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How to Become a Computer Programmer

Read Monster’s step-by-step guide to landing computer programming jobs.

How to Become a Computer Programmer

Here's your definitive guide to becoming a computer programmer.

Computer applications exist for just about every business function you can imagine. Software developers and engineers design software to solve specific problems, streamline business processes, or improve computer users' experience. But software can only function when it's powered by a coding language. In fact, code is the building block of all computer software and digital apps. That's where skilled computer programmers come in. If you're an exceptional problem-solver with a good eye for coding languages, you might want to learn how to become a computer programmer.

Getting a job as a computer programmer will take some work, but it's well worth the effort. You'll enter a rewarding career with good pay and a lot of room for advancement. Want to know how to become a computer programmer? Monster can guide you through the education and skills you'll need and give you tips for getting hired.

What Is a Computer Programmer?

A computer programmer—also called a coder—is a technology professional who works with a variety of computer coding languages. Computer programmers take computer application designs from software developers and engineers and translate them into functional codes. The coding languages they usually work with include Python, Java, JavaScript, C Language, C++, HTML, PHP, and SQL. These codes allow programmers to give instructions to computers in languages understood by computer systems.

What Does a Computer Programmer Do?

When software developers create program designs, it takes the right coding to bring software and computer programs to life. That's where skilled computer programmers come in. They write and test codes that computer applications rely on to function properly. Computer programmers also test prototype computer applications to ensure that they work without any errors.

Other common computer programming tasks and duties include:

  • Scanning codes for errors and making corrections where needed.
  • Updating and expanding existing computer programs.
  • Simplifying code writing by using code libraries.
  • Creating and testing code in an integrated development environment.
  • Utilizing software as a service (SaaS) to write code across operating systems.

Most computer programmers work for computer systems design and related services. Some work directly for software publishers, financial and insurance firms, or manufacturing companies while others are self-employed. Computer programmers often work alone but may collaborate with computer specialists on bigger projects. Since coding can be done anywhere, many computer programmers work remotely.

Want to find out what skills and qualities employers look for in computer programmers? Read our computer programmer job description sample.

How to Become a Computer Programmer

Before they hire you, employers want to see that you have demonstrable computer programmer skills. The path to becoming a computer programmer requires a college education and knowledge of specific coding languages. Below, we outline the best ways to gain the skills and credentials you need.

Computer Programmer Education

Computer programmers typically hold a bachelor's degree in computer science, information technology, or a related field. There are tons of computer programming degrees available that can help you jumpstart your career. Not all computer programming jobs require a bachelor's degree, however. Some employers hire candidates with an associate degree. Some of the courses you'll likely take include:

  • Mathematics, calculus, statistics, or matrix algebra.
  • Software design and infrastructure.
  • Java programming.
  • Coding languages like C++ and Python.

Internships are a great, hands-on way to learn how to become a computer programmer. If you're currently enrolled in an undergraduate program, be sure to consult with your college's administrators to find out if any internship opportunities are available.

Computer Programmer Requirements for Certification

Having certification in computer programming isn't always required, but some employers only hire candidates who are certified in the products they use. Getting a certificate in a specific coding language helps boost your employability.

Tons of colleges offer certificates for computer programmers. You can also get certified in specific coding languages such as Java EE and Web Services or as a C++ Certified Associate Programmer. Python Institute offers three levels of Python programmer certification: entry-level, associate, and professional. As you progress in your career, it also helps to take continuing education courses in computer programming and attend seminars to stay up to date with changes in the industry.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Computer Programmer?

A bachelor's degree with significant coursework in computer programming typically takes four years to complete. Completing a certificate program can take months, depending on the pace you work at and your ability to pass the required exams. Internship durations can vary, but if you're taking one, expect to add on few more months.

How Much Do Computer Programmers Make?

The median computer programmer salary is $81,583 per year, according to Monster's salary data. But your salary can range from a low of $35,315 to a high of $115,402, depending on factors such as your background, experience, and certifications.

You can look up the median salary for computer programmers in your area using Monster's Salary Tools.

How to Find Computer Programmer Jobs

Now that you know how to become a computer programmer, what's next on your agenda? How about preparing your entry-level or mid-level computer programmer resume? It's also important to have a cover letter ready to go when you apply. If you need help writing a first draft, try referring to Monster's cover letter examples and best practices. Our cover letter tips are laid out in simple, easy-to-follow steps that will take you from a blank page to a polished final draft in no time.

If you have the skills employers in computer programming look for, make them stand out in your resume and cover letter. Be sure to emphasize your:

  • Strong analytical skills.
  • Ability to concentrate.
  • Keen eye for small details.
  • Excellent troubleshooting skills.

Once you're ready to apply, start searching Monster's list of computer programming jobs to find a position that's a good fit for your experience and career goals.

Want to know where computer programmers are in high demand? Try looking for jobs in these five states:

Top five states:

More specifically, you can find plenty of computer programming positions in these U.S. metro areas:

Program Your Job Search for Success

Learning how to become a computer programmer is only the first step in landing that dream job. Now it's time to put your skills and aptitude to work. Start by uploading your resume to Monster for free. When you join Monster, you can receive free, custom job alerts along with expert advice on how to reach your career goals sent straight to your inbox.


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