Computer Programming

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Computer programmers write, maintain, test and debug software and programs that tell a computer how to accomplish a specific task or set of procedures, such as storing, retrieving, organizing and displaying data. A computer programmer will communicate to the computer what needs to happen using one of several programming languages such as C++, Python, .Net, PHP, AJAX, HTML, etc. There are two basic career paths for talented programmers: management or programming. Many talented programmers will migrate away from programming into technical, project and upper management positions-at which point they may stop programming altogether. Talented programmers also have the option of just programming. A few will assume project leadership roles where they will program and manage.

Computer Programming Job Outlook and Earning Potential

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of computer programmers and software developers will grow by rate of 12% from 2010 through 2020, adding nearly 50,000 new programming positions. Notwithstanding strong job growth, competition for good jobs is going to be competitive. Programmers who maintain an up-to-date skillset, stay abreast of industry trends and programming languages, and have experience with new applications will qualify for the best positions.

The BLS also reports that in 2010 the median annual wage for computer programmers was roughly $72,600. The top 10% of all programmers earned over $115,000 a year while the bottom 10% earned about $42,000 a year. Some of the top paying industries for computer programmers include Telecommunications ($86,000), Equipment Manufacturing ($98,000) and Securities and Commodities ($85,000). Top paying cities for computer programmers include Rochester, MN ($114,910), Santa Fe, NM ($109,340), Durham, NC ($99,650), San Jose, CA ($99,570) and Newark, NJ ($97,860). Top states for employement include New Jersey, Delaware, District of Columbia and Utah.

While computer programmers on average make less than other technology professionals, including Computer Systems Analyst ($78,770), IT Managers ($118,010), Database Administrators ($75,190), and Software Developers ($89,280), they make more than most.

Education and Training Requirements

A two-year associate’s degree in computer science or a technical certificate is sometimes sufficient for entry-level computer programming and software development positions, but most employers are looking for candidates that at minimum have a bachelor’s degree in computer programming, computer science or information technology. For those seeking to move into management, a Master of Science in Information Technology (M.S.I.T.) or a comparable degree in system’s design or programming is highly desirable. In 2010, about eight out of ten programmers held an associate’s degree or higher, more than have held a bachelor’s degree, and nearly two out ten possessed a graduate degree. While your skill set is your most important asset, having a higher degree will greatly increase your marketability. More and more employers these days are seeking for candidates with advanced degrees.

Online and Distance Learning Degree Options

Distance and online learning is a great way to earn a degree and get the career training required to launch or advance your computer programming career. Not only are online degree programs convenient and less expensive, they can typically be completed in less time than a traditional campus-based program and the rich technology component inherent to online learning is a perfect fit with computer programming.

Computer Programming Degrees, Certificates and Courses


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