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What Does a Computer Programmer Do?

Computer programmers create computer programs by writing in a programming code, or a language a computer can understand. In addition to writing programs or software, you'll help test and update programs in this role. You can find out additional career details for computer programmers by reading below.

Job Description

As a computer programmer, you may work alone on smaller programming projects or in a team for larger, more complicated computer programs. In many cases, a software engineer gives you the description of how the program is expected to work. Then, you translate the description into a language that computers can process. You'll use one of several computer programming languages, like Java, Visual Basic, C, or C++.

After the program is written, you'll run it to make sure it operates correctly. Afterwards, you'll fix any problems that occur with the program through a process known as debugging. You can also be in charge of updating, modifying, or repairing programs that already exist or writing their instruction manuals.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Professional Certification The certifications a programmer earns may be specific to a vendor, such as Microsoft or Oracle, or to a programming language.
Key Skills Good concentration, analytical skills, detail-oriented, troubleshooting
Work Environment Programmers may work alone or with others, depending on the scope of a project. Telecommuting opportunities may be available.
Similar Occupations Information security analysis, computer network architecture, computer hardware engineering, database administration, web development; management opportunities are available for computer and information systems as well

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

In order to work as a computer programmer, you'll typically need to hold at least a bachelor's degree. In some cases, you can get by with an associate's degree, though your chances of securing employment will be better with a four-year degree. The ideal majors you'll want to pursue include computer science and mathematics. Taking courses in computer programming will be essential. Previous work experience may be needed to get in to a graduate-level program. Additionally, you'll want to demonstrate to employers that you have the necessary skills to get the job done.

Salary Information and Job Outlook

In 2019, Salary.com reported that entry-level client/server programmers had a median salary of $61,263. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that computer programmers should see job opportunities decline by about 7% between 2016 and 2026. The median annual wage among all types of computer programmer was $84,280 as of May 2018, per the BLS.