Who is a programmer?

A programmer is a specialist who writes and tests code for software. A more general term is a computer scientist, but still the term "programmer" can be used to refer to a software developer, software engineer, computer specialist, software analyst, etc.
The responsibilities of a programmer usually include: developing software and applications using various computer languages ​​(such as C++, Java, Python etc.), creating and improving operating systems (iOS, Android, Windows, Linux), developing websites, updating and expanding existing software, checking programs for bugs and fixing corrupt lines of computer code, creating and testing code in an integrated development environment (IDE), maintenance, network architecture.
When looking for a job, you can find vacancies by languages ​​that programmers work with (C++ programmer, Java programmer, PHP programmer), by type of task (web-programmer, front-end / back-end developer), and by the level of experience/position (intern, junior, medium, senior).
Programmer's salary
Country/regionMin. Salary/yearAvg. salary/yearFront-end developerGame developerSoftware engineer
USA70,500 USD86,800 USD76,000 USD86,200 USD82,000 USD
UK43,704 USD94,899 USD79,915 USD91,708 USD85,326 USD
Australia37,702 USD52,321 USD60,553 USD61,554 USD63,092 USD
Canada42,549 USD92,189 USD75,642 USD85,097 USD83,521 USD
Germany40,739 USD50,087 USD45,186 USD45,186 USD44,469 USD
France44,110 USD 55,347 USD 47,816 USD52,000 USD52,000 USD
Russia4,823 USD 9,091 USD 12,862 USD9,647 USD6,431 USD
Czech127,278 USD319,942 USD 29,443 USD32,557 USD30,863 USD
China 26,440 USD37,104 USD45,214 USD47,252 USD47,252 USD
Singapore32,806 USD 71,258 USD 58,620 USD66,149 USD64,536 USD
Data in this chart is a rough approximation

Advantages of the profession

  • Creative space and tangible results. The ability to write code opens an endless field of possibilities. Programmers create applications and programs and automate various tasks. They simplify and speed up processes for users, solve almost any problem, and subsequently make life easier for people. The programmer can create something of their own, thereby helping others.
  • Remote work. Since a programmer only needs a computer to work, such specialists are usually not tied to a specific location. The Internet connects it with other users and the cloud storage databases. It should be noted, however, that remote work does not suit all workers and employers.
  • Continuous development. Technology is changing rapidly. IT also does not stand still, for example, new programming languages ​​appear. For IT professionals, there is a large selection of courses and programs dedicated to specific topics and innovations or advanced training. However, there is a downside to this. Programmers are forced to learn something new every day and keep up with the times, otherwise, there is a risk of becoming a non-demanded specialist with outdated knowledge.
  • High salaries. Programmers are in demand in many countries[0], and therefore their work is highly paid. For example, the salary for the entry-level position in the USA can be as high as 5,875 USD/month.

Disadvantages of the profession

  • Impact on health. All day programmers work indoors in front of the computer. For hours in a row, they knock on their keyboard, click mouse buttons, and stare at the screen. Such motionless work can lead to muscle and bone pains, eye strain, and subsequently to other chronic diseases. An ergonomic chair, wrist cushions, and regular exercise throughout the day can help mitigate some of the negative health side effects, but offsetting all the risks associated with sedentary work is difficult.
  • Exhausting work. Programmers are constantly engaged in mental work, and in their free time, they are forced to learn new things. Also, IT specialists often crunch a lot. A software engineer Edward Yourdon even came up with the concept of ‘Death March’. The term refers to a project that is too complex, doomed to failure, or requiring the doubling of work hours to complete it. For example, a 40-hour week becomes an 80-hour week. Such workloads can last for weeks or even months, which cannot but affect the personal life, the physical and mental health of the programmer.
  • High competition. With all the advantages of a job, namely high salaries and demand, many are striving to get it. What makes the competition even more fierce is the remote work format and globalized world. Programmers from developing countries work just as well, sometimes even better than local specialists, and their work is often cheaper, which attracts many employers.

IT specializations

There are a lot of specializations in IT. When choosing a direction follow your interests, since each specialization has its own characteristics. For example, if you like applied design, then robotics is suitable for studying, but if you fancy computational problems, then fundamental informatics is your choice. Popular areas in universities are Computer Science and Software Engineering. Computer science is a general and diverse field of study that has various branches (artificial intelligence, computer systems and networks, security). Also, such specialization as Data Science is gaining momentum. It implies work with statistics and mathematics[1].
Among the promising areas for the future are computer security and artificial intelligence.
  • Cybersecurity. With the introduction of technology in all spheres of human life: from buying groceries to managing the state, more and more hackers and cyber terrorists appear. They harm both individuals and government agencies and large companies. Therefore, in the modern world, data protection is not a luxury, but a vital necessity. To defend against cyberattacks and security breaches, leading organizations are willing to pay big sums to cyber analysts. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that cybersecurity jobs will grow 28% from 2016 to 2026 — much faster when compared to the average growth of the other professions.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the most controversial and intriguing areas in computer science. AI is still in its early stages of development, but tech giants like Facebook, Google, and IBM are already investing huge amounts of money and resources into AI research. The global robotics industry is expected to be worth 80 billion USD by 2024[2]. The field of study is promising and could completely change the world. However, artificial intelligence has both benefits and potential risks. Apart from the doomsday scenario, AI, for example, can optimize tasks and reduce human error, but at the same time lead to the automatization of labor, and therefore to the disappearance of jobs.
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How to become a programmer?

You don’t necessarily need an education to become a programmer, especially when you consider the fact that the IT sphere is developing at the speed of light and traditional universities and colleges struggle to keep up with the innovations of science. However, experienced specialists still insist on obtaining higher or at least secondary vocational education. It will take much more time and effort to master the IT field on your own than in a university that already has a developed curriculum, a training system, incentives in the form of grades and mentors who know their subject. If, after all, your choice is a self-study, then you need to be patient and persistent. It is important to read professional literature, attend courses, and practice a lot. However, one should not hope for high engineering and research positions — they require higher education. After school or college, it is quite possible to start from the position of a simple developer, keep learning, and subsequently become a good specialist.

Secondary vocational education in programming

Studying in colleges has the following advantages:
  • You can enter after the 9th grade;
  • The term of study is usually shorter (3-4 years) and cheaper than at universities.
Specialties in colleges are different, for example, computer networks, network and system administration, information systems, and programming. The admission happens on a competition basis. Students are trained during their studies and after graduation can immediately find a job. Further, much depends on the specialist himself: continuous self-education will provide a professional with good job offers and high earnings.

Depending on the country of study you can have a variety of options when it comes to vocational education. For example, community colleges in the US have programs in computer science, data management, and more, as well as short courses. After graduating from a college in the United States, you can go to university to obtain a bachelor's degree or start working. TAFE colleges in Australia offer many different IT programs. For example, website/software development, digital media technology, web technology, information networking technology, programming. Generally, post-college qualifications are a certificate and an associate's degree. Similar programs can be found in vocational schools and institutes in Germany and France.

University studies for a programmer

Universities provide students with a better knowledge base than colleges. University programs are more extensive, and the number of experienced teachers in universities is greater. Programs offered by universities are applied mathematics, computer science, fundamental computer science and information technology, computer science and computing, applied computer science, software engineering.

The subjects taught are, as a rule, the following: the basics of programming, computer networks, computer graphics, programming languages, information theory and machine learning, mathematical analysis, algebra and geometry, software engineering, intelligent systems, modern information systems, etc. Also, students undergo practical training during their studies.

Requirements for admission to IT programs

Admission requirements may vary depending on the country, university, and a program. Usually, the following is required:

More details

IT programs of the top world universities in 2020

1Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)55,450 USDUSA
2Stanford University 73,964 USDUSA
3Carnegie Mellon University50,976 USDUSA
4University of California, Berkeley14,254 USDUSA
5University of Oxford30000 GBPUK
6University of Cambridge 46,929 USDGreat Britain
7Harvard University49,653 USDUSA
8Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne (EPFL)1560 CHFSwitzerland
9Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ)1320 CHFSwitzerland
10University of Toronto44,928 USDCanada
All data must be verified at universities.

What qualities does a programmer need?

Programming is suitable for people who enjoy finding solutions to problems. This is probably the key element of IT. Here, a specialist needs a share of creativity, an extraordinary mind, and a desire to constantly learn. Patience and perseverance in the face of difficulties, when the code does not work or you need to find a small bug, will not hurt. Future programmers should also have good analytical skills and developed logic.
At school, those wishing to become an IT specialist should pay attention to computer science, logic, mathematics, physics, and English. However, this is not set in stone, because, for example, knowledge of mathematics is not required for simple problems. However, for full growth and success in the profession you will need mathematics as it can direct the thinking to the right track.

This profession is characterized by a high concentration on one problem at a time and long-term mental activity, therefore restlessness and absent-mindedness can become an obstacle in becoming a good programmer. In addition to technical skills that will be taught in universities and colleges, an IT specialist additionally will need soft skills like quick reading and understanding of written instructions, problem identification, independence, curiosity, critical thinking, listening skills (for teamwork), and attention to detail.

Tip: start coding and practice as early as possible in order to understand whether this profession is right for you or not.
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Where do programmers work?

Programmers can work in any industry that uses applications, software, sites, and the Internet. Many seek to get into large tech companies, for example, Google, Apple, Samsung, Yandex, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook.
Most IT professionals work in a traditional office. However, their work can often be done remotely, which is why some employers allow their programmers to work from home.

There is a possibility that in the future quantum computers will replace the current — binary ones. If binary computers operate with bits, then quantum ones operate with qubits. They are much more powerful and more complex than those familiar to the average PC. The capabilities of a quantum computer could open up entirely new areas of study and work. However, such computers are still at an early stage of development and do not have well-established programming languages[3].
In many developing countries, programmers tend to go to work abroad. This is largely due to low salaries, a stagnant corporate culture, and limited free space, namely, the unwillingness to create something new and adherence to familiar techniques. Programming is a promising and growing industry in which the field for discovery and innovation is endless. However, not all companies create favorable and comfortable conditions for employees, as a result of which they not only lose talented personnel and stop improving their product but also impede the development of the industry in the country as a whole.

Famous programmers

Dorian Nakamoto — one of the suspects. Denies any connection to BitcoinSatoshi Nakamoto is a mysterious figure in the programming world. It is still unknown who is hiding under this name: a person or a group of people. It is only known that Nakamoto wrote the Bitcoin White Paper and created the first blockchain database. Nakamoto was also the first to solve the double-spending problem for digital currency with a peer-to-peer network. The mysterious programmer was actively involved in bitcoin development until mid-2010, but no longer works on it.
There are various theories about who Nakamoto is or was. Experts find Easter eggs in his messages and study Nakamoto's speech from a linguistic point of view to understand if the developer is Japanese or not, but they still cannot come to a definitive answer. What is clear is that Nakamoto has forever influenced financial transactions, and bitcoin itself continues to be the world's leading digital currency.
Ada LovelaceAda Lovelace is an English mathematician, writer, and the world's first computer programmer. The daughter of the famous poet Byron was born in 1815 in London. Lovelace created a description of a computing machine and wrote the world's first program. The "mother of all programmers" coined terms like "loop" and "work cell". She was many years ahead of her time and had a huge impact on the history of computers.
 Evelyn Boyd GranvilleEvelyn Boyd Granville was the second African American to earn a PhD in mathematics from the American University. She later also received her PhD from Yale University in 1949. Granville began her career as a teaching position at Fisk University, and then joined the American Space Technology Laboratories, where she assisted in US space missions, studying rocket trajectories and orbit calculations. While working at IBM she developed software that analyzed satellite orbits for NASA programs. In 1967 she returned to teaching and kept pushing the interest of women studying technology for the rest of her career.
Profession Programmer — Facts
Duration of study
  • Bachelor's degree — 4 years
  • Master's degree — 2 years
  • PhD — 4-5 years
Avg. tuition fees
  • Bachelor's degree — 25,000 USD
  • Master's degree — 20,000 USD
Average salary, worldwide55,000 USD/year
Prestigious awards
  • Turing award
  • InfoWorld Technology of the Year Awards
  • NCWIT Awards
Professional holidaySeptember 13 (leap year — September 12)
Related specialties Project manager, QA tester, web designer, computer linguist, analyst, Flash animator, HTML layout designer.