How to Become a Computer Programmer

There are many different types of computer programming jobs available. It is a good idea to look for an internship, or co-op program, no matter what type of programs you want to create.

Education

Most computer programmers have a two-year associate degree. At least twenty percent of computer programmers have graduate degrees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook is best for computer programmers with four year undergraduate degrees, who know more than one computer language.

There is no licensing or certification for computer programmers, though many employers will recruit at college career fairs and through job postings on their own websites, or by word of mouth. With the exception of the employer's own job postings, you will have greater access to networking opportunities and career fair events by attending a college that has a good reputation and offers frequent employment fairs on campus. You can also find out a great deal about employers and their opportunities by meeting them at career fairs.

College is also the place to network since many programmers make professional connections that lead to the launch of their own software company.

Types of Programming Jobs

No matter what the industry, computer programmers write instructions for a computer to execute a program that produces a wide variety of products. The software can range from games to point of purchase software. They are also responsible for repairing or debugging computer programs for either their own work, or the work of another programmer.

Some programmers write a code that offers interactivity on a website. Others will work in gaming, either educational or entertainment games. Since so many people have cell phones or smart phones, writing programs that improve the performance, or offer education or entertainment on the devices, programming for these devices has also become a lucrative field.

Writing computer programs for financial transactions, to increase security when transferring data, and for inventory management, are also areas where computer programmers find work. Other areas include manufacturing and automation, as well as healthcare and educational services.

Internships and Co-ops

There is huge competition for computer programming jobs, with many programming jobs outsourced to India each year. It is a good idea to look for a program that offers work experience while you are in school, as either an internship or a co-op to help you get some hands on experience and to network with other programmers.

An internship is a paid or unpaid work experience; a co-op is a degree program that allows you to take one or two semester long breaks to work for a company, which contributes toward your degree. Since a co-op term is required by the program, there is more assistance for finding suitable co-op terms for their students. An internship may be something you will have to find on your own, and may not be professional, or work-related.

When selecting your school, it is a good idea to look for one that has employer events on campus, and which offers relevant work experience before you graduate. An outstanding computer lab may not be enough if it doesn't include relevant work experience to give you an edge for finding your first job after graduation.