Career Guide  
Computer Programmer
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Occupation Overview

Computer Programmers write the detailed instructions that tell computers what to do. With opportunities in almost every industry, there are hundreds of programming jobs available in the Bay Area. Programming is the Information Technology (IT) occupation with the highest demand.

Depending on their interests, Computer Programmers can specialize in a number of diverse areas including databases, computer games, operating systems, networking, graphical user interfaces, and financial applications.

Other titles for this occupation include Application Engineer, Systems Programmer, and Software Engineer. Internet-related programming is described in the Web Page Designer section of this career guide.


Future Growth Opportunities

Opportunities for Advancement:

Technical Lead, Project Manager, Software Development Manager, and R&D Manager.

Skills Transferable to:

Technical Marketing Engineer, Technical Support Engineer, System Administrator, and Web Page Designer.


Job Descriptions

Inexperienced ($12-31/hr.)

Experienced ($10-60/hr.)

Computer Programmers perform several tasks. They design the outward appearance of the software, determining what inputs the program will take and what results will be displayed to the user. Once this external design is complete, the internal behavior of the software is defined and the software program is written. This is followed by testing the software (to make sure it functions properly) and fixing any "bugs." Lastly, Computer Programmers will either write a description of how the software works or provide input to others (Technical Writers) who write the documentation.

Computer Programmers typically specialize in one of two broad categories of software:

  1. Application Software is what most people are familiar with. Application software includes programs like computer games, MS Word, Quicken, Lotus 1-2-3, Oracle, and TurboTax.
  1. System Software provides the interface between the computer hardware and software applications. Systems software includes device drivers, utilities, networking software, compilers, and operating systems such as MS Windows, MacOS, and Unix.

Technical Leads provide the technical direction for their team and assist the other team members with technically complex issues. They also evaluate new tools and technologies.

Project Managers lead and manage a team of software engineers and interface with other departments such as marketing and quality assurance.

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