What Do Computer Programmers Do?

Programmers write code for computer programs and mobile applications. They also are involved in maintaining, debugging and troubleshooting systems.

The job of a computer programmer is vitally important in today’s digital-focused economy, which is why the number of openings in this field continues to grow.

Programmers write code for computer programs and mobile applications. They also are involved in maintaining, debugging and troubleshooting systems and software to ensure that everything is running smoothly.

Programming skills are essential for many technology disciplines, but are in especially high demand for software and web development roles. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), web development jobs are projected to grow by as much as 15% over the 2016-2026 period, adding another 24,400 new jobs.

If you’re looking for an entry-level technology job with ample opportunities for career advancement and specialization, computer programming could be the right path for you.

What do computer programmers do?

On a typical day, a computer programmer can be involved in many different coding projects. Daily duties might include:

  1. Writing and testing code for new programs. Computer programmers work closely with web and software developers to write code for new mobile applications or computer programs. In some cases, programmers might have a similar role to web designers, creating the look, feel and functionality of a new software program. Writing new code often involves a lot of trial and error. Computer programmers have strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and enjoy using logic to solve complex problems.
  2. Updating existing programs. Programmers also create and install updates for existing software programs. An update might include a bug fix, or enhanced functionality to improve the user experience. Depending on the complexity of the update, these projects can take anywhere from a few days to several months.
  3. Identifying and correcting coding errors. On a daily basis, computer programmers might assist in troubleshooting parts of a website or computer program that are not functioning correctly. Often, problems are a result of an error in the code, and a programmer can help identify and correct the mistake quickly.
  4. Rewriting programs for different operating systems. Often, programmers have to rewrite code in a different languages, so that programs and applications can be compatible with different operating systems. For example, Windows and OS X programs are coded differently. Some programmers are trained to write new applications in SaaS code, which works across both operating systems.
  5. Secure programs against cybersecurity threats. Many computer programmers work in the cybersecurity field, helping to identify malicious software and fix software that could be vulnerable to potential hacks. Additionally, programmers can write code that prevents security breaches and data leaks. As the number and severity of cyber-attacks increases, demand for information security experts continues to rise. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment for information security analysts will increase by 28% through 2026, adding 28,500 new jobs.

How much do computer programmers make?

The median salary for computer programmers in 2018 was $84,280, with the highest-paid 10% earning more than $134,630, according to the BLS data. Keep in mind this is not an entry-level wage and you will need to work towards this level of pay after graduating with a degree and earning your first job. Discover the average computer programmer salary by state to determine a closer estimate in your region.

An entry-level career in computer programming offers upward mobility into more advanced and higher-paying roles. In fact, programming skills are the foundation for almost any top-ranked technology job today, such as: 

  • Computer Systems Analyst
  • Database Administrator
  • Security Analyst
  • Hardware Engineer
  • Software Developer
  • Web Designer

What are the benefits of a programming career?

Programming is a valuable skill set that may allow you to pursue opportunities in a variety of fields, including finance, healthcare, graphic design or digital marketing. Programming jobs are growing 12% faster than the average for all occupations, according to recent findings by job market research firm BurningGlass.

Many programmers also enjoy perks such as flexible hours and the option to work remotely, according to the BLS.

How do I become a computer programmer?

A bachelor’s degree in computer programming can prepare you for a broad range of entry-level programming positions. Herzing University’s computer programming bachelor degree program can be completed online in as little as 36 months and provides students with practical training in essential technology skills, such as:

  • Advanced web development
  • Object-oriented programming
  • Software development and testing
  • Mobile applications development 
  • Data warehousing

Continued learning is important for programmers because coding languages are constantly changing and evolving. Many programming professionals will pursue additional certification in specific coding languages, such as C++ or JavaScript. Some technology companies might even have their own vendor-specific coding languages, and require their employees to become certified in those additional languages as well.

What are my opportunities for advancement?

Achieving a masters-level education in a specialized area such as technology management can help programmers advance into management and leadership roles, like IT manager or computer systems analyst. Herzing’s computer programming degree program offers a dual credit option, allowing students to earn up to 12 credits toward an MBA as an undergraduate, saving time and money on both degrees.

Learn more about our technology degree paths and find out how you can get started on your computer programming career today.