Computer programmers held about 174,400 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of computer programmers were as follows:
|Computer systems design and related services||32%|
|Finance and insurance||7|
Programmers usually work in office settings, which may be in their homes.
Most computer programmers work full time.
Computer programmers typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related subject. Most programmers specialize in several programming languages.
Computer programmers typically need a bachelor's degree in computer and information technology or a related field, such as mathematics. However, some employers hire workers who have other degrees or experience in specific programming languages. Programmers who work in specific fields, such as healthcare or accounting, may take classes in that field to supplement their computer-related degree. In addition, employers may prefer to hire candidates who have experience gained through internships.
Most programmers learn computer languages while in school. However, a computer science degree gives students the skills they need to learn new computer languages easily. Students get experience writing code, testing programs, fixing errors, and doing many other tasks that they will perform on the job.
To keep up with changing technology, computer programmers may take continuing education classes and attend professional development seminars to learn new programming languages or about upgrades to programming languages they already know.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Programmers may become certified in specific programming languages or for vendor-specific programming products. Some companies require their computer programmers to be certified in the products they use.
Programmers who have general business experience may become computer systems analysts. With experience, some programmers may become software developers. They may also be promoted to managerial positions. For more information, see the profiles on computer systems analysts, software developers, and computer and information systems managers.
Computer programmers typically have an interest in the Thinking and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.
If you are not sure whether you have a Thinking or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a computer programmer, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Computer programmers should also possess the following specific qualities:
Analytical skills. Computer programmers must understand complex instructions in order to create computer code.
Concentration. Programmers must be able to work at a computer, writing lines of code for long periods of time.
Detail oriented. Computer programmers must closely examine the code they write because a small mistake can affect the entire computer program.
Troubleshooting skills. An important part of a programmer’s job is to check the code for errors and fix any they find.
The median annual wage for computer programmers was $93,000 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $47,560, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $155,240.
In May 2021, the median annual wages for computer programmers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Finance and insurance||99,260|
|Computer systems design and related services||79,860|
Most computer programmers work full time.
Employment of computer programmers is projected to decline 10 percent from 2021 to 2031.
Despite declining employment, about 9,600 openings for computer programmers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Computer programming work continues to be automated, helping computer programmers to become more efficient in some of their tasks. Many companies are leveraging technologies to automate repetitive tasks, such as code formatting, to save time and money. Automation of this routine work could allow computer programmers to focus on other tasks, such as strategic planning activities, that cannot be automated. In addition, some computer programming tasks are more commonly done by other computer occupations, such as developers or analysts.
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