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Contract Programmer: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

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

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Contract programmers write computer code used in software applications. They work by the project or by the job on a contract basis, rather than as full time employees of the firms for which they work. Contract computer programmer positions are predicted to decline in the next decade.

Essential Information

A contract programmer codes computer instructions on a part-time or temporary basis for companies and corporations. A contract programmer uses coding languages, such as C++, to modify, repair, or expand programs as desired by the employer. Contract programmers hold an undergraduate degree or certificate in computer science or information technology, as well as some experience in the field. A wide variety of certifications are available for both programming languages and software programs.

Required Education Associate's degree or certificate in computer science or information technology, bachelor's degree may be preferred
Optional Certifications Available for most programming languages or specific software programs
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) -8% for all computer programmers*
Average Annual Salary (2015) $84,360 for all computer programmers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for a Contract Programmer

A contract programmer is a computer programmer that works on a part-time or contract basis for software publishers, government agencies, small or large businesses, and computer manufacturers. Contract programmers might be assigned to one short-term project, or perhaps a project that will take a year to complete. Contract programmers may work on large-scale projects writing, modifying, and expanding programs, as well as work on smaller projects creating unique parts of a program or debugging current code. Since contract programmers only work temporarily with a company, they may take on several projects at once.

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Duties for a Contract Programmer

Contract programmers write the software designed by software engineers. They code the instructions into the computer with a programming language. It is the duty of the programmer to make sure the computer language flows logically and smoothly. They are responsible for ensuring there are no kinks in the program that will hinder the user experience. The computer programmer will update the medium that is being worked on, modify the code, and make any necessary changes requested by an employer.

Job Requirements for a Contract Programmer

The education requirements for a contract programmer vary. Some programmers may hold a certificate or associate's degree for entry-level positions. However, larger employers with advanced projects may require contract programmers to hold a bachelor's degree in computer science or mathematics from an accredited university.

Within these programs, prospective computer programmers study the mathematics of algorithms and algebra, as well as how to apply mathematical concepts to programming. They explore the foundations of programming and programming languages, such as Python and C++. Students are also trained in programming in operating systems such as UNIX and basic logic. Additionally, employers seek contract programmers with up-to-date experience in the field. Optional certifications are also available in most programming languages or software programs.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) does not report employment information specifically for contract programmers, it did report that computer programmers in general earned an average annual salary of $84,360 in 2015. The employment of all computer programmers is expected to decrease by 8% between 2014 and 2024, per the BLS.

Contract computer programmers need either an associate's or bachelor's degree, depending on the employer and the position. Some employers also prefer candidates with certification in the software applications and programming languages they support. These careers have an average salary of about $84,000 per year.

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