The Best Computer
Programming Careers of 2021

Computer programming careers cover a wide area, including software development, software engineering, computer architecture, web development, and app development. After you’ve perfected your computer programming skills, you might want to start looking for a job in tech.

In this article, you will learn more about the many employment opportunities that exist within the computer programming field, getting the information you need to decide whether this career path is right for you.

Why Computer Programming?

Since computer programming is such a versatile skill, there are many different types of jobs to choose from. Although the job outlook for computer programmers is not as rosy as it once was, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) still projects that there will be nearly 200,000 jobs for computer programmers in 2029.

If we broaden our scope to consider all the careers that require coding skills, the job prospects look much better. This longer list of careers includes computer and information research science, computer and information systems management, and computer hardware engineering.

Where Do Computer Programming Professionals Work?

Primarily, computer programming professionals work in the information technology industry. A lot of computer programmers can work from home, since they don’t have to be in an office to write code.

According to BLS, 38 percent of computer programming professionals work in computer systems design and related services. Eight percent of them work in finance and insurance, six percent work in manufacturing, and about five percent work in software publishing. The rest of the computer programmers are self-employed in various fields.

The Highest-Paying Computer Programming Careers: 2021 List

The Highest-Paying Computer Programming Careers: 2021 List

The highest-paying programming jobs are often executive positions, which require you to have a meaningful amount of work experience. In many cases, it is beneficial to have a software engineering certification or a different kind of professional credential. In any event, computer programming careers are associated with high salaries.

Keep reading to find out more about these coding careers. For each job title on the following list, we include the growth projection from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as well as the average salary from either BLS or PayScale. Throughout the article, job growth percentages marked with an asterisk are based on the BLS page for software developers.

Software Engineering Manager

Median Salary: $141,280

Projected Job Growth: 22%*

Min. Education Required: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

The main responsibility of a software engineering manager is to assemble a team capable of working efficiently on any software products associated with the company you work for.

Most of the work in this position will have to do with maintenance and development. You will delegate a fair amount of work and generally keep an eye on things, but you will also perform a more hands-on role than other types of managers in tech organizations do.

Principal Software Engineer

Median Salary: $140,465

Projected Job Growth: 22%*

Min. Education Required: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

When you’re a principal software engineer, you’ll be managing the technical capacity of your organization, which covers a wide range of job duties. In supervising the work of others, you will need to ensure that your team has the stability and efficiency to complete all of the software projects you decide to take on.

Beyond the standard educational requirements, you’ll also want to become a Certified Software Development Professional and obtain any project management certifications that you think will bolster your desirability for the job.

Software Architect

Median Salary: $125,967

Projected Job Growth: 22%*

Min. Education Required: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

If you’re a software architect, your main goal will be to create custom software solutions for your organization. Software architects need to make sure that the organization’s web services, user interfaces, and databases are regularly updated and reflect the latest advances in the tech world.

After you find a solution, you’ll have to check with the company to make sure it has long-term viability. As a software architect, you will be expected to have a working knowledge of JavaScript, HTML, jQuery, C++, and .NET.

Lead Software Engineer

Median Salary: $119,762

Projected Job Growth: 22%*

Min. Education Required: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

A lead software engineer is similar to a principal software engineer in that your primary goal will be to oversee the development and testing of software programs used in your organization. You will also be in charge of implementing any software updates or upgrades.

Lead engineers work more directly with clients than principal engineers do, and the lead manages the expectations that a principal sets. At a minimum, you should have a working knowledge of JavaScript, Java, and C#. To set yourself apart from your peers, you should learn Clojure, Scala, and Apache Cassandra, and get certified in Cisco networking.

Senior Software Engineer

Median Salary: $119,483

Projected Job Growth: 22%*

Min. Education Required: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

The primary function of a senior software engineer is testing client applications. However, the role also involves delegating work to a team of juniors. Once the junior engineers have completed a project, you are directly responsible for reviewing their work.

The senior software engineer is also the liaison between the business and technical arms of the organization. You need to make sure that the engineers understand how their work affects the business, and that the executives understand the impact of their decisions on the capacity of the software team. You cannot do well in this job without extraordinary soft skills.

iOS Developer

Median Salary: $91,196

Projected Job Growth: 22%*

Min. Education Required: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

This is a highly specialized position because of the unique skills required to perform the associated app development tasks. You need to stay updated on all aspects of iOS and Apple.

Before becoming a mobile app developer specializing in iOS, you should learn Swift, Apple Xcode IDE, and Objective-C. You can increase your earning potential by also familiarizing yourself with RESTful web services, the Cocoa API, and the Android software development kit (SDK).

Software Quality Assurance (QA) Engineer

Median Salary: $81,553

Projected Job Growth: 22%*

Min. Education Required: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

Software development is a very broad term that covers quality assurance (QA). Those who specialize in QA basically do a lot of troubleshooting. Keeping the user experience and the client’s needs at the top of their minds, QA engineers search for potential defects and oversee any fixes that need to be implemented before the software product goes to market.

Web Developer

Median Salary: $77,200

Projected Job Growth: 8%

Min. Education Required: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

The primary goal of a web developer is to ensure that a website’s design and functionality are up to snuff. Making sure that requirements are met means engaging regularly with both clients and management to guarantee that their visions are aligned.

One of your responsibilities will be to ensure sufficient integration of graphics, video, and audio on the website you have built. You will also monitor a website’s traffic to ensure that there are no problems or threats. If a cyber attack occurs, the web developer is expected to mitigate its impact.

Software Developer

Median Salary: $72,583

Projected Job Growth: 22%*

Min. Education Required: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

Software developers are most likely to be employed by software companies. While software engineers look at the big picture, a software developer is responsible for executing the engineers’ vision. They aim to create the best possible software product for the end user by writing clean, readable code.

Software Tester

Median Salary: $56,448

Projected Job Growth: 22%*

Min. Education Required: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

To be a software tester, you need a broad knowledge of programming languages and the principles of quality assurance. Although QA engineers do their best to prevent bugs, sometimes mistakes slip through. Towards the end of the software development life cycle, software testers step in to check for bugs and report them to the project leaders.

What Education Is Required to Pursue a Career in Computer Programming?

What Education Is Required to Pursue a Career in Computer Programming?

The traditional education pathway for a computer programmer is to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, Information Technology, Computer Engineering, or Mathematics. In all of these fields, it is possible to gain a Bachelor of Science (BS) or a Bachelor of Arts (BA).

The four-year bachelor’s degree is what most employers will advertise on their job listings, but they are more interested in people who can demonstrate their skills, either through practical experience or an extensive portfolio. Both of these requirements can be met without actually completing a bachelor’s degree.

If a traditional degree isn’t your cup of tea, you can pursue a career in computer programming by way of a short-term coding bootcamp. In just a few weeks or months, the best coding bootcamps can equip you with the programming skills you need. In many cases, they will also help you put together your job application materials and prepare for interviews.

Finally, tech companies like Google, Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, and Apple offer professional certifications for coders. There are also specialized institutions like the Python Institute, which offer training in specific programming languages.

Can I Study Computer Programming Online?

Yes. There are online computer programming courses available on platforms like Android Developer, Apple Developer, Codecademy, The Odin Project, Pluralsight, freeCodeCamp, edX, MIT OpenCourseWare, and Coursera.

All of those platforms offer video and audio tutorials online, along with other forms of interactive learning. They are not degree programs, and some of the courses don’t even give out certificates upon completion. However, they do equip you with the skills you need to demonstrate your programming talent.

It should be noted that some colleges and universities offer online computer programming bachelor’s degree programs. In some cases, you can even get your master’s online.

Common Entry-Level Jobs in Computer Programming

Common entry-level computer programming jobs generally pay a little less than the jobs listed above. However, you are less likely to need an in-person college degree to qualify for one of the following five jobs. If you can demonstrate that you have the requisite skills, that should be enough.

Android Developer

Entry-Level Salary: $72,065

Projected Job Growth: 22%*

Min. Education Required: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, or proof of skills

To develop applications for Android, you are expected to have a comprehensive knowledge of Kotlin, software development kits (SDKs), and Java. You should be able to write and test code and be comfortable with web design. To increase your earning potential, you should also learn Swift, C++, and Agile. Most of this can be learned outside of a university.

SAS Programmer

Entry-Level Salary: $61,609

Projected Job Growth: 22%*

Min. Education Required: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, or proof of skills

To be an SAS programmer, you should have a comprehensive knowledge of data structures and the Statistical Analysis System (SAS). You also need data science and SQL skills. To enhance your employability, you should also be proficient with Linux and Unix.

Mobile Applications Developer

Entry-Level Salary: $60,936

Projected Job Growth: 22%*

Min. Education Required: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, or proof of skills

Mobile applications developers need to know their way around SDKs and mobile operating systems. To put yourself ahead of the pack, you should learn object oriented programming, Apache Cordova, Agile software development, React Native, Kotlin, Node.js, and Xamarin.

You need these skills to be able to write code on all of the relevant platforms. All of this knowledge culminates in developing mobile apps to sell in various app stores online.

Network Engineer

Entry-Level Salary: $59,916

Projected Job Growth: 22%*

Min. Education Required: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, or proof of skills

A network engineer is expected to have extensive knowledge of Cisco networking, switching and routing, and firewall installation. Beyond that, you should be competent with Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), Microsoft Azure, cloud computing, Microsoft Access, Checkpoint, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), and software development in general.

You need these skills to implement and manage an organization’s computer network designs and to develop and update security and firewall software.

Programmer Analyst

Entry-Level Salary: $57,009

Projected Job Growth: 22%*

Min. Education Required: Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, or proof of skills

A programmer analyst is expected to know a considerable amount about SQL, .NET, Java, C#, and Microsoft SQL Server. If you are looking to improve your earning potential in this job, you need to brush up on things like web design, Informatica, ETL, iOS, machine learning, Epicor, and Assembler.

You need these skills to integrate backend database code with the business applications at your organization. Your job will also include writing and debugging the software you have created.

Is a Computer Programming Career for Me?

Yes. While most employers seek computer programmers who have either a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Computer Science, the thing they are most interested in is people who can demonstrate their programming skills.

Anybody can become a computer programmer, provided they put in the time and work required to achieve industry-standard skills. Thanks to online degrees, massive open online courses (MOOCs), and coding bootcamps, these skills are easier than ever to acquire.

Find a training program that will help you start your tech career journey.

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