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What do computer programmers do?
Computer programmers write, test, and maintain the detailed instructions, called programs, that computers must follow to perform their functions. Programmers also conceive, design, and test logical structures for solving problems by computer. Many technical innovations in programming—advanced computing technologies and sophisticated new languages and programming tools—have redefined the role of a programmer and elevated much of the programming work done today. Job titles and descriptions may vary, depending on the organization.
What kind of training is required for a computer programming job?
Employers primarily are interested in programming knowledge, and computer programmers can become certified in a programming language such as C++ or Java. College graduates who are interested in changing careers or developing an area of expertise also may return to a 2-year community college or technical school for additional training. In the absence of a degree, substantial specialized experience or expertise may be needed. Even when hiring programmers with a degree, employers appear to place more emphasis on previous experience.
Some computer programmers hold mathematics, information systems, or whereas others have taken special courses in computer programming to supplement their degree in a field such as accounting, inventory control, or another area of business. As the level of education and training required by employers continues to rise, the proportion of programmers with a college degree should increase in the future. As indicated by the following tabulation, more than two-thirds of computer programmers had a bachelor’s or higher degree in 2004.
|High school graduate or less||8.3%|
|Some college, no degree||14.1%|
What is the job outlook for computer programmers?
Employment of programmers is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. Jobs for both systems and applications programmers should be most plentiful in data-processing service firms, software houses, and computer consulting businesses. These types of establishments are part of computer systems design and related services and software publishers, which are projected to be among the fastest growing industries in the economy over the 2004-14 period. As organizations attempt to control costs and keep up with changing technology, they will need programmers to assist in conversions to new computer languages and systems. In addition, numerous job openings will result from the need to replace programmers who leave the labor force or transfer to other occupations such as manager or systems analyst.
How much can you earn in a computer programming job?
Median annual earnings of computer programmers were $62,890 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $47,580 and $81,280 a year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,470; the highest 10 percent earned more than $99,610. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of computer programmers in May 2004 are shown below:
|Computer systems design and related services||$67,600|
|Data processing, hosting, and related services||$64,540|
|Management of companies and enterprises||$62,160|
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, starting salary offers for graduates with a bachelor’s degree in computer science averaged $50,820 a year in 2005.
According to Robert Half International, a firm providing specialized staffing services, average annual starting salaries in 2005 ranged from $52,500 to $83,250 for applications development programmers/analysts, and from $55,000 to $88,250 for software developers. Average starting salaries for mainframe systems programmers ranged from $50,250 to $67,500 in 2005.
Source: The US Department of Labor’s description of “Computer Programmer”
Software Engineer Ranked #1 Job in America
Top-paying job: Release engineers, who are responsible for the final version of any software product, earn six figures.
Education: Bachelor’s degree, but moving up the ladder often requires a master’s.
Top Programming Skills in Demand
Source: Robert Half Technology 2008 Salary Guide.