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A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Become a Successful Programmer

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Are you a tech enthusiast who often thinks about how the internet works? Well, you must already know that you can check email or scroll social media because of the hours of programming by a computer programmer. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), there were 174,400 computer programmer positions in 2021, which is only set to rise. If you are interested in learning how to become a programmer, here’s a user-friendly guide. 

What is Computer Programming?

It is the process of communicating with a computer by giving it instructions on what operations to perform. These instructions can be executed through different types of programming languages. The most popular programming languages are JavaScript, Python, and HTML. 

What Does a Programmer do?

Their job is to prepare, test, and run a set of instructions in the form of code to ensure that the system functions properly. They work closely with software developers by converting their designs into instructions that a computer can interpret and execute. 

How to Become a Computer Programmer? 

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to become a programmer. 

Step 1: Choose a Specialization and Path

Specializations fall under three categories. 

Front-End Development

A front-end developer works on developing graphical user interfaces like buttons and links that are visible on the user end. They are usually experts in CSS, HTML, and JavaScript. 

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Back-End Development 

Back-end developers work on the server side that helps power actions on the website. This involves managing database interactions, website speed, and library creation. They must know programming languages like Java and Python. 

Full-Stack Development 

A full-stack developer has expertise in both front-end and back-end development. They are creative, tech-savvy, and graphically inclined. They should know programming languages like SQL, AngularJS, CSS, and Polymer among others. 

Step 2: Learn Programming Languages

The most popular way to learn programming languages is to get a degree or certification in computer science. You can also learn programming languages through online courses, bootcamps, and online classes. 

Step 3: Develop Hard and Soft Skills

A good computer programmer has a flair for both technical and soft skills. They must have strong communication skills, problem-solving, and adaptability skills as well as understand data structures, source control, and algorithms.

Step 4: Create a Portfolio

A strong portfolio will enhance your employability. You can contribute to open-source projects, use relevant college projects or add work that you may have curated on your own to showcase your skills. 

Step 5: Connect with Others in the Industry

Once you are clear about your specialization, seek guidance from industry experts or experienced programmers, or find a mentor. 

Step 6: Look for Internships

A tech internship is a great way to expand your skills and become a competent computer programmer. 

Is Programming a Good Career?

About 9,600 openings for computer programmers have been projected annually on average, according to BLS. It is also among the most flexible fields where you can choose to work full-time or remotely. Many specialized roles in software, web, and mobile development heavily rely on programmers which is why it continues to be an in-demand career path. 

Do You Need a Degree to Be a Programmer?

Those with a degree in computer science or any related field are likely to have an advantage but it is not mandatory to have a degree for a successful programming career.  You can explore online coding courses too. Many self-taught programming professionals have managed to create a niche for themselves. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How Long Does it Take to Become a Computer Programmer?

If you choose the non-degree route, you can become a programmer in as little as three to six months. However, a conventional bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete. 

2. What Specific Programming Language Should I Focus On?

If you need help deciding on what coding language to learn, it can be helpful to first think about what type of career you want in coding. Consider learning JavaScript and Python first, since they are the most in-demand programming languages. 

3. Can I Teach Myself to Be a Programmer?

Yes, you can learn how to become a programmer through online resources and tutorials. In fact, according to a survey by the Washington Post, nearly 69% of developers were totally or partially self-taught, whereas 13% were entirely self-taught. 

This article appeared in Emeritus (

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