Inside Computer Programmer Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises


"Repetitive Days...
I think the thing that surprised me the most is how monotonous the job can be. Some times depending on the job days can seem to bleed in to each other or seem the same." (Website Engineer; 2013)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Idaho, male
School: Studied Computer Sciences at Salt Lake Community College in Utah; completed Associate degree in 2009


"Variety Of Work To Be Performed...
I was surprised at the variety of work that can be done in this industry. there are a variety of applications (e.g. private industry vs. gov't; business apps vs. scientific apps) and a variety of languages that are available to be used." (Software Engineer; 2014)

Career: 24 years of experience, currently based in Virginia, female
School: Studied Computer Science at Virginia Tech in Virginia; completed Master degree in 1995


"My Skills Are Constantly Changing And Expanding...
It is important to really pay attention in class to all the new developments in software design. Getting more practice outside school has helped me more than anything, I worked part time at an entry level position, and had a lot of hands on experience." (Software Developer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Tennessee, male
School: Studied Computer Science at UGA in Georgia; completed Bachelor degree in 2012


"Computer Software Development Changes All The Time...
The most surprising thing has how fast everything changed. Technology and processes came and went very rapidly. There's no reason to think this will not continue in the future. You have to adapt quickly to survive and thrive." (IT Developer; 2013)

Career: 30 years of experience, currently based in New Jersey, male
School: Studied Computer Science at Stevens Institute Of Technology in New Jersey; completed Bachelor degree in 1983


"Software Programming Is Collaborative...
I was surprised at how much I had to interact with other people. During my internships I was mostly on my own, but working on a team has given me many experiences I previously did not have." (Software Engineer; 2014)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Pennsylvania, male
School: Studied Computer Science at Drexel University in Pennsylvania; completed Bachelor degree in 2012


"Actual Code Writing...
When I started my career I was surprised how much actual code I would be revising rather than writing. This was not something you're told about in school, however this can change depending where you work." (Developer; 2014)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Computer Science at Fresno State University in California; completed Bachelor degree in 2012


"Working With Others...
I was surprised to find out that I had to work closely with project managers, who mainly decide how my day is wand what I will be working on." (Production Programmer; 2013)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in North Carolina, male
School: Studied Computer Science at Appalachian State University in North Carolina; completed Bachelor degree in 2010


"Technology Changes Quickly...
we have to learn all the new technologies always to get to next position in our career" (It Professional; 2014)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Ohio, male
School: Studied Computers at NYU in Ohio; completed Associate degree in 2008


"Creativity More Than Constant Work...
I was really surprised at how much freedom I get at work. I was expecting crazy deadlines and non-stop working but the philosophy at our office is more laid back. We get many breaks throughout the day to work-out, take a nap or even play some video games." (Computer Programming; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Missouri, male
School: Studied Computer Science at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in Illinois; completed Bachelor degree in 2012


"More Than Just Coding Skills Needed...
I was surprised at how many other skills come into play beyond simply programming. There is always some level of knowledge in the subject area needed. I was surprised at how it is necessary to be able to learn computer languages, instead of being an expert in the syntax of any single one." (Senior Scientific Programmer; 2013)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Texas, male
School: Studied Computer Science at Rice University in Texas; completed Master degree in 2009


"Experience Over Knowledge...
I was surprise at how extremely competitive this field is. Most employers look for candidates with 5+ years of experience in the field which is impossible for a recent graduate." (Computer Programmer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in New Jersey, female
School: Studied Computer Science at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey; completed Associate degree in 2012


"Incompetence Exists In The Workplace...
The monotony and the outdated computers for some of the firms I worked at really surprised me. Also, the incompetence of managers and employees made for weeks of frustration." (Back-End Web Developer; 2014)

Career: 6 years of experience, currently based in Pennsylvania, female
School: Studied IT at Las Positas Community College in California; completed Associate degree in 2005


"Programming - Most Convenient Job In The World...
One thing that has really surprised me in this profession is how convenient it is. One can work from home or at work or wherever they want and have a very flexible work schedule." (Java Programmer; 2013)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Florida, male
School: Studied Computer Programming at University Of Central Florida in Florida; completed Bachelor degree in 2012


"People Are Not As They Appear...
I was surprised at how intelligent some of the people in my field are. You expect only the really nerdy people to be good at what they do, but there are many passionate people that are just as smart." (Software Engineer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Virginia, male
School: Studied Computer Science at James Madison University in Virginia; completed Bachelor degree in 2012


"I was very surprised at how much I would need to communicate with many different people on so many different levels. It was also very surprising to see how little people in higher positions know nothing about technology." (Programming; 2013)

Career: 6 years of experience, currently based in Louisiana, female
School: Studied Computer Information Systems at Nsu in Louisiana; completed Master degree in 2006


"IT Is An Integral Part Of The Company...
I was surprised at how integrated this job is into the rest of the company. Everything fits together, and IT is apparently not an exception." (IT Software Developer; 2013)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Texas, male
School: Studied Computing Science at Sam Houston State University in Texas; completed Bachelor degree in 2010


"Client Relations Skills...
A lot of my seniors always expressed that this career was a merit based job. The more you know, the better salary you can get. Also, its good to have interpersonal skills when you try to make your clients ideas come to life." (Web Developer; 2013)

Career: 7 years of experience, currently based in New York, female
School: Studied Computer Science at Long Island University in New York in 2004


"Variance In Compensation And Demand...
I am surprised at how different clients can be. Some surprise me with their willingness to pay for my services while others surprise me with how little they want to pay." (Freelance Computer Programmer; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in South Carolina, female
School: Studied Finance at Francis Marion University in South Carolina; completed Bachelor degree in 2009


"People In The Programming Field Are Social...
Many people are very social. They aren't "nerds" as most would think they are." (Programmer; 2014)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Wisconsin, male
School: Studied Computer Science at Phoenix Online; completed Bachelor degree in 2007


"The College Skill Gap...
I was personally surprised at how little college prepared me for the specific job I picked. College taught me a lot of basic fundamental building blocks. However, my career required me to have a very particular skill set. This was a lot different than what I expected." (Software Developer; 2014)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Delaware, male
School: Studied Computer Science at University Of Central Florida in Florida; completed Bachelor degree in 2012


"Working With Management...
I was surprised how little some management really understand about developing software. It's not always a bad thing, just something I had to get used to." (Software Developer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in New Hampshire, female
School: Studied Computer Science at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania; completed Bachelor degree in 2010


"Entry Level Pay Not As Attractive...
I was surprised by how saturated the market was, and how low the pay was for someone just entering the field. I think a lot of people just choosing a major such as computer programming would switch to something like database administration if they knew the pay range." (Software Developer; 2013)

Career: 10 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Computer Programming at Westwood College Of Technology in California; completed Associate degree in 2004


"Not Nearly As Introverted And Insular As Advertised...
I double majored in computer programming essentially as a "fall back" option, and must say I was surprised at how limited job opportunities have been. Obviously the economy is struggling through slow growth, but at the time I figured I'd take a second major in programming or accounting to maximize my job opportunities; clearly I chose poorly, given how many accounting jobs exist. I was also surprised at how much communication occurs, compared to in college. Many of my fellow programmers stuck to themselves outside of group projects, and I had been told the job is like that as well. But so far I've found the opposite to be true: there's a great level of socializing and brotherhood." (Computer Programmer; 2013)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Michigan, male
School: Studied Computer Programming at University Of Michigan in Michigan; completed Bachelor degree in 2009


"Planning Is Essential In Software Engineering...
I was surprised by how much planning there was rather than coding, planning is an essential part of the software development process. I wish I learned more about the process in my software engineering classes." (Software Developer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Michigan, male
School: Studied Computer Science at Central Michigan University in Michigan; completed Bachelor degree in 2012


"We Are All People...
It amazes me to this day how everyone in this profession isn't a "professional" and every one of them are people who are generally motivated by their good intentions. Because of this, don't be afraid to talk to someone in the field, anyone, about your passions." (Game Designer; 2014)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Digital Animation at Ferris State University in Michigan; completed Bachelor degree in 2012


"Communication Is More Important Than Computers...
I'm surprised at how much office politics plays a part of things. I was surprised at how much communication plays a role in an IT career. You must have great communication skills for face to face conversations, emails, etc." (Software Engineer; 2013)

Career: 9 years of experience, currently based in Pennsylvania, male
School: Studied Information Science at Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania; completed Bachelor degree in 2005


"Surprise: As A Developer I Was Surprised At What I Actually Needed To Know To Be Able To Perform My Job...
I'm surprised at how many incompetent people that actually work in the industry. It just tells you that you DON'T have to know everything to be in the industry. As long as you have common sense, the ability to learn new things, and you're ability to find results using Google you should be fine." (Software Developer; 2013)

Career: 5 years of experience, currently based in New York, male
School: Studied Computer Science at Stony Brook University in New York; completed Bachelor degree in 2008


"I Was Shocked That A Talent In Mathematics Was Not Necessary...
I think the thing that surprised me most is that not all programmers are mathematical geniuses. There are lots of different types of programming and it was interesting to me that a strictly mathematical background is not needed in many cases." (IT Developer; 2014)

Career: 10 years of experience, currently based in New York, male
School: Studied Philosophy at Queens College in New York; completed Bachelor degree in 2008


"Differences In Expectations...
How easy it can be at some times and some times it be harder then everything I've ever done in my life. It's especially hard because the people I met don't like to socialize. It's somewhat hard to figure out sometimes, what they want and need." (Computer Programmer; 2014)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Florida, male
School: Studied Computer Science at FSCJ in Florida; completed Bachelor degree in 2011


"Programmers Are Creative...
It would surprise people to know that computer programmers are not all a bunch of nerds. Most people are surprised to learn just how much creativity we have to display in our jobs." (Software Engineer; 2013)

Career: 15 years of experience, currently based in Iowa, male
School: Studied Computer Science at University Of Northern Iowa in Iowa; completed Bachelor degree in 1990


"On-The-Job Training...
I was surprised at how much I still had to learn after graduating college. The first 6 or so months of my time at my job was training and getting used to the systems in place. I really knew nothing when I left college and that wasn't unexpected." (Software Developer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, male
School: Studied Computer Engineering at University Of Florida in Florida in 2012


"There's More To Programming Than Writing Code...
There is a lot more to being a professional programmer than just writing code. Many jobs will entail using your skills in the furtherance of commerce, and it is very beneficial to have a good knowledge of accounting, statistics, business, and math." (Software Engineer; 2013)

Career: , currently based in Oregon, male
School: Studied Management Information Systems at University Of Nebraska-Omaha in Nebraska; completed Bachelor degree in 1995


"Communication & High Valued Skills...
I was surprised to learn that my job included more than just programming, I needed to be able to communicate with my co-workers and describe the work I was doing. I was also surprised at the high value that was put on my skills." (Programming Specialist; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Pennsylvania, male
School: Studied Computer Science at Drexel University in Pennsylvania; completed Bachelor degree in 2012


"Too Much Math In College...
About 30% of my uni classes were heavy math, and I use none of them. I use Algebra I at most. This accounts for a huge waste of money. I'm not designing 3d game engines, so there is no reason for me to have that math." (Programmer/Operator; 2013)

Career: 22 years of experience, currently based in Michigan, male
School: Studied Computer Science Major at Central Michigan University in Michigan; completed Bachelor degree in 1991


"It always surprised me that the company I worked for had more confidence in the consultants they hired rather than the people who worked for them and knew their systems. I worked for a company that is still trying to rewrite systems from the 70's by buying software that can't really do the job because they trust the salesmen rather than the people who work on the systems. They can't be convinced that they should write the systems in house so they get exactly what they want. It happens a lot when the people who make the decisions are business people with no technical knowledge, so it is a good idea to get knowledge in both spheres." (Senior Programmer Analyst; 2013)

Career: 21 years of experience, currently based in New York, female
School: Studied I Was A Classics Major, But After College I Went To NYU Which Had A Certificate Program For COBOL And Assembler Programming. at NYU in New York; completed Certificate degree in 1984


"Not Enough Woman In Computer Careers...
Most people are surprised with the lack of girls in this field. It's an unbalanced work environment. Most people think this field would be more equal in terms of gender." (Computer Programmer; 2014)

Career: , currently based in New York, male
School: Studied Computer Science at UMass Amherst in Massachusetts; completed Bachelor degree in 2010


"Different Areas Of Computer Engineering...
I was surprised at how vast Computer Engineering is it pertains to the many different fields that encompass it. I was also surprised at how easy it is to blend hardware and software to create new security techniques and how you are not limited in what kind of company or industry you can work for." (Computer Engineer; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Florida, female
School: Studied Computer Engineering at DeVry University in Florida; completed Bachelor degree in 2011


"I Was Surprised At How Enjoyable The Programming Industry Is...
How laid back and enjoyable it is. Having a love for programming helps too." (Software Developer; 2014)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Computer Science at American River College in California; completed Associate degree in 2012


"Deceptively Satisfying...
I was surprised how much satisfaction I gained from creating a piece of software from scratch. It could be the most uninteresting piece of software to use, but knowing people are using this software everyday makes the job very rewarding. I also get to work with the people integrating the software into their organization and training their employees." (Software Developer; 2013)

Career: 10 years of experience, male
School: Studied Computer Science at Indiana University South Bend in Indiana; completed Bachelor degree in 2002


"A Degree Is Not Enough...
I was surprised at how little your GPA matters in getting a job in Computer Science. I was surprised at how my degree by itself wasn't enough to get a job. I had to pass numerous qualifying tests and exams to get into companies." (Computer Science; 2014)

Career: 6 years of experience, currently based in Idaho, male
School: Studied Computer Science at University Of Idaho in Idaho; completed Bachelor degree in 2008


"Interpersonal Skills Are Always Important...
I was surprised how much interpersonal skills were required to run a freelance programming business. Meeting and dealing with clients is a large part o f my job that I did not expect." (Freelance Programmer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Kentucky, male
School: Studied Computer Science at University Of Kentucky in Kentucky; completed Bachelor degree in 2010


"I'm surprised how much writing and coordination is required and how easily people can get off track and focus on non-crucial tasks." (Lead Developer; 2013)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Information And Computer Science at UC Irvine in California; completed Bachelor degree in 2009


"Computer Jobs Are In Demand...
I was surprised at the number of job opportunities I have with my skills. I like the company I work for so I have stayed, but would have no trouble finding another job if I needed to." (Programmer; 2014)

Career: 8 years of experience, currently based in Louisiana, male
School: Studied Computer Science at ULM; completed Bachelor degree in 2003


"Technology And The Times...
Surprisingly, videogame designers are required to keep up to date with current events in the media. Not only are advances in technology to be focused on, but seemingly minor issues such as celebrity gossip is also to be encompassed. Doing so allows for production of software that fits the current day and age." (Videogame Programmer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Computer Science at University Of California Irvine in California; completed Bachelor degree in 2012


"Sometimes Goals Are Ambiguous...
I knew I wanted to write when I was at Michigan, and I finally ended up majoring in journalism. Within four years of starting a career, I happily switched to the relatively new field of computers. Turned out I was meant to writer for machines. I found the work very rewarding in all ways." (Computer Programmer; 2013)

Career: 30 years of experience, currently based in Florida, female
School: Studied Journalism at University Of Michigan (Post-Grad Math NYU) in Michigan; completed Bachelor degree in 1972


"I Was Elated To Find That There Were Many Jobs Open. I Had No Idea It Would Be So Simple To Find A Job...
There is a growing need for people with my type of degree. It is a very fun field to work in." (Programmer; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Iowa, female
School: Studied Computer Programming at Iowa State University in Iowa; completed Bachelor degree in 2011


"I was surprised the experienced programmers totally wrote code better than new programmer. Even though you learned most of all detail in programming in school, real life software development is much more than that, testing, maintain, reuse. Not just one assignment and you throw it away." (Software Engineering; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in New York, female
School: Studied Computer Science at New York University in New York; completed Bachelor degree in 2012


"I was surprised that many IT jobs do not require an extensive knowledge of technical solutions. Rather, they require an ability to learn various technical things and concepts. I did not know the languages I learned at my first job, but it was expected. They just wanted me to show an aptitude for picking it up." (IT Software Consultant; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Texas, male
School: Studied Management Information Systems at The University Of Texas At Austin in Texas; completed Bachelor degree in 2012


"Youth An Asset In Landing A Job...
I am surprised at how hard it is to get a job or an advancement if not in your 20s. I thought that getting great grades and completing my degree would make it easier to get a job." (Programmer; 2013)

Career: 5 years of experience, currently based in Vermont, female
School: Studied Computer Science at UVM in Vermont; completed Bachelor degree in 2010


"As An Engineer They Make A Lot Of Money And Can Make More...
I was surprised about the profession I went into. It pays very well." (Engineering; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in New York, male
School: Studied Medical Engineering at Fredonia in New York; completed Bachelor degree in 2012


"Industry Changes Rapidly...
I am required to learn and innovate all the time because the industry changes so rapidly every year. Engineers like me are treated very well. We're almost treated like rock stars because finding good engineers is a goal of every tech company. Because of this, I get dozens of e-mails/calls from recruiters every month." (Software Engineer; 2014)

Career: 15 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Computer Science at Cal Poly in California; completed Bachelor degree in 1997


"Team Work And Communication...
I was surprised how massive projects were and how much cooperation between colleagues were required. I was only responsible for small parts of a large software that my company developed. Also documentation is extremely important if not as important as your other skills." (Software Engineer; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in New York, male
School: Studied Computer Science at Stony Brook University in New York; completed Bachelor degree in 2011


"I was surprised to learn that the different languages of programming (Such as Java and C+) were not as important in the profession as it was mentioned while I was learning it in college. Also, I was surprised that the company that I work fr was completely up-to-date with all software." (Software Developer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in New York, female
School: Studied Computer Science at Nassau Community College in New York; completed Associate degree in 2012


"Given Lots Of Responsibility...
I am surprised at how little supervision can be given to programmers. At my company programmers are expected to examine a specification, help write test plans, and contribute to user and technical documentation." (Software Engineer; 2013)

Career: 10 years of experience, currently based in Washington, male
School: Studied Computing And Software Systems at University Of Washington, Bothell in Washington; completed Bachelor degree in 2002


"Education Matters For A Software Development Career...
A career in software development is strongly influenced by having a degree in computer science, as well as the reputation of the school attended. Having an advanced degree (post-Bachelor's) in the software development field rarely helps career advancement. Career advancement in software development is strongly affected by which companies you have worked for. Often, career advancement requires physical moves to new locations." (Software Developer; 2014)

Career: 25 years of experience, currently based in Washington, male
School: Studied Humanities at Seattle University in Washington; completed Bachelor degree in 1985


"Getting The First Job...
I was surprised at how hard it was to find a job with my degree. It took a couple of years. Just having a degree is not enough anymore. You need experience and certifications now. It's hard to even get an unpaid internship in the field, depending on where you live." (Programmer/Analyst; 2013)

Career: 6 years of experience, currently based in Tennessee, male
School: Studied Computer Science at West Virginia State University in West Virginia; completed Bachelor degree in 2005


"Technical Skills Are Better Than Academic Qualifications...
I have joined for the job as a trainee in Nov 2010. After two months, my boss asked me to work as team lead and I was so surprised that I am able to work as a senior and I was very happy to understand that I am capable of work as a senior staff." (IT Developer; 2014)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Georgia, female
School: Studied Computer Science at University Of Findlay in Georgia; completed Master degree in 2008


"Work Long Hours...
Most people don't know about the long hours. You can be asked to work up to 70 hours a week most weeks. Although the overtime pays nicely, working from 7 in the morning to 7 at night. Energy drinks become a staple." (Computer Programmer; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Indiana, male
School: Studied Computer Science at IUPUI in Indiana; completed Associate degree in 2010


"Computer Science Allows For A Wide Range Of Work...
I was surprised that working in application development, primarily for the Android platform, actually involved doing web development and some work with Linux systems as well. I have also been surprised at how hard it was initially to find freelance work because most jobs required an extensive resume or portfolio, and I simply had some college projects, but nothing professional. However, once I received my degree, I was able to jump into projects across a vast range of disciplines, such as mobile and web development, IT, some security work, etc..." (Applications Developer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Wyoming, male
School: Studied Computer Science at University Of Utah in Utah; completed Bachelor degree in 2012


"Software Development Is A Lot More Than Just Programming...
I was surprised by how much of the work is not programming. It's actually a lot of creating documentation, working with the client, resolving issues, fixing bugs, and getting the project to the point it can be released." (Software Engineer; 2013)

Career: 10 years of experience, currently based in Arizona, male
School: Studied Computer Science at University Of Arizona in Arizona; completed Master degree in 1994


"English Skills Just As Important As Coding...
I was surprised to find that being a freelance computer programmer required a lot of effort and work which was not related to programming at all, such as interpersonal networking skills, a strong sense of teamwork, and a lot of knowledge of things such as writing in order to make products marketable." (Programmer; 2013)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Indiana, male
School: Studied Computer Science at University Of New Orleans in Louisiana; completed Master degree in 2012


"Even Fewer Women Than I Thought...
Going into the field of computer science I was a little surprised about the amount of female programmers. I am, in fact, a woman and though I knew that there were few females I was surprised to see as little as I did. I was also surprised by how much internships and networking actually helps when you start looking for that first job after college." (Software Engineer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in California, female
School: Studied Computer Science at Point Loma Nazarene University in California; completed Bachelor degree in 2012


"I was surprised to learn that being a programmer requires a lot of interpersonal skills in interacting with stakeholders. We need to be able to gather the correct requirements from our clients. This involves asking the right questions and making sure what you design matches their business processes." (Programmer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Molecular And Cell Biology at University Of California - Berkeley in California; completed Bachelor degree in 2007


"Required Credentials Vary Greatly...
I was surprised by the wide array of prerequisites in the computer programming world - the same job at two different companies may have completely different education and experience requirements. Government work nearly ALWAYS requires a degree, while industry work may only require certain certifications (which not all college graduates have)." (Computer Programming; 2012)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Washington, female
School: Studied Computer Programming at The Evergreen State College in Washington; completed Bachelor degree in 2007


"I was surprised that programming and language are very similar. they both have a syntax that assigned certain elements properties, and the skill comes in manipulating those elements and their arrangement to express what you mean as clearly and concisely as possible as to solve the problem at hand. It's elegant and concise." (Programmer; 2012)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Illinois, male
School: Studied Literature at Wisconsin in Wisconsin; completed Bachelor degree in 2010


"I was surprised that there are two personality types of computer programmers. The software engineers mostly interact with other technical types. The business programmers mostly interact with non-technical people. So the cliche regarding programmers being unable to communicate effectively with non-technical types only applies to the software engineers. The business programmers must be able to communicate effectively with anyone in order to do their job properly. The programming courses available when I went to college were all oriented strictly to technical problems with no concern for how a business might use that skill." (Computer Programmer; 2012)

Career: 27 years of experience, currently based in Massachusetts, male
School: Studied Mathematics at Boston College in Massachusetts; completed Bachelor degree in 1985


"I was surprised to find out that being a programmer would be so tiring. At the end of the day I feel drained of all my energy. I was also surprised at how much teamwork is involved when you are a programmer. In college they never teach you how to use git or SVN repositories. To be a programmer it is extremely important to make descriptive simple code comments to help others understand your work." (Programmer; 2012)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in California, male
School: Studied Computer Science at Fresno State University in California; completed Bachelor degree in 2011


"I was surprised to find that my computer programming job on many occasions required me to also be a trainer. In addition to developing applications, I would have to show users how to properly use it - sometimes it would just involve sitting with a user and going through it once or twice, but on other occasions it was a full classroom setting, training many users at once. This would also involve travel to other sites to conduct the training." (Computer Programmer; 2012)

Career: 13 years of experience, currently based in Pennsylvania, male
School: Studied Math/Computer Science at University Of Scranton in Pennsylvania; completed Bachelor degree in 1998


"It's too easy to be left behind and become unqualified. If the company you are working for doesn't keep with the latest and greatest then you can be left out in the cold and considered unhireable. It was all about degrees when I finished schools now it's degrees AND certification. Nobody wants to take the time to train you." (Computer Programmer; 2012)

Career: 15 years of experience, currently based in Florida, female
School: Studied Computer Science at Lenoir-Rhyne in North Carolina; completed Bachelor degree in 1973


"You actually need to know very little math to be a programmer. It's all logic and even knowing formal logic has very little use when it comes to practical programming." (Programmer; 2012)

Career: 15 years of experience, currently based in New York, male
School: Studied Computer Science at Cornell University in New York; completed Bachelor degree in 1998

Best & Worst Things About This Career


Programmer: "The best part of my job is the people I work with. Having good people around you can make the worst day bearable. I also enjoy the juggling my job requires as it keeps me busy and makes the days go much faster. The worst part of my job is a small minority of the people I work with. Dealing with one toxic person every day can wear you down terribly." (2010)


Computer Programmer: "The best part of the job is seeing the finished product, knowing that it is going to help users complete their jobs. The worst part of the job is just before an implementation, when the program is about to be released. It can get very stressful if there is an unrealistic deadline." (2010)


Software Engineer: "The best part of this job is solving a particularly difficult program or finding a quick way to do something that you thought would take forever. Hearing that your customers are using something you wrote and that it's helping them is an awesome feeling too. The worst part of this job is that sometimes you have to work harder than you would like. There are times when you have to put in 80 hour weeks and there's simply no way around it. Your employer will take as much out of you as he can. It's up to you to maintain a proper work and home life balance." (2010)

Career Background


Computer Programmer

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Career Video

Career Tips


"Work Well With A Partner In Programming...
Learn to interact with others and get some experience in pair programming, which allows you to collaborate with a partner and write better and more efficient code in a shorter period of time."" (Software Engineer; 2014)


"Choose Your Education And Companies Wisely...
If you don't have a degree in computer science, get one. Even if it means putting your career on hold while you do it. What you do at a company is less important than the reputation of the company for which you work. Pick companies to work for that are recognizable with good reputations." (Software Developer; 2014)


"Take Care Of Your Body...
I would try to develop confidence, whether that means working out physically, or going for long walks. Many people post-college tend to put on the pounds and lose their original work ethic." (Back-End Web Developer; 2014)


"Know The Basics And Test Often...
Make sure you know the basics of programming really well, it is much easier to build code up onto a solid foundation. Simple mistakes that are costly and take time to fix can be avoided by frequent testing of the code." (Computer Programmer; 2014)


"Self-Motivated Learning For Your Career...
Always do your own research and learning. Find out what the career you want expects of you and learn it on your own. Chances are college won't cover everything and you need to be self motivated to really get where you want to be." (Software Developer; 2014)


"Wide Scope Of Practice...
always give your 100% in everything" (It Professional; 2014)


"Show Up Early...
Always show up to work early." (Programmer; 2014)


"Do An Internship...
Do at least one internship to build up your resume. Employers place a premium on experience. It will also help you build contacts for future opportunities." (Software Engineer; 2014)


"Be A Good Listener And Problem Solver...
develop listening skills and problem solving skills. being able to hear what it is the user wants is vital to creating the correct software app. it is also important to learn how to work through existing problems as well as foresee potential issues." (Software Engineer; 2014)


"Look At End User Reporting To Get A Better Idea Of Data Modeling...
If you want to successfully model data for a business, look at end user reporting. In most cases, this will give you the best idea of what a system needs to output, and therefore, contain." (IT Developer; 2014)


"Life As A Coder...
Always expect the unexpected, continue to push through rigorous problems and bugs as if they were your morning commute. The only thing that should stop you in this job is yourself." (Computer Programmer; 2014)


"Work On Side Projects...
Don't rely just on your degree, that will not land you a job alone. Try to program as much as you can on your off time and/or find an internship." (Developer; 2014)


"Passion Comes First...
If you want to get a career with making games, be sure you have a passion related to them. Let that passion lead you to growing and nurturing a skill until you're marketable." (Game Designer; 2014)


"Innovate And Stay Up-To-Date...
Technology changes rapidly, so stay up to date with the latest advancements. Even if you know the solution to a problem, it never hurts to try to go about it differently, which could lead to innovation." (Programmer; 2014)


"Career Achievement...
If you want to be a successful programmer, you should start out working for a larger company to gain experience and improve your portfolio. It will also give you an opportunity to reach top positions by leading to some clients when you go out on your own. Work hard and you will reach to the top." (IT Developer; 2014)


"Internships Are Try Before You Buy...
Internships are a great way to get your foot in the door. They are also a great way to see if you like a company before you commit to it." (Computer Science; 2014)


"Keep Those Books...
Do your research and keep plenty of references on hand, including your programming textbooks. They are very useful" (Software Developer; 2014)


"Internships Are Always Important...
Get internships no matter what. They will be your easiest way into the field which is somewhat hard to get into without connections." (Freelance Programmer; 2013)


"I Suggest Looking For An Internship To Help Move Along The Job Searching Process...
Have a well thought out resume with lots of examples of your work." (Programmer; 2013)


"Take On Field Experience...
I would suggest to take a on internships as you study. That way when you graduate you have a little experience on the field which is better than none." (Computer Programmer; 2013)


"Avoid Going Solo If At All Possible...
As hard as it may seem, if you can at all avoid it, don't try to go it alone. A programmer alone in the field with no partnership or support is going to find it hard to accomplish anything that anyone else hasn't done. If that means a slightly larger business than you desire, it might be the best choice until you improve with interpersonal skills." (Programmer; 2013)


"Interpersonal Skills Might Be Required...
Be prepared to deal with others. If you're not a people person and looking for a solitary position, you might get more than you bargained for as quite often you will need to collaborate with team members and sometimes even deal with end users." (Software Developer; 2013)


"Keeping Knowledge And Skills Fresh...
Computer engineering is a changing field that adds new things everyday. I would strongly recommend keeping up with the new technology that comes out and try to incorporate it in your everyday settings to keep from becoming complacent with what you learned in school." (Computer Engineer; 2013)


"Being Open To Education...
The best thing for me was to keep learning away from class as well, through taking MOOC courses, and finding open source work opportunities as well. This allowed me to build my knowledge and be able to work on more projects and use more platforms." (Applications Developer; 2013)


"Use You Professors To Network...
Try to use your professors not just to learn from, but also to network with. These men and women have literally seen hundreds of students pass through their classrooms and some actually stay in contact with their old professors. It is a great feeling to have industry contacts not just nationally, but globally as well." (Computer Programming; 2013)


"You Should Already Really "Know" That You Want To Be A Programmer...
If you want to be in computer software development you should already be doing programming in some way. You really need to have the 'bug' for writing code that you went out of your way to make it happen. You may not be good at first, few are, but you don't things like that stop you." (IT Developer; 2013)


"Networking With People And Computers...
A great tip for the IT industry is to network with people as much as you network with computers." (Software Engineer; 2013)


"Learn Multiple Programming Languages...
Learning several programming languages is helpful because each one is useful for different applications." (Programming Specialist; 2013)


"Consider An Open Source Project...
Contribute to open source projects. It is a great way to gain experience before you are hired." (Software Engineer; 2013)


"Do Anything It Takes...
Nothing is below you. Do what you love" (Research Assistant; 2013)


"A Career For Women Too...
If you are a woman considering this field don't be afraid to try it even though you may think it's a field for guys. Also, it doesn't matter how many networking events you go to if you never follow up with the important people you meet." (Software Engineer; 2013)


"Larger Company = More Pay...
If you want higher pay, choose a larger company. But those companies are also subject to hiring and firing times too." (Programmer/Operator; 2013)


"Expand Your Breadth Of Knowledge...
Be sure to learn as many technologies as you can. Do not put all you eggs in one basket by studying a single topic." (Programmer; 2013)


"Work On People Skills...
Work on you communication skills. Being able to tell what you do in a non technical way will help when working with team members who don't have the same background" (Production Programmer; 2013)


"Stay Ahead Of The Technology...
Never get comfortable, even if you think technology growth is slow. Keep your eyes and ears open on what might be the upcoming thing. For example (new programming languages). Also like an artist work on your programming skills and create mini side projects to get better at it." (Web Developer; 2013)


"Break Problems Into Smaller Problems...
All work is just a system of small problems grouped together to make large problems. Sometimes it helps to just focus on a tiny problem, and work your way up from there." (Computer Programmer; 2013)


"Questions Are Important...
The best thing I learned in college was the importance of asking questions. In my experience, it has been better to ask if you don't understand something, rather than waste time writing code with errors." (Software Developer; 2013)


"Side Jobs Help Freelancers Start...
If you are going to be a freelancer, plan to have a backup source of income. This will help keep you afloat when there isn't much work and boost your confidence in charging adequate rates." (Freelance Computer Programmer; 2013)


"Learn All You Can...
If you're thinking of getting into programming, don't slack off when studying subjects which seem peripheral to your field. Few jobs are "pure coding", and having a good base in many subjects is important." (Software Engineer; 2013)


"Making Sure You Go In The Correct Industry And How That Affects Your Motivation...
You have to really love doing what you do and make sure you would get up in the morning eager to work. Your project has to give you some sort of satisfaction." (Software Developer; 2013)


"Impressing The Interviewers...
Keep a portfolio with games you have worked on in the past. Potential employers are really keen to look into these." (Videogame Programmer; 2013)


"If You Like What You Do It's Never Work...
It's almost impossible to start out in programming these days without an educational background. However, when I had to briefly do the hiring, I tried to pick people who hadn't been indoctrinated by a school. I'd ask what games people play because I find that the king of mind that programs well also likes to play games such as chess, bridge and most computer games. To this day I still play World of Warcraft." (Computer Programmer; 2013)


"Diverse Skills And Knowledge...
No matter how tedious or time consuming, always learn as much as you can in a variety of coding languages and new technology. A good habit will be to always have your own side projects which you can build a portfolio out of later. Those with the widest set of skills will be the most successful." (Software Engineer; 2013)


"Be Ready To Put In Long Hours When Needed...
Be ready to spend a lot of time working, especially during crunch time (when deadlines are coming up). You will be expected to make deadlines, even when that means working long hours and weekends. It's virtually never okay to be late." (Software Engineer; 2013)


"Make Smart Project Choices To Avoid Being Bored...
Try to find a client or employer that works on projects that you are interested in. Sometimes things can get boring but if you are working on coding on a project that interests you the boredom can be avoided." (Website Engineer; 2013)


"Take Classes And Practice, Practice, Practice...
Take as many classes of programming as you can in college because you may have to use each one of them at some point. Always practice what you've learned even if your current work does not require it." (Java Programmer; 2013)


"Learn Two Programming Languages...
To be successful in computer programming, learn at least two different programming languages. Also learn "soft skills" such as interaction with non-technical people and good writing skills." (Software Engineer; 2013)


"Study Hard...
Learn as much as you can while you are in school. This is the time where you can spend the most time learning and not worry about work." (Software Engineer; 2013)


"Practice Programming As Much As You Can...
Do as much coding in your free time as you can, it will pay dividends in the long run." (Software Developer; 2013)


"Preparing Before You Enter The Work Force...
Challenge yourself in college because you're going to be challenged in the world . One of the ways I decided to test my abilities was to take my math and harder programming classes in summer when available. The accelerated pace will prepare you, trust me." (Computer Programmer; 2013)


"Advise About Conditions...
Adaptability is what matters most, technology is constantly being updated." (Software Developer; 2013)


"Stay Plugged In...
Make sure that you always keep involved and up-to-date on new technology (hardware and software), since you can't predict what direction technology will move and keep ahead of it without doing so." (IT Software Developer; 2013)


"Certifications As Important As Degrees...
I would advise anyone looking to get into the IT field to focus on getting certified as much as acquiring a degree if not more. You can get most of these while you're still in school and start gaining work experience through those certifications. That's way more important than just having a degree. Employers want to see that you know what you're doing and a degree doesn't really show them that, it just shows them you can take tests and get good grades." (Programmer/Analyst; 2013)


"Learn Beyond The Classroom...
Take the time to learn things outside of classes. Learning new languages or learning how to use widely used libraries is almost as important as what you learn in classes." (Software Developer; 2013)


"Take Some Science Courses...
I would suggest a minor in some other scientific field. If you can talk to computer folks and the research faculty, you are much more valuable." (Senior Scientific Programmer; 2013)


"Programming Languages...
The languages they teach you in school are ultimately useless by the time you graduate given how often new languages come out. I feel schools should spend a majority of their time teaching the fundamentals, and the student should spend the rest of their career applying those to new languages." (Software Developer; 2013)


"Focus On Broader Concepts...
Do not worry so much about learning one specific programming language really well. Languages change quickly and are constantly evolving, with new languages being introduced often. Instead, focus on learning the concepts behind the languages, including structure and similarities between the various dialects." (IT Software Consultant; 2013)


"Get An Internship In An Established Company...
Experience is very important. Finding a job is not hard for a programmer. Taking an internship in a company will always give you a lot. Especially not in start-up, but in a real practical software engineering company." (Software Engineering; 2013)


"Details Are Important...
It is extremely important to pay attention to minor details." (Software Developer; 2013)


"Stay Up-To-Date...
You must keep taking courses so that you stay up to date on all the developing technology." (Programming; 2013)


"Interning Is Key To Getting A Job Later...
Try to get an internship as soon as possible, it will help you with landing a job after you graduate." (Lead Developer; 2013)


"Know Your Company's Core Business Can Help Your Career...
I think it is better when you are in the technical arena to also know about the business you are working in. This is very important if you want to go into management because it keeps you from making a lot of mistakes when evaluating software. It is not as important if you just want to be a programmer, but, of course, knowledge of the field is still a good thing to have as a programmer." (Senior Programmer Analyst; 2013)


"Do What You Love, Not For The Money...
Do what you love. Work as hard as you can." (Engineering; 2013)


"Business Knowledge Is A Differentiator...
Obviously, you need to obtain the technical skills to do my job, but with the enormous amount of competition out there locally and internationally, what I have found to be the most valuable in my career has been my business knowledge. When I worked for a life insurance company I took courses to get my FLMI, which is the equivalent of an associate's degree in life insurance. Not only did I pick up invaluable information that way, but when I was looking for another job, it showed my willingness to go above and beyond. Now that I work in the property and casualty field, I'm pursing my CPCU, which is to P&C what the FLMI was to Life. I've found the coding to be the easy part of my job, understanding the business well enough to code the RIGHT thing is the tricky part." (Programmer; 2010)


"Get An Internship...
It would be great to take some programming classes in high school. Try to get an internship during the summer to see if coding is job that you enjoy. Once you're in college, take a wide variety of computer classes from programming and system architecture classes to database classes." (Computer Programmer; 2010)


"Ideas For Getting Some Experience...
Start programming now. If you can't get an internship now, look for an open source project to contribute to. Look for events in your community that will bring you in contact with people in the business. Hang out and learn as much as possible from these people. Get on the net and go through free tutorials as much as possible. Always check to see what your peers are making -- the bosses will try to get you for as cheap as they can get away with (particularly when you are starting out)." (Software Engineer; 2010)