Computer programmers work in a highly technical field that relies on experts who understand the infrastructure and functions of computers. At the same time, programmers are also highly creative, finding solutions and workarounds for computer-related problems. Computer programmers use their experience and education to develop the fundamental processes that affect and enhance a computer's abilities.
Computer programmers design, write, test, repair, update and modify computer instructions. These instructions are also called programs. With the assistance of other computer specialists, computer programmers also create instructions to manage and direct specific tasks executed by computers. Programmers use different computer languages and computer-assisted software engineering to streamline the coding process necessary to write programs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor (BLS).
Applications programmers write programs for a task and revise generic or existing software and applications acquired from vendors. Systems programmers write programs for operating systems that maintain or control operating, network or database systems. Other responsibilities include creating changes to instructions to handle different tasks to the network, workstations or central processing unit of a system and how the system communicates with other equipment such as printers and disk drives.
According to 2006 data from the BLS, 68 percent of computer programmers held a bachelor's degree or higher in such areas as mathematics, computer science or information systems. An associate degree or certificates in certain software or vendor products often can be substituted for a higher degree, depending on the job.
According to the BLS, in 2006, the average annual income for computer programmers was $65,510. The salary varies depending on employer, with software publishers paying an average of $79,270 per year at the high end of the scale, and insurance carriers paying $65,650. Consultants may make more or less, depending on their contract.
Computer programmers spend a majority of their workday in front of a computer terminal at a desk. Due to the nature of the work, computer programmers are increasingly taking advantage of telecommuting, or working from another site---usually a home office---rather than in a corporate setting, reports the BLS.
According to the BLS, computer programming employment is experiencing a slight decline, with a decrease of 4 percent expected between 2006 and 2016. The decline may be attributed to greater outsourcing of these jobs outside of the United States. Due to extensive computer use, programmers may experience hand, wrist and back issues or eyestrain.
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