While a college degree is not required to be a computer programmer, most employers look for professionals who have degrees from reputable universities, community colleges or vocational schools. In addition to a college degree, you should have certifications in computer languages such as Java, C++ and XML. Computer programmers are expected to keep up with the latest innovations, so plan to take continuing education courses throughout your career.
Associate’s Degree in Computer Programming
According to MyPlan.com, an associate’s degree from a community college or vocational school is a popular entry-level degree for students seeking computer programming jobs. Many community colleges and technical schools offer an associate’s degree in computer science. If a computer science degree is not available through your local community college or technical school, choose an information technology-related course of study. Most two-year computer programming degrees include courses like introduction to programming, data structure, web-based programming, object-oriented programming and desktop publishing. Look for two-year degree programs that include some hands-on learning through internships or apprenticeships.
Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Programming
Most computer programming jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree. According to MyPlan.com, more than 67% of computer programmers in 2004 had a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Seek out four-year degree programs in computer science, information systems, engineering or mathematics. Take classes focusing on operating systems, computer hardware, database systems and management information systems. Because most computer programmers work within a business or organizational environment, some general business and communications courses are also helpful. Learn how to communicate the technical nature of your job with other professionals at your workplace. Look for bachelor’s degree programs that include internships to increase your hands-on experience and build your resume.
Computer Language Certifications
In addition to a college degree, it is important for computer programmers to earn computer language certifications. National certification courses are available for most computer languages, such as C++, Extensible Markup Language (XML), Perl and Java. Get certified in server-side applications, which are helpful in adding servers to websites. Look for server-side application classes in Active Server Pages (ASP) and Hypertext Processor (PHP). In addition to language certifications, consider product or software certification programs, such as Microsoft Visual Basic. According to Exforsys.com, certifications provide computer programmers with a competitive advantage when looking for jobs.