How to Become a Computer Programmer (2023)



How to Become a Computer Programmer

Written by Coursera • Updated on

To find out how to become a computer programmer, explore the degrees, certifications, qualifications, and skill set of successful computer programmers. There are many ways to enter into this growing industry.

How to Become a Computer Programmer (1)

Becoming a computer programmer involves acquiring the right technical and workplace skills and typically requires earning a bachelor's degree in computer programming or a related field. Some employers require only an associate degree, and it is possible to become a computer programmer without a degree. Computer programmers often take courses and seek certifications to enter the field and stay current in their skills in this ever-evolving profession.

What is a computer programmer?

A computer programmer designs and tests computer codes (computer languages) to allow computer applications and software programs to run correctly. Engineers and software developers design the programs and then, programmers typically specialize in using specific codes to translate the designs into a set of instructions that the computer knows how to read.

People commonly associate computer programming positions with the information technology (IT) industry. Although that association is correct, the need for computer programmers spans across every major industry, including, but not limited to:

Finance: Financial computer programmers may work for lending organizations, banks, credit processing companies, and many other financial industry organizations.

Health care: Computer programmers in the health care industry design and test cloud systems for holding and processing data, analytical solutions, and other types of healthcare-centered software products.

Agriculture: Computer programmers develop machine learning tools and AI applications to find the best way to increase crop yields and field use efficiency while reducing the use of chemicals, waste, and other harmful factors.

Design: Working with and understanding digital materials is easier when a designer has computer programming skills. These skills give them the tools and background needed to carry out design tasks required for their jobs.

Retail: Traditional retail stores are trying to compete by focusing on increasing online sales. Computer programmers play a crucial role in ensuring retail companies' websites and systems run efficiently for customers and employees.

Becoming a computer programmer

While there are different paths you can take to becoming a computer programmer, the essential steps are the same. Here's a look at a typical timeline to becoming a computer programmer, step by step:

1. Evaluate your current skill, education, and experience level.

2. Narrow down an industry of interest.

(Video) Zero to Full-Time Programmer in 5 Steps

3. Decide what style of education and training works best for you.

4. Research and pursue your desired educational path. Whether you choose an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree, make a plan and follow it. If you decide to pursue an online certification, research your best options.

5. Once you complete your education, you can research ways to gain valuable work experiences like an internship or entry-level position.

6. Apply for your desired position and follow up.

7. Become a lifelong learner by keeping your computer programming skills up to date.

How to Become a Computer Programmer (2)

Develop the recommended skills

Both workplace and technical skills are essential to becoming a successful computer programmer. From adaptability and patience to coding and algorithms, this position requires a combination of specific abilities and talents.

Grow workplace skills

Communication skills: As a programmer, you will often explain highly technical terms to complete projects and repair issues. The ability to effectively communicate to all types of audiences in different environments is essential for a programmer.

Problem-solving: One of your primary responsibilities will be to solve problems in this position. Your regular tasks will likely include repairing codes, fixing software issues, and creating technical solutions. Your ability to solve a problem quickly and efficiently will be critical to your professional success.

Adaptability: It is essential to have the ability to handle the changes that come with the computer programming industry, and you should be able to adapt and quickly move forward.

Teamwork: As a computer programmer, you will often work within a team environment. You’ll need to be able to delegate responsibilities or accept a specifically tasked project easily—working as part of a team is a vital skill for a computer programmer.

Patience: Computer programming is a complex process that often takes an extended amount of time to complete. The ability to be patient with your team, your project managers, and yourself is essential.

Acquire technical skills and common tools

Computer programming and coding: Coding is creating a set of instructions that allows a computer to perform a particular task. These are written in specific programming languages, and being well-versed in these is essential to becoming a successful computer programmer.

Programming languages

Deciding which programming language to specialize in depends upon what industry you choose to work within. Some common languages are:

• C

• Java

• Python

• C++

• C#

• Visual Basic

• JavaScript


How to Become a Computer Programmer (3)

(Video) How To Learn Programming for BEGINNERS! (2022/2023)

Data structures and algorithms: These are key parts of programming. Knowing how data is organized and utilized for solving issues will put you ahead of the game as a programmer.

Source control: Understanding how to manage and store code is an essential technical skill of a programmer, meaning you will need to be well-versed in version control concepts and tools.

Understanding common tools: For computer programming, the essential technical skills listed above work hand in hand with common programming tools:

  • Source code editing software like Notepad++, Sublime Text, and TextMate

  • Compiler software, such as MinGW and Borland C++

  • Database management systems software like Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL software, Oracle, and Pick

  • Development environment software like Microsoft Visual Basic and Xerces2 Java Parser

How to Become a Computer Programmer (4)

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Assess degree options

Educational requirements for a computer programmer position can vary, but most computer programmers have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, or computer engineering. Some students go on to pursue a master’s degree in computer science. If you’re able to pursue a graduate degree, it may be an investment worth making when you consider the positions that become available with such education.

Some employers may only require an associate degree, and most associate degree programs only take two years to complete. If you take this route, it’s vital to showcase your programming work experience to balance out a less advanced degree.

(Video) How I Learned to Code in 4 MONTHS & Got a Job Offer (no CS Degree)

In addition to a formal degree, many programmers obtain certificates or participate in “coding bootcamps” to gain even more skill, knowledge, and experience in their field.

You can become a computer programmer without a degree, but you’ll need some self-discipline. Research what skills successful programmers use in their day-to-day jobs and pursue that knowledge independently. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Take online or in-person classes.

  • Watch videos.

  • Participate in webinars.

  • Read books.

  • Listen to programming podcasts.

Insight from an expert

Many programmers rely on a combination of educational sources to stay up-to-date on the latest technologies. "You want to have solid CS fundamentals which will enable you to comprehend things at a deeper level. On the other hand, you also want experience with the tools commonly used in the industry," says Mari Batilando, a software engineer at Meta.

Since degree programs tend to focus on theoretical and foundational understanding, Batilando has attended bootcamps to keep his knowledge current throughout his eight-year career. "I actually pursued an iOS bootcamp after college since I never had the opportunity to learn it while I was a student. Fast forward to now, I’ve had a fruitful career on iOS," he shares. "I still occasionally take a bootcamp whenever something interests me. This year, I took an NFT bootcamp and was part of the team to release Facebook’s first NFT feature!"

How to Become a Computer Programmer (5)

Computer science degree

Computer science is the foundation of the profession of computer programming. When you pursue this type of degree, you learn about using computers and the theories behind computing. Many of your core courses will involve using math and engineering principles. You'll also learn software and hardware development and gain familiarity with artificial intelligence. Computer programmers can use their computer science knowledge and design ways for computers to operate effectively.

Information technology degree

Information technology, or IT, involves computers, networking, storage, and other physical devices and infrastructure to create, store, and secure forms of electronic data. For example, you’ll find IT used primarily in commercial applications in computer technology and telecommunications. Computer programmers working in IT (IT programmers) may be responsible for monitoring server data and functionality, performing required maintenance of systems, and ensuring the testing of programs meets acceptance criteria.

Computer engineering degree

The field of computer engineering combines electronic engineering with computer sciences to build computer systems and other technological devices. Although computer or software engineers may work hand-in-hand or even overlap with the job of a computer programmer, their roles are not interchangeable.

Engineers are essentially responsible for creating the software framework. That information is passed on to programmers who translate the engineer’s directions into instructions (codes) that allow computers to run correctly.

Read more: How to Get a Bachelor's Degree

Salary expectations for computer programmers

Although educational requirements for computer programming positions vary, it’s no secret that the more advanced your degree and skill set is, the more likely you are to obtain positions with larger salaries.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that computer programmers earn a median salary of $93,000, well above the national average [1].

How to Become a Computer Programmer (6)

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Take the next step

You can achieve your goal of becoming a computer programmer and stay current in the profession by taking courses and going through various certification programs.

On Coursera, you can learn from courses like Learn to Program: The Fundamentals offered by the University of Toronto and Code Yourself! An Introduction to Programming through the University of Edinburgh. These are great options to start your career as a computer programmer or just to become familiar with the field so you can decide if it's the right career path for you.

How to Become a Computer Programmer (7)


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Article sources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Outlook Handbook: Computer Programmers," Accessed June 8, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

(Video) How to Become a Programmer in 2021

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.


How to Become a Computer Programmer? ›

Computer programmers typically need a bachelor's degree in computer and information technology or a related field, such as mathematics. However, some employers hire workers who have other degrees or experience in specific programming languages.

What qualifications do you need to be a computer programmer? ›

A computer programmer must have a Bachelor Degree in computer science, mathematics, or information systems, as well as the knowledge of the major programming language. However, some people with the right aptitude but the wrong degree have still managed to become highly successful programmers.

How long does it take to become a computer programmer? ›

Traditional Degree: It takes about four years to complete a bachelor's degree in computer programming or computer science in a traditional college or university setting. Your first year or two will likely consist of general education requirements, with your last two years focusing on programming in various languages.

How do I start a career in computer programming? ›

9 tips for getting a job as a software developer
  1. Learn a programming language. ...
  2. Figure out your end goals. ...
  3. Pursue a degree or take courses. ...
  4. Start practicing in your developer niche. ...
  5. Make a portfolio of your software development work. ...
  6. Develop your technical skills. ...
  7. Build your non-technical skills. ...
  8. Certify your skills.
May 17, 2023

How hard is it to become a programmer? ›

No, coding is not hard to learn; however, it can initially seem intimidating. When learning anything new, the beginning can be challenging. Coding gets easier over time with patience and persistence. If you're considering learning how to code, it can be easy to focus on the difficulty.

Do computer coders need a degree? ›

While most employers require a bachelor's degree, some will hire experienced individuals with an associate's degree or certificate. Computer science, software engineering, and other IT degree programs are ideal for a programming career.

Can I learn programming at 30? ›

Coding is a skill that can be learned at any age. Many people who learn to code later in life go on to have successful tech careers.

Is a 2 year computer programming degree worth it? ›

The two-year computer technology degree is not without its merits. It's still worthwhile in some scenarios even if its four-year counterpart is more valuable in the workplace. Many students opt to pursue an associate's degree in a computer-related field before transferring to a four-year program.

How do I become a coder with no experience? ›

If you're wondering how to become a coder in three to six months and have no coding, web development or software engineering experience, you'll want to enroll in a coding bootcamp. Coding bootcamps are intensive programs that help students build foundational knowledge in core technologies.

Are computer programmers still in demand? ›

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports employment of developer-related jobs is expected to grow by 25% from 2021 to 2031 — in their words, “much faster than average.” The high demand for programmers and developers is driven by the increasing importance of technology in our lives and a skills gap in the job market.

What is the easiest programming job to get? ›

9 of the best entry-level programmer jobs
  • Junior software developer.
  • Junior web editor.
  • Junior QA engineer.
  • Computer programmer.
  • Data analyst.
  • Entry-level application developer.
  • Entry-level web developer.
  • Digital analyst.
Jun 24, 2022

Is coding bootcamp worth it? ›

The Short Answer is Yes – coding bootcamp alumni earn ~51% higher salaries compared to their previous jobs! On average, graduates earn $80,943 at their 2nd job after bootcamp, and $99,229 at their 3rd job. There are tips you can follow to choose a bootcamp that is worth it and to make a bootcamp worth it for you.

Can a beginner programmer get a job? ›

They exist in every industry. Entry-level programming jobs are ideal for anyone new to the occupational field. A few credentials that employers may look for in an entry-level candidate include: A degree in computer science or a related field of study.

Does coding involve math? ›

Coding is associated with math and engineering; college-level programming courses tend to require advanced math to enroll and they tend to be taught in computer science and engineering departments.

Does programming require math? ›

Because math is a foundational part of computer systems, every programmer and computer scientist needs to have basic mathematical knowledge. The type and level of math you need depends on what areas of computer science you want to work in. Some computer science career tracks require only minimal mathematical knowledge.

What is the difference between coding and programming? ›

Coding is a part of programming that deals with writing codes that a machine can understand. Programming is a process that creates programs that involve the ratification of codes. Coding requires basic knowledge of programming skills without any software tools.

Do coders work from home? ›

Another benefit of a career in programming or development is that it offers a good deal of flexibility. Many programmers and developers can work remotely, and often, they can set their hours.

Can I become a coder at 40? ›

Are You Too Old to Learn Programming? Let's get this out of the way: no, you are not too old to program. There isn't an age limit on learning to code, and there never was. But all too often, insecurity and uncertainty compel older adults to put a ceiling on their achievement potential.

How many hours do computer programmers work? ›

How many hours do computer programmers work per week? Typically, computer programmers work an average of 40 hours per week, which comes to eight hours per day, Monday through Friday. They usually work between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m or comparable work schedules that are typical to office culture.

Is 3 months enough to learn programming? ›

Most coders agree that it takes three to six months to be comfortable with the basics of coding. But you can learn coding faster or slower depending on your preferred pace.

What age do most programmers start? ›

Software developers' average age when writing their first line of code worldwide 2021. The majority of software developers surveyed for this study wrote their first line of code between 11 and 17 years old. However, 14 percent of respondents wrote their first coding line between five to ten years old.

What is the best degree to become computer programmer? ›

A computer science degree is a common choice for aspiring high-level programmers. Computer science students who earn a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree learn the fundamentals of computer programming as well as the mathematical and scientific principles that provide the underpinnings.

How hard is computer science? ›

Learning the discipline of Computer Science is a hard and difficult endeavor for most students. However, if you are willing to invest the time and learn serious time management skills, most students can successfully learn the discipline and pursue successful careers in Computer Science fields.

How much can you make with a computer programming certificate? ›

According to from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for computer programmers is $96,650 per year ($46.46 per hour). Computer programmer salaries will vary depending on the industry and location of the job and the programmer's qualifications, skills and seniority.

How do beginner coders make money? ›

How can I make money with my coding skills? Coders can mostly make money by working full-time roles, freelancing, or by publishing apps, eBooks and online courses. In general, you can make money by either writing code, or teaching others how to do it.

How long does it take to learn coding to get a job? ›

How Long Does It Take to Become a Computer Programmer? It can take anywhere from three months to four years to become a programmer, depending on your dedication, current knowledge of coding, time available, and learning method. If you want to earn a programming degree, you will need at least two years.

How much can you make coding from home? ›

Computer Programmer Work From Home Salary
Annual SalaryMonthly Pay
Top Earners$105,000$8,750
75th Percentile$91,000$7,583
25th Percentile$57,500$4,791

Is coding a stressful job? ›

In general, coding is a fairly relaxing job. There is the flexibility of working remotely as a programmer, and in many cases there is the security of routine. However, as with any job, whether coding is stressful depends largely on the company you work with. Cultural pressures and tight deadlines can cause stress.

What coding job pays the most? ›

Highest Paying Programming Jobs
  • Full-Stack Developer. Source: QAwithExperts. ...
  • Cloud Architect. Source: TechTarget. ...
  • Data Scientist. ...
  • Machine Learning Engineer. ...
  • Database Developer. ...
  • IT Specialist. ...
  • DevOps Engineer. ...
  • AI Engineer.
May 19, 2023

What coding language should I learn? ›

JavaScript and Python, two of the most popular languages in the startup industry, are in high demand. Most startups use Python-based backend frameworks such as Django (Python), Flask (Python), and NodeJS (JavaScript). These languages are also considered to be the best programming languages to learn for beginners.

What are the 4 types of coding? ›

Coding Language Paradigms

Common styles are imperative, functional, logical, and object-oriented languages. Programmers can choose from these coding language paradigms to best-serve their needs for a specific project.

What is beginner level in programming? ›

A Beginner developer is just getting started and has little or no coding knowledge or skill. They can be self-taught developers who are just getting started, or programming or computer science students in their first two years of study.

What is the least stressful coding job? ›

8 Low-Stress Tech Jobs That Don't Require a Degree
  1. Junior Web Developer. Junior web developers may start out making simple changes to new websites and applications. ...
  2. Computer Programmer. ...
  3. Junior Web Designer. ...
  4. Data Scientist. ...
  5. Technical Writer. ...
  6. Graphic Design. ...
  7. Digital Marketing. ...
  8. Cybersecurity Analyst.

How many hours a day is a coding bootcamp? ›

Students study programming over a longer period of time (~6-9 months) and spend 6-15 hours per week in class and another 10-15 hours per week on outside work. Students in part-time bootcamps usually hold part-time or full-time jobs in addition to class.

How hard is it to pass a coding bootcamp? ›

Coding bootcamps are hard because they are an intensive learning experience. Bootcamps fill an important educational gap between learning on your own and a traditional college program. Any bootcamp is hard, but some are harder than others because bootcamps vary in level, length, intensity, curriculum, and cost.

What is a realistic salary after coding bootcamp? ›

For example, coding bootcamp grads with a college degree that's required for some full-time roles may earn a higher salary than bootcamp grads without a degree. If you have a college degree, you can earn around $85,000 in your first job. Bootcamp grads without degrees earn around $75,000.

Can I learn to code if I'm bad at math? ›

“It's absolutely not a barrier to becoming a web developer.” According to Web Developer Charlotte O'Hara, it's not only easy to learn to code without having a background in math, but outside of some routine arithmetic, most web development projects don't rely heavily on math at all.

How long does it take to learn Python? ›

In general, it takes around two to six months to learn the fundamentals of Python. But you can learn enough to write your first short program in a matter of minutes. Developing mastery of Python's vast array of libraries can take months or years.

What level of math is coding? ›


Calculus is a critical tool for programmers who want to specialize in video games and machine learning. It is used in everything from simulating motions to machine learning algorithms.

Is computer coding a good career? ›

It's no secret that software development is a well paid career. Obviously salaries vary on different factors (such as location, industry etc), but if you are a junior engineer, you can expect to earn $80k in the US rising to $150k+ for senior engineers.

Do I need math for cyber security? ›

Entry-level cybersecurity jobs don't typically require strong math skills, however as you move up the ladder and the work gets more complex, you'll need to get more comfortable using specific math-based disciplines.

Does coding have a future? ›

Computing power is transforming modern industries and the ability to create applications, programs and websites by coding will open many doors for job seekers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, software developer jobs are expected to grow 21% through 2028 — far above average for other occupations.

What should I learn first coding or programming? ›

It Depends. Whether you're looking to begin coding as a hobby, a new career, or just to enhance your current role, the first thing you'll have to do is decide which programming language you want to start with. There is no right answer, of course.

How do I know if I like programming? ›

Consider your career goals and interests. Coding could be a good option If working in technology appeals to you. If you enjoy thinking logically to solve puzzles and engaging in the creative side of your mind to develop new programs and apps, then coding could be an ideal career.

What is an example of coding? ›

Meaning of Coding

These programs can be interpreted by the computer so that the computer can then execute what the programmer intends to make it do. Examples of programs and things built with code are websites, web applications, mobile applications, games, and artificial intelligence systems.

Do computer programmers make a lot of money? ›

According to from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for computer programmers is $96,650 per year ($46.46 per hour).

Can I learn coding in 3 months? ›

Most coders agree that it takes three to six months to be comfortable with the basics of coding. But you can learn coding faster or slower depending on your preferred pace.

Is computer programming a 4 year degree? ›

Program Length

The typical computer programming bachelor's degree takes four years of full-time study to complete. Students with certificates or associate degrees in computer programming may graduate more quickly with transfer credits.

How much do programmers make? ›

What Is the Average Salary of a Computer Programmer? According to Payscale, the average salary of a computer programmer is $66,293 per year, but it can vary based on how long you've been working in the field and your experience level. Programmers earn up to $12,000 in bonuses and $20,000 in profit sharing.

Why is coding so hard? ›

The major reason why programming is considered difficult to learn is primarily due to the complexity of the instructions that computers comprehend. You can't give computers instructions in English or any other human language.

How long to learn Python? ›

In general, it takes around two to six months to learn the fundamentals of Python. But you can learn enough to write your first short program in a matter of minutes. Developing mastery of Python's vast array of libraries can take months or years.

Should I go to college or a bootcamp? ›

Widely recognized as the gold standard for education, a college degree is often a worthwhile investment. On the other hand, if you're looking to learn a specific professional skill or enter the workforce quickly, a bootcamp or certificate may better suit your career goals.

Is it better to go to a coding bootcamp or college? ›

Coding bootcamps require a lower initial investment to start a career. Bootcamps offer a higher short-term ROI. Computer science degrees are highly respected. They can lead to higher compensation throughout a professional's career (higher possible lifetime ROI).

Can you go to a coding bootcamp instead of college? ›

Coding bootcamp actually gives you more relevant and useful tools for a job than a computer science degree. While the degree sets you up with a solid foundation, a bootcamp teaches you specific skills that you can use immediately in a job.

Can you make 200k as a programmer? ›

Software Engineering is a very well paid career field. It's definitely possible to make $200k as a Software Engineer. Salaries are very high, especially in the US, because venture capital puts so much money into startups.

Can a programmer make 500k a year? ›

Yes, a software engineer can make $500,000 a year.

However, $500,000 a year is far higher than the average salary of a software engineer.

Can you be a millionaire as a programmer? ›

Yes! The demand for coding and programming is increasing every day. There is a high chance that a good coder will be earning lots of money eventually. Here are some of the approaches to earning money through coding: MAKING APPS Building an application is one great way to start making money for budding programmers.


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