Earning a college degree in computer programming can open up a wide range of career opportunities for individuals interested in the ever-growing field of technology. Computer programmers remain on the forefront of the technology industry, designing, repairing, maintaining programs and writing code for all kinds of businesses and organizations.
Computer programmers often referred to as software programmers, systems programmers, Web programmers, database programmers, mainframe programmers, programmer analysts, business programmers, or scientific programmers must learn a variety of tasks in order to do their job effectively. These tasks require a comprehensive knowledge of computers, computer systems and programs, and computer programming languages.
- Visual C+++
- Visual Basic
- Graphic and User Interface (GUI)
- CASE tools
Many computer programmers learn more than a couple of programming languages in order to make themselves more versatile and appealing to potential employers or clients. Since programming languages also tend to emerge from earlier versions of similar languages, they are usually very easy for computer programmers to learn quickly.
Aside from writing code for new programs, computer programmers also repair, modify, expand, and update older, already written programs. They are then responsible for making sure other users know of the changes in the programming. They communicate these changes by inserting comments in the code.
Computer programming used to mean that the programmer had to write out every line of code. Nowadays, this is no longer the case. Many programs exist that will automatically write large chunks of code, allowing the programmer to concentrate on the more complex and specific aspects of the program being written. There are also libraries of customizable pre-written code available to computer programmers, allowing them to make more consistent programs in a shorter amount of time.
After writing the program, the computer programmer must test it. They do this by running the program and looking for errors. If an error message comes up, it means the computer does not understand some part of the code, and so cannot perform the task the programmer has instructed it to perform. The programmer must then go back into the code and attempt to fix the problem. This process is repeated until all of the "bugs" are worked out of the program. The process of testing and debugging a program can continue well after the program is released, so the programmer may be testing and debugging a program for as long as the program is in use.
Computer programming is, in many ways, all about communication. People communicate to the programmer what they want the program to do, then the programmer must communicate that information to the computer in a language it will understand. Once the computer understands the information, the computer programmer must then explain to people how to use the program effectively. Computer programmers must be able to translate this information into layman's terms in order to explain to non-programmers how the program operates, whether they are writing a user's manual for the program or teaching individuals how to operate the program.
Two Types of Computer Programmers
There are two broad categories of computer programmers: applications programmers and systems programmers. The type of computer programmer the student wishes to become will determine many of the courses they will take while studying for their degree in Computer Programming, so it is important to understand the difference between the two.
Applications programmers concentrate on creating programs that will perform a specific task in a specific environment. For instance, they might create a program that will help a library track what books it has in stock, how many are out on loan, and when they are expected back. These programmers would also play an important role in teaching the library's staff how to use this program effectively, as well as providing technical support should problems arise or errors occur within the program.
Being an applications programmer is not just about creating new programs, however. It may also involve upgrading old programs or customizing existing programs to function more effectively in a specific situation. This requires the applications programmer to think creatively in order to adapt a program to a specific use and then translate that creative thinking into a logical sequence that computers will be able to understand. Applications programmers can work for large software companies, businesses requiring specific programming needs, or as freelance consultants.
Systems programmers deal with creating operating system software programs, such as Windows or Mac OS. They also create system programs that maintain networks and databases. Systems programmers must have a broad understanding of how all of the parts of the computer interact in order to create a program that will regulate how these parts communicate. System software is constantly being improved upon, and systems programmers are always analyzing how effectively the CPU and network are handling the tasks they have been given.
Systems programmers must also make sure that the system software is effectively regulating and communicating with the various hardware that is used by the applications, such as disk drives, printers, modems, and other terminals. They will often write supplemental code so that the computer can communicate with a new piece of technology. Because of this broad, holistic knowledge of computer systems, systems programmers are often called in as consultants by applications programmers in order to determine if their programs are going to be compatible with certain systems.
Is a Major in Computer Programming Right for You?
A major in computer programming can prepare students to develop programs that will solve problems, convert data, store and retrieve information, and help individuals communicate via computers. Computer designers do this by converting specific parameters into various programming languages. In other words, computer programmers act as translators between people and computers, writing the specifications of a desired program in a language that the computer can understand.
Computer programming degree programs can help the student gather the knowledge they need in order to integrate and apply various aspects of symbolic logic, computer capability, and programming languages in order to create a cohesive software package. These degree programs teach the student how to bring a computer program into existence, constructing the program, testing the program, and debugging the program.
Education is becoming increasingly important in the field of computer programming. This is due to the fact that many PC users have taken it upon themselves to learn programming languages for writing simpler code and programs. This means that programmers are no longer needed for relatively simple tasks and fixes, but are needed instead for creating and maintaining more complex programs. While those with some experience in the field and an Associate degree can still find a job, those who hold a bachelor's degree may be able to find a job much more easily. In fact, over half of the nearly 500, 000 computer programmers working in America today hold a bachelor's degree or higher.