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Computer Programmer

Published on December 18, 2009.

Job Duties

Many careers in the computer industry are projected to experience growth during the next decade. One of the most crucial professions within the computer field is that of the computer programmer. Computer programmers take much of the technology developed by other computer professionals, and translate it into a language which allows the computer's operating system to use it.

Computer programmers work with computer software engineers and system analysts to implement advancements made in computer operating system technology. Once programs and applications have been designed by engineers and analysts, the computer programmer converts the programs into a language that the computer's operating system can understand and allow it to run the application. Computer programmers may also update or modify existing programs which have become out of date. They may also be asked to repair a computer program that has developed faults.

Computer programmers may work by themselves on simple programs that take only several hours to develop, or they may work as part of a team on complex programs which can take a year or more to develop. Some computer programmers work with specific industries, developing programs that assist that industry in their daily activities.

Job Skills

Computer programmers should be able to work as part of a team, but they should also enjoy working on their own. Computer programming can require imagination, and the ability to solve complex problems. Lengthy programs can require a great deal of patience to develop, and a detail-oriented personality can be very helpful. Computer operators should be able to communicate effectively by speaking and writing when they are dealing with members of their team or employers.

Income

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2008 the median annual income of people classified as computer programmers was $69,620, and the top 10 percent made in excess of $111,450 annually.

Training and Education

Approximately 68 percent of computer programmers in 2006 had a 4-year degree and about 20 percent had a graduate degree. Due to the complexity of modern computer languages, most employers prefer that applicants have at least a four-year degree. The percentage of programmers with undergraduate and graduate degrees is expected to increase in the future due to the need for formal training to keep up with the rapid changes in the technology. Many employers also prefer that programmers have background in the employers' area of business. Scientific and engineering companies would prefer programmers to have taken courses in mathematics and engineering, while business employers are looking for programmers with courses in business and management.

Computer programmers often refresh their training to keep up with the rapid changes in the computer language technology. They may continue to take certification courses, and may return to school for 1 or 2 years to take formal classes in new technologies.

Employment

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2008 there were approximately 394,230 people working in positions classified as computer programmers. Many of these people work in positions with computer systems design companies and software engineering firms. Government, healthcare, and financial institutions also employed quite a few programmers.

Job Outlook

While some professions in the computer field are projected to experience great growth during the next decade, the career opportunities in the field of computer programming are actually expected to decrease slightly, as other employees become more proficient in programming skills. The field is projected to decrease by 4 percent through 2016. Computer programmers with formal training and an undergraduate degree should continue to be able to find plentiful employment opportunities. Programmers with graduate degrees and certifications in several computer languages may continue to be in demand.

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