How to Become a Data Programmer: Career Guide

Learn how to become a data programmer. Research the education requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career in the data programming field.

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  • 0:01 Become a Data Programmer
  • 0:30 Career Requirements
  • 1:13 Step 1: Obtain a…
  • 2:23 Step 2: Keep Skills Current
  • 3:12 Step 3: Join a…

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Become a Data Programmer

Data programmers write code to create computer applications and database software programs that handle large amounts of information. In addition, they may sometimes be partly responsible for designing database systems. Data programmers may convert and transfer all necessary information to new systems as well as update and maintain current programs. Sitting at desks and viewing computer monitors for many hours are typical aspects of the work environment for data programmers.

Career Requirements

Experience Requirements vary by employer, but often at least of two years of experience are requested
Degree Level Bachelor's or higher
Key Skills Analytical skills; attention to detail; troubleshooting ability; concentration; fluency in a few computer programming languages, like C++, JAVA, SQL, C#, PHP, LAMP, and ASP.NET; knowledge of Microsoft Office programs; understanding of data structures and databases
Median Salary (2016)* $61,926 (for database analysts and programmers)

Sources: job postings in September 2012, *, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Obtain a Computer Degree

The first step to becoming a data programmer is to obtain a degree in computer science or a related specialty such as computer programming, computer information systems, or information technology. However, some employers may accept applicants with associate's degrees and relevant work experience. Community colleges and technical schools may offer associate's degree programs, and bachelor's degree programs may be found through universities and 4-year colleges.

Most degree programs teach students to effectively instruct computers to perform required tasks through several common programming languages, like Visual Basic, Java, and C++. Many programs also require courses in:

  • Data structure
  • Database development
  • Database programming
  • Database administration
  • Networking
  • Security
  • Business information systems
  • Open-source systems

Cooperative work programs may be offered through certain degree programs.

Gaining on-the-job training and experience working with veteran programmers through internships can expand students' skills and make them more marketable to employers. Additionally, interns may make valuable contacts within the programming community.

Step 2: Keep Skills Current

Technology is always changing, thus programming languages are continually evolving to meet new industry standards. Data programmers must stay abreast of new developments in their chosen computer languages or application specialties as well as learn the newest programming languages.

Obtaining certifications can be advantageous as well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the increased use of automation and offshore hiring may threaten employment opportunities for data programmers. Earning certification in specific software and programming languages may help ensure future employment. A couple examples of credentials a programmer could earn are Microsoft Visual Studio certification and Oracle University Java certification.

Step 3: Join a Professional Organization

The third step is becoming a member of a computing association, like the IEEE Computer Society or the Association for Computing Machinery. Doing so can bring multiple benefits. Members can receive the most recent news in the field, expose their work, network with other professionals, complete online courses that lead to certifications, and gain access to other resources for career advancement and professional growth. With experience, programmers may advance to careers as software developers, program analysts, or computer system managers.

In summary, data programmers usually need a computer-related bachelor's degree, some experience, and programming language knowledge.

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