Career as a computer programmer

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Steven Rice works for a Manchester based company, specialising in building computer applications to help businesses.

Can you describe your career as a computer programmer?

My role is to turn the customer's requirements into working computer applications. I get involved in most areas of the development process, from gathering information about what the customer wants, to speaking to users, writing the application and helping the customer to implement it.

What are your main responsibilities?

I write computer programmes for clients. I write the detailed computer programming code and speak to the people who will eventually use the programme to make sure I'm giving them what they want. I help design the layout of the interface (the screen that users see), so that the final programme is easy to use. I also get involved in testing my application and the applications written by other users to make sure they work properly.

What is your daily/weekly routine?

About 85 per cent of my day is spent designing the database or doing the coding for the application. The rest of my time is taken up with testing the finished application and supporting users as they test it.

What hours do you work?

I usually work 40 hours per week. I can start at any time before 9.30am and go home any time after 4.30pm. Some paid overtime is available. Given the nature of project work, deadlines have to be adhered to so that we give the customer a good service.

What is your working environment like?

I'm mainly based in the office, but I occasionally spend time at a customer's site. I can work from home sometimes, as long as it fits in with what is needed for the project I'm working on.

Who do you work with?

On a day-to-day basis, I work closely with the senior developers and directors. I will often speak to the end-users or their managers. Depending on the size of the project, I may work on my own or in a small team.

What skills are needed for a career as a computer programmer?

You need good people skills, as they help you fit in with the team and communicate well. You also need the basic skills of software development, usually coupled with proficiency in one or more software development languages.

What training have you had?

After my GCSEs, I started off with, believe it or not, an NVQ in Motor Mechanics! I then went on to do courses in advanced web authoring and HTML, before taking a part-time HNC in Computing. This covered computer solutions and platforms, software construction tools, data analysis, system analysis and programming.

What are the main challenges?

It can sometimes be hard to break problems down into manageable chunks. There's also the challenge of delivering the software to deadlines, but it's something I enjoy.

How do you see your future?

I would like to lead a small team, taking responsibility for the full developmental process, from meeting with the client for the first time to implementing the project.

Steven's route to his career as a computer programmer

  • GCSEs.
  • NVQ in Motor Mechanics.
  • Advanced web authoring and HTML courses.
  • Part-time HNC in Computing.

Steven's computer programmer tips

  • This is the job for you if you're a logical thinker with a scientific approach.
  • You also need to be very reliable and able to work well as part of a team.

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Salary of a computer programmer

  • Trainee software developers may start on salaries ranging from £16,000 to £22,000 a year.
  • Experienced developers may earn up to £30,000 a year, or more.
  • Contracting and freelance work can be more highly paid, especially if the developer has specialist skills.

Career as a computer programmer

  • Most software developers have a degree or HNC/HND in a computing-related subject, such as computer science, software developing, electronics or maths.
  • Some people start as trainee programmers, with A levels or equivalent qualifications. It is sometimes possible to start in basic computing work and progress to become a software developer.
  • Useful courses include BTEC national diplomas in subjects such as computer studies or information technology, and SQA modules in information.
  • People with qualifications from software manufacturers, such as Microsoft, Novell and Lotus, are often in demand. These training courses are often expensive, so it is usual for employers to pay for your training in these software packages.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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