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5 traits of a great computer programmer

Friendly female programmer at her desk with two monitors

By University of Phoenix

At a glance

  • Computer programmers* write scripts for software programs and applications, test designs and ensure computers can understand code.
  • As a computer programmer, it’s important to be detail oriented and have good analytical, communication and problem-solving skills.
  • To become a computer programmer, individuals typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer science and information technology.
  • Explore information technology and computer science programs, as well as IT certificates, at University of Phoenix.

Computer programmers write code (also known as scripts) for a variety of software programs and applications. They test designs created by software developers and software engineers and ensure that computers can read and process the code.

Specialists in the computer programming field might work in a variety of environments, although many work in offices where they have access to their organization’s computers and network systems. 

Prepare for an IT career — and have the freedom to learn when you want online, 24/7/365. 

What are the qualities of a good programmer?

Programming can be a demanding job. Programmers are responsible for their company’s computer operations, including coding, debugging and system testing. Several qualities, including attention to detail, analytical skills, good communication and problem-solving skills, can help programmers succeed at work.

1. Attention to detail

When building a new software program or application, programmers often need to comb through large amounts of code. Attention to detail is also important to programmers when fixing errors. If you’re troubleshooting a complicated system, it’s important to take your time and pay attention to detail. You’ll also need to practice discipline to make sure you get each line of code correct.

Attention to detail complements other skills like time management and project management, which can help you stand out as a productive programmer. Whether working for a startup or a larger, established organization, you will need to be able to effectively track and complete your work under a deadline.

2. Collaboration and communication

As a computer programmer, you will often work with others as part of a larger IT team. Programmers must be able to collaborate effectively so they can handle larger projects and finish tasks efficiently. This also requires clear communication.

Collaboration and communication among programmers and IT departments are also important for long-term career goals. Many employers prefer employees who work well with others, particularly when collaboration is necessary for company success.

3. Persistence and problem-solving skills

When troubleshooting a device or a network issue, you'll often try multiple solutions before you find one that works. Mistakes can also crop up, resulting in programs that don’t work (or don’t work as well as you’d like). In these situations, you'll benefit from persistence and problem-solving skills. Often, creativity is needed as well.

4. Curiosity and analytical skills

In a programmer role, curiosity and analytical skills can help you develop more effective solutions as you ask questions about why certain programs operate the way they do.

Curiosity and analytical skills are also important when seeking answers to difficult problems. You’ll encounter a wide range of bugs as a computer programmer. In these moments, curiosity will drive your desire to solve problems and return a program to full efficiency.

5. Ability to learn quickly

The ability to learn quickly — and retain new concepts after you learn them — can make a big difference in an IT environment.

Computer programmers work with a wide range of technologies, including many different programs, platforms and devices. As these items change, you’ll need the ability to learn new features quickly and accurately. When the needs of a client or an employer change, you’ll be able to adapt by learning how best to serve their new demands.

How to become a computer programmer

To become a computer programmer, individuals typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer science and information technology (IT) or a related field. Your preferred technology degree will depend on your specific interests and desired career in tech.

However, in some cases, employers may hire individuals who have other degrees, have experience in specific programs and programming languages, or have interned in their field. It’s also possible to become certified in particular programming languages if you aim to work for a specific employer that you know requires a specific set of skills.

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What skills do you need to be a computer programmer?

Computer programmers depend on a wide variety of skills each day at work. Depending on your role, your abilities will likely include a blend of technical and communication skills. You will likely work together with other members of an IT team to fulfill important programming tasks.

Here are some of the skills you might need as a computer programmer:

  • Time management — Dividing time efficiently among different activities in a work environment.
  • Mastery of programming languages —Specializing in at least one type of the most in-demand programming languages for application development.
  • Debugging — Identifying and removing problems within a computer program or an individual line of code.
  • Problem-solving — Finding solutions to sometimes complicated problems, particularly when those problems make software programs less effective or inefficient.
  • Organization — Completing tasks efficiently to manage time, energy, funds and other resources in ways that help you meet or exceed expectations.
  • Math proficiency — Applying mathematical concepts, algorithms, formulas or other strategies to solve complicated problems.

Programmers will rely on these hard and soft skills to help their employers build programs and solve problems every day.

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What jobs can you get as a computer programmer?

With a combination of skills and experience, you may better qualify for many different jobs as a computer programmer. Each of these careers involves a slightly different career path.

Software developer

Software developers create computer programs for a wide variety of applications. As a software developer, you’ll depend on skills in UX, programming and systems analysis while building programs for specific users.

You’ll typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering or a related field to become a software developer. You’ll also need to learn at least one programming language, depending on what an employer requires. Many employers today want software developers to have experience in Python, C and JavaScript.

Web developer*

Web developers create and maintain websites. They’re also in charge of most technical aspects of a site such as performance and traffic, and they manage user interface and usability.

Web developers usually depend on an in-depth understanding of HTML and JavaScript as they build websites for clients or employers. As a web developer, you’ll likely need to develop an understanding of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) — a language developers use to describe a website’s style and presentation.

Application developer

Application developers are responsible for building, testing and optimizing applications people use on mobile phones, computers and tablets.

You’ll need skills in user interfaces, programming and device logic to become an application developer. You’ll also need some form of education, though that education can differ based on your career goals. Some application developers complete an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree. Other developers opt for more accelerated education through a bootcamp or a certification program.

Computer systems engineer*

Computer systems engineers spend much of their time building and testing personal devices. You’ll build and optimize computers, tablets, phones and other technology used in the workplace. In fields like education and healthcare, computer systems engineers might also spend time developing specialized devices.

Aspiring computer systems engineers need an in-depth understanding of back-end and front-end computing as well as skills in common programming languages and software and hardware.

*University of Phoenix does not offer a program that guarantees alignment with career requirements for this role. However, if you’re interested in computer science or information technology there are several online program options to consider!

Computer science and IT programs at University of Phoenix

If you’re interested in pursuing a job in information technology or learning more about computer science, University of Phoenix offers online degrees and certificates in the following fields of study. 

  • Advanced Software Developer Certificate — Learn to design and implement software solutions in relation to project scope and stakeholder needs. Study multiple programming languages and software architecture principles while earning this certificate.
  • Associate of Arts in Information Technology — This program introduces you to information technology concepts and principles in programming, data analytics, cybersecurity and networking. Learn the essential foundation of technical skills for the IT field.
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science — This degree program teaches you how to apply information technology theory and principles to real-world business challenges. Advanced concepts in math, programming and computer architecture are covered.
  • Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity — This program teaches top skills such as security policies, network security, information systems security and cybersecurity.
  • Bachelor of Science in Data Science — Gain fundamental skills and knowledge to analyze, manipulate and process data sets using statistical software. Learn ETL (extract, transform, load) processes for integrating data sets for business intelligence and more.
  • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology — This program is designed to teach top skills such as business process, cybersecurity, information systems, operations and systems analysis.
  • Master of Information Systems — Go beyond building computers and managing your queues. Learn technical and leadership skills necessary for developing and managing information systems.



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