Computer Programmer

Computer Programmer career image of data and application programming visualized in a colorful abstract digital collage
Career Clusters: Information Technology

What you need to know


Computer programmers write and test code that allows computer applications and software programs to function properly.

They turn the program designs created by software developers and engineers into instructions that a computer can follow.

What is this career like?

Programmers usually work in offices, most commonly in the computer systems design and related services industry. Because writing code can be done anywhere, many programmers work from their homes.

Some of the things a computer programmer might do:

  • Write programs in a variety of computer languages, such as C++ and Java
  • Update and expand existing programs
  • Test programs for errors and fix the faulty lines of computer code
  • Create and test code in an integrated development environment (IDE)
  • Use code libraries, which are collections of independent lines of code, to simplify the writing
What skills are needed?
  • Analytical skills: Computer programmers must understand complex instructions in order to create computer code.
  • Concentration: Programmers must focus their attention on their work as they write code or check existing code for errors.
  • 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.
What is the pay?

The average pay for computer programmers in the United States ranges from $51,440 to $146,050 as of May 2020.

The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.

What is the career outlook?

Employment of computer programmers in the United States is projected to decline 9 percent from 2019 to 2029.

Computer programming can be done from anywhere in the world, so companies sometimes hire programmers in countries where wages are lower. This ongoing trend is projected to limit employment growth for computer programmers in the United States.

However, the high costs associated with managing projects given to overseas programmers sometimes offsets the savings from the lower wages, causing some companies to bring back or keep programming jobs in the United States.

Job prospects will be best for programmers who have a bachelor’s degree or higher and knowledge of a variety of programming languages. Keeping up to date with the newest programming tools will also improve job prospects.

What education is required?

Most computer programmers get a degree in computer science or a related subject. Programmers who work in specific fields, such as healthcare or accounting, may take classes in that field to supplement their degree in computer programming. In addition, employers value experience, which many students gain through internships.

A computer science degree gives students the skills needed to learn new computer languages easily. Students get hands-on experience writing code, testing programs, fixing errors, and doing many other tasks that they will perform on the job.

Discover some of the courses you will take pursuing a degree in Computer Science.