How to Become a Computer Programmer

Computer Programmer Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $87,890
Avg. Pay / hour $42.26
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 7%

If you enjoy your computer, are good at math, and have good problem solving skills then you might like to become a computer programmer.

A computer programmer takes a set of design specifications and ideas, and translates them into a language that a computer can understand.

They write the programs we use and enjoy on our computers every day.

They also repair, update, and improve existing software programs.

When you become a computer programmer, you can look forward to joining an industry which is experiencing record amounts of growth.

This means that you will have good job prospects ahead of you, and lots of opportunities for promotion and professional development.

Education Requirements to Become a Computer Programmer

If you’re at high school and would like to become a computer programmer, you should take subjects like computer science, math, and natural science.

If you can get a part-time job that involves computers, that will be very helpful.

If not, you could always volunteer in your school’s computer lab.

At some schools, you can enroll in course at vocational college, and start earning credit towards your qualification while still in high school.

The minimum educational requirement to become a computer programmer is a two year associate’s degree from a vocational college.

It’s becoming more common for those looking to enter the industry to gain a four year bachelors degree.

Real world experience is also important, so you should try and complete internships while at college.

A four year degree will offer more opportunity, and open the door to jobs with greater responsibility and a better pay package.

You major should be in computer science, or similar.

Computer Programmer Job Description

When you become a computer programmer, your job will be to create functional and bug free software and programs for a wide range of applications.

Some programmers specialize in particular kinds of programming.

For instance, some will develop games, while others will create business applications.

Usually, a programmer is given a design specification by computer software engineer.

It is their role to then translate the ideas into language a computer can understand.

Good technical ability, problem solving skills and creativity are required to excel in this field.

After they have completed a project, a computer programmer must take a program through a wide range of testing, and seek out any bugs, glitches, or flaws in the system.

A computer programmer can also work on existing software.

For instance, they may repair a program that has a glitch.

They might also make modifications or adjustments to existing software.

Here are some of the tasks of a computer programmer:

  • Create computer programs
  • Modify or repair existing programs
  • Communicate with software engineers and other colleagues
  • Keep up to date with new programming languages and technology advances

Computer Programmer Salary and Career Path

Starting out, getting your first job may be hard when you become a computer programmer.

Many start out in entry level roles for large companies, or sometimes in the retail sector in computer shops.

Others may get a role on an IT help desk.

You may be able to get a role as a programmer right away, especially taking into consideration the large amount of growth in the field.

Some fields are much more competitive than others.

For instance, if you want to work designing games, then you will have a much harder time than getting a job writing software for a bank.

As you gain experience, you will be able to work on more complicated projects and take on more responsibility.

Many computer programmers move on to become project managers, or information systems analysts.

The median wage of a computer programmer is $59,000 a year.

Growth is strong and opportunities plenty, especially once you have a few years experience.

Some similar roles to a computer programmer include:

If you enjoy spending time on your computer, and think you would enjoy putting together programs for people to use and enjoy, then you might like to become a computer programmer.

It can be a lot of hard work to get a start, but once you’re in a good salary and secure employment are available for those who become successful.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$112,120
New Hampshire$88,690
New Jersey$107,480
New Mexico$68,770
New York$93,510
North Carolina$101,140
North Dakota$86,670
Rhode Island$98,720
South Carolina$92,390
South Dakota$60,620
West Virginia$73,670
Puerto Rico$49,320

The top earning state in the field is Washington, where the average salary is $183,610.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Washington - $183,610
California - $114,740
Virginia - $112,890
District of Columbia - $112,120
Massachusetts - $108,980
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Computer Programmers, OCC Code 15-1251, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a computer programmer do?

Computer programmers write code that makes computer and mobile applications and software function properly.

A computer programmer typically collaborates with software developers and engineers and turn their designs into a language that the computer can “understand” and follow.

They also test the new applications and software to ensure that they work according to the developer’s and the client’s requirements.

The amount of programming work needed to develop an application or software depends on their complexity.

More complex applications require a team of programmers and can take up to a year or more to complete.

Computer programmers need coding skills, analytical thinking, concentration, attention to detail and troubleshooting skills.

How much does a computer programmer make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for computer programmers was $84,280 in May 2018.

Salaries for computer programmers vary between less than $50,000 and more than $130,000, depending on experience, expertise, employer and many other factors.

How much does it cost to become a computer programmer?

Computer programmers typically hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field but some employers may hire workers who hold an associate’s degree.

Tuition costs and other expenses vary widely depending on the school you choose and the program itself.

A bachelor’s degree program in computer science will cost you, on average, around $42,000-$43,000 while an associate’s degree programs cost around $21,000 a year on average.

You can also choose to become certified in a specific programming language to prove your skills to potential employers.

What is the demand for computer programmers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment for computer programmers is projected to decline 7 percent from 2018 to 2028.

This decline is caused in part, by the fact that many companies prefer to hire programmers who live in a country where wages are lower.

However, since the cost of managing projects who involve overseas programmers is high, some companies keep programming jobs in the United States.

Job prospects should be better for candidates who hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field and for those who know a variety of programming languages.

How long does it take to become a computer programmer?

Most computer programmers hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field and know more than one programming language.

A bachelor’s degree program can be earned after 4 years of post-secondary studies.

Some employers also hire programmers who hold an associate’s degree if they have experience and good programming skills.

In conclusion, you can find employment as a computer programmer 2 years after graduating from high school but in order to have better employment prospects you should earn a bachelor’s degree in the field and you should know several programming languages.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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