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Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FT15GxJQrE.
Quick Facts: Computer Programmers
2021 Median Pay $93,000 per year
$44.71 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2021 174,400
Job Outlook, 2021-31 -10% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2021-31 -17,800

What Computer Programmers Do

Computer programmers write, modify, and test code and scripts that allow computer software and applications to function properly.

Work Environment

Programmers usually work in office settings, most commonly in the computer systems design and related services industry. Most computer programmers work full time.

How to Become a Computer Programmer

Computer programmers typically need a bachelor’s degree to enter the occupation. Most programmers specialize in several programming languages.

Pay

The median annual wage for computer programmers was $93,000 in May 2021.

Job Outlook

Employment of computer programmers is projected to decline 10 percent from 2021 to 2031.

Despite declining employment, about 9,600 openings for computer programmers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for computer programmers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of computer programmers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about computer programmers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Computer Programmers Do About this section

Computer programmers
Computer programmers write programs in a variety of computer languages, such as C++ and Java.

Computer programmers write, modify, and test code and scripts that allow computer software and applications to function properly. They turn the designs created by software developers and engineers into instructions that a computer can follow. In addition, programmers run tests to ensure that newly created applications and software produce the expected results. If the products do not work correctly, programmers check the code or scripts for mistakes and modify them.

Duties

Computer programmers typically do the following:

  • Write programs in a variety of computer languages, such as C++ and Java
  • Update and expand existing programs
  • Test programs for errors and fix the faulty lines of computer code
  • Create, modify, and test code or scripts in software that simplifies development

Programmers work closely with software developers, and in some businesses their duties overlap. When such overlap occurs, programmers may be required to take on some of the tasks that are typically assigned to developers, such as designing programs.

Programmers use code libraries, which are collections of independent lines of code, to simplify their writing and improve their efficiency. They may create their own code libraries or make use of existing ones.

In addition, programmers may write or use software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications that are centrally hosted online. Although programmers typically need to rewrite their programs to work on different system platforms, such as Windows or OS X, applications created with SaaS work on all platforms. Accordingly, programmers writing SaaS applications may not have to rewrite as much code as other programmers do and can instead spend more time writing new programs.

Work Environment About this section

Computer programmers
Most programmers work independently in offices.

Computer programmers held about 174,400 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of computer programmers were as follows:

Computer systems design and related services 32%
Self-employed workers 9
Finance and insurance 7
Manufacturing 6
Software publishers 5

Programmers usually work in office settings, which may be in their homes.

Work Schedules

Most computer programmers work full time.

How to Become a Computer Programmer About this section

Computer programmers
Most programmers have a degree in computer science or a related field.

Computer programmers typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related subject. Most programmers specialize in several programming languages.

Education

Computer programmers typically need a bachelor's degree in computer and information technology or a related field, such as mathematics. However, some employers hire workers who have other degrees or experience in specific programming languages. Programmers who work in specific fields, such as healthcare or accounting, may take classes in that field to supplement their computer-related degree. In addition, employers may prefer to hire candidates who have experience gained through internships.

Most programmers learn computer languages while in school. However, a computer science degree gives students the skills they need to learn new computer languages easily. Students get experience writing code, testing programs, fixing errors, and doing many other tasks that they will perform on the job.

To keep up with changing technology, computer programmers may take continuing education classes and attend professional development seminars to learn new programming languages or about upgrades to programming languages they already know.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Programmers may become certified in specific programming languages or for vendor-specific programming products. Some companies require their computer programmers to be certified in the products they use.

Advancement

Programmers who have general business experience may become computer systems analysts. With experience, some programmers may become software developers. They may also be promoted to managerial positions. For more information, see the profiles on computer systems analysts, software developers, and computer and information systems managers.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Computer programmers must understand complex instructions in order to create computer code.

Communication skills. Although computer programmers work alone to write code, they must have effective communication skills to coordinate work on large projects with team members and managers.

Detail oriented. Computer programmers must closely examine the code that they write, modify, or test, because a small mistake may affect the entire computer program.

Problem-solving skills. Programmers check the code for errors and fix any they find.

Pay About this section

Computer Programmers

Median annual wages, May 2021

Computer occupations

$97,430

Computer programmers

$93,000

Total, all occupations

$45,760

 

The median annual wage for computer programmers was $93,000 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $47,560, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $155,240.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for computer programmers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Software publishers $102,370
Finance and insurance 99,260
Manufacturing 98,320
Computer systems design and related services 79,860

Most computer programmers work full time.

Job Outlook About this section

Computer Programmers

Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Computer occupations

15%

Total, all occupations

5%

Computer programmers

-10%

 

Employment of computer programmers is projected to decline 10 percent from 2021 to 2031.

Despite declining employment, about 9,600 openings for computer programmers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Computer programming work continues to be automated, helping computer programmers to become more efficient in some of their tasks. Many companies are leveraging technologies to automate repetitive tasks, such as code formatting, to save time and money. Automation of this routine work could allow computer programmers to focus on other tasks, such as strategic planning activities, that cannot be automated. In addition, some computer programming tasks are more commonly done by other computer occupations, such as developers or analysts.

Employment projections data for computer programmers, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Computer programmers

15-1251 174,400 156,600 -10 -17,800 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of computer programmers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2021 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Computer and information research scientists Computer and Information Research Scientists

Computer and information research scientists design innovative uses for new and existing computing technology.

Master's degree $131,490
Computer and information systems managers Computer and Information Systems Managers

Computer and information systems managers plan, coordinate, and direct computer-related activities in an organization.

Bachelor's degree $159,010
Computer hardware engineers Computer Hardware Engineers

Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components.

Bachelor's degree $128,170
computer network architects image Computer Network Architects

Computer network architects design and build data communication networks, including local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and Intranets.

Bachelor's degree $120,520
Computer support specialists Computer Support Specialists

Computer support specialists maintain computer networks and provide technical help to computer users.

See How to Become One $57,910
Computer systems analysts Computer Systems Analysts

Computer systems analysts study an organization’s current computer systems and design ways to improve efficiency.

Bachelor's degree $99,270
Database administrators Database Administrators and Architects

Database administrators and architects create or organize systems to store and secure data.

Bachelor's degree $101,000
Information security analysts Information Security Analysts

Information security analysts plan and carry out security measures to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems.

Bachelor's degree $102,600
Network and computer systems administrators Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Network and computer systems administrators are responsible for the day-to-day operation of computer networks.

Bachelor's degree $80,600
Software developers Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers

Software developers design computer applications or programs. Software quality assurance analysts and testers identify problems with applications or programs and report defects.  

Bachelor's degree $109,020
Web developers Web Developers and Digital Designers

Web developers create and maintain websites. Digital designers develop, create, and test website or interface layout, functions, and navigation for usability.

Bachelor's degree $78,300
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Computer Programmers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-programmers.htm (visited September 08, 2022).

Last Modified Date: Thursday, September 8, 2022

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2021 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2021, the median annual wage for all workers was $45,760.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2021

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2021, which is the base year of the 2021-31 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2021-31

The projected percent change in employment from 2021 to 2031. The average growth rate for all occupations is 5 percent.

Employment Change, 2021-31

The projected numeric change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2021-31

The projected numeric change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2021 to 2031.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

2021 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2021, the median annual wage for all workers was $45,760.