How to Become a

Computer Programmer

The complete career guide to be a Computer Programmer: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $84,360
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • -8%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Creativity Focused
    Career Attribute
  • Dependable Daily Workload
    Career Attribute

Computer programmers write code that computers read to work properly.  Software engineers develop and write the software which the programmers translate into instruction for the computer to understand.


What is a Computer Programmer?

The following responsibilities are common for Computer Programmers:

  • Writes programs in a variety of computer languages like Java and C++
  • Updates and expands the data on existing software programs
  • Debugs software programs by testing for and correcting any errors
  • Builds computer software engineering tools to automate the writing of specific code
  • Uses code libraries, or collections of independent code lines, to simplify coding procedures

A Day In The Life

Computer programmers write code through specific coding language like Java, C++ or MEL.  They create instructions for the computer to follow.  Their main responsibility is to write code and manipulate it into language that the computer can understand.

Programmers work closely with software engineers.  Some duties between programmers and engineers often overlap.  When this happen, it entails that a programmer can initially design and plan the software, while creating models and flow charts, detailing how the code is written, and debugging the code and designing applications for the systems interface.  Some programs are relatively simple and only take a week to write, while others can be very complex and take a year or more to complete.

Typical Work Schedule

Most computer programmers typically work full-time following the regular working schedule of 40 hours per week and some may work up to 50 hours. Additionally, longer hours will be needed to meet deadlines when needed and this includes working on evenings and weekends. Moreover, you also need to keep yourself updated regarding this rapidly changing field and knowledgeable about the available resources that can save you much time and effort. This requires commitment to continuous and regular self-learning that may be included into your official schedule or not. Computer programming can also provide more flexibility regarding the place and schedule of work, but it still requires long working hours.

Projected Job Growth

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of computer programmers is expected to decrease by 9% from 2019 to 2029. Many companies sometimes hire programmers remotely in countries where wages are lower due to the fact that programming can be done from home. Some companies would even open a branch in these countries where they employ programmers and computer scientists to handle the work with considerably lower wages. This behavior is the reason limiting employment growth for computer programmers in the United States. However, due to the higher costs associated with managing projects given to overseas programmers, some companies may bring back these jobs to the U.S. but so far, the trend is not promising. The decrease in the availability of jobs for computer programmers will result in increasing competition and difficulty in finding and maintaining your job. You should have regular schedule and clear plan for continuous learning to stay updated about this rapidly changing field.

Typical Employers

Software developing companies are the main employers for computer programmers. It is estimated that there are more than 26 million software developing companies around the world with around 4.2 million companies in the US.  Programmers can also work in other corporations working in computer systems design and other related fields which ranges from the huge corporations like Google, Facebook, etc. to smaller companies. Another popular option is freelance self-employed work which has been on the rise in recent years. Many other fields also require decent computer programmers including finance and insurance, manufacturing and other related industries.


How To Become a Computer Programmer

An individual must first consider the best type of training for themselves.  There are several educational pathway options available.  Although a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field is recommended for this position.  Most programmers learn only a few different languages while in school.  The main and first computer languages a student should become familiar with is Python and JavaScript.  A computer science degree give the student the skills required to learn new computer language easily.  During their coursework students should receive hands-on experience in writing code, debugging programs and software development among many other classes.  While certification is not required, earning certifications in certain programming languages can be extremely helpful.  Experience is also helpful.  There are many opportunities for internships and job-shadowing programs to help a student gain experience.  They can also learn the programming language basics from home as well as play around in any software they may already have.  Also, to keep up with the constant changing technology, these individuals will also need to maintain continuing education courses in their field to learn new programming languages and and any software upgrades they may need to be aware of.


Computer Programmer Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range

$60,250

Average

$84,360

High Range

$130,800

National Hourly Wage

Low Range

$29/hr

Average

$41/hr

High Range

$63/hr

How do Computer Programmer salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Computer Programmer's can make an average annual salary of $84,360, or $41 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $60,250 or $29 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #123 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally


Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Computer Programmer. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.


Highest Education Among Computer Programmers

  • 2.5%   Doctorate
  • 19.6%   Masters
  • 49.7%   Bachelors
  • 9.7%   Associates
  • 13.1%   College
  • 4.7%   High School
  • 0.7%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs

328,600

2024 Est. Jobs

302,200

Job Growth Rate

-8%

Est. New Jobs

-26,400

How does Computer Programmer job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of -26,400 jobs for a total of 302,200 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a -8% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #729 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally


What Companies Employ The Most Computer Programmers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Computer systems design and related services 126,100 -26,800 -27%
Software publishers 22,100 3,200 3%
Self-employed workers 18,000 2,600 3%

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