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How to Become a Computer Programmer

Most computer programmers have a bachelor’s degree; however, some employers hire workers with an associate’s degree. Most programmers specialize in a few programming languages.


Most computer programmers have a bachelor’s degree; however, some employers hire workers who have an associate’s degree. Most programmers get a degree in computer science or a related subject. Programmers who work in specific fields, such as healthcare or accounting, may take classes in that field in addition to their degree in computer programming. In addition, employers value experience, which many students get through internships.

Most programmers learn only a few computer languages while in school. However, a computer science degree also gives students the skills needed to learn new computer languages easily. During their classes, students receive hands-on experience writing code, debugging programs, and many other tasks that they will do on the job.

To keep up with changing technology, computer programmers may take continuing education and professional development seminars to learn new programming languages or about upgrades to programming languages they already know.


Certification is a way to demonstrate a level of competence and may provide a jobseeker with a competitive advantage. Certification programs, generally available through product vendors or software firms, offer programmers a way to become certified in specific programming languages or for vendor-specific programming products. Some companies may require their computer programmers to be certified in the products they use.


Programmers who have general business experience may become computer systems analysts. Programmers with specialized knowledge of, and experience with, a language or operating system may become computer software developers. They also may be promoted to managerial positions. For more information, see the profiles on computer systems analysts, software developers, and computer and information systems managers.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Computer programmers must understand complex instructions in order to create computer code.

Concentration. Programmers must be able to work at a computer, writing lines of code for long periods of time.

Detail oriented. Computer programmers must closely examine the code they write because a small mistake can affect the entire computer program.

Troubleshooting skills. An important part of a programmer’s job is to check the program for errors and fix any they find.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition