How to Become
a Computer Programmer
Best Education Tracks, Key Skills, and Top Certifications
Computer programming is one of the most popular careers in the United States. While learning programming can be a challenge, it is a valuable skill to have. Apart from helping you secure a career as a computer programmer, you can also learn how to build your own software.
This article discusses the various aspects of a computer programmer’s job, including skills, education requirements, and more. Read below to learn how to become a computer programmer.
What Is a Computer Programmer?
Computer programmers are tech workers who create and design software solutions and write code to build them. The main responsibility of a computer programmer is to create solutions using various programming languages, frameworks, and tools.
Computer programmers can have different titles depending on the type of software applications they build. Web developers build and code websites, mobile developers create mobile applications, and software developers create other software solutions and computer programs.
What Type of School Should You Attend
to Become a Computer Programmer?
You should attend a university to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or a related field of study. However, attending a bootcamp can help you learn necessary skills and build an impressive portfolio for a career in computer programming.
Best Computer Programmer Education Tracks
There are multiple pathways you can take to become a computer programmer, from traditional four-year degree programs to online courses. Keep reading to learn more about some of the best education tracks for becoming a programmer.
Computer Programmer Degrees
One of the best degrees to obtain in the software industry is a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or a related field. Most companies look for computer science graduates because they will have learned the basics of computer programming. After a bachelor’s degree, you may want to consider a master’s degree for a higher average salary.
Computer programming is a field that is also open to people without formal education. If you have a degree in an area that isn’t computer-related, you can still have a career as a computer programmer if you are willing to work hard and take additional courses in computer programming.
Computer Programmer Bootcamps
Bootcamps are a great step for newcomers to the computer programming industry. Bootcamps are helpful for anyone who wants to shift their career towards IT. Most programs are shorter and less expensive than university degrees. Check out the best coding bootcamps to start your learning journey.
Computer Programmer Courses
Online courses are another great resource that can teach you about topics relevant to computer programming. Premier institutions like John Hopkins University and MIT offer some academic courses online. If you’re interested in learning the necessary skills to become an efficient programmer, you can access some of this great content for free.
How to Become a Computer Programmer: A Step-by-Step Guide
While there are multiple ways to become a computer programmer, an outline can be a useful tool to have as you begin your journey.
Below is a list of steps to help you get started.
Understand your interests
Since computer programming is a vast field, it is crucial to understand your interests first. Do you want to create exceptionally designed websites? Or would you rather come up with the next viral mobile app? Choosing your desired area can help you build the most successful journey possible.
Learn relevant programming languages
Once you have an operating system in mind, the next step is to learn the necessary programming languages for that platform. Once you have a grasp on how applications work, you will find any programming language easy to master.
Practice by building projects
After you get familiar with a programming language and have explored relevant frameworks, take the first step into real-world programming by building a software project. Software projects demonstrate your expertise as well as help you learn trickier programming concepts.
Acquire relevant certifications
Apart from gaining degrees and building projects, another hallmark of excellence in programming is certification. Certifications show potential employers that you have verified your skills in existing software and computer languages.
Apply to internships
Before setting out into the full-time job market, consider applying for internships. Internships are a great way to learn something new and put your theoretical experience to the test. They also look great on a resume and can provide connections for your future as a professional computer programmer.
Key Computer Programmer Skills
Computer programming can be a demanding career. You’ll need to be able to understand lines of code and continually prove you have the technical skills required for the job.
Below are a few of the skills a successful computer programmer should have.
Clean code refers to a style of programming that does not waste available resources and can be understood by anyone unfamiliar with it. Clean code helps save time and avoid frustration when a project is being transferred from one employee to another. Coding skills are some of the most important as a programmer or computer systems analyst.
If you’re expected to write code that is easy to understand, it only makes sense that you should understand code written by other people. This can be a challenging task if the other programmer is not able to write clean code. You should be prepared to fix and interpret poor code.
Programmers communicate in more ways than just writing code. You need to be able to articulate your ideas clearly and listen well to ensure conversations about projects are as efficient as possible. Not everyone you’ll work with will be a programmer, so you’ll need to be able to explain things in layman’s terms.
Computer Programmer Salary and Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the median annual salary of a computer programmer is $89,190. If you have the right skills, you’ll earn a reasonably high salary. The more years of experience you have, the more potential you have for pay increases.
The BLS also predicts that computer programming will face a nine percent decline in popularity from 2019 through 2029. This is primarily due to the previous decade seeing an unexpectedly high increase of programming jobs, which is now finally settling. This only indicates that the industry is reaching a more stable state.
Entry-Level Computer Programmer Job Requirements
Most entry-level programming jobs require proficiency in at least one programming language. It’s always good to have previous work experience, but the ability to adapt to new technologies usually outweighs previous work experience in interviews. If you don’t have a degree, you should be able to demonstrate your skills with a bootcamp or online course.
What Does a Computer Programmer Do?
As the name suggests, computer programmers work with programs and software on computers. However, they perform many tasks on the job.
Below are a couple of responsibilities that all computer programmers have, regardless of the platform or language they work with.
Builds Software Solutions
The main responsibility of a programmer is to create new software solutions. For this process, computer programmers are expected to research, design, and plan the best delivery and features for the application. It’s also important to be a team player who’s able to delegate and distribute work.
Apart from creating new solutions, computer programmers also need to maintain software and integrate necessary changes and improvements. This involves reading old documentation, analyzing the code, and making changes that don’t break any central functions created in the original design.
Creates Technical Documentation
When working with any software, you’ll need to write documents that translate programming languages into understandable forms. You’ll need to be prepared to write lots of documentation, even for the smallest of applications, so that it remains legible for anybody who looks at its source code in the future.
Computer Programmer Certifications
Programming certifications are a great way to prove your credibility as an efficient professional to your employers. Although they are not compulsory, they can help you win jobs and earn a higher salary. Below are some certifications that you can get to strengthen your knowledge and your resume.
Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) for Developers
The ACE certification focuses on the learner’s ability to work with Adobe’s systems, such as LiveCycle, Flex, and ColdFusion. These are in high demand as they are essential in the arena of internet-based gaming, media, and other internet-based utilities.
Certified Secure Software Program Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP)
The CSSLP is aimed at software programmers and testers. CSSLP certifies competency in all phases of software development. The exam covers topics like safe software program ideas, necessities, design, implementation, and testing. This makes it clear to the employers that you’re well-suited for handling any aspect of their software requirements.
Google Apps For Business Certified Deployment Specialist (CDS)
The Google Apps For Business CDS certification covers a range of technical topics like Postini, Google Apps, API basics, planning and managing Google Apps deployment, and more. To an organization that uses Google Apps for managing its application, the CDS certification is practically a prerequisite for its employees.
How to Prepare for Your Computer Programmer Job Interview
There’s a lot to keep in mind when preparing for an interview. Since you’ll be interviewing for a specific position, it’s important to understand frameworks and languages that may be relevant to the job. You also need to be clear on the fundamentals of software development and general programming principles.
Below are some practice questions to help you kickstart your computer programming interview preparation.
Computer Programmer Job Interview Practice Questions
- Which software development process do you follow?
- What programming languages do you prefer, and why?
- What are some common programming errors, and how would you repair them?
- How do you keep your programming and technical knowledge updated?
- Describe a situation where you had to solve a coding problem. How did it go?
How Long Does It Take to Become a Computer Programmer?
The timeline for becoming a computer programmer depends entirely on the specific path you choose. If you are looking to become a web developer and already know basic HTML and CSS, you would likely only need a bit of practice to be up to date. However, if you want to get a bachelor’s degree, it can take up to five years.
Should You Become a Computer Programmer in 2021?
Yes, you should consider becoming a computer programmer in 2021. The tech industry is more popular than ever, and computer programmers are becoming integral members of many businesses.
There are new programming jobs available every day, and advancements are constantly being made in languages, frameworks, and ideas. If websites, apps, or coding interest you at all, you should start your career as a computer programmer in 2021.
Computer Programmer FAQ
Does coding require math?
No, coding does not require you to have a background in math. Understanding math does help with concepts like pointers and arrays, but it is not a necessity.
Can you hack systems as a computer programmer?
Computer programming is more inclined towards building systems than hacking them. If you’re interested in hacking, consider exploring the field of cyber security.
Can you learn to code on your own?
Absolutely. Coding is a skill that you can gain and enhance all by yourself. All you need is a couple of good courses, a bootcamp, or some projects you want to build.
What is the difference between coding and programming?
Coding refers to writing code for a system or software that has been planned and designed already. Programming refers to developing a fully functional software solution, which includes many different tools and techniques.