Computer Programming Careers
What to expect in the world of computer programming. Its job outlook, work conditions, and other information.
Computer Science is a rapidly growing career due to the new technology of this computer era that people are living in. Almost every household have in their possession a personal computer, however, there must be people in the world that can comprehend, upgrade, operate, repair, and maintain these intelligent, man-made machines. These are the reasons why Computer Science courses in Computer Programming exist within post-
secondary institutions. Purpose of the Report
The main objective of this research report is to introduce the career field Computer Science, concentrating in Computer Programming. Scope and Limitations In introducing Computer Science, the research paper will explore in depth various
areas relating to this infinitely, growing career such as the employment outlook, present level of employment, salary trends, typical duties, working conditions, the education level, and the experience requirements.
Sources and Methods:
Information for the research of this report was collected from the North Carolina Central University’s Career Services Center, James E. Shepard Library, North Carolina Central University’s School of Business Library, Internet usage.
The employment outlook for Computer Programming is expected to grow significantly over the coming years. According to the Occupational Information Network, “It is projected that by the year 2006 employment for computer programming will grow by
22.8%, an increase of 129,000 positions. In addition 177,000 openings, 31% of current
positions, will become available due to employee turnover” (1). The employment outlook for computer programmers has been expected to grow faster than the average in the year 2006. The projected, fastest-growing industries of Computer Science includes data processing services, computer consulting businesses, and software houses. Also, computer programmers are much needed in these industries because many companies
want to keep cost low and change technology. However, this can only be done with the assistance of computer programmers. When the task of computer programming becomes more complex and skills and experience increases, employers demand for graduates of two-year programs. Individuals with less than a two-year degree or equivalent will face strong competition for computer programming jobs. “Competition for entry-level
positions, however, can even affect applicants with a bachelor’s degree” (Occupational
Outlook Handbook 109). Although companies change technology so much, college graduates should be knowledgeable and experienced in working with a variety of computer programming languages and tools. Most companies are looking particularly for C++ and other oriented languages such as Visual Basic, Java, and Ada. In order for college graduates to maintain competitive, college graduates should keep up with the latest skills and technology.
PRESENT LEVEL OF EMPLOYMENT
“In 1999, employment in the United States for Computer Programmers was 568,000, of which 20,000 were self-employed” (Occupational Information Network 1). Computer Programmers work for many different organizations such as manufacturing
companies, data processing service firms, hardware and software companies, banks, insurance companies, credit card companies, government agencies, universities, and much more. Many computer programmers are employed by businesses as consultants on temporary or on-call basis. Computer Programmers can look for an entry level
programming position in the same way as people in other fields look for a job. Individuals with the necessary qualifications should apply directly to the company. If the market for computer programmers is particularly in demand, computer programmers may want to obtain an entry-level job with a large corporation or computer software firm, even if the job does not include computer programming. As jobs in the computer programming
department opens up, current employees in other departments are often the first to know, and are favored over non-employees during the interviewing process. Computer Programmers are ranked, according to education, experience, and level of responsibility, as junior and senior computer programmers. After computer programmers have attained the highest available computer programming position, they can choose to make one of several career moves in order to be promoted.
“Median earnings of computer programmers who worked full time in 1996 were about $40,000 per year. The middle 50 percent earned between about $30,700 and $52,000 a year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,700 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $65,200” Occupational Outlook Handbook 109). Starting salary for graduates with a bachelor’s degree in the area of computer programming averaged about $35,167 per year in private industries. “The average 1998 starting salary for college graduates employed in the private sector was about $35,150 per year. Salaries for experienced computer programmers
averaged $40,100 per year, while some earned more than $65,000 per year. Computer Programmers employed by the federal government were paid between $19,520 and $24,200 per year, depending on their academic record” (Occupational Outlook Handbook 110).
Computer Programmers in the north and in the west of the United States are generally paid more than computer programmers in the south. This is because most big computer companies are located in the Silicon Valley, the northern part of California, and in the state of Washington where Microsoft Corporation, a major employer of computer programmers, is located. Also, some companies such as data processing service firms
tend to pay their computer programmers higher wages than other types of companies, such as banks and schools.
Most computer programmers receive the customary paid vacation and annual sick leave. Also, they receive other benefits such as group insurance and retirement packages.
According to Management Skills and Applications, “job scope refers to the number of different types of operations performed” (Rue and Byars 188). This book also stated, “In performing a job with narrow scope, the employee performs few operations and repeats the cycle frequently leading to more errors, lower quality, job dissatisfaction, job boredom, and work avoidance” (Rue and Byars 188). Many people have experienced this type of negative behavior towards their job at one point or another. However, this is not
the scenario for most people entering the Computer Science career path. A person entering a Computer Science career can possess different job titles and can perform a variety of duties on the job. For example, a teacher’s only title would be “Teacher of Math” or “Professor of English”, but a person entering Computer Science can be titled as “Computer Programmer”, “Computer Support Specialist”, “Computer Data Processing Equipment Repairer”, and much more. The list is continuos. Also, unlike a teacher or professor whose main duty or responsibility is to educate, a person entering Computer Science can perform a variety of typical duties on the job. According to the Occupational Information Network, some important Computer Programming typical duties include,
“analyzing, reviewing and rewriting programs, using workflow charts and diagrams, converting detailed logical flow chart to language processible by computers, resolving symbolic formulations, preparing flow charts and block diagrams, encoding resultant equations for processing, developing programs from workflow charts or diagrams, and compiling and writing documentation of program development and subsequent revision”
(1). Again, these are only some of the typical duties of a person in the Computer Science
field. Shade K. Little, Professor of Computer Information Systems at North Carolina Central University, said in a recent interview, “Computer Programmers work with the components under the computer frame. Computer Programmers write programs, get specifications from Computer Systems Analyst, and turn these specifications to computer language” (Little). Shade K. Little also stated, “It is true that a person with a Computer Science degree can hold many job titles because I held many job titles in my eighteen-year long career with IBM” (Little). Yes, the typical duties one can perform in Computer Science never ends. The typical duties of a Computer Programmer ranges from, “revising or directing existing programs to preparing records and reports” (Occupational Information Network 1). Computer Science is most definitely the career path to take if one likes to perform a variety of different duties on the job. A career in Computer Science will not lead to job dissatisfaction, job boredom, work avoidance, and any other negative results due to narrow job scope, because there will be so many typical duties one can perform.
The work environment of computer programmers can be tremendously rewarding or dissatisfying. It all depends on whether or not they have to work in the office for long periods of time, or travel around and work with other computer programmers. Computer Programmers may sit in the office all day at their terminals, or they may venture off to
surrounding computer facilities, and associate with other computer programmers. There are two types of work environments for computer programmers, the internal environment and the external environment.
Most computer programmers work an average of 35-40 hours per week. Sometimes, it is necessary for computer programmers to extend their hours to weekends and holidays, depending on how sufficient the program is progressing and the due date of the program. Most computer programmers perform their duties in an office at their own
pace. “For those that work in the office, the disadvantages can vary from eyestrain and back discomfort to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Cumulative Trauma Disorder. These can be very painful to computer programmers and can interfere with the work capabilities to perform normal duties” (Encyclopedia of Career & Vocational Guidance 125).
The advantages to computer programmers working outside the office includes, networking with other computer programmers and traveling to different areas. It is a great opportunity for computer programmers to experience both the outside and inside environments of computer programming. However, within the office environment, computer programmers have the ability to access a system directly through their own computer terminals. They are also able to work at their own pace within the company’s
given time frame.
There are many training paths available for computer programmers. The level of education and the quality of training companies seek has been on the rise due to the growing number of qualified applicants and the increasing challenges of some computer programming tasks. The job of computer programmers requires a substantial amount of patience, persistence, and the ability to work on exacting analytical work, especially under pressure.
POST SECONDARY TRAINING
Companies most commonly require candidates with a Bachelor’s degree, although some candidates qualify for positions with a two-year or associate degree and certificate. The majority of computer programmers hold a BA or BS in Computer Science, Mathematics, or Computer Information Systems. “Some computer programmers may take special courses in computer programming to supplement their field of study. These special courses include Accounting, Inventory Control, or other business areas” (Encyclopedia of Careers & Vocational Guidance 533).
College courses in Management Information Systems (MIS) and Computer Information Systems (CIS) can be taken to supplement one’s education in Computer Science. College courses in traditional computer languages, such as FORTRAN,
COBOL, and C, are taught as well at most institutions. “More advanced required courses
are CASE, C++, VISUAL C++, Ada, Smalltalk, Windows, Visual Basic, PowerBuilder, and JAVA” (Occupational Outlook Handbook 108). Extensive knowledge includes being able to configure the operating system to work with different types of hardware, abstract concepts, and technical analysis. Some computer programmers may move into systems programming after they have gained experience and taken courses in systems software.
Other computer programmers with specialized knowledge and experience in operating systems may work in research and development areas such as multimedia or Internet technology.
CERTIFICATION OR LICENSING
People who choose to go into Computer Information Systems or specialize in computer programming may choose to obtain a two-year degree or consider becoming certified by the Institute for Certification of Computer Professionals (ICCP). “ICCP confers the designation Certified Computer Professional (CCP) to those that have at least
four years of experience or two years of experience and a college degree. To qualify,
individuals must pass a core examination plus exams in two specialty areas, or an exam in one specialty area and two computer languages. Those with little or no experience may be tested for certification as an Associate Computer Professional (ACP)” (Encyclopedia of Careers & Vocational Guidance 533).
Most companies prefer to hire applicants with previous experience in the computer field. Companies are increasing their interest in computer programmers who can combine areas of technical expertise and are adaptable and able to learn and incorporate new skills. Students should try to gain experience by participating in a college work-study program or taking an Internship. Also, students can greatly improve their employment prospects by taking courses such as accounting, management, engineering, and science-allied fields. Most companies look for computer programmers who have developed a technical specialization in areas such as client/sever programming, multimedia technology, graphic user interface (GUI), and 4th and 5th generation programming tools. The demand for
computer programmers with strong object-oriented programming capabilities and experience should arise from the expansion of the Internet, extranets, and World Wide Web applications” (Encyclopedia of Careers & Vocational Guidance 553).