Computer programmer

Last updated December 20, 2014

If you picture yourself as a computer programmer, you may already know a computer language. Once you know multiple computer languages, you’ll be able to communicate throughout the world. 

In addition to mastering programming languages like C++ and Java, you’ll also need to communicate easily with people. After all, you’ll often work with a team and sometimes with the users of the products you develop. At the end of the day, the key to programming is language.

Computer programmers write, test, and maintain the instructions that computers must follow to land airplanes, sell products online, build machines, share information, and so much more.

“Just as in the English language there are different ways to say the same thing, in programming, too, there are various ways to achieve the same end result. There is actually a lot of creativity involved.”

Are You Ready To...?

  • Tackle assignments that at first seem impossible
  • Work long hours, sometimes on tight deadlines and even on weekends
  • Juggle more than one assignment at a time
  • Be flexible and think creatively

It Helps To Be...

A problem solver who’s attentive to detail, patient, and able to work under pressure. You should be comfortable communicating with people who don’t know much about computers as well as those who do. If you love crossword puzzles, you might love programming.

Make High School Count

Take as much advanced math as your high school offers.

Make the most of your science classes. They train you to think logically -- a basic skill in programming.

Sign up for computer science classes. If your high school doesn’t offer any, look into summer classes for precollege students at local two- or four-year colleges.

Consider attending computer science summer camp.

“Programming languages and the tools used to create new programs have become incredibly sophisticated, so it's much easier for software developers to get things done.” -- Brian Kernighan, Professor of Computer Science, Princeton University


Government economists expect growth of computer-programming jobs to be about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2020. A demand for new software for mobile technology (like smartphone applications), for electronic devices, and for the health care industry will mean that more programmers are needed. However, job growth may be limited because more companies are saving money by hiring low-paid programmers who live outside the United States.

For the best opportunities, earn a bachelor's degree. You'll also need hands-on experience with a variety of programming languages and tools, and you must keep up-to-date with the latest languages and computer technologies.