With the expansion of the technology industry and the advent of the digital age, jobs for computer programmers have expanded even as the nation’s economy has struggled to pull itself out of a recession. Federal government projections call for the number of programmer jobs to continue growing at least through the end of the decade.
Computer programmer was the No. 9-ranked job on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best jobs of 2012.
A computer programmer’s primary duty is writing the code that computers read in order to operate properly. Software developers and engineers write the programs, which programmers translate into instructions for the computer.
The number of computer programmers nationwide should expand by about 12% between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s close to the average growth rate for all occupations.
Job growth for computer programmers in the United States will be somewhat limited by the fact that programming can be done from anywhere, meaning companies have outsourced some jobs to other countries. However, the continuing growth of the computer software business should translate into enough jobs for both overseas and American workers, according to the BLS.
Computer programmers made an average median salary of more than $71,000 in 2010, according to BLS figures. The top 10% made more than $114,180.
Career and salary potential will vary based on numerous factors, including geographic location, experience level and educational qualifications.
Generally, a bachelor’s degree is a requirement for computer programmers, although some employers will consider candidates with associate’s degrees. Solid knowledge of various computer program languages is also necessary.
Typically, aspiring programmers earn bachelor’s degrees in computer science, learning to write code and debug computer programs. Some also take coursework relating to the industry they plan to enter – healthcare or finance, for example. Other students may pursue a liberal arts degree, perhaps majoring in business administration with a specialization in computer science.
Employers tend to value job candidates who have experience through internships or summer jobs.
In order to remain effective, programmers must keep up with the latest changes and innovations in computing language even after attaining their degree. Options include seminars and continuing education courses.
For computer programmers, a typical workday might involve writing programs in whatever computer language is required for their job – Java, for example. Programmers also are called in to debug and find the problems with programs when they are not functioning properly.
Programmers often work hand-in-hand with software developers, as programmers will be translating software systems into language that computers can understand. Increasingly, programmers are handling duties relating to mobile applications and other Internet-based software applications.
Of particular interest to servicemembers returning to civilian life is that the duties of a computer programmer share similarities with a number of military occupational specializations. Those include information technology specialist and computer systems programming specialist.