Programming, or coding, has existed since the 19th century, but the field has clearly evolved since its analog beginnings in the 1800s. It now includes over 700 coding languages and has helped bring the world into the digital era, inspiring countless people to become Computer Programmers — a now in-demand job.
Considering how technical the role is, you might think that Computer Programmers must hold degrees in computer science, mathematics, or information technology. But in a recent survey, 72% of employers said they believe that coders who have passed intensive online training courses perform just as well as those with degrees, or even better. Meaning: While a degree may be helpful, it’s possible to become a successful Computer Programmer without one.
Let’s break down what a Computer Programmer does, and what you need to know to become one. If you’re eager to get started, we offer a variety of online courses — from learning the fundamentals of coding to mastering specific coding languages — that are designed to get you job-ready.
What does a Computer Programmer do?
Computer Programmers write code for software programs and computer and mobile applications. They also test and maintain software and systems to ensure they run smoothly. Interestingly, about 70% of coding jobs are in careers unrelated to technology, which means you can basically work in any field that you’re interested in by becoming a Computer Programmer.
As a Computer Programmer, you’ll wear a lot of hats and use your technical skills in different ways depending on what you need to accomplish. Your role may include:
- Writing code: Some coders write and test new software or programs. If they work on the front-end, they are involved in creating the overall look and feel of the application and ensuring its functionality, similar to a Web Designer.
- Maintenance: Programs constantly evolve as the needs of users and parameters of the industry are constantly in flux. Maintenance includes creating and installing updates, troubleshooting, and repairing bugs and errors.
- Diversification: Often computer programmers also need to rewrite code for existing software and applications so they can be compatible with various operating systems. This can be done by using various languages to run the program on each operating system or using one language that works across multiple operating systems.
- Security: Many programmers work in cybersecurity, identifying malicious software and providing patches for vulnerable applications. Others write code that prevents data leaks or breaches in security or creates software and applications for protecting systems from attack.
Coders will need to learn a coding language (or, more likely, languages), as well as other important skills.
- Problem-solving and math: A Computer Programmer needs to be able to visualize solutions to various obstacles. It can also be helpful to have a solid background in math — but don’t get deterred if math hasn’t always been your strong suit, since that’s not a prerequisite for all types of developers. Plus, if you’re new to coding, our courses provide the fundamentals for developing these skills.
- Communication and creativity: Besides the technical skills needed for coding, you’ll also need to develop your soft skills. Effective communication, creativity, collaboration, reporting, and documentation are the building blocks of nearly every project a Computer Programmer will take on.
How long does it take to become a Computer Programmer?
This question truly depends on how much time you have to devote to learning to code, building out your portfolio and resume, and job-hunting.
If you’re learning online, you’ll likely be able to go at your own pace so that your learning fits within your lifestyle and goals. When it comes to getting the technical skills, many of our courses can be completed in a matter of hours, while others can take a few weeks. Here are some examples:
- Python 3: You can finish this beginner-friendly course in just 25 hours, and you’ll learn coding skills and complete projects that will help you build your programming portfolio.
- Chatbots with Python: This 8-week course will take you from the beginner level all the way to creating chatbots with AI learning.
If you want to go from beginner to job-ready, then you may want to consider signing up for a Skillacademy career path, which will likely take you a few months to complete. Our Full-Stack Engineer, Front-Engineer, and Back-End Engineer career paths are some good ones to consider if you want to become a Computer Programmer.
How much does a Computer Programmer make?
The median pay for Computer Programmers is about $93,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but there are several factors that can impact which jobs you’re considered for — and therefore your salary.
- An attractive portfolio: Put yourself ahead of the competition by building a portfolio that showcases your creativity, diverse skill set, and problem-solving skills.
- Location: The average pay for coders varies by state. A recent survey, for example, shows that Massachusetts is the state paying the highest on average, while Montana has the lowest average salaries. While it totally depends on the specific job you’re considering, being able to relocate can open the door to more job possibilities. (That said, there are plenty of remote jobs in the field, so don’t stress if you don’t see any promising jobs where you currently live.)
- Learning new programming languages: As a Computer Programmer, adding more languages to your toolkit can make you a more desirable job candidate, depending on the role. Take a look at our catalog to explore our courses — if you’re not sure where to start, check out our sorting quiz to see what matches up with your interests. Or check out this list of the easiest languages to learn, according to developers.
- Exploring industries: Coding is now involved in nearly every industry, so you can bet that switching into a more high-paid industry might be more lucrative than industries that, on average, involve lower pay. Some of the highest-paying industries include healthcare, finance, and IT.
How to write a Computer Programmer resume
Potential employers want to see more than just a list of coding languages and past jobs and experience. They will likely be looking for keywords in your resume to indicate the areas and levels of your expertise. Did you design new software or modify existing applications? What other teams have you collaborated with, and how did you address and resolve problems and obstacles? What training, certifications, and awards have you earned? What personal or volunteer projects have you participated in?
In addition to all this, try to make your resume unique and specific to each job opportunity you’re pursuing by customizing your work history description to include tasks from the job description.
How to build a Computer Programmer portfolio
Your portfolio is a professional website to showcase your skills and experience. Rather than replacing a resume, it works in harmony with it to attract the attention of potential clients and employers. It should include personal information that exhibits your personality and point of view, as well as your contact info. Think of it as a means to display your skills and past projects visually, and an opportunity to create a personal brand. Make sure to keep your site up-to-date as your portfolio grows.
How to prepare for a Computer Programmer interview
Once you have your professional portfolio and resume, you’ll be ready to start applying for jobs and interviewing. Expect to field questions about your past experience and your skills. Some prospective employers may even test you during the interview to assess your problem-solving skills and coding proficiency.
- Prepare: Rehearse your answers to commonly asked interview questions, but beware of over-rehearsing. You want to sound confident but not robotic. Practice speaking aloud about past projects and experiences so that you can speak fluently and clearly.
- Refresh: Make sure you’re familiar with the technical knowledge that may be tested during the interview. Practicing and staying up-to-date with your skills can help you perform without hesitancy or insecurity. Need help? Try our Code Challenges to get some practice, and peruse Docs, our free coding documentation, when you need to brush up on some key terms and concepts.
- Relax: It’s easier said than done, but try not to be nervous and communicate in a professional but relaxed manner. Come armed with questions for the interviewer so you can really get a sense of the job you’ll be asked to do — remember: interviews are an opportunity for you to see if this job works for you too. Here are some ideas for questions to ask.
If you’re not sure where to begin, our course catalog is a great place to start. From there, you can brush up on programming languages, learn to ace a technical interview, and start building the skills you need to become a Computer Programmer without a degree.