A Beginners Guide to Becoming a Computer Programmer

Becoming a computer programmer means great pay and options in terms of positioning yourself in a vertical with exponential growth. If you want a career with an end game — choose computer programmer.

A Beginners Guide to Becoming a Computer Programmer


When it comes to deciding on a career, the options are endless.

If you’ve got an interest in computers and how they work, computer programming might just be the answer. It is a field in the technology industry that’s growing fast and plays a vital role in our modern technology-driven world.


What Does a Computer Programmer Do?

In the most basic terms, a computer programmer is a builder in the computer world. They are skilled in being able to translate software design into a language that computers can understand.

In other words, they are the people who talk to computers. In case you didn’t realize, computers don’t use the same language we do in our everyday lives. They use languages such as Java and C++. To communicate with computers effectively, a programmer has to learn at least a couple of these languages, as well as being good at analyzing math and data.

Computer programmers are vital across a range of fields, including website design, mobile apps, and video games. Wherever a computer is used, there is a need for a computer programmer to create the software and operating systems. A programmer can also be involved in testing programs to make sure they operate effectively, check for bugs and be able to fix any problems they find.


The Best Skills to Obtain

It is usual for a computer programmer to specialize in a specific field. Depending on your area of expertise, there will be a range of different industries that need your particular skill set. Before you enroll for Michigan Tech’s electrical engineering online program, for example, you need to decide on the direction you’d like your career to progress.

Here are some of the areas you could specialize in:

  • Web developer – writes the code that determines what a website looks like or is responsible for writing web apps or programs that provide the framework for a website to run on.
  • Software programmer – creates software, often from a concept that someone else has thought up.
  • Data scientist – generally found in research or academia. They analyze and manipulate data.
  • Database administrator – collects large amounts of data, makes it secure, organizes it and then analyzes it.
  • Mobile app development – many of the apps on your smartphone have been created by a computer programmer. There are plenty of opportunities for freelance work in this particular area. Freelance work allows you to work around a pre-existing schedule that suits you, and can offer variety and flexibility.


Different Qualifications

Once you’ve decided on the area you’d like to specialize in; it’s time to consider the different qualifications.

An associate degree is often enough to get you started in some entry-level programming jobs as it provides a basic education in computer programming. For higher level roles you’ll need a more advanced degree.

A bachelor’s degree is a four-year program and is the best qualification for most basic programming careers. It covers all the skills you need for most fields along with the opportunity for further study in a range of specializations.

If you want to maximize the potential of your career, then it’s a master’s degree you need to consider. A wider range of jobs will be available to you upon graduation, and your employer will consider you a more valuable employee. Salaries tend to be higher, and your career options will be wider by successfully completing a masters.

Adding various majors and minors helps to supplement your education and widen your skill set. Information technology, computer science, information systems, programming/software development, and information security, are examples of popular majors. Electrical engineering, business, mathematics, or computer engineering are examples of complementary minors.


Build a Portfolio

While studying for the relevant qualification, you also need to be working on building a portfolio.

It is used as evidence of your skills, evidence of your commitment, and can be used by prospective employers who want to review your work. You don’t need to have a job to be able to build a portfolio. Create a personal one using your own projects.

If you’ve been working on an app or program, either for your own enjoyment or as part of your studies, include it in your portfolio. Use your course work as this is evidence of you practicing your new skills. Throughout your course, there will be practical projects you have to complete, and these can also be used in your portfolio.

Take advantage of an internship should one become available. Contact companies you’re interested in directly or set up alerts for any updates. LinkedIn is also a great resource if you’re looking for internship opportunities.


Get Early Job Experience

In order to obtain a high salaried job, you’re going to need to get some early job experience. For the well-paid positions, at least three or four years of practical experience are required. An internship has already been mentioned, but freelancing is another option. A freelance role will mean you’re working with one client for a particular project or have secured a series of contracts. It’s something you can do working from home, as well as undertaking this type of work alongside your studies. Communication with your clients will be done online and you’ll be providing whatever programming services are required.

Freelancing is a good way to develop a client base you can use if you want to continue working for yourself. Otherwise, it’s a great way to gain valuable work experience.

Once you’ve secured yourself a permanent position, you can continue your professional development by furthering your education and keeping your certification up to date. You might have entered the industry with a bachelor’s degree, but there’s nothing to stop you going back to school and getting a masters.

The world of computer programming is evolving on an almost daily basis, so you need to keep abreast of any developments. You might have to learn new programming languages or look into traveling a different path rather than limiting yourself to one specialist area.