How to Become a Computer Programmer


If you want to become a computer programmer, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. Does the following describe you?


Those who become computer programmers are typically individuals with a natural aptitude in computers and writing code. They are individuals who can visualize complex processes, while also having the persistence to ensure they properly map out those processes in the appropriate programming language. 


Computer programmers are individuals that typically enjoy learning new computer languages and programming styles, and developing innovative solutions to problems.


If you want to work in this field, you must be comfortable working in front of a computer for long hours. You must also be willing to continuously update your knowledge in the field, as it is constantly evolving.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a computer programmer. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Computer Programmer

In most cases, you'll need to complete a post-secondary education program in computer science or a related discipline that has a significant programming component. Your work won’t end once you you’re your degree; programmers must continuously upgrade their knowledge in this rapidly changing field.


Success Tip: If you know what type of programming you want to do before you enroll in school, then talk to potential employers about what qualifications they require candidates to have for that specific type of programming, and choose your school or program based on that information.





What is a Computer Programmer?

A computer programmer is an information technology professional that uses application design and development tools, as well as different computer and database languages to design and create computer and web applications.



General Job Description

Although the job description of a computer programmer may vary depending on the specific objectives of the project they are working on, they are generally responsible for writing code for software or web applications that tells computers to accomplish certain tasks, such as retrieving a specific set of data.


This involves using specific codes or computer languages, like Java and C++, to transform the program designs created by software developers and engineers into instructions that the computer can follow. They may also be responsible for rewriting, de-bugging, maintaining and testing these programs. 



 Typical Duties of the Job

• Liaise with systems analysts and future users of the program in order to determine the programming requirements

• Analyze programming requirements in order to determine a proper sequence of development actions

• Translate steps and sequence of actions into computer language commands

• Test program to ensure it functions as intended

• Resolve any issues identified during testing

• Perform minor adjustments and upgrades to existing computer and web-based programs

• Reference code libraries to simplify writing

• May build or use computer-assisted software engineering tools to automate coding

• Maintain current industry knowledge 



Who Employs Them?

Computer programmers are hired on a part-time, full-time, contractual or per-project basis by many different types of small, medium and large organizations, such as:


• Web service companies (such as web design companies)

• Consulting firms

• Non-profit organizations

• Computer design and manufacturing companies

• Software developers

• Insurance companies

• Financial institutions

• Oil, gas and mining companies

• Utility companies

• Municipal, provincial/state and federal governments

• Colleges and universities

• Self-employed (as consultants or freelancers)


Career Advancement Possibilities

Computer programmers typically begin their careers in junior-level positions. Once they further their skills and competencies by gaining a few years worth of experience, they may move into roles of greater responsibility, or specialize in an area, such as applications or systems programming.


With even more experience, computer programmers may become lead applications programmers or systems analysts. With specialized training and further experience, programmers may move into related fields such as database administration, systems security or network design.


Gaining specialized knowledge and experience with a language or operating system can also lead to a computer programmer becoming a computer software engineer. Some programmers may decide to move into management roles; they may also work as freelancers or being their own computer programming company.





Skills and Traits Needed to Be Successful

to be effective as a computer programmer, you need to posses a certain set of skills and personality traits, as they will allow you to perform your job duties with competence, as well as overcome the challenges of this career.


• A natural interest in computers and coding

• Able to understand complex instructions

• Able to visualize complex processes

• Must be able to work in front of a computer for long periods of time

• Must be able to pay extremely close attention to detail

• Knowledge of object-oriented languages and tools such as C++ and Java

• Willing and able to constantly update skills to keep up with changing technology

• Must be able to remain patient and persistent when de-bugging programs



Work Conditions Typical to This Line of Work

Work Setting: Many computer programmers work in offices, and work directly with other team members on large projects. However, since writing code can be done anywhere, many computer programmers work from home.


Working Hours: Programmers may work a wide variety of different schedules; some work a typically 40-hour work week, or work on rotating shifts that can include evenings and weekends, while others may work on their own schedule from home. Many programmers are required to put in long hours from time to time, in order to de-bug programs, or to meet tight deadlines.


Work Environment: The work of computer programmers may be done independently or as part of a team, although they must typically take direction from either managers, computer engineers, or directly from clients. Their work may become stressful when complex coding is needed, when deadlines are approaching, or when the client is not happy with the result of their work. Computer programmers must also ensure they follow ergonomic work practices, as they must work in front of a computer for many hours a day, which can strain the eyes, back and wrists quite easily



Certification Needed

Employers typically don’t require their computer programmers to be certified in specific programming languages, although some companies may require their computer programmers to be certified in the products they use.


Success Tip: Earning certifications for specific programming languages may be helpful for your career, as it demonstrates competence to potential employers or clients



Job Postings - Open Positions

Our job board below has "Computer Programmer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.



Computer Programmer Salary

The salary level of computer programmers can vary, depending on their personal qualifications, their employment status, the size and type of employer, the region in which they are employed, and the responsibilities of the job.


Computer Programmer Salary - Canada (Alberta): According to the 2018 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working as part of the Computer Programmers occupational group earn an average of $81,552 per year, or a mean wage of $40.22 per hour. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available for the rest of Canada at the time of writing (May 29, 2019).


Computer Programmer Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Computer Programmers is $74,280 (2012 figures). The lowest 10% of salaries in this group are below $42,850, and the top 10% are above $117,890 per year.



Similar Career Guides in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to computer programmer, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Applications Programmer

Java Developer

Multimedia Programmer

PHP Developer





Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career in this field.


Occupations in Alberta:Computer Programmer.” (March 3, 2018). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 7, 2019.

Computer and Information Technology:Computer Programmers.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 7, 2019.

Information Technology:How to Become a Computer Programmer.” (May 25, 2013). Western Governors University website. Retrieved November 7, 2019.



How to Become a Computer Programmer



Scholarships for Becoming a Computer Programmer

The Relevant Fields of Study section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as a computer programmer. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on the following pages:


Computer Science Scholarships

Computer Engineering Scholarships

Software Engineering Scholarships


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant Fields of Study

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for this career. 


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