How to Become a
Computer Programmer

Essential Education, Skills, and Job Interview Prep

In an increasingly digital world, tech careers are becoming more popular. Computer programmers work behind the scenes to write code for digital programs and software. There is a constant need for programmers, which shows no signs of slowing down.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to become a computer programmer. If you’re interested in this career, our guide can help you get started.

What Is a Computer Programmer?

A computer programmer is a computer science professional who writes code for software applications and operating systems. They develop instructions that tell computers and computer programs what to do.

Programmers are sometimes confused with software developers. While both types of professionals use programming skills to write code, one key difference is that developers focus more on the bigger picture and the end result.

Computer Programmer Salary and Job Outlook

Computer programmers make more than twice as much as the average American worker. Programmers earn an average salary of $89,190, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). BLS states that the average for all occupations is $41,390.

Unfortunately, BLS also projects that the job market for computer programmers will shrink by nine percent between 2019 and 2029. This means that the candidates with the most current knowledge of programming languages, technology, and tools will be preferred for jobs.

Below are some entry-level requirements for a computer programmer that will help you get started.

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Entry-Level Computer Programmer Job Requirements

Most companies prefer computer programmers who hold a bachelor’s degree. There are a few associate degree programs available as well. These associate programs usually focus on specific programming languages. Most computer programmers pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or a related field.

How to Ace Your Computer Programmer Job Interview

If you know what to expect in an interview, you are more likely to be confident and get the job. You will often be asked both personal and technical questions. Below are some job interview questions that you should be ready to answer.

Common Computer Programmer Job Interview Questions

  • What programming languages are you most comfortable with? Describe how you’ve used them in the past.
  • Do you respond well under pressure? Give an example.
  • When programming something from scratch, how do you start?
  • How do you keep yourself informed about advances in computer programming?
  • Under what conditions do you prefer to work?

What Degree Should I Get to Become a Computer Programmer?

The best way to become a computer programmer is to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or a related discipline. However, an associate degree might suffice if you’re seeking an entry-level position.

Below are the kinds of college and university programs you should consider pursuing to launch your career as a computer programmer.

Associate Degree in Computer Programming or Information Sciences

An associate degree is a good way to test the waters and see if computer programming is a good fit for you. This type of program usually takes two years to complete, and some technical and community colleges even offer online associate degrees. You should look for a college that offers an Associate Degree in Computer Programming.

Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

Most colleges don’t offer a specific bachelor’s degree program for computer programmers. Most programmers pursue an in-person or online degree in computer science. This program takes about four years to complete.

A typical Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science allows you to learn the fundamental principles of programming. Students become familiar with algorithms, software design, and other necessary programming skills. This in-depth knowledge prepares programmers for their careers and sets them apart from candidates who don’t have university degrees.

Master’s Degree in Computer Science

Again, there aren’t very many degrees specific to computer programming at this level, but you can earn a Master’s Degree in Computer Science in about two years.

A master’s degree allows students to deepen their knowledge of a specific subfield. If you want to become a network security analyst or computer systems analyst, for example, you can specialize in network security or computer systems.

Computer Programming Doctoral Degree

Doctoral degrees can be pursued in specific areas of computer technology. These degrees usually take four to five years.

Most often, these doctoral programs involve a final dissertation in which you make an original contribution to the field. Software engineering, computer science, information technology, and computer engineering are some of the fields open for doctoral study.

What Does a Computer Programmer Do?

Computer programmers write and test code so that computer applications and programs function properly. They create instructions for the computer to follow. Typical tasks for a computer programmer are listed below.

Writes Programs with Programming Languages

Programmers write code using a wide variety of languages. To be successful in this profession, you should consider learning C++, SQL, Java, Python, and more. The more languages you know, the more versatile you will be.

Tests Programs for Errors and Fixes Faulty Code

Programmers must have an eye for detail. Once code is written, it needs to be tested and fixed before it is properly implemented. It is the programmer’s job to find and resolve errors. These errors can be as small as one character in a line of code.

Uses Code Libraries to Simplify Writing

Code libraries are collections of independent lines of code, which often contain frequently used functions or methods. Libraries allow programmers to simplify their code.

Using a library has many advantages. It makes finding and fixing errors easier. It also saves programmers the time and hassle of having to write a specific script themselves. Finally, it allows for the code to be reused or adapted in other programs. Some code library examples are NumPy, Matplotlib, TensorFlow, SFML, and P5.

Essential Computer Programmer Skills

Computer programmers must have certain skills to do well in their careers. Below are some of the top recommended skills.

Coding Skills

Computer programmers use a variety of coding languages. To code well, a programmer should master Python, SQL, Java, C++, or all of the above. You can research which programming languages apply to a specialization that interests you.

Mathematical Skills

Programming jobs require an understanding of mathematics, especially arithmetic and algebra. Programmers use the basic arithmetic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in most of the code they write. Algebra, meanwhile, is used to calculate commands.

Problem-Solving Skills

A key attribute in the makeup of a successful programmer is the ability to solve problems. Programmers must be able to find and implement solutions to resolve issues in the code. Often, solutions used for one issue can be applied to others.

How to Become a Computer
Programmer: A Step-by-Step Guide

The best way to become a programmer is to get a Bachelor’s Degree or Master’s Degree in Computer Science. Below is a step-by-step guide to help you launch your career.

1

Get a High School Education

Nowadays, many high schools offer programming or computer science courses. Other helpful classes include algebra, physics, trigonometry, chemistry, and geometry.

2

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

A degree in computer science offers essential knowledge for programmers. Courses in this degree teach programming languages, coding, and problem-solving.

3

Find an Internship

A programming internship allows you to further your experience. Many university departments have connections to internship opportunities that you can take advantage of as part of your bachelor’s program. Internships may also lead to full-time employment.

4

Choose a Specialization

As with many other fields, computer programming has many areas of specialization, from web development to network security. A well-chosen specialization could give you an advantage in the job search. Thanks to online master’s degree programs, it’s easier than ever to turn your specialized skillset into an advanced degree.

5

Pursue Additional Certifications or Licenses

Certifications and licenses are yet another way to make yourself stand out when it comes to finding a job. These certifications allow you to specialize in certain areas and gain specific proficiencies. This step is optional, but it can help give you a leg up in the job hunt.

Programmers can earn certifications in programming languages such as Python or C++. There are also certifications for specific software products like Microsoft or Adobe.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Computer Programmer?

The number of years it takes to become a computer programmer varies. Most programmers attend at least four years of college to earn their Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science.

For those unable to pursue a bachelor’s degree, two years in an associate degree program or a few months at a coding boot camp may be a better option. Additional time may be needed depending on internships or certifications. Getting certified can take anywhere from three to six months.

Should You Become a Computer Programmer in 2021?

Yes, you should become a computer programmer in 2021. The demand for these professionals may not be growing as much as it has in the past, but there are still plenty of options and job opportunities available. Not only that, but a degree in computer science, if not used for programming, can open up many career paths.

Most computer programmers in the United States earn much more than the average worker. If you enjoy working with software, coding, and programming languages, you should consider a career as a computer programmer.

Computer Programmer FAQ

What is a typical workday like for a computer programmer?

Most programmers work full-time. Some companies allow programmers to make their own work schedule. Programmers may have to multitask between different projects and be productive enough to meet hard deadlines.

Do computer programmers need any certifications?

Certifications are not a requirement for programmers. Some companies require their employees to complete certain certifications. These certifications often relate to company products or programming languages. Certifications may help set you apart from other job candidates.

Can a computer programmer work from home?

Computer programmers can work from home. Especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have adopted remote work environments. This gives programmers more flexibility to choose where they work.

Do computer programmers need any special skills?

Computer programmers need to be able to communicate, solve problems, and think critically. It is also preferred that programmers have excellent coding skills. Programmers must be task-oriented and attentive to detail. They should also be able to work both by themselves and as part of a team.

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