Job Universe: Computer Programmers

Demand for programmers with strong object-oriented programming capabilities is high.

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  • The job: Computer programmers write, test, and maintain the detailed instructions, called programs, that computers follow to perform their functions. With the help of other computer specialists, they figure out which instructions to use to make computers do specific tasks. Programmers usually write programs according to the specifications given by computer software engineers and systems analysts. After engineers and analysts design software—describing how it will work—the programmer converts that design into a logical series of instructions that the computer can follow.
  • Outlook: Demand for programmers with strong object-oriented programming capabilities and technical specialization in areas such as client/server programming, wireless applications, multimedia technology, and graphic user interface most likely will stem from the expansion of intranets, extranets, and Internet applications. Programmers also will be needed to create and maintain expert systems and embed these technologies in more products. Finally, a growing emphasis on cybersecurity will lead to increased demand for programmers who are familiar with digital security issues and are skilled in using appropriate security technology.
  • Experience: Most programmers have a bachelor's degree, but a two-year degree or certificate may be adequate for some jobs. Some computer programmers hold a college degree in computer science, mathematics, or information systems, whereas others have taken special courses in computer programming to supplement their degree in a field such as accounting, finance, or another area of business.
  • The not-so-good: Like other workers who spend long periods in front of a computer terminal typing at a keyboard, programmers are susceptible to eyestrain, back discomfort, and hand and wrist problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Computer programmers are at a much higher risk of having their jobs outsourced abroad than are workers involved in more complex and sophisticated information technology functions, such as software engineering.
  • Pay: Median annual earnings of wage-and-salary computer programmers were $65,510 in May 2006.

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This information is from the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.