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Computer Programmer - Learn About Education in Computer Programming

Computer programmers require some formal education. Learn about the educational options, job duties and employment outlook statistics to see if this is the right career for you.

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Computer programmers are employed in various industries and work different jobs in which they provide computer electronics instruction to ensure the computers function properly and run smoothly. A certificate or associate's degree may suffice for entry-level positions, but a bachelor's degree is usually required for most programmer jobs. A graduate degree is recommended for those who want specialize in a specific aspect of programming.

Essential Information

Computer programmers develop sets of instructions or coding called 'algorithms' that tell a computer to perform certain functions. A programmer may work in different fields including security and development. Different levels of education may be required to work in various fields. Certificates, undergraduate and graduate degrees in computer programming or computer science are all available.

Required Education Varies according to job level; certificate, associate's degrees bachelor's degrees
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -8% for computer programmers
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $79,530 for computer programmers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Education Options for a Career in Computer Programming

Computer programmers have a host of job opportunities from product developers to computer system security specialists. Education requirements vary, but a person may look for programs in computer programming or computer science. Most jobs will require a bachelor's degree, but some entry-level positions may require only a certificate or associate degree. Graduate programs in computer science may be helpful if a person wants to specialize in a particular field.

Certificate and Associate's Degree Option

Graduates of a certificate or associate program in computer programming may consider becoming a computer support technician or entry-level computer programmer. Coursework in these programs typically begins with programming languages and culminates with students using the skills and techniques they have learned to write their own programs.

Bachelor's Degree Option

Students who want to qualify for a larger range of computer programming jobs may complete a bachelor's degree program in computer science. A bachelor's program usually includes basic education courses in topics such as advanced mathematics, history and communications, along with covering technical courses in topics such as basic and advanced programming, data structures, and system performance. This coursework provides students with the technical skills and general knowledge required to work as a programmer.

Graduate Degree

At the graduate level, students may tailor their education to focus on a topic such as software theory or artificial intelligence. Graduate programs may require students to complete a thesis, research project or dissertation on a topic related to computer programming, like software testing. For example, students interested in a career using computer technology in the medical field may conduct independent research projects in biocomputation. Similarly, those interested in the computer security industry may write a thesis on database systems and cryptography.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates an 8% job decline for computer programmers in the years 2014-2024. This decline is largely due to companies reducing staff as they increasingly hire overseas workers for lower pay; however, this may change in coming years. Computer programs earned a median annual salary of $79,530 in May 2015, according to the BLS.

To become a computer programmer, aiming for a bachelor's degree or higher is strongly advised, as most employers require one except for entry-level jobs. For one who wishes to specialize in specific area such as security or aerospace, a master's degree would be your best bet.

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