A Growing Industry
If you're interested in becoming a computer programmer, there is a world of opportunity available to you. Not only are computers becoming increasingly sophisticated, they're showing up in new places all the time (like refrigerators, for instance). But is a computer programming degree right for you? And what's the best way to break into this competitive and fast-paced career?
Computer Programming Basics
Today, many people are drawn to become a computer programmer based on their experience with video games. Since they enjoy playing video games, they assume that they will also enjoy making them. However, programming video games is nothing like playing them—you may be better suited for video game testing than computer programming. Programming is hard work, regardless of whether it's for video games or operating systems. The industry is highly competitive and requires a constant upgrading of knowledge on various programming languages to remain current. If you don't have a love for programming, you'll find it hard to stand out from the pack and create the type of life you want for yourself.
Before committing to a college program, you should take as many computer and math classes as you can in school and pick a programming language that you're interested in. Start programming as soon as possible by applying what you learn. Getting your hands dirty by programming widgets or apps for online open source software is just one way to get started, but it's a great way to get feedback from those who download your creations. This will give you some terrific experience and exposure to what it's like to work in the programming world. Programmers write, test and resolve problems with their code, as well as perform general software maintenance or update existing programs. If you have a talent for and enjoy doing these tasks, you have a good chance at a successful and rewarding career as a computer programmer.
Computer Programming Education
Choose your education based on the career area in programming that you're most passionate about pursuing. The three basic career tracks are database development, web development and application development. Most computer programmers need to be familiar with multiple computer languages and have at least a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, Information Systems or Mathematics. Specific employers in disciplines like science or engineering often require related work experience and a degree targeted to that specific area. Keep this in mind before you opt to enroll in a Microsoft Certified Professional Developer certificate, a bachelor's degree in Information Technology or Software Engineering or an Associate of Applied Science and Computer Programming degree.
Computer Programming Salaries
The median salary for computer programmers is $68,000, with elite programmers earning more than $109,000 per year. While there are many computer programming jobs available today, employment is projected to decline by 4 percent by 2016. Those with relevant credentials, job experience and a demonstrated ability to keep up with the latest technology will stand out from the rest of the crowd.