Computer programmers take software programs designed by software engineers and translate those programs into a language computer can understand. Computer software engineers are predicted to experience job growth of 21 percent -- much faster than the average for all occupations -- between 2008 and 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Growth is slated to be driven by the creation of 295,000 computer software engineering jobs during that ten year period, to develop applications and e-data processing systems, integrate mobile technology, and safeguard infrastructure.
However, computer programmers face less rosy career prospects; the BLS actually predicts a small decrease in job growth for programmers as outsourcing of jobs and the ability of more and more computer users to write their own programs diminishes demand for experts in the area.
So what should you do to safeguard your computer programming job? The BLS recommends you obtain a bachelor's and if possible a master's degree and computer language certifications. You must also develop strong technical skills, a thorough understanding of the employer's business and programming requirements, and real-time knowledge of changing programming languages and techniques.
Computer Programming School: What to Expect
Computer software engineers must use their creativity and problem-solving skills to design software and communicate ideas clearly to computer programmers. Computer programmers must be strong problem-solvers and, increasingly, must be able to collaborate with software engineers to take on expanded functions such as pinpointing user needs and designing some parts of the programs they code.
In this field, you should earn at least a bachelor's degree. For some jobs you would also need a master's degree. Possible majors include:
- Computer science
- Information systems
Some students may enter this field by combining accounting or finance education with computer programming courses. You may enhance your computer knowledge through internships and on-the-job training, available in large computer companies and consulting firms, and an MBA. Online computer programming courses may also be available.
Once you graduate from computer programming school, you may pursue continuing education and certifications through employers, software vendors, schools, and professional computing societies. You should also make sure that you have an in-depth understanding of the specific industry you work in. For instance, the BLS explains, engineers working for banks should understand finance, so they can better serve the bank's computing needs.
Career Options for Computer Programming School Graduates
As a computer programmer, you turn designs into instructions a computer can follow. To code, you would use programming languages such as C++ and Java. You could use computer-assisted software engineering (CASE) tools. You may also pursue related careers, including:
- Database Administration
- Network and Computer Systems Administration
- Network Systems and Data Communications Analysis
If you were to become a database administrator, you would create, test, and safeguard databases. As a network and computer systems administrator, you would maintain hardware and software and ensure system availability. Network systems and data communications analysts review the network, recommend the adoption of hardware and software, and link computer and communications systems.
Salary Outlook for Computer Programming School Degree Holders
According to BLS in 2010, the median annual pay of computer programmers stood at $71,380. Computer application software engineers made $85,430 and computer systems software engineers took home $92,430.
There are several career tracks you may want follow to build your salary. Computer programmers can advance to become:
- Lead programmers
- Systems programmers
- Programming or systems analysts
- Computer software engineers
Engineers may rise to become project managers, information systems managers, and chief information officers. They could also become systems designers and independent consultants on B2B transactions and security and data assurance.
In certain regions in the United States, professionals in this field can also command higher salaries.