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Crack the Code: Getting Started in Computer Programming, Part 2

There's lots of opportunity for skilled computer programmers. Aaron Axline examines what it takes to launch a programming career.

Computer programming can be a lucrative IT career path.Earlier this year in Part 1 of this feature, we looked at the foundations of computer programming specialties and the different job roles for programmers in the IT industry.


In this follow-up article, we're going to look at the key education options available for people looking to enter the computer programming field, and we'll describe a few high-profile training and certification programs relevant to programming careers.


Programming Guide


As mentioned in the first part of this article, computer programmers can potentially earn desirable pay rates in the United States. In 2018, the annual median pay for computer programmers was $84,200, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This financial incentive is one reason why a growing number of people are looking to enter the computer programming field.


Here is a quick reminder of the two most common types of computer programmers:


System Programmers: Create software that controls computer hardware and information systems.

Application Programmers: Create software applications that run on top of operating systems.


System programmers typically work on operating systems, firmware for hardware products, and high-level platforms such as database management systems. Application programmers create software programs that run on operating systems.


There is always some blurring between these two categories of programmers, as the terms companies use in job postings and org charts tend to vary. The System and Application programmer distinctions are useful, however, when looking at different opportunities in the industry.


Okay, let's start at the top of the training mountain: colleges and universities.


Alma Matters


Many an IT veteran has said, "You don't need a Bachelor of Science degree to get a job as a computer programmer ... but it sure doesn't hurt your chances." A Bachelor of Science degree is still considered by many employers to be Willy Wonka's golden ticket for starting a career in the IT industry.


Students who want to become computer programmers after graduation will typically major in one of the following disciplines:


● Computer Science
● Computer Programming
● Software Development
● Software Engineering


There are other majors offered at some schools, while some universities and colleges have a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Computer Science program.


The pros of getting a computer programming college degree are fairly obvious: four years of in-depth education and hands-on training; a structured environment built to prioritize learning success; and an industry-favored credential gained at the end of the process. Many schools will hold employment events to help students meet high-level tech employers.


A towering argument in favor of a university degree is staying power. A bachelor’s degree has longevity and will continue to hold its value long after graduation.