Computer Programmer
Explore the computer programmer career path, including in-demand languages, education requirements, training programs, outlook, jobs & salaries.

Computer programmers translate project specifications into a script of instructions that computers can understand and interpret into functioning programs. Essentially, programmers make computer systems and applications work.

Successful programmers are fluent in a variety of languages, as each language has a specific set of strengths, limitations, and real-world uses, and multiple languages are used in tandem to create versatile programs.

Sought-after programming languages in 2023 include Python, Java, C#, C++, C, PHP, Ruby, Go, and Rust. Additionally, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are the main components of websites, so while not technically programming languages, these are valuable skills for coders.

Featured Computer Programmer Training

Compare top-rated online programs in computer programming and software development.

Accredited universities and computer schools offer a range of programming courses and degrees that fulfill the computer programmer education requirements. Compare top-rated training programs in computer programming below.

Programmer Skills & Responsibilities

Typical day-to-day activities and in-demand skill sets for this position include the following. On a daily basis, computer programmers:

  • Write code using a variety of languages, e.g., Python, Java, C, C#, C++, Ruby, and PHP.
  • Update, optimize the performance, and expand the functionality of existing programs.
  • May work in a team setting to design complex computer systems and business applications.
  • Meticulously test for and correct code errors (a.k.a. “bugs”) in a process called debugging.
  • Create and use snippets (pre-defined chunks of common code) to speed up coding jobs.
  • Insert detailed comments into their coding projects so coworkers can follow their process.
  • Work closely with software developers, architects, and engineers to keep projects on scope.
  • Use database development skills in hot platforms like SQL to build data-driven applications.

Computer Programmer Salary

The median annual wage for computer programmers is $97,800, according to the latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Here are the average salaries for popular programming jobs by skill level and language:

Computer Programming Job Average Salary
Junior Computer Programmer $67,000
Programmer Analyst $88,000
Computer Programmer $90,000
SQL Programmer $98,000
PHP Programmer $105,000
Java Developer $107,000
Python Programmer $111,000
Software Developer $122,000
Lead Computer Programmer $137,000

These are the top-paying cities and metropolitan areas for computer programmers:

City or Metro Area Programmer Salary
Boulder, Colorado $149,000
San Jose / Sunnyvale / Santa Clara, CA $147,000
San Francisco / Oakland, CA $135,000
Seattle / Tacoma / Bellevue, WA $134,000
San Diego / Carlsbad, CA $128,000
New York City Metro Area $121,000

The hourly wage for computer programmers ranges from $25 to $80, depending on location, known programming languages, mastery of each platform, portfolio strength, and experience.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics | Analysis of Online Job Boards

Computer Programmer Education Requirements

Hands-on programming experience remains the key requirement for becoming a computer programmer. Hiring managers will typically ask to see a portfolio with samples of your best computer programming projects and applications. Those new to this field can learn the requisite programming languages and start compiling a portfolio through an accredited degree program or specialized certificate in computer programming, web development, computer science, or a related programming-centric field of study.

Marketable skills to look for in a computer programming education program include HTML, CSS & JavaScript (the building blocks of web pages), hands-on programming in hot languages like Java, C, C++, PHP, Python, and Go, computer systems analysis, database design, and software development. We also recommend soft skills courses in topics like effective interpersonal communication and email writing, as these competencies will help differentiate you from lower-priced programmers overseas, and quality-focused hiring managers will appreciate these skills.

Choose the learning style that works best for you, as campus-based and online training formats both work well with the subject matter in computer programming.

Research and compare top-reviewed computer programmer training programs in the U.S. and online below.

Search IT courses and degrees by job role, technology platform, and concentration.

Computer Programmer Certifications

Desirable certifications for computer programmers include the following:

  • Oracle
    • Oracle Certified Associate (OCA): Java Programmer
    • Oracle Certified Professional (OCP): Java Programmer
  • Microsoft
    • MCPD: Microsoft Certified Professional Developer
    • MCSD: Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer
    • MTA: Software Development Fundamentals
    • MTA: HTML5 App Development Fundamentals
    • MTA: Software Testing Fundamentals
  • CIW
    • CIW: Web Foundations Associate
    • CIW: Web Design Professional
    • CIW: Web Development Professional
    • CIW: Web Security Professional
    • CIW: Web and Mobile Design Professional

Job Openings

Your experience and education in computer programming qualify you for a variety of roles, including:

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Computer Programmer Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts employment for computer programmers to decline by 11% from 2022 to 2032, making it one of the only IT career paths not growing its job count this decade. While overall demand for coders is strong, computer programming can now be done from anywhere in the world, driving many organizations to hire programmers from other countries that pay lower wages. This globalized hiring strategy also has its downsides, such as the challenges of managing projects and remote workers across time zones, and language and culture barriers, which can lose companies the cost-savings they gained from hiring overseas.

The best way to improve your computer programmer job outlook is to keep up your skills and experience in the most demanded and versatile programming languages. For instance, programmers with Objective-C and Java skills can branch out into mobile app development, one of the world's fastest-growing and highest-paying computer jobs. Health care is a key growth industry for computer programmer employment, as medical practices are developing a host of new applications to adopt and improve electronic health record (EHR) management, e-prescription programs, and other digital services.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook

Frequently Asked Questions

IT insiders answer common questions from aspiring computer programmers.

Do computer programmers travel?

Most computer programmers don’t travel for work on a daily basis. In fact, many coders now opt to work remotely on most if not all days. For those who enjoy traveling for recreation, becoming a computer programmer is a great career path as the remote-friendly nature of the work allows for the freedom to explore.

How much does it cost to become a computer programmer?

Because the education requirements for computer programming jobs vary widely, so does the cost of becoming a coder. Most programmer jobs require a relevant bachelor’s degree - the average net price (after financial aid) for a bachelor’s in computer programming is $18,981, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. For those seeking more entry-level coding roles or who just don't have the time and money for a bachelor’s, the average cost for a programming associate degree is $12,314, and the average cost for an accelerated coding boot camp is about $13,000.

How much do computer programmers make an hour?

The average hourly wage for computer programmers is $47.02, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is well above the average hourly wage for all jobs in the nation which is $29.01.

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About the Author

IT Subject Matter ExpertDaniel Greenspan is the founder and Editor-in-chief of ITCareerFinder. Working closely with IT professionals, world-class trainers, and hiring managers since 2005 has given him unique insight into the information technology job market and the skills and credentials IT pros need to succeed.