Computer Programmer Education Requirements and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a computer programmer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

Computer programmers often find employment based on their range and length of experience in the field. An associate's degree paired with work experience may be enough for a computer programmer to find work. Certification is voluntary but also adds to a computer programmers' credibility.

Essential Information

Computer programmers write, or code, the programs that tell computers what to do. This is accomplished by converting the software program, designed by software engineers, into a series of instructions a computer can follow. The job is multifaceted in that it entails creating, adapting, modifying, troubleshooting and maintaining programs. Although having a bachelor's or master's degree is most often required for computer programming jobs, those with related work experience may only need a certificate or associate's degree. Depending on where they work, programmers may also need to seek certification.

Required Education Certificate or associate's degree with considerable work experience; bachelor's degree most often required; master's degree for some jobs
Certification Programming certification sometimes required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -8%
Median Salary (2015)* $79,530 annually

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Computer Programmer Education Requirements

Undergraduate certificates and associate's degrees suffice for some entry-level positions in computer programming, usually only if the applicant has a good amount of applicable work experience. Most employers, however, require programmers to hold at least a bachelor's degree in a field such as computer science, mathematics or information systems. Some jobs even call for a master's degree. Graduate certificates in computer programming are often pursued by individuals to augment a bachelor's degree in business, accounting or finance. Typical courses in a computer programming program cover programming logic, system design and development, programming languages, database management and structured query language (SQL).

Career Information

Systems programmers develop systems that act as the computer's brains. Applications programmers develop systems that allow computers to do different jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), job opportunities for computer programmers were projected to decline by 8% between 2014 and 2024. This is below average growth due to outsourcing of jobs since many users are now able to write their own programs. In addition, some programming functions may become automated. Programmers now often assist software engineers in a number of their duties, such as the identification of user needs and program design. The demand for programmers is highest for individuals who have good technical skills and a solid grasp of the programming needs of specific employers' businesses.


Because of the computer field's rapidly changing nature, programmers are advised to build on their expertise. With experience and additional courses, programmers may become lead programmers, supervisors or analysts. With more advanced degrees and specialized knowledge, programmers can advance to become full-fledged software engineers. Further training, particularly in business, affords engineers the opportunity to become project managers, information officers, systems managers or independent consultants.


Professional and academic organizations offer various certifications. Although these are usually voluntary, certification indicates a level of competence, which can work to an individual's advantage in seeking employment or advancement. Vendors and software firms commonly require individuals to complete a certification program in order to work with their product.

Computer programmers often work with software engineers in converting programs into codes that a computer can process. Experience is a primary asset in the computer programing field, so pursuing a graduate certificate or degree, or taking standalone courses, are good options that can lead to job mobility and career advancement.

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