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What is Computer Programming?

There's never been a better time to pursue a computer science degree. Computer science is not just a stable field -- it's a booming one.

Demand for computer science and programming grads is increasing, but research conducted by the Computing Research Association suggests that the number of people pursuing this training is not. This trend boosts both graduates' job potential and salaries: a National Association of Colleges and Employers report notes that while the average starting salaries of bachelor's degree holders declined overall between 2009 and 2010, computer science majors actually earned 4.7 percent more.

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What does a computer programmer do?

Computer programmers write code instructing computer systems to perform specific tasks. Devices that rely on programming include PCs, smartphones, GPS systems, factory robots and more. Programmers generally specialize in a particular type of software, such as server software, system software, office applications or wireless or Web applications. Applications programmers create computing tools, while systems programmers write the system software that runs these tools.

Programmers generally work on teams with software engineers and developers, executing part of a software design. They bring expertise in computer programming languages relevant to a particular type of software. Popular programming languages include Python and C++ and Java for Web applications. Some programmers use computer-assisted software engineering (CASE) tools, which automate parts of the programming process. Programmers may also adapt code for specific purposes using libraries of basic programs. Depending on their level of expertise, programmers may write code or participate in higher-level development activities such as producing detailed logical flow charts, developing project specifications or designing software.

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What does a software architect do?

Working under the umbrella of enterprise architecture, software engineers (sometimes called software architects) fill a role that goes beyond developing computer systems and applications. These IT professionals are responsible for mapping out a technology infrastructure that will allow a business or organization to meet its goals. Rather than simply writing code, architects must identify business needs and create innovative solutions.

As the person responsible for overseeing the infrastructure of a software system, the software engineer must be able to take a big-picture view of an organization's technology. Not only must they address immediate technical concerns, they must be able to anticipate future needs and develop a framework that will evolve along with the business.

Since they can be an integral part of setting an organization's long-term strategy, software engineers need to have excellent communication skills. They should be able to communicate their vision to business leadership as well as work closely with IT professionals to oversee implementation of their architectural plan.

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As you would expect, the dominant post-secondary degree for entering the computer science and programming field is a Bachelor's of Science degree in one of the following disciplines:

  • Computer Science
  • Software Engineering
  • Computer Programming
  • Software Development
  • Computer Engineering

Depending on the nature of the program taken, a Bachelor's degree should be augmented by additional training in one or more disciplines. A common example of this is taking additional training in one or more programming languages in order to become a better (or more specialized) software developer. Database administrators will definitely benefit from additional Structured Query Language (SQL) training, as it is the primary language used in that field.

It is also possible to gain an entry-level position in the industry via an Associate's degree in software development or computer science. Associate's degrees are offered through technical schools, as well as some colleges and universities. Associate's degrees generally take less time to complete, and may be less comprehensive than a full Bachelor's degree program.

For candidates who want to try to enter the industry at a higher level, there are Master's degree programs in several of the disciplines listed above. For those looking at become data scientists, a Master's degree is likely the minimum education a potential employer would consider, and a PhD is not out of the question.

What training is needed to become a computer programmer?

Expertise and advanced training opens the door to a successful computer programming career. An associate or bachelor's degree in computer programming, computer science or information systems offers the basic qualification to become a computer programmer. To forge a successful career in the U.S., however, it is increasingly important to develop advanced or specialized programming skills.

Computer programmers rely on continuing education and certification programs to build skills in new programming languages or to develop an area of expertise.

Computer programming is a versatile skill in high demand worldwide, as computer technology drives more and more of the global economy. Consumer products, telecommunications and media are just a few of the industries shaped by digital technology. While the U.S. labor market may be shedding jobs at the entry level, programmers can plan for success by developing an advanced or specialized skill set.

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What training is required to become a software architect?

The Iasa notes there is no clear path to a career as a software architect. Typically, those working in the field start in a related IT occupation and then move into an architect role as they gain experience.

Since being able to understand and develop software plays a large role in system architecture, studying to be a developer can a logical first step. Software developers typically have a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field. Although more than programmers, software developers usually have a strong knowledge of various computer languages and some coding skills.

For those with a bachelor's degree, specialized software architect training is often available at the graduate level. For example, some schools offer master's degrees in software engineering with a concentration on software architecture. Other institutions provide certificate programs that can be earned concurrently with a graduate degree.

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Computer Programming Training Courses

Software Testing & QA Courses

Software testing requires much more than just playing video games or using pre-release versions of office applications. According to the American Society for Quality, quality assurance (QA) professionals must understand how to:

  • Develop complex use cases for software based on customer needs
  • Schedule routine software audits over the course of a product's development
  • Communicate complex issues and opportunities to both software engineers and marketing professionals
  • Implement multiple testing methods to duplicate or clarify results
  • Resolve conflict between competing stakeholders during the QA process

Software testing and quality assurance courses help IT professionals bridge the gaps in their professional development between development, communication, and project management. For experienced business veterans, the right training program can help bring Six Sigma and other quality measurement philosophies into the technology realm. Likewise, longtime IT workers can use quality assurance courses to understand the rigorous goals of industry and international business compliance programs.

Ideal Candidates for Software Testing Courses

Software testing courses can help business process managers from other industries break into the lucrative information technology market. According to research conducted by Foote Partners, the IT industry adds one to two new jobs for every ten positions eliminated in other parts of the economy. Familiarity with Six Sigma and ISO quality measurement protocols can prepare aspiring IT workers to apply their skills as technology auditors and project managers.

Quality assurance training can also help veteran software developers tasked with adapting to new programming environments. Agile programming and lean software development styles both integrate quality assurance into their shorter coding cycles. Instead of favoring long development periods punctuated by software testing, companies that have adopted agile and lean methodologies require developers to adjust features and functions on the fly, based on test results. Quality assurance courses help developers anticipate and avoid challenges among end users.

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Mac OS X Training Courses

Mac OS X training can help prepare IT professionals with a well-rounded knowledge of the latest and most popular operating systems. Mac OS X courses could be especially useful for computer specialists such as tech support staff, network or system administrators, or Mac users in the education world; here are some potential salaries for those occupations.

What skills are taught in Mac OS X courses?

Apple provides many different types of Mac OS X training, and the skills learned from the courses vary. Mac OS X courses for support cover the features of OS X, as well as tips on how to prepare for certification. Here's a short list of skills taught in Mac OS X courses that focus on support:

  • Creating and managing OS X user accounts
  • Preparing and partitioning hard drives that will run OS X
  • TCP/IP and network resources such as AFP, SSH, WebDAV and SMB
  • Troubleshooting boot sector, peripheral and application issues

In Mac OS X training courses that focus on integration, a different set of skills is learned:

  • Configuring Mac OS X accounts on hybrid networks
  • Coordinating system and network security
  • Enabling file and printer sharing capabilities on mixed networks
  • Migrating data from Mac OS X to machines with other operating systems

Other Mac OS X training specialties also exist, such as administration of Mac OS X server systems.

Who is best suited to Mac OS X training courses?

Recent graduates of computer science or engineering degree programs make good candidates for Mac OS X training, and Apple recommends Mac OS X courses for several types of IT professionals.

The BLS indicates that jobs in many of these sectors are growing much faster than the nationwide average for all occupations. Mac OS X training helps to expand a professional's understanding of interoperability, which can be useful in an increasingly multi-vendor IT environment.

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Microsoft Windows Server Courses

Who are the best candidates for Microsoft Windows Server training?

Microsoft Windows Server courses can be useful for any aspiring systems or server administrator. The most suitable candidates for training will have spent at least one year in a network administrator position and have fairly extensive experience using Microsoft Windows operating systems. Previous work in an enterprise environment is also very helpful.

As with most IT administration learning programs, Microsoft Windows Server training tends to be most easily absorbed by students who possess strong analytical and problem-solving skills. The ability to concentrate on several tasks at once can help students during training as well as in the workplace.

Some formal education in computer science or computer information systems is also a plus. Employers tend to prefer a bachelor's degree or higher, but an academic certificate or associate degree can be adequate preparation in some cases.

What can be learned in Microsoft Windows Server courses?

These comprehensive training programs are designed to impart detailed knowledge of Microsoft server systems. Here is an abbreviated list of skills that students can take away from Microsoft Windows Server training:

  • Designing Microsoft Windows Server infrastructures
  • Monitoring access management and authentication policy
  • Recognizing, classifying and troubleshooting infrastructure issues
  • Assessing infrastructure security needs
  • Developing client-server best practices for engineering, operations, and development personnel

Graduates of Microsoft Windows Server training will also be prepared to deploy and configure hosted network applications and Web services, perform server operating system maintenance and design and deploy Active Directory.

Although certain aspects of Windows Server administration can be learned on the job or through apprenticeship, the depth and breadth of information on the subject suggests that formal training is preferable to informal instruction.

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Microsoft Windows Courses

What skills are taught in Microsoft Windows courses?

Microsoft Windows training can give Windows users a big boost of confidence when working on their PCs. The most recent build of the operating system, Windows 7, contains a wide array of time-saving features that can be an advantage in work-related tasks as well as private computer use.

Windows users can learn efficient ways to manage their files and folders, as well as the ins and outs of Microsoft's upgraded desktop and taskbar. Customization options for the operating system are usually explained in detail. Microsoft Windows training can also teach users the slightly more advanced techniques of user account management and home and wireless networking.

More comprehensive Microsoft Windows courses might include such fairly complex features of the software as remote desktop use, file and printer sharing or system configuration. Computer support elements may be rolled into Windows training courses as well, giving users a primer on application troubleshooting, hard disk maintenance, network and computer resource monitoring and basic computer security concerns.

Who is best suited to Microsoft Windows training?

Anyone who uses a Windows operating system, either at work or at home, can benefit from a better understanding of their computing tools. Administrative and clerical workers are particularly suitable for this training, since much of their workday may be spent using Windows and its applications.

Professionals in management or supervisory positions also stand to gain from the enhanced understanding that Microsoft Windows courses provide. Well-rounded knowledge of the operating system used by their employees can help managers increase their value in the workplace and divert small support tasks from the help desk queue.

Microsoft Windows courses can also be helpful to computer support staff, especially those looking to move from consumer to enterprise support, or those whose personal computing experience might be centered on a different operating system.

Are Microsoft Windows courses necessary for any occupations?

Unless the courses are part of an in-house training program, most employers are unlikely to require formal Microsoft Windows training. Certifications can help a computer support resume stand out from the stack, but companies looking to fill these positions often present applicants with a short proprietary exam to test their knowledge rather than asking for proof of completed Microsoft Windows courses.

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What is the job outlook for computer programmers?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for computer programmers is expected to stay the course with other occupations in terms of growth between now and 2022.

Job TitleProjected 2012-2022 Growth
Computer Programmers-U.S.8.3
*This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

What is the salary for computer programmers?

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has recent statistics from the year 2012 when it comes to salary data for computer programmers.

*This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

What is the job outlook for computer engineers?

Because much of the current innovation is based more on software than hardware, the job market for computer engineers dealing with hardware is expected to experience modest growth in the near future, according to the latest numbers from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job TitleProjected 2012-2022 Growth
Computer Hardware Engineers-U.S.7.4
*This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

What is the salary for computer engineers?

The latest numbers from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show that compensation for computer engineers is better than for all other categories of engineers.

*This data is sourced from the 2013 BLS employment report (BLS.gov)

There are numerous professional IT certifications that computer science and programming students (or existing professionals) can earn in order to provide potential employers with additional, relevant industry credentials. Several industry-leading manufacturers of technology hardware and software (think Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle, etc.) operate their own certification programs. These programs also include accreditation in many programming languages, such as Java, C#, and HTML5, just to name a few.

Ready to start pursuing your tech degree?
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Sources

"National Salary and Employment Data by Occupation, 2014," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/overview_2014.htm

"Computing Degree and Enrollment Trends From the 2010-2011 CRA Taulbee Survey," Computing Research Association, 2011, http://cra.org/uploads/documents/resources/taulbee/CS_Degree_and_Enrollment_Trends_2010-11.pdf
"Computer Science Projects Top Starting Salary for Master's Degree Grads," National Association of Colleges and Employers, January 21, 2015, https://www.naceweb.org/s01212015/computer-science-starting-salary-masters-degree.aspx?terms=computer%20science
"15-1132 -- Software Developers, Applications," O*NET OnLine, 2015, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1132.00
"AS400 jobs," Dice.com, 2015, https://www.dice.com/jobs?q=as400&l=
"AIX Basics," IBM, 2015, http://www-304.ibm.com/services/learning/ites.wss/zz/en?pageType=course_description&courseCode=AN10G&cc=
Interview with Raymond Camden

What is Computer Programming?

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