It’s difficult for people under 25 to remember life before high-tech computers were a prominent fixture in their routines.
By age 10, they typically played “educational” computer games, albeit usually with time limits imposed by their parents. This was a wise parenting choice; now, American adults spend, on average, 7 hours and 4 minutes glued to a screen.
Still, there are positives to these shocking statistics.
Accessible technology has made the average American more interested in how their technology works. Computer programming is now one of the most popular careers in the country.
There are approximately 152,610 computer programmers employed in the United States. This is unsurprising since the US relies heavily on tech, especially computer systems, to complete everyday tasks.
Recently, a tech boom has incentivized tech careers even more, leading college students to become computer programmers with an impressive number of potential paths available.
There are many different types of computer programmers. Some of them are endangered, and some of them are an invasive species. Let’s break them down one by one and demystify the whole thing for you.
First up is the Front-End Developer
Design and functionality are top priorities for front-end developers. They work hard to ensure their final product is aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly. A front-end dev must thoroughly understand their client’s audience to create a great product.
Front-end programmers are responsible for designing the User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX). Thankfully, tools like frameworks and libraries make a front-end programmer’s job much easier.
Sometimes, you’ll hear people refer to front-end devs as “client-side” since they are responsible for creating the product that the client sees.
Many front-end techs find inspiration for their careers by creating websites at home with HTML and CSS. Watching your idea come to life on a webpage is exciting, making them yearn to know more.
Thus the domino effect begins.
What started off as simple intrigue deepens into a comprehensive understanding of markup languages paired with software development practices. Eventually, the curious front-end programmer grants themselves a robust skillset.
The average front-end programmer makes about $83,000 per year. That’s not bad for someone who started with a cool website idea.
Back-End Developers Make Up the Backbone of the Internet
You cannot have front-end programmers without back-end programmers.
The two often work together, ensuring quality control for the client and creating a cohesive product that runs seamlessly. A front-end developer needs a back-end developer to write essential components.
Back-end programmers make databases, servers, applications, and more. Their mastery of coding languages helps them make these components, ultimately allowing front-end components to function.
They are also responsible for performing routine maintenance checks on their work so it keeps up with ever-changing updates.
People who love collaboration often become back-end programmers. While much of their work is independent, they still spend lots of time communicating with their front-end counterparts.
Analytical thinkers with technical expertise make excellent back-end programmers.
The amount back-end programmers make annually varies based on their experience level, but they can expect to start at about $61,000 annually.
Full-Stack Devs Are the “Do-it-all” Types
No, not a stack of pancakes.
Full-stack developers are the best of both worlds.
They combine front-end and back-end programmers’ skills, responsibilities, and knowledge.
Full-stack programmers make prototypes quickly, assist other team members, and reduce the cost of projects for companies. Being a full-stack developer is a complex career that changes form over time. No one project will look the same for a full-stack developer.
If you’d describe yourself as a “Jack of All Trades,” you should consider pursuing a career as a full-stack programmer. You’ll never be bored in this career; your skills will always be needed since you have a knack for both front-end and back-end services.
Sometimes, small startups like game development companies hire full-stack programmers. They likely already have a small team, but having one person for front and back-end duties helps with their modest budgets while getting off the ground.
Most people don’t need more than an Associate’s Degree to begin a career as a full-stack programmer. However, it will generally take more time to cultivate the skills and knowledge necessary rather than following the path of a front-end or back-end developer.
Full-stack programmers tend to make about $73,000 annually.
Embedded Programmers are the Endangered Species
Embedded software is a complex first layer of code on a device.
This software is so common that it can be found within household appliances like toasters. If your device features any underlying software to function properly, it likely has embedded software.
If you ever owned a GameBoy handheld system in your childhood, odds are an embedded programmer developed the internal mechanisms that allowed your GameBoy to operate.
Yes, you wouldn’t have been able to catch any original Pokemon without an embedded programmer’s expertise.
They also are responsible for creating software for larger things, like cars. With the evolution of cars leading to the conception of electric vehicles like Teslas, embedded programmers are even more important.
The software embedded programmers create is likely to only grow more complex with the passage of time.
Needless to say, embedded programmers make an impressive approximately $102,000 annually.
Database Devs Deal With Data
But their job is actually a lot more than that. Database programmers construct programs with complex code.
Their vast knowledge of markup code allows them to not only design and implement their new database systems but perform regular, routine maintenance to constantly exceed client expectations. But, code is not the biggest part of their job.
These programmers need expert collaboration skills. They consistently communicate with clients, developing a thorough understanding of their data storage and analysis needs.
Typically, businesses use databases from industry-leading brands like IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle.
Sometimes, companies request a database programmer to create a new system unique to their brand. More often, brands will use commercial databases from big-name tech companies.
Database developers are expected to keep up with the big-name tech companies’ database updates. They change frequently, and a database programmer must thoroughly understand the latest products, renewals, and system updates.
It’s a vigorous job with extensive demands, but it’s fulfilling knowing you’re helping keep a large data network safe, secure, and running smoothly.
A database programmer makes around $120,000 annually. But keep in mind that this field is pretty diverse. You have data scientists, data analysts, and data staticians–the career titles go on and on. You get the idea.
What about the Web Developer?
“If you think math is hard, try web design.”Trish Parr
Put simply, web developers are responsible for writing a website’s code.
Most high schools offer basic courses where students learn HTML fundamentals. Sometimes, these classes are even required electives for graduation. Computer programming and web design careers are so lucrative that they have made their way into grade school education.
Web developers also have a basic understanding of graphic design to ensure their websites look amazing. The current industry standard for website visuals is astronomically high, largely due to the accessibility of resources people have to create stunning graphics.
While important, functionality takes precedence over visuals regarding web developers’ priorities. Their ultimate goal is to create a seamless, easy user experience for each new website visitor.
You have approximately 10 seconds to capture a website visitor’s attention.
If the website is laggy or looks “unprofessional,” a visitor will leave and never return. Expert web developers work hard to create fast websites that are aesthetically pleasing.
On average, a web developer makes approximately $77,000 annually.
Web Developer vs. Computer Programmer
Many people find themselves confused by the differences between web developers and computer programmers.
That’s understandable; the job descriptions look similar, especially if you do not understand the career paths. Web development and programming, or “software engineering,” if you want to sound fancy, certainly share many similarities.
Still, the differences are palpable.
Most web developers do not deal with the complexities of computer programmers’ software. Typically, they focus on writing and implementing code to create a fully-functional, aesthetically pleasing website.
Web developers and computer programmers may collaborate on projects, though. The two careers do overlap, just not in the way that most people would assume.
If you’re trying to decide whether you want to be a web developer or computer programmer, it all comes down to personal preference.
So many resources are available that can get you started in the field quickly, but it depends on your overall goals.
For example, you can become a self-taught web developer through free online course within a year. To be a certified computer programmer, you’d need to obtain an Associate’s Degree, or any one of the numerous tech certifications.
Either way careers as a web developer or computer programmer can be incredibly fulfilling and lucrative to pursue.
Choosing What Type Of Computer Programmer To Be
Nobody can tell you what type of computer programmer you should be.
Seriously, nobody–not even your parents. They certainly will try, though.
Like anything else, deciding what kind of computer programmer you want to become takes a long time. Many change majors and career paths multiple times before making a concrete, “final” decision.
And even then, they may change their mind depending on where their life takes them.
Your best bet is practicing your craft as much as possible and finding what sticks for you. After some time, you may find that you don’t need to put much thought in your decision at all. It may become as natural as getting out of bed every morning.
It’s important that you study the different types of computer programmers without getting too caught up in decision-making right away.
Establishing A Community
Working with other aspiring computer programmers will also help you make a decision regarding which path you’ll take.
There are several online and offline communities with like-minded people from across the world who all share similar goals.
You can even choose to find a mentor through these communities. Mentors can help you learn computer programming basics, but they can also guide you as you choose the type of programmer that you want to be.
Collaboration in the early stages of your career has long-term benefits. Even in work-from-home positions, computer programmers always collaborate with others on their projects. Their collaborators could include colleagues, such as other computer programmers or clients.
Building a network of computer programmers and web developers is strongly recommended as you navigate the field, generally. There is strength in numbers!
How much does a computer programmer make per year?
The amount a computer programmer makes annually varies based on their location and the type of computer programming that they do. But, a computer programmer in the US can expect to make an average of $93,000 annually.
How long does it take to become a computer programmer?
Typically, you can expect to master a coding language within a year with regular practice. A computer programmer will normally be expected to have at least an Associate’s Degree from a reputable institution. Associate’s programs take two years to complete. If you’re looking to make the highest possible salary as a computer programmer, you’d need a Bachelor’s degree, which takes about 4 years to complete. So, it would take between 1 and 4 years to become a computer programmer.
Is it hard to become a computer programmer?
Yes, and no. Computer programming is a complex field to get into, and it can be very challenging for beginners. There are many concepts that might seem frustrating while you’re still learning. Plus, traditional higher education will take at least 2 years to complete before you start to make any real money. However, computer programming is one of the most fulfilling career paths to take if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. Technological advancements have made learning resources more accessible, too, ultimately drawing more people to become computer programmers.
Can I become a computer programmer without a degree?
Technically, yes. Many high-paying jobs don’t have formal education requirements. However, most big-name companies will expect at least an Associate’s Degree before they hire you. A hybrid option of self-taught and formal education is recommended for long-term success.
Do computer programmers work from home?
Sometimes! There are many work-from-home options for computer programming jobs. Working from home became increasingly popular after COVID-19, with many businesses switching to hybrid or remote work even after everything opened back up. You can change the filter settings on job search engines like Indeed to exclusively show work-from-home computer programming jobs.
Should I be a web developer or a computer programmer?
That depends on what your goals are. Some people even start off as web developers and further establish their skills to the point where they transition to computer programming. It all depends on what you want long-term. It is important to consider the fact that it takes much longer to become a computer programmer than a web developer.