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Computer Programmer Career Guide

If you enjoy learning new concepts and applying them to other problems, you’re inquisitive, you enjoy solving hard problems, and your attention to detail is second to none, you might consider becoming a computer programmer. 

Computer programmers perform a variety of functions. They might write and test computer code, take designs created by software developers and engineers and turn them into usable code, update and modify existing code, test existing programs, or find and resolve errors in existing code.

Programmers learn and use programming languages, and becoming proficient in multiple languages is beneficial to career growth. To thrive as a computer programmer, the skills required include excellent written and verbal communication skills, creativity, and the ability to work independently and with a team. Being good multitaskers, having good organizational skills, attention to detail, and exceptional problem-solving skills are also key skills needed.

Sample job description

[Your Company Name] is seeking an experienced computer programmer to grow with us as a company. The programmer will be responsible for designing, writing, testing and debugging moderately complex code to enhance current software functionality. The candidate must effectively document all code they develop. As an ideal candidate for this role, you have excellent coding and problem solving skills, you’re a critical thinker, you communicate clearly and effectively with technical and non-technical colleagues, manage tasks efficiently, and are knowledgeable in multiple computer languages.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Writing and testing code 
  • Identifying and fixing errors in code
  • Updating existing programs 
  • Managing database systems
  • Rewriting code for different operating systems 
  • Editing source-code
  • Securing code against cyber threats
  • Implementing build systems
  • Providing tech support

Education and experience

  • A bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, mathematics, or a related field
  • Experience in lieu of a bachelor’s degree with an associate’s degree or a certificate
  • Three years related experience

Required skills and qualifications

  • Exceptional IT skills
  • Advanced knowledge of operating systems
  • Complex problem-solving skills
  • Ability to learning new technology
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Self-motivated
  • Detail-oriented
  • Ability to work under pressure to meet deadlines
  • Ability to work closely with software developers, application architects, and engineers
  • Strong math comprehension

Preferred qualifications

  • Experience in computer languages such as Java, C++, SQL, C#, and HTML
  • Experience as a leader and project manager
  • Experience in designing, coding, testing, deployment, and maintaining computer applications
  • Experience writing high-quality, efficient, and easily testable code
  • Experience communicating with both technical and non-technical customers

Typical work environment

Computer programmers generally work as part of a team in IT departments and spend a lot of time in front of computer terminals. They often work closely with others, including web developers, software developers, computer engineers, and system architects. Due to the nature of their work and available technology, many computer programmers telecommute three, four, or five days a week. Computer programmers work in many different industries such as healthcare, finance, government, retail, education, business, artificial intelligence, and computer security.

Typical hours

Computer programmers normally work 40 hour weeks, usually during business hours between 8 AM and 5 PM. They frequently work weekends and evenings to resolve technical issues and may rotate on call. A small percentage of computer programmers work part-time. 

Available certifications

Many different companies provide certifications for computer programmers in order to further their careers. The right certifications for each individual will depend on their goals, skill sets, and the career path they are interested in pursuing. Here are a few of the best certifications currently available for computer programmers.

  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals. The Azure Fundamentals certification proves your understanding of cloud concepts. You will learn about Azure services, core solutions and management tools on Azure, and general and network security features. This certification is ideal for administrators, developers, and technology managers.
  • CLP – C Certified Professional Programmer Certification. The CLP demonstrates your ability to code and design related to advanced topics of the C programming language. You’ll learn advanced programming techniques, including the library functions and the usage of the preprocessor.
  • AWS Certified Developer Associate (AWS CDA). Intended for developers who have experience developing and maintaining an AWS-based application, the AWS CDA will have an understanding of core AWS services and uses, basic AWS architecture best practices, as well as proficiency in developing, deploying, and debugging cloud-based applications using AWS.
  • CSSLP – Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional. The CSSLP is a cyber security certification designed to show employers and peers that you have the advanced technical skills and knowledge necessary for authentication, authorization, and auditing throughout the software development lifecycle using best practices, policies, and procedures established by the cybersecurity experts at the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC)².

Career path

The computer programmer career path begins with attaining a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related program, although those with a good amount of experience might get hired without one. Many employers value experience, and a number of companies offer internships to computer programming majors at most universities, allowing students to obtain that experience. 

Computer programmers looking to move up in their careers will generally take advantage of ongoing education in the field they work in. Many computer programmers start as systems analysts and become programmers or software developers with experience. Those with substantial experience advance to become senior developers, lead developers, and system architects. Others are promoted to managerial positions. Becoming certified in a specific programming language or for vendor-specific programming products is a key way programmers can advance their careers. Some companies require their programmers to be certified in the products they use.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 15-1251

2020 Employment213,900
Projected Employment in 2030193,800
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 9% decrease
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift20,100 decrease

Technology is advancing at a rapid pace, making yesterday’s trends in programming obsolete within a few years. Newer, better, and faster trends in programming are driven by increased efficiency, customization, and ease of use. One such trend is in quantum computing, which uses quantum mechanics to perform computations that would take the world’s most powerful supercomputers millions of years to solve. The Zero Trust information security model aims to prevent network vulnerabilities by requiring verification for anyone attempting to gain access to any resource on the network, clamping down on so-called trusted users who only have to “get in” once and then have unlimited access. Edge computing eliminates the latency associated with traditional cloud computing where all the servers are in one location. Edge computing brings computation, data storage, and data analytics as close as possible to the end-user location, vastly improving response times.

In today’s world, with rapidly growing, ever-changing technology, computer programmers need to remain up to date on the latest trends in the industry.