- Computer programmers, in a nutshell, work on software codes and scripts to ensure the efficient and error-free functioning of a computer system.
- Studies suggest that nearly 10,000 vacancies will be created for this profession over the next ten years, making the role valuable and critical in an enterprise’s IT infrastructure.
- This article explains the key responsibilities and skills of a computer programmer and the potential salaries this year.
Table of Contents
Computer programmers develop, edit, and test the code and scripts necessary for the efficient functioning of computer software and applications. Typically, they operate in an office environment, most often in the computer systems design or other associated services sectors. Programmers often work full-time.
As per the Occupational Outlook Handbook of the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics released in 2022, job availability for computer programmers is anticipated to decline by 10% from 2021 to 2031. Yet, despite the decline in employment, an average of 9,600 vacancies per year for computer programmers are expected over the next decade. These opportunities are projected to be created by the need to replace employees who shift to other professions or exit the labor market, such as when they retire.
The job description of a computer programmer will typically include four sections â€” a brief overview of the company that is hiring, the personality profile expected from the candidate, the responsibilities involved in the role, and the educational qualifications needed. As we will discuss next, the responsibilities of a computer programmer include writing code and software maintenance. In some companies, applicants may be expected to wear multiple hats, such as conducting testing or offering technical support.
- Skills: The job description of a computer programmer can vary significantly depending on whether it is a product company or a software development agency. In the former scenario, candidates need to specialize in specific skills, like one programming language or cloud environment. Agencies, on the other hand, look for diverse skills in their job descriptions, including familiarity with multiple languages and the ability to switch between projects.
- Education: Most computer programmer job descriptions will require mandatory educational qualifications and a background in computer science. It also helps if the candidate is certified in different programming languages and cloud environments. Agencies hiring computer programmers may also prefer those with project management expertise, as this makes lateral movement in the candidate’s career much easier.
- Job type: Finally, the job description of a computer programmer may also mention if the role is remote, onsite, or hybrid. Like most desk-based jobs, programmers can usually work from any location, although it varies from company to company. For example, a financial institution may require its employees to access sensitive databases that can only happen from a secure office terminal. As a candidate, make sure that you pay attention to this aspect of the job description, the number of days you need to be at the office, and the policies for remote work.
Top 8 responsibilities of computer programmers
Programmers, regardless of their degree or level of experience, will be entrusted with the following:
1. Collaborating with the company to understand its vision
This is the cornerstone of the job of a computer programmer. Whether they are the sole engineer at a startup or a member of a large product department at a Fortune 500 company, they must first map the product development schedule and maintenance requirements.
In addition to developing code, team members from various departments may participate in â€œwhiteboardingâ€ or collaborative problem-solving to identify the strategy for resolving business challenges. Competent programmers take the time to ensure that they comprehend the requirements, push back when required, and transform business needs into technical requirements so that projections can be made before commencing work.
2. Writing code for software and computing systems
Along with software and web developers, computer programmers create code for innovative mobile apps and computer programs. In some instances, programmers collaborate closely with user experience (UX) designers to write code that complements a new software application’s appearance, touch, and performance.
Remember that building new code often entails much experimentation and error. Consequently, computer programmers possess exceptional critical thinking and problem-solving abilities and prefer utilizing logic to tackle complex issues.
3. Writing and installing updates for existing systems
Moreover, computer programmers generate and execute software program upgrades. A software update may offer a bug fix or new functionalities to enhance the user experience. These projects may take anything from just days to several months, based on the intricacy of the upgrade. The end-user may be employees within the organization or an external product buyer.
4. Ensuring consistent performance
Programmers spend most of their time testing, maintaining, and debugging software. As crucial to creating the program is ensuring that it functions properly. Programmers must often test their code, particularly if they’re working with other team members, to ensure it doesn’t conflict with anyone else’s.
This may include dozens, hundreds, or thousands of functional and unit tests before the program enters the quality assurance phase (QA). Unit tests are written by programmers to confirm that small portions of code (units) function as envisioned. Conversely, they may assist with debugging certain malfunctioning components of a site or computer program.
Particularly, younger programmers spend significant time upgrading existing programs and conducting tests to identify defects and ensure software functionality.
5. Helping in new feature development
Generally, software engineers and developers are responsible for designing application upgrades, while programmers are responsible for configuring these modifications into the computer’s system. For instance, they may add a scheduling function to task management software or incorporate a Facebook application programming interface (API) into a website so customers can log in with their Facebook profiles.
6. Adapting programs for different environments
Rewriting programs for various operating systems is another component of a programmer’s responsibilities. They must often rewrite code in several languages to make an application compatible with multiple operating systems and platforms. Windows and OS X apps, for example, are coded differently. Some programmers are taught to convert legacy programs into code for software as a service (SaaS) compatible with both operating systems.
7. Operating in a team-driven workplace
Several IT departments use agile software development frameworks like Scrum and Kanban to manage workflow. The Scrum framework involves splitting work into tasks that programmers may finish in 2-4 week-long cycles, or â€œsprints.â€ Development teams, including computer programming and other disciplines, must collaborate to create the final product.
A component of the Scrum framework is regular stand-up meetings and consistent team engagement. Most programmers are at work for full 40-hour weeks to meet deadlines and resolve technical challenges while attending frequent meetings.
Using a common framework, such as a platform engineering system, might well be a component of a computer programmer’s job responsibilities in organizations heavily focused on teamwork.
8. Factoring in security
Programmers must safeguard programs from cyber threats by guaranteeing minimal vulnerabilities and incorporating security mechanisms. Several programmers might even work in cybersecurity, assisting in the identification of malicious software and the repair of systems that may be susceptible to hacking. In addition, programmers may develop expertise in composing code that eliminates security flaws and data leaks.
Computer programmers are technical professionals with a fixed set of hard skills. Additionally, they need soft skills to thrive in their jobs, teams, and organizational setups. Here is a full list of skills a computer programmer or aspirant should have:
Key Skills of a Computer Programmer
1. Knowledge of programming languages
Programmers must be proficient in at least one language, such as Python, Java, or C++. Preferably, they should be proficient in numerous languages and know when to utilize them.
Object-oriented programming (OOP) languages are crucial because they constitute the basis of contemporary computing.
OOP languages facilitate a method of programming based on objects and classes. Classes may be considered collections of related items, like fruits, with objects that provide more information about specific items within a class, like apples. This coding standard is significant because it facilitates the reusability of sophisticated code across projects.
2. Keen understanding of data structures and algorithms (DSAs)
Data structures are formats to efficiently arrange, analyze, retrieve, and store data. Algorithms are sequences of actions designed to solve specific issues. The use of algorithms by computer programmers to search, arrange, and retrieve data from data structures is an important skill.
For several businesses, including Meta, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, creating code is the last stage in a lengthy process. The bulk of a programmer’s effort is spent determining the best approach to a task, including the most efficient data structures and algorithms to use. These choices significantly affect the company’s resource utilization and profitability.
Several startups and FAANG companies want programmers with the agility to expand and develop programs and innovate by employing DSAs.
3. Hands-on practice with integrated development environments (IDEs)
Integrated development environments (IDEs) provide programmers with a workspace where all the necessary tools are organized and ready for use. By studying one IDE, a developer can become acquainted with several tools that function synergistically, as opposed to learning each tool independently and assembling the appropriate tools for every coding task. In addition, the programmer saves time by not having to move between apps since all tools are accessible via a single interface.
IDEs are generally language-specific, meaning that they may be built to function with one or several programming languages.
4. Familiarity with the cloud
All organizations that desire to shift their infrastructures, archives, and digital content to the cloud will need the services of technical experts because of the cloud’s rapid expansion. In addition, after the migration to cloud, organizations will want programmers who are conversant with the technologies required to operate successfully with cloud-native apps. Furthermore, as organizations increase their reliance on machine learning, data analysis, and artificial intelligence, cloud skills become even more essential since it helps DSAs burn fewer resources.
Due to these developments, cloud-focused programmers are extremely popular and in high demand. Programmers must get acquainted with cloud systems like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).
5. Experience using containers
Containers are preset environments that bundle the necessary code and dependencies for a program to function without necessitating a dedicated physical machine.
In contrast to conventional approaches in which code is written in a particular computer environment and then transported to a new location, containers combine the application code with relevant configuration files, frameworks, and dependencies, decreasing the probability of defects.
In addition, since the files for the operating system (OS) are also included, containers guarantee that the program may be executable everywhere. So, programmers with the requisite skills can design and deliver applications more quickly and safely.
6. Mastery over Git and other versioning tools
Git is a version control program that enables programmers to organize and monitor source revisions during development. Every version is kept and may be retrieved on demand, which makes it simple to fix any faults that may arise. And adopting version control inspires developers to learn via trial and error since they don’t have to be concerned with compromising previous efforts at coding.
Git ranks as one of the most widely utilized version control systems (there are, however, others). Hence aspiring computer programmers should be familiar with and ready to utilize it.
7. Ability to work in a team
To succeed in coding, it is necessary to have the ability to articulate ideas and methods of work clearly, to respond to queries effectively in a group situation, and contribute to the resolution of conflicts via productive dialogue. This makes the ability to work in a team a key skill for computer programmers.
In addition, the diverse perspectives and experiences that every team member contributes to the discussion add to a team’s enhanced performance compared to that of an individual. Especially it is how diverse ideas are debated, assessed, and executed (as a team) to achieve a shared objective that adds to great collaboration and exceptional outcomes. Computer programmers should be able to navigate different and often conflicting ideas to arrive at the best outcome for the team and the product.
8. Capacity to demonstrate patience and empathy
Computer programmers may face several challenges in their coding journey. Individuals who are patient frequently feel less agitated while confronting these challenges. Patience (or its lack thereof) may substantially impact project outcomes and code quality.
Similarly, programmers must be able to comprehend the thoughts, emotions, and experiences of others without passing judgment. Empathy for program end-users will lead to software with greater user satisfaction and acceptability. Compassion and empathy for team members will not just strengthen team relationships but will also promote a culture of camaraderie and collaboration.
9. Time management skills
Computer programmers should be able to successfully manage their time, regardless of client deadlines, team objectives, or allocated budget hours.
This encompasses anything from calculating the time required to complete a job or assisting the team in determining deliverable timelines to using the appropriate technologies to accomplish specific tasks on time. It also involves recognizing when you are lagging and requesting a teammate for assistance. Prioritizing time management not only increases your productivity as a person but also adds to better collaboration and teamwork.
10. Aptitude for problem-solving and adaptability
Technology progresses, new software versions are launched, demands change, and customer requirements keep growing. For these reasons, programmers should be adaptive and resilient in the face of transition and occasional setbacks. It also helps if you can come up with innovative ways to simplify hurdles and solve problems.
Programmers, by their very job description, are problem-solvers, which is one of the most essential soft skills for success. The entire objective of the position is to address problems by developing solutions to the requirements of different users and systems. After developing code and writing/editing programs, programmers detect and resolve any potential bugs.
Computer programmers’ salaries vary widely, from a minimum of $55,000 to $135,00 per year. As per Glassdoor’s latest data (last retrieved on 26/02/23), the median salary you can expect is $85,995. Most programmers are paid between $68,000 and $109,000 in 29022-23.
The average salary of a computer programmer may include an additional amount of $11,000 (approximately) in the form of a cash bonus and profit sharing. This is often the case for startups that hire senior programmers at relatively modest wages but make up the difference through product monetization and profit sharing.
Three factors influence the salary of a computer programmer:
- The company where you work: Top employers like Meta and Google pay the highest in the market, often upwards of $200,000 annually. Industries like financial services and aerospace & defense may also pay their computer programmers more than the average.
- The number of years of experience: Entry-level programmers typically make less than $75,000 annually, which increases steadily as you gain more experience.
- Language specialization: Certain languages command a higher salary than others. For example, a Java programmer earns a median wage of approximately $87,000 annually. This figure is $102,000 for PhP programmers and $120,000 for Python programmers.
Programming is one of the key skills in demand today, relevant across various job roles. From web developers to cloud architects, most technical professionals must have some programming skills. That is why computer programmers remain extremely relevant to the job market today, despite increasing specialization (DevOps, language specializations, etc.). With the right certifications, computer programming generalists can command impressive salaries and get a leg up in today’s job market.
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