(7.5 out of 10)
|Number of Jobs:||43,700|
|This Job is Ranked in|
|Best Technology Jobs||#5|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#13|
On a most basic level, a computer programer writes, well, programs. Programmers will also rewrite, debug, maintain, and test (and retest) software and programs that instruct the computer to accomplish certain tasks—such as storing or retrieving data—so the computer can perform better and more efficiently. A computer programmer will convert what needs to happen into one of many computer languages in existence, the most common of which are C++ and Python. According to Barry Warsaw, Ubuntu platform software engineer for Canonical, a distributor of the Ubuntu Linux operating system, talented programmers have two basic career tracks they can follow: "In some jobs, they traditionally move into management positions, at which point they may program very little or not at all," says Warsaw, who's worked mostly in the free software and open-source world for the past 30 years. "In others, they can retain their programming skills by assuming more technical and project leadership roles."
Programming certainly has its share of stressful days, but it's important to not get worked up. "Being able to stay calm, get enough sleep, eat right, and keep your mental clarity is critical to your long-term survival as a programmer," advises Warsaw. He also recommends that since telecommuting has become a more common perk of computer programmer jobs, it's of vital importance to focus on your work and not get distracted by mundane things like laundry or other errands. "It's also important to step away from the computer when work is done, spend time with family, or just recharge your batteries," he says. "The amount of flexibility you will have to do this depends greatly on your job and employer, but there's no doubt that long-term persistent stress will eventually lead to burnout."
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects computer programmer employment growth of 12 percent between 2010 and 2020, adding 43,700 more professions. The profession’s strong expected growth (as well as high median salary) helped boost computer programmer in our ranking of The Best Jobs of 2013.
The BLS reports the median annual wage for computer programmers was $72,630 in 2010. The best-paid 10 percent in the field made approximately $115,610 while the bottom 10 percent made approximately $41,710. The highest-paid in the profession work in the metropolitan areas of Rochester, Minn., San Jose, Calif., and Durham, N.C.
Many computer programmers require at least a bachelor's degree, but a two-year degree or certificate may be adequate for some positions. Some programmers hold a college degree in information systems, computer science, or mathematics. Students seeking software engineering or programming jobs can improve their employment outlook by getting an internship. Large computer and consulting firms often train new employees in intensive, company-based programs.
"Two critical skills that I think are underestimated are the ability to learn and the ability to collaborate," says Warsaw. "Learning is crucial to a long career as a programmer because technology changes so quickly. The hot language you are an expert in today may end up being a programming backwater tomorrow." Warsaw, who works with people from all over the world on a daily basis, emphasizes that the ability to clearly communicate ideas and listen to the ideas of others is fundamental to building a successful career. "I think the myth of the lone programmer locked in a dark cubicle is mostly just that, a myth," he says.
|Upward Mobility||Above Average|
|Stress Level||Above Average|