Navigating Computer Programmer Degrees and Careers

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated April 2, 2021 | Published February 15, 2021

Updated April 2, 2021

Published February 15, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Computer programmers design code and software to improve and advance products ranging from mobile apps, dishwashers to pacemakers. The type of work a person does in this field depends heavily on the skills they have and the education or certifications they have earned.

If technology and coding interest you, then you can benefit from learning about educational opportunities in computer programming. In this article, we explain different computer programmer degree options, describe the jobs they equip people for and outline skills and certifications for advancing in this industry.

What is a computer programmer?

A computer programmer is a person who writes computer code with the primary intention of bettering the computer software. They design, update, test, fix and implement computer programs and software using different coding languages. The average national salary for someone in this profession is $48,306 per year. This amount varies depending on a person's skills, innovative abilities and the type of degree or education they've received.

Related: Is Computer Programming a Good Career? Definition and Tips

What can you do with a computer programmer degree?

While most computer programming jobs require a person to have a four-year bachelor's degree or higher, there are multiple programming careers available for people who have high school diplomas or associate's degrees. Here are examples of different paths of study you can take and the computer programming jobs that are typically available at each level of education:

Associate degree

An associate degree is an undergraduate course of study that takes two years to complete. For a career in computer programming, you might consider an Associate Degree in Computer Science, Computer Programming, Information Technology and Applied Science and Technology. This qualification is regularly required for entry-level positions.

Here is a list of four computer programming jobs that a person can get with an associate degree:

1. Desktop support technician

National average salary: $39,920 per year

Primary duties: Desktop support technicians install, repair and maintain computer systems. They regularly troubleshoot and upgrade systems on computers and other equipment to monitor network performance on various servers. Desktop support technicians work remotely with customers and clients to resolve IT-related issues.

2. IT support technician

National average salary: $43,177 per year

Primary duties: IT support technicians diagnose problems relating to computer hardware and software. They are proficient in coding languages and can repair and maintain technical systems.

3. Junior software developer

National average salary: $63,635 per year

Primary duties: Junior software developers are entry-level computer programmers and developers. They help create computer programs and software, write basic code, troubleshoot IT issues and debug systems.

4. Entry-level Java developer

National average salary: $86,154 per year

Primary duties: Entry-level Java developers are computer programmers who use the computer language Java to assist in the development of computer code, software and applications.

Related: How To Get an Entry-Level Job (Plus Top Entry-Level Jobs and Their Salaries)

Bachelor's degree

A bachelor's degree is an undergraduate course of study that takes four years to complete. A four-year degree is often required for entry-level and mid-level jobs in computer science and computer programming. Common undergraduate majors include computer science, information technology, computer programing or mathematics.

Here is a list of five computer programming jobs that regularly require a person to have a bachelor's degree:

1. Computer programmer

National average salary: $48,306 per year

Primary duties: A computer programmer writes and edits code to ensure that software and applications run smoothly. They work to solve issues during the coding and they troubleshoot programs to optimize functionality.

2. Web developer

National average salary: $76,769 per year

Primary duties: A web developer creates code and designs websites. Web developers meet with clients to assess their needs, and they build pages accordingly. They troubleshoot technical issues and test quality and reliability during development. Web developers also monitor performance after the site is built.

3. Programmer analyst

National average salary: $83,377 per year

Primary duties: Programmer analysts design, create and publish computer software programs. They also fit existing programs and systems with updated technology. Additionally, they write and analyze code so that programs run smoothly as technology advances.

4. Application developer

National average salary: $91,997 per year

Primary duties: Application developers, also known as app developers, design and code software applications for computers, phones, tablets and other devices. Their daily routines include troubleshooting applications, testing code and running quality control checks.

5. Software development engineer

National average salary: $110,650 per year

Primary duties: Computer software development engineers design applications to manage and operate many devices. They know multiple coding languages, and they can create and design code across extensive computer networks.

Master's degree

A master's degree is a graduate-level program that takes an average of one to three years to complete. A bachelor's degree is a prerequisite for this level of coursework, and common majors of study include computer science, computer programming, cybersecurity and computer engineering. A master's degree is sometimes required for mid-level and senior-level jobs in computer programming, software development and software or firmware engineering.

Here is a list of six computer programming jobs that a person can get with a master's degree:

1. Database developer

National average salary: $90,939 per year

Primary duties: Database developers, also known as "database programmers," modify and edit computer databases to ensure that systems can manage and support large quantities of data. They work with clients to test the capacity of existing databases and design new or expanded systems and technologies to improve efficiency and product performance.

2. Computer systems engineer

National average salary: $97,295 per year

Primary duties: Computer systems engineers are advanced computer programmers who develop and mange computer software, programs and systems. They devise and coordinate computer system development plans within a company or organization.

3. Senior computer programmer

National average salary: $96,679 per year

Primary duties: A senior computer programmer writes and edits code to ensure that software and applications run smoothly. They lead teams of junior programmers to resolve issues during developmental stages. They also teach and mentor other programmers in coding, software languages and systems analysis.

4. Firmware engineer

National average salary: $111,022 per year

Primary duties: Firmware engineers are computer programmers that primarily work with programmable electronic devices. They create and install algorithms and code for firmware systems like remote controls, cameras and printers. Their work often extends into the medical environment, and they can make programs and algorithms to improve pacemakers, defibrillators and insulin pumps.

5. Network architect

National average salary: $121,752 per year

Primary duties: Network architects are advanced computer programmers who design and build data communication networks. They work with inter-office networks, cloud infrastructures, and intranets.

6. Computer vision engineer

National average salary: $147,644 per year

Primary duties: Computer vision engineers are highly skilled computer programmers who apply data-based computer research to solve problems in society. Their work advances and improves issues relating to medicine, defense, education and the environment.

Related: How Much Do Computer Programmers Make? Salary, Top-Paying States and Career Outlook

Additional certifications for computer programmers

Whether you have your high school diploma or a master's degree in information technology, there are many certifications available to further your career. The time it takes to complete these certifications range between two weeks and six months. Here is a list of six additional certifications that are beneficial for computer programmers to get:

Coding Bootcamp

Coding bootcamps are intensive coding programs. They cover a wide variety of language elements and development techniques to ready people for a career in computer programming.

C language and C++

C and C++ are basic programming languages. A certification in the C languages teaches the fundamentals of object-oriented programming.

Chef certification badge

Chef is a computer software program that focuses on app creation and development. They offer training courses that result in certification badges—you can complete the courses in any amount of time and the test for each badge takes between 30 and 60 minutes to complete. Earning badges shows a person's knowledge and abilities in a particular area of Chef software.

Microsoft certified solutions developer

The Microsoft certified solutions developer certification focuses on app building and development. It teaches people how to build applications for modern mobile devices.

Oracle certified Java developer

The Oracle certified Java developer program is a Java SE 8 certification. It teaches the fundamentals of supporting Oracle products and writing code using Java.

Puppet professional certification

A Puppet professional certification focuses on teaching Puppet IT automated software and takes 12 to 24 weeks to complete.

Read more: The 5 Best Programming Languages to Learn

Core skills for computer programmers

Here are six core skills that computer programmers should have:

Computer language fluency

Computer programmers use programming languages to write code and create programs. Developing fluency and basic knowledge in two or more computer programs is beneficial. Consider Java, C++ or Python as they are commonly used in software, hardware and app development.

Writing code

Writing code is the process of creating directions and blueprints for computers and computer systems to follow. It involves problem solving and fitting information into predictable classes and categories. Writing code that is clean, easy to read and easy to follow is crucial to any career in computer programming.

Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting is a technological ability involving the identification and location of problems in code, computer systems or software. Skilled troubleshooting requires active listening, critical thinking and focus. When troubleshooting, people typically assess potential problems and narrow the possibilities through the process of elimination.

Analytical thinking

Analytical thinking is a person's ability to deconstruct information, decipher problems and find logical solutions. This is a crucial skill for computer programmers because troubleshooting, debugging and code development often require a methodical approach.

Ability to help remotely

Computer programmers often help customers, clients and peers through remote applications. Their active listening and communication abilities are extremely important in these instances. They need to be able to interpret client complaints and make assessments remotely. They also need to accurately explain problems and solutions to direct people in the actions to take for resolution.

Attention to detail

Each word, letter or symbol that you use in writing code and developing software matters. A single keystroke has major significance in code organization and functionality. When working with computer languages, you will need to rely on astute attention to detail to catch any problems or errors.

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