Computer Programmer Future Job Outlook and Career Facts

Computer Programmer Career Description

Computer programmers write, test and maintain the detailed instructions - called programs - which computers must follow in order to function. They also design, conceive and test logical structures for solving problems by computer.

Computer Programmer Career Details

Technical innovations in programming - advanced computing technologies and sophisticated new languages and programming tools - have redefined the role of programmers while elevating much of the programming work done today. The main job function of these employees is programming; programs vary widely, depending on the type of information needed. Although simple programs can be written in a few hours, other programs may require more than a year of work. Usually, several programmers work as a team under the direction of a senior programmer.

Computer Programmer Career Future Job Outlook

The employment of programmers is expected to grow about as fast as average for all occupations through 2010. The most plentiful jobs for both systems and applications programmers will be in data processing service firms, computer consulting businesses and software houses. But with rapid gains in technology and sophisticated software with the capability to write basic code, the employment of programmers is expected to grow much slower than that of other computer specialists.

Computer Programmer Career Specializations

Job titles and descriptions vary depending on the organization. Computer programs are coded into conventional programming languages such as COBOL, artificial intelligence languages such as Prolog or advanced object-oriented languages like Java, C and Smalltalk. Programmers generally know more than one programming language, and since many languages are similar, they're often able to learn new languages easily. Programmers are often referred to by the language they know, such as Java programmers, or by their environment, such as mainframe or database programmers. 

Programmers are often grouped into two broad types: Applications programmers, who write programs to handle specific jobs and systems programmers, who write programs to maintain and control computer systems software. Programmers in software development companies may work directly with experts to create software ranging from educational software to games to desktop publishing and spreadsheets. In some organizations, workers commonly known as programmer-analysts conduct both systems analysis and actual programming work.

Programs to Consider:

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Quick Fact
In 2017, workers with a bachelor's degree or higher had almost twice as much
median earnings per week than workers with only a high school diploma*.
*Bureau of Labor Statistics

Computer Programmer Career Working Environment

Programmers typically work in offices in comfortable surroundings. Many may work long hours and weekends to meet deadlines or fix problems that occur during off hours. Telecommuting is becoming common for a wide range of computer professionals including programmers. Like other workers who spend large amounts of time in front of a computer terminal typing at a keyboard, they are susceptible to eyestrain, back discomfort and hand and wrist problems.

Computer Programmer Career Required Training

Due to the growing number of qualified applicants and the specialization involved with most programming tasks, the level of education and experience employers seek has been rising. Bachelor's degrees are commonly required, although some may qualify for certain jobs with two-year degrees or certificates. Even with a degree, employers seem to be placing more emphasis on previous experience for all types of programmers.

Computer Programmer Career Coursework

Over half of computer programmers had a bachelor's degree or higher in 2000. Some held a degree in computer science, information systems, mathematics and others had taken courses in computer programming to supplement their study in fields like accounting and inventory control. Required skills vary from job to job, but demand for skills is driven by changes in technology. 

Graduate degrees in related fields are required for some jobs. Most systems programmers hold a four-year degree in computer science. Extensive knowledge of a variety of operating systems is essential. Entry-level or junior programmers may work alone on simple assignments or on a team with more experienced programmers. Beginners are almost always closely supervised.

Computer Programmer Salary

Median Salary--$71,380 in 2010

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