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, a good potential for contract work 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 coding for errors and fix any 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 consolidating and centralizing computer systems, an increase in off-the-shelf software used as corporate solutions and more software development outsourced overseas where salaries are lower have changed the employment picture 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 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 intern 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 up-to-date on 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:
A recent search of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Job Search located computer and web programming positions with companies including the following:
- ManTech International Corporation
- Charles Schwab
- Robert Half
- Northrop Grumman Corporation
Visit the portal regularly to get updated job postings from MSEP partners.
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 you may want to 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 on MySECO and then research schools using the College Scorecard application. You can also use the Scholarship Finder to locate money to assist you in funding your education.
Start your job search on the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Job Search. Additional sources of job opportunities and information include My Skills, My Future and the Career OneStop Job Bank for your state. Call 800-342-9647 and speak with a career coach for assistance choosing a school, finding scholarship funding, searching for a job or overcoming challenges.