How to Become a Computer Programmer

Computer programmers talk to computers. They learn foreign languages like C++ and Java, and are good at math and data analysis. They design programs and applications for a variety of uses for computers, cell phones and other electronic devices. If you think you have what it takes to be a computer programmer, follow this general guide to starting a career in the field.

  1. Build a foundation in high school Computer programming requires skills that come from a wide array of knowledge. Take courses like algebra, computer science, foreign language and chemistry in high school to get yourself started [source: CollegeBoard].
  2. Get a bachelor's degree Some computer programmers can land a job without a degree or formal training, but in most cases, employers require at least a bachelor's degree. Programmers usually have a degree in either computer science, mathematics or information technology [source: BLS]. Appropriate college level coursework for programmers includes business communications, database design and network essentials [source: CollegeBoard].
  3. Specialize in one or more computer languages There are too many computer languages out there to know them all. Programmers usually specialize in one or a few languages to work in at a time. Some of the most widely used languages are Java, Visual Basic and C++ [source: Voegele].
  4. Obtain certification in your specialties A valuable way to prove your mastery of a computer language to potential employers is to get certified. Various product vendors, software firms and professional computing societies offer courses, training and testing for certification in individual languages or programs [source: BLS].
  5. Stay up to date The world of computers and programming changes at an incredibly rapid pace. It's imperative to keep up with trends and developments in the industry if you want to have a long and prosperous career [source: BLS].