What Is Computer Programming?
Computer programming is the process of writing code that essentially gives instructions to the computers and/or their software. These instructions then prompt the computer or software to do whatever it is they have been programmed to do; whether that is performing a simple task or solving more complex problems.
Computer programmers are also tasked with the job of finding and fixing problems in code, ensuring it continues to work and run optimally for the users. In a sense, they perform maintenance on already written code. All of the work done by computer programs can be achieved with various programming languages.
Getting into the field of computer programming really can be for anybody. There are careers for the practical and creative-minded, and also both introverts and extroverts. With a career in tech, you can find remote positions as easily as you can find office positions. As long as you enjoy working with technology and feel confident in your ability to learn to code, you will feel happy and welcomed in this field!
Common Programming Languages
When it comes to programming languages, there really is a lot to learn. There are a ton of different programming languages out there and all of them have their own fanbase. Almost everyone you talk to will have very strong opinions about their most and least preferred languages to code in. It is important to keep in mind that each language has different features that work better for some people than others, but at the core, they are all in existence to help you code.
Careers in Computer Programming
There are quite a few career options within the field of computer programming. As a computer programmer, you can work in a variety of jobs ranging from a computer systems analyst to a database administrator. The average salary for a computer programmer is around $79,084.
Some of the more fun and creative jobs that the field has to offer include video game development, animation, and graphic design. Since the field offers so many areas of expertise, it is easy to find a career where you can also express your creative side. There are various jobs within these fields as well; video game development, for instance, includes everything from making the storyline to designing and animating the scenery.
When researching the field of computer programming, you will inevitably read about a potentially poor outlook on the future of jobs in the field. Now that more and more people are learning to code on their own, many companies have begun to outsource their jobs to other countries. Companies do this because, in many countries, their minimum wage is much lower than it is in countries like the United States.
However, if you have a degree in computer programming, you are credited with more knowledge and experience in a professional environment. Even though the outlook may not be as stellar as the Artificial Intelligence field, having a degree definitely gives you the upper hand and a higher likelihood of being hired.
Computer programming does have some really great aspects to it. This is a job that suits every personality type; introverts, extroverts, people who prefer working alone, or those who thrive on collaborations. You can have solo projects or you can work on team projects. Oftentimes, computer programming jobs are remote, meaning you can work from home and even set your own hours! All in all, it is a great field for anyone who enjoys coding.
Self-Taught vs Degree
What’s the difference between having a degree and being self-taught? Either way, you end up with the same knowledge and abilities, right? Well, there are pros and cons. For computer programmers, the pros and cons lie primarily within the realm of job placement and pay.
If you choose to teach yourself or attend a coding bootcamp instead of going to college, you are likely saving yourself a lot of time and money. This route allows you to learn at your own pace which means you can master a skill faster or slower than a college course. You also have more freedom in choosing what you learn and when.
However, going this route could affect your career outlook. There are employers who will choose not to hire you simply because you do not have a degree. And, while many employers are willing to forego credentials, they also have the option to outsource the job to someone else at a much lower cost.
However, if you have experience and a portfolio to illustrate your worth, employers will be more interested in you—just as much as they would be if you had a degree. They may offer you a lower base salary than someone who has a degree, but if you really enjoy what you do and are willing to work for a little less, being self-taught could really work out for you.
Earning a degree, on the other hand, can take a bit longer. Most degree programs have a set amount of years they take to complete because there are so many prerequisite courses that are mandatory. Though it may take longer, completing a degree from a highly recognized school like MIT or Stanford will almost guarantee you any job you apply for.
Pursuing a degree route may not leave much room for working at your own pace, but it will allow you easier access to expert knowledge in the field and more specialty areas. Having a degree will also likely lead to higher base salaries and less competition. A degree on your resume puts you a step above those without in the eyes of potential employers.
Whichever route you choose to take, there will be ample opportunity for improvement and employment as you gain knowledge and experience in the field. As long as you put in the work, you’ll be able to get the job you want.
Getting a Degree in Computer Programming
Here is a fun fact for you: there really are no degrees in computer programming. You may have realized this if you have been hoping to pursue a career in computer programming. Instead of a computer programming degree, future programmers hoping to earn a college degree will need to consider a few other degrees.
What makes computer programming a fun field to work in is the broadness of it. Since nearly every industry requires a computer programmer to fill in certain positions, there are quite a few different degree paths you can take to be prepared for the job you want.
The path most programmers take is a computer science degree. This is a very similar field to computer programming and teaches the necessary skills for working in the field. So, you may be wondering, “How do I set yourself apart from other programmers?”
The best answer to that question is to minor in something related to your future career goal. A great all-encompassing minor to go alongside this degree would be one in mathematics, for instance. However, to truly set yourself apart, consider a more specialized skill.
Let’s say you want to become a video game developer. You can begin by learning how to code. This is often a skill people learn independently or through coding bootcamps, rather than through colleges. If you are interested in or already have begun learning to code on your own, that’s great news! If you are not interested, you will learn this in school, though it is something you may learn more about if you do some independent studying.
Once you are enrolled in college, you will have to declare a major. In most cases, the best major to choose for future programmers would be computer science. Then, for video game development, choosing to study a minor like graphic design, creative writing, or theater would be a great accompaniment to your major. If you are really feeling ambitious, you could choose to double major in the fields.
Having a minor to accompany your computer science degree really does affect what jobs you will qualify for. If you want to pursue a job in the banking sector, consider a minor in accounting or finance. If you are unsure as to what minor you should go for, consider applying for internships in the job you wish to work. While working as an intern, you gain first-hand experience of what the job entails and can figure out what the best accompanying minor would be for you.
It is important to note that a degree truly is not a requirement for the field of computer programming. If you have already taught yourself how to code, or are in the process of doing so, you are likely just as determined and capable of working these jobs as someone with a degree is. For many, being self-taught and/or attending coding bootcamps is a much cheaper and easier way to learn the knowledge needed to be successful.
Degree: Undergraduate or Graduate?
The big question here is do you need to go for a graduate degree? The short answer is no. While a graduate degree may look fancy, it really isn’t necessary to pursue a career in computer programming. An undergraduate degree will already give you an edge and put you ahead of the competition.
If you decide to shoot for an undergraduate degree, you are looking at much less time spent in college. On average, a bachelor’s degree only takes two years to earn (after completing general education requirements). The great thing about this is that you can begin by going after a bachelor’s degree and decide later down the road to go for a master’s or doctorate.
An undergraduate degree will work just fine for the purpose of getting you in with potential employers, but if you go for a graduate degree, you are looking at a higher chance of employment and potentially much higher salaries. A graduate degree will take a few additional years to complete—roughly two more years for each degree level. But, if you are willing and are able to put in the time, you will be able to benefit greatly in your future career.
The world of computer programming is vast and complex. It is one of the only fields in which being self-taught or college-taught is viewed as almost the same. Many other fields would immediately toss the resumes of individuals without college degrees.
Though it is not a necessity, going to school for a degree related to computer programming—like computer science—is a great move to help boost your career and can help you climb up the career ladder. A simple undergraduate degree will help tremendously, but advancing to a graduate degree will guarantee you greater pay and better job opportunities.
So, if you are thinking about joining the world of computer programming, jump right in! There are many paths from you to choose from and there will be one that is a good fit for you.