How to Get Started as
a Computer Programmer

Refine Your Skills and Remain Relevant

A career as a computer programmer comes with many opportunities to work in different sectors. Other than computer science or information technology, you can use computer programming in government, businesses, finance, and more. This article explains how to become a computer programmer and get a start on your career.

This guide will help you prepare for your future in computer programming. You will learn the essential skills needed and what to expect once you get the job. This article will build your knowledge and capabilities by helping you to choose an education path that matches your own learning style.

What Is a Computer Programmer?

A computer programmer creates websites and mobile applications, develops software programs, and solves computer problems. Through coding, computer programmers feed commands to a computer or device in order to perform a certain function. A computer programmer must know how to code HTML, CSS, and JavaScript as a minimum requirement.

Aside from the basics of web development, computer programmers are expected to be familiar with a good number of programming languages. You are not required to know all of them, but having experience coding with the most common languages will be helpful.

How Does Computer Programming Relate to Data Science?

Programming makes data science and analytics powerful. As a computer programmer, your role in the field of data science will be to utilize programming to create models and visualize data.

Python is a common programming language used in data visualization. This makes Python very helpful in data science. Computer programmers in data science should also learn SQL for database management. SQL is the standard programming language used to process big chunks of data.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Computer Programmer?

It takes about two to four years to become a computer programmer depending on your educational path. Some companies accept computer programmers who complete a two-year associate degree program in computer science or information technology.

On the other hand, you can choose to pursue a four-year bachelor’s degree program. Some companies and specific job titles require that you have completed a bachelor’s degree to qualify. A bachelor’s degree will also prove to be more advantageous once you start seeking a promotion.

Where to Study Computer Programming

There are various options to study computer programming. The length of the program is worth consideration. Traditional schooling takes two to four years. Alternatively, there are bootcamps and online courses that take less than a year.

Computer Programmer Community Colleges

Community colleges offer two-year degrees in computer science or information technology. Both of these programs teach coding, developing software, and building websites. The curriculum in community colleges often covers common programming languages.

Once you have completed your program, you can earn a bachelor’s degree, which takes four years. You can also look for programming jobs as soon as you complete an associate’s degree at a community college.

Computer Programmer Universities

Numerous universities all over the world offer a bachelor’s degree in computer science and other related courses. Some might even offer computer science as an elective that anyone can take. If you are aiming to become a computer programmer, then the better option is to complete a bachelor’s degree.

For further studies, universities offer master’s degree or Ph.D. programs that you can enroll in. If you want to explore more in terms of research, this is a good way to do that. Aiming for a higher position might also be easier if you have completed postgraduate studies.

Computer Programmer Coding Bootcamps

A coding boot camp is a straightforward option to study computer programming. Here, you do not have to deal with general courses that are not directly related to the subject. Bootcamp programs are designed to fit into 12 to 16 weeks on average. In a coding boot camp, you will develop your skill in coding and learn all kinds of programming languages.

If you want to explore data science, there are data science boot camps that include training for computer programming. The difference between coding and data science boot camps is the focus of the programming languages. Data science boot camps and the associated languages focus on data analysis, visualization, management, and reporting.

Computer Programmer Online Courses

Shorter online courses are available if you do not have the time for longer programs. These courses are provided by well-known educational platforms such as Coursera, edX, Udemy, and more. There are some courses that last only a few hours or days. Some offer certificates upon completion.

One of the key features of these courses is they typically involve real-world problem-solving in which you put what you learn to use addressing actual situations as they happen.

How to Become a Computer Programmer A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Become a Computer Programmer: A Step-by-Step Guide

The preparation to become a computer programmer is straightforward and relatively easy compared to other careers in tech. You can come into programming completely blind and learn almost everything you need to know through a single class. Below is a step-by-step guide you can follow to become a successful computer programmer.

Choose your educational path

You can go for an associate or bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, or another related program. You may also enroll in a bootcamp or an online course.

Learn various programming languages

While you do not need to master every programming language, you can focus on the most common languages. If your desired profession uses a particular language, it would be smart to focus on that specific one.

Take an exam and earn certifications

Professional certifications are offered through Oracle, Microsoft, and CIW. You can take an exam and earn a certification to add to your credentials and boost your resume.

Look for an internship in the tech field

This is a great way to hone your practical skills through real-world experience. You can apply for an internship while still studying or after completing your studies to prepare you for your career.

Apply for a computer programming job

Computer programmers can work in many different fields. Choose an industry where your skills are utilized and where you can learn new things. Trying different industries is a good way to test your versatility.

Entry-Level Computer Programmer Job Requirements

Most computer programmer jobs require two to four years of schooling. For entry-level jobs, you are not expected to have any experience but having completed an internship will give you an edge.

Computer Programmer Salary and Job Outlook

ZipRecruiter reports that the average salary of entry-level computer programmers is $43,370. California and Arkansas provide higher than average annual salaries for these professionals. An experienced computer programmer earns a median salary of $89,190 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Jobs in computer programming are predicted to decrease by nine percent from 2019 to 2029 in the US. BLS explains that this decline is caused by companies hiring programmers from other countries for lower wages.

However, that doesn’t show the whole picture. There are other jobs that make use of computer programming skills. For instance, software developers earn a median pay of as much as $110,140 per year according to BLS. Moreover, the job outlook for software developers is projected to grow by 22 percent from 2019 to 2029.

Computer programming is a versatile skill that is useful in different areas of the tech industry. Software development is only one of many careers that requires an understanding of computer programming. Others are cyber security, data science, and analytics.

Example of Computer Programmer Job Interview Questions

It is always helpful to prepare for an interview. Whether you are a recent graduate or have been in the field for years, preparing for the most common questions can increase your confidence during the interview. Here are some of the questions that are commonly asked in a computer programmer job interview:

  • What programming languages do you know? Please rate your level of expertise on each of them.
  • Cite a specific problem or bug that you have encountered. How were you able to resolve it?
  • Describe a programming project that you worked on. What were some challenges that you faced? How did you overcome them?
  • What programming skills are you most confident and comfortable with?

What Does a Computer Programmer Do?

Computer programmers are known primarily for coding and resolving issues. They also have a multitude of duties beyond writing code. Below are some important duties for computer programmers.

Write Code

You should know how to code in a variety of programming languages. Some careers require a specific programming language. In general, you must know HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for web design. Other computer languages that you should learn are C++, SQL, and Java.

Test and Update Programs

Once you have created a specific program, you are required to monitor it. Part of your job is to make sure these programs are being updated and function well. You will run tests to check and upgrade these programs if necessary.

Fix Errors

There are times when a program may run into issues. It is your duty to fix these errors. However, you need to be flexible because you might be tasked to solve issues in other programs. You will often be tasked with debugging code.

Essential Computer Programmer Skills and Certifications

Essential Computer Programmer Skills and Certifications

No matter their specialty, computer programmers need specific skills to do their job well. If you are interested in securing more credentials as a computer programmer and boosting your resume, you can earn a professional certification.

Computer Programmer Skills

Listed here are some skills that you must possess as a computer programmer.

Proficiency With Programming Languages

You must be proficient or at least knowledgeable in various programming languages. It is important that you know coding and the basics of web design, among other fundamental concepts.

Math and Problem-Solving

A basic understanding of mathematics is a must for computer programmers. Programmers often work with simple arithmetic and algebra. You must also be able to problem-solve since you may encounter a lot of issues along the way. Having a combination of math and problem-solving skills will be very useful in a career as a programmer.


Having good communication is another important skill for computer programmers because you will often collaborate with a lot of people. You may need to work with co-programmers on a project. You will also deal with client requests and queries and need to be able to answer them politely, properly, and in a timely manner

Computer Programmer Certifications

There are several professional certifications in the field. They typically involve passing an exam. Here are some online certification options for you to consider.

This professional certification is offered by Oracle for computer programmers seeking to get certified as Java developers. This course specifically uses the Java EE 7 Application. It is meant to be taken by both front end and backend Java developers with intermediate to advanced skills.

To earn this certification, you must pass the application developer exam. This exam takes 110 minutes and to pass you must score at least 66 percent. The exam covers everything related to Java EE 7, from understanding its architecture to creating applications.

Computer programmers interested in data science and analytics can take this professional certification. It deals with data systems and solving data management issues.

One of the requirements of this certification is a working knowledge of data processing languages such as Python, SQL, and Scala. Once you pass this certification exam, you can pursue a job as a data engineer.

You must pass two exams to earn this certification. One exam focuses on web design. The second covers ecommerce. These topics are important in creating web designs for both professional and business use.

Through this certification, you will be able to establish your skill as a web and graphic designer. This certification is a combination of computer programming and web marketing.

Reasons to Become a Computer Programmer in 2021

Although jobs for computer programmers are predicted to decline from 2019 to 2029, there are other roles that make use of this specific skill. Knowledge of programming languages and coding is becoming increasingly useful as our world becomes more digitally-centered.

Computer Programmer FAQ

What does a computer programmer do?

A computer programmer is responsible for creating programs or feeding commands for a computer to perform. Programmers are also expected to test and update computer programs. Additionally, programmers are responsible for debugging and resolving issues.

Does a career in computer programming pay well?

Yes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer programmers with experience earn a median salary of $89,190. Meanwhile, entry-level computer programmers earn an average of $43,370. Some states like California and Arkansas tend to give higher compensation than the average.

What are the required skills to become a computer programmer?

To become a successful computer programmer, you must be proficient in different programming languages. You must be competent in math and problem-solving. You must also have strong communication skills, especially when dealing with clients.

Can anyone become a computer programmer?

Ideally, you should earn an associate or bachelor’s degree to qualify for most jobs. However, you can also enroll in different online courses and boot camps to learn more and acquire new skills. Degrees, online courses, and boot camps are great options to pursue to become a computer programmer.

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