Computer Programmer Overview
Computer programming is an exciting industry that’s still in its infancy, according to Jeff Lyons, founder and president of the National Association of Programmers. He writes in an email, “When I entered the industry, the internet was a DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] project and smartphones were not even a concept. Now, we have billionaires because they made it easy to search the internet for just about any topic we can imagine. Today, our very young children play with devices with more computing power than was available to launch all of the Apollo missions that landed men on the moon. Even the most nontechnical persons can easily utilize these devices to access the collective knowledge of mankind.”
These innovations are due, in no small part, to skilled computer programmers. These men and women write the code that allows software programs to run. So just like a boss tells an employee what to do, a programmer tells a computer what to do. Basically, they write directions in C++ and Python or another language, and the computer then follows the programmer’s detailed instructions. In many cases, a programmer’s work will start after a software developer or engineer passes off design specifications for a particular program. The programmer’s job entails refining the ideas and solving the problems that arise while converting the program into code. Programmers can also rewrite, debug, maintain and test (and retest and retest) software and programs that instruct the computer to accomplish certain tasks, such as storing or retrieving data, so the computer can perform better and more efficiently.
Programming is highly detailed work, and it usually involves fluency in several languages. Projects can be short and require only a few days of coding, or they can be very long, involving upward of a year to write. And because a large amount of a programmer’s time will be spent alone in front of a computer, telecommuting is a perk many programmers take advantage of. The job can be stressful at times, but with a median salary of $79,530 in 2015, computer programmers are compensated well for any anxiety they might experience.
Between 2014 and 2024, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment for the industry, which was at 328,600 professionals in 2014, to decline 8 percent, which should result in a loss of 26,500 jobs. Many jobs in this profession are being outsourced to other countries where pay is lower, saving companies money.
$79,530 Median Salary
3.5% Unemployment Rate
-26500 Number of Jobs
Computer Programmers rank #10 in Best Technology Jobs. Jobs are ranked according to their ability to offer an elusive mix of factors. Read more about how we rank the best jobs.
Computer Programmers are ranked:
Most jobs in computer programming require a bachelor’s degree, though you may be able to find some positions that will accept a two-year degree or even a certain certificate. If you’re going the four-year route, keep in mind that colleges and universities that are recognized for their math or IT programs will usually put you ahead of the pack. Another way to gain job experience is through an internship, which will look good to prospective employers as well.
“Beyond traditional degrees, certifications are the basic currency of the IT professional. Fortunately and unfortunately, there are myriad certifications available and the value of each depends on where you want to ‘spend’ your currency and who will ‘accept’ it,” Lyons writes in an email. Here, Lyons strikes on something frustrating. Some employers aren’t sure what they want when it comes to a computer programmer, so they end up asking for certifications that are expensive and time-consuming, and the certifications may have little or no bearing on the actual job. To bypass this frustration, Lyons recommends narrowing down your preferred specialization in the field. He also recommends “soliciting advice from individuals working in the category and environment you wish to work in. They are probably the best suited to tell you which credentials you really need.”
Average Americans work well into their 60s, so workers might as well have a job that’s enjoyable and a career that’s fulfilling. A job with a low stress level, good work-life balance and solid prospects to improve, get promoted and earn a higher salary would make many employees happy. Here’s how this job’s satisfaction is rated in terms of upward mobility, stress level and flexibility.
Upward Mobility. Above Average
Opportunities for advancements and salary
Stress Level. Above Average
Work environment and complexities of the job s responsibilities
Alternative working schedule and work life balance