A computer programmer creates the code for software applications and operating systems. After a software developer or computer software engineer designs a computer program, the programmer writes code that converts that design into a set of instructions a computer can follow. He or she tests the program to look for errors and then rewrites it until it is debugged, or error-free. A programmer continues to evaluate programs that are in use, making updates and adjustments as needed.
There were 344,000 computer programmers employed in 2012. They typically work from offices, sometimes as telecommuters from their own homes. The computer systems design and related services industry employs most programmers. Many work for corporations and other organizations, for example colleges and universities, that develop their own software programs to be used internally.
To work as a computer programmer one usually needs a bachelor's degree, generally in computer science, mathematics, or information systems. Alternatively, one may take coursework in computer science while earning a degree in another subject such as accounting, finance and business. There are some programmers who have only an associate degree in computer science.
Since experience is as importance as a degree is in this field, students should do internships while in school. Those who are already working in the field need to update their skills by keeping current with new programming languages. Certifications in various languages can also be beneficial.
In addition to education, experience and technical skills, one also needs certain soft skills, or personal qualities, to succeed in this field. A programmer must have strong problem solving and critical thinking skills. He or she should be detail-oriented and have good listening, reading comprehension and time management skills.
After gaining experience, a computer programmer may be promoted to a managerial position. One with business experience may become a programmer-analyst or systems analyst. Specialized knowledge and experience with a language or operating system can lead to a computer programmer becoming a computer software engineer.
Employment of computer programmers, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts, is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2022.
Computer programmers earned a median annual salary of $74,280 and median hourly wages of $35.71 in 2012 (US).
Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much a Computer Programmer currently earns in your city.
A Day in a Computer Programmer's Life:
These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for computer programmer positions found on Indeed.com:
- Develop, test and implement computer programs on multiple computer/operating system platforms
- Help develop a new web-based information system (IS).
- Performs all activities necessary for the definition, design, construction, testing and implementation of automated computer systems.
- Review programs on a frequent basis and make adjustments as are necessary to ensure proper working of the program.
- Confirm program operation by conducting tests; modifying program sequence and/or codes.
- Create and publish technical diagrams to support coding efforts.
- Integrate new functionality into existing applications.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Computer Programmers, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-programmers.htm (visited January 30, 2014).
Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Computer Programmers, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/15-1131.00 (visited January 30, 2014).