CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a computer programmer.
Is becoming a computer programmer right for me?
The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:
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Taking programming and computer science courses available in high school is valuable early preparation for entering the career. A focus on algebra, trigonometry, geometry, chemistry, and physics is also recommended for aspiring programmers.
Paying attention to English, foreign language, and social studies classes is equally important, as these subjects are invariably part of the general education requirements for university acceptance.
While associate degree programs and online and self-teaching curricula exist in the field, most computer programmers have a bachelor’s degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recommends that students of the profession consider majors in computer science, information technology, or a related discipline.
Prospective programmers who wish to write business, engineering, or scientific applications often take background courses or minor in one or more of those subject areas.
A Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science teaches programming languages through the creation of algorithms. Among the most widely used languages taught are Java, C++, and Visual Basic. Programs typically include instruction in database management, computer networks, and operating systems.
Information technology curricula have considerable overlap with computer science programs, but are more oriented towards adapting and applying information to the operational needs of businesses and other organizations. In addition to computer programming, they address organizational structure and management; enterprise applications; and computer security.
Computer programmers may elect to specialize in a particular area of programming:
- Database development, for instance, involves writing programs that store, retrieve, and manipulate data for databases.
- Web development entails building applications that run over the Internet or over an organization’s Intranet.
- Programmers may also specialize in one or more computer languages.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some job growth in the field may stem from new applications for mobile devices and for the healthcare industry.
Internship opportunities with computer programming, database technology, tech-based, and web-based companies are often available in conjunction with bachelor’s degree programs.
As well, some companies and consulting firms provide intensive training programs for their new-hires.
Computer programmers do not need to be licensed to work in the field. However, the profession does offer several voluntary certifications.
The Institute for Certification of Computer Professionals confers the Certified Computing Professional and Associate Computing Professional designations.
Microsoft offers a variety of credentials, including Microsoft Certified Application Developer and Microsoft Certified Solution Developer.
Product vendors and software firms commonly require individuals to complete a certification program to work with their products.
Because the technology industry is constantly evolving, individuals working in the field need to keep up with industry trends and innovations. To remain competitive, computer programmers must build competency in emerging languages and in updated versions of existing languages.
An advanced degree may qualify programmers for more senior roles as software developers, computer systems analysts, or information systems managers.
Graduates with a Master’s Degree in Computer Science are typically proficient in the following skills:
- Utilizing software development tools to design, code, test, and debug programs
- Designing and implementing algorithms
- Leveraging existing software to develop new software systems