Web and computer programmers typically work alone and are often able to work remotely with flexible schedules and hours – a real benefit if you have children or live overseas. Although many programmers work full-time for organizations, contract work also exists, particularly once you've gained experience and built your portfolio.
Successful programmers typically possess the following attributes.
- Analytical skills – Programming involves abstract concepts and complex mathematical formulas, so you must be able to approach a problem in different ways to find a solution.
- Detail-oriented – Computer programmers must closely examine the code they write because a small mistake can affect the entire computer program.
- Trouble-shooting ability – An important part of a programmer’s job is to check code and fix any errors they find.
- Communication skills – Because teams often consist of programmers from various disciplines working together on projects, programmers must have strong written and verbal communication skills.
Overview and outlook
Companies are consolidating and centralizing computer systems. An increase in off-the-shelf software used as corporate solutions and software development outsourced overseas have changed employment for programmers over the past several years. Many programmers are finding better prospects as computer software engineers who program but are also involved in software design.
Many companies require programmers to have a bachelor’s degree, although some companies hire programmers with associate degrees or program certificates, which are available through technical schools or community colleges. A programmer who has a limited formal education, but strong knowledge of several programming languages, may have a better chance of finding employment than a college graduate with little hands-on experience.
While you are in school, take advantage of internship opportunities to gain hands-on experience in a real-world environment. Search for government internships and recent graduate opportunities on USAJOBS Pathways and corporate internship positions on the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Job Search and other job boards. Make sure to check with your education institution and local corporations for possible internships and training opportunities.
To stay competitive as a programmer, it’s important to continue to update your skills. Software development tools and technologies are always advancing and evolving. As a programmer, you should seek out trade shows, seminars, periodicals and professional education classes to keep you informed of industry changes. Read Finding the Right CEUs for Me for suggestions on continuing education units.
Certifications are available in specific programming languages or for vendor-specific programming products. Current popular languages include the following:
With the right skills and certifications, you may want to consider starting your own business and contracting your services to a variety of organizations. Networking will be critical to your success, so read The Value of Professional Associations for more information on how becoming a member can help enhance your career.
If you are considering a career in computer programming, review the Research Occupations tool and the College Scorecard application on MySECO. You can also use the Scholarship Finder to locate money to assist you in funding your education.
Visit the CareerOneStop My Skills, My Future and State Job Bank for additional sources of job opportunities and information. Call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 and speak with a SECO career coach for assistance with choosing a school, finding scholarship funding, searching for a job or overcoming challenges. For additional guidance, use the Live Chat feature on the MySECO website.