How to Become a Computer Programmer


A career in computer programming would require one to be able to write codes that computers can understand (Photo courtesy of Andrew Dupont on flickr).

Computer programmers spend most of their work day writing codes for computers. Specifically, Programmers create instructions for computers to follow that outline the software made by developers and engineers. As an intricate part of the IT industry, computer programmers can be considered virtual construction workers. So, how does one become a Computer Programmer? What degree, is any, is needed? What is the industry outlook? And what is the normal salary?

Required Education

Most computer programmers have a bachelor’s degree, but some employers will be willing to work with someone with an associate’s degree. In addition, most programmers are familiar with multiple programming languages. A certification is one way of demonstrating competency in multiple languages and also helps increase your marketability to prospective employers.

Required Experience

There isn’t any prior experience needed to become a computer programmer.


In 2010 the median annual wage for computer programmers was just over $71,000.

Job Outlook

Let’s face it, computer are not going away anytime soon. And more and more employers are seeing the benefits in having their own in-house IT department. With that being said, the industry is expected to increase 12% through 2020. Unfortunately, companies in the US are still outsourcing their IT work to other countries and this could limit the growth potential for programmers in the United States.

To keep up with job prospects, computer programmers should keep up to date with the newest programming tools. As the industry changes, those who are familiar with new technology could have a jump on their competition.

Important Qualities

Troubleshooting skills: Computer programmers are constantly troubleshooting. Being able to check for, find, and fix errors in a timely manner is important to employers who rely on computers and programs to run their business.

Analytical skills: also helpful in order to properly understand complex instructions and computer codes. If the Computer Programmer can’t understand the codes, how will anyone else be able to?

Detail oriented: writing a computer code is not easy; it requires a lot of time, close concentration, and the ability to examine details frequently. One small mistake could affect the entire program!

Similar Occupations

If computer programming doesn’t sound like the right fit for you, there are numerous other opportunities available in the IT industry. A few include:

Computer Support Specialists

  • Provide assistance and advice to people/organizations using software and equipment
  • Required Education: Some college required
  • 2010 Median Pay: $46,000 annually

Network and Computer Systems Administrators

  • Organize, install, and support an organizations networking system
  • Required Education: Bachelor’s Degree
  • 2010 Median Pay: %69,000 annually

Software Developers

  • Develop applications that allow people to complete tasks on a computer or other device
  • Required Education: Bachelor’s Degree
  • 2010 Median Pay: $90,000 annually

Computer and Information Systems Managers

  • Plan, coordinate, and direct computer-related activities in an organization
  • Required Education: Bachelor’s Degree
  • 2010 Median Pay: 115,000 annually

Ashley Benson is a distance education professional with five years of experience in the for-profit sector. She has worked coast-to-coast within the United States as an academic advisor, an adjunct teaching assistant and, most recently, a campus Registrar. Through formal education and industry experience, Ashley practices staying informed on the current events and changes within higher education and the students involved.

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