute for Certification of Computer Professionals offers Certified Computing Professional and Associate Computing Professional designations.

  • Cisco Certified Network Associate

  • Microsoft offers Microsoft Certified Application Developer, Microsoft Certified System Associate and Microsoft Certified Solution Developer.

Stand Out Skills for Computer programmers

Reading and comprehension- the ability to understand written instructions is a must. 

Problem-solving -  the simultaneous identification and solving of a particular problem or defect is a necessity.

Critical thinking - while problems are being solved a programmer must have the ability to weigh all variables and make a calculated decision. 

Active listening - it is imperative for a proficient programmer to be an active listener so they can incorporate ideas from their team to make their overall product or venture better and more efficient.

Self-reliance - self-reliance extends up to every choice a programmer might make whether it is what computing language to use or the to start from the service end or from the client end. self-reliance is integral for the success of a programmer and is in fact a very important skill to have.

Language - but in order to write code, you’ll have to learn at least one programming or scripting language. Python is considered one of the easiest coding languages to learn. It’s free, open-source, and most often classified as a scripting language (meaning it doesn’t require an explicit compilation step). It’s one of the most ubiquitous programming languages. Ruby is a similar beginner-accessible, extremely prevalent scripting language. The knowledge and application of such languages are an essential skill for a programmer.

Abstract thinking - Abstract thinking is thinking done without the object of the thought present or even physical. It’s a foundation of coding. Because the written code, and what it produces can never be observed and measured physically, successful coders have to develop an ability to think abstractly, in larger, more comparative ways than they may be used to. 

Top University Programs for Computer programmers

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge,

  • Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA

  • Stanford University in Stanford, CA

  • University of California - Berkeley

  • Cornell University

  • University of Washington

  • University of Pennsylvania

  • University of Texas- Austin

Computer programmers Salary

The average salary offered to Computer Programmers working in the United States is $65,124 and can range anywhere between $55,970 and $73,147 for an entry-level job. The salary offered can vary based on your skills, education, certification, specialization, experience, and progress in a career path.

Breaking down the salary offered,

  • 10th percentile: $50,150

  • 25th percentile: $64,410

  • 50th percentile (median): $86,550

  • 75th percentile: $109,120

  • 90th percentile: $140,250

To elaborate, the top industries and the median wage paid by them are listed below,

  • Software publishers: $98,230

  • Finance and insurance: $89,920

  • Manufacturing: $86,620

  • Computer systems design and related services: $85,640

The best paying states for computer programming are : 

  • Washington- $126,920

  • Columbia- $105,200

  • California - $97,470

  • Arizona- $95,900

  • Massachusetts -$95,380

Job Growth of Computer programmers

Employment opportunities for computer programmers have declined over the years and has a rate of 7 percent during the period of 2018 to 2028. The trends of declined rate for programmers limit the emerging future programmers and also most companies and organizations tend to hire programmers from anywhere around the world where the wages are lower. The costs of the projects deteriorate the role of programmers. The roles of software developers are similar and hence they are subjected to be hired more than the programmers. 

The jobs held by computer programmers currently is about 250,300 and the total jobs at the end of 2028 is about 232,300 which means at 2028 the negative impact of the trends will cut down almost 17,900 jobs. 

However the job prospects can be improved by upgrading the skills of the workforce by training and enhancing their skills, also converting to a software developer can help in having a continued job. 

Related Careers for Computer programmers

The job opportunities for an accomplished programmer are plentiful and generous in nature. a programmer can pursue positions like a support specialist, software engineer, system analyst, and so on so forth. A bachelor’s degree would enable you to pursue a general position whereas a master’s degree would enable you to bag a specialist position that would pay significantly more. Job concentrations for a computer programmer are,

Web developers

A web developer can be further categorized into a client-side and service- side developer. The former is responsible for writing code that determines how the website looks and how the content would be received by the general audience. Service side developers write web apps and other complicated programs.

Software programs

They are inherently responsible for creating software, they usually take a certain design or concept and write and execute the specified code to convert it into a working product.

Data scientists

These individuals are usually concerned with research and academia, where they exclusively python to analyze and manipulate data. The first step toward a data scientist is being a proficient programmer. 

Database administrator

An administrator is responsible for a myriad of roles but they mainly emphasize taking large amounts of data and securing and organizing it.

Mobile app development

This is a very lucrative and highly profitable job offer as it helps to cater to the rising demand for app development