A programmer works with computers, writing the instructions for program designs created by software engineers. They also update and repair software as needed, often working with computer-assisted software engineering tools and other applications. They focus on specific aspects of a job to increase productivity. There were almost 427,000 computer programmers in the U.S. as of 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Factors such as education level and the industry in which the programmer works affect the salary for entry level.
The average starting wage for graduates with a bachelor's degree in computer science was $61,407, as of July 2009, according to the BLS. The median salary of all computer programmers was higher, at approximately $70,000. However, one out of 10 programmers earned about $40,000 per year or less, and entry level programmers could expect their salary offers to fall closer to this lower range, especially those with less education or living in smaller cities throughout the country.
Some entry level programmers possess only a two-year associate's degree or certification within one specialized area. However, most complete at least a bachelor's level program. Although employers prefer programmers with a bachelor's degree in computer science, some programmers may hold a degree in areas such as business or accounting, supplemented with additional courses and certifications. Voluntary certification from organizations such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society prove especially helpful for programmers with a weaker educational background. An entry level programmer with more extensive education can expect higher salary offers.
Salary by Industry
Programmers in some industries make more than their colleagues working in other fields. For example, programmers working in the software publishing industry made over $80,000 per year, as of May 2008, according to the BLS. Programmers working for insurance carriers made the least, coming in at only $69,790 annually.
Some companies hire workers in foreign countries or areas in the U.S. with a lower cost of living in order to save on costs. The number of jobs in programming are expected to decline slightly by 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (See References 1) There should continue to be work opportunities for new graduates however, as programmers leave the field. Advancement possibilities include supervisory or managerial positions, or becoming a computer software engineer or consultant.