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What Is Computer Programming, and How Can You Become a Computer Programmer?

A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at CTU will not necessarily lead to the featured careers. This collection of articles is intended to help inform and guide you through the process of determining which level of degree and types of certifications align with your desired career path.

Computer programming is what makes the digital world as we know it today possible. Whenever we browse the internet, send emails, pay for goods and services electronically, or play video games, a computer program is running behind the scenes, making these transactions and interactions work as intended.

What Is Computer Programming?

But what is computer programming? And what is coding? Essentially, computer programming is the process of creating a detailed set of clearly expressed, ordered, sequence of computational instructions necessary to solve a problem or achieve a specific result using a computer.1 That process of creating a set of computational instructions is known as coding or writing code.

Computer programming is closely related to software development, and in some businesses, their functions might overlap.2

What Does a Computer Programmer Do?

Computer programmers write and modify code that makes computer applications or software programs run. Most computer programmers specialize in more than one programming language. Since programmers typically need a bachelor’s degree (usually in computer science or information technology), they often learn computer programming languages in school.2

In addition to writing code, computer programmers also test their code to ensure that the program or application is working as intended2—if not, they tweak the existing code, test and repeat until they achieve the expected result.

Often, software developers and engineers create program designs and submit them to computer programmers who then write code that a computer can follow. But as we mentioned above, what a computer programmer does can depend on where they work. In some organizations, software development and computer programming overlap—which means programmers end up handling program design as well.2

Because computer programming roles involve not only writing code but also testing for and fixing coding errors, aspiring computer programmers should possess analytical skills, communication skills, attention to detail and troubleshooting skills, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Services.2 Multitasking and organizational skills are also important soft skills for a computer programmer to have.

How to Become a Computer Programmer

As discussed, to become a computer programmer, you generally need to earn a computer science or information technology degree—but some employers are open to hiring programmers with other degrees or who have real-life experience in specific programming languages. A computer programming degree program like computer science can help you work to develop foundational skills that make learning new computer languages easier—and it can provide exposure to real-world skills such as writing code, program/software testing and fixing coding errors.2

Is computer programming hard to learn, and is it hard to stay current? While what’s “hard” is different for everyone, if you enjoy being challenged and writing code, then pursuing this career path could be a good fit for you. But to become a computer programmer, you’ll need to do more than just learn programming languages—you’ll have to keep up with changing technology and possibly become certified in certain products. Once you’ve become a programmer and gained experience in the field, advancement opportunities are possible—for example, if you’ve ever wondered how to become a software engineer, working as a computer programmer is one way for you to pursue that goal.2

Types of Programming

Computer programmers should be familiar with the different types of programming language constructs. For example, object-oriented programming is what we call the concept of using “objects” in a program—where an “object” is basically a representation, in code, of a real-world object.3 Dynamically-typed programming is where the interpreter assigns a type to variables at runtime (as opposed to compile time) based on the variable’s value at the time.4 There are other “types” of programming, too—e.g., linear programming, functional programming and procedural programming constructs—and a programming language (such as Java or Python) can involve more than one type.

Computer Programming Languages

What computer programming languages should you learn? This can depend on a few factors. Some programming languages are so common that learning them is essential. Others are more appropriate for certain specialties or sectors. A computer science degree program should offer a mix of mandatory and elective courses to help you work to build a strong foundation in the programming languages that align with your interests and goals. That said, here is a short list of some popular coding languages:

  • HTML: HTML is short for “Hypertext Markup Language.” Although some people question if HTML is a programming language (as opposed to a markup language), the fact is that HTML is one of the most common languages in web design.5
  • JavaScript: JavaScript (not to be confused with Java) is used by nearly all websites and web browsers. Computer programmers of web applications must be fluent in JavaScript.5
  • SQL: SQL, or Structured Query Language, is a database query language used most often by programmers working in database design and management, although all programmers can benefit from knowledge of it5—which is why SQL programming is included as a core course in CTU’s computer science degree program.
  • Python: The Python programming language is a high-level programming language that is interpreted, object-oriented, and built on dynamic semantics. It is used in the IT, engineering, professional services and design sectors.6
  • C++: The C++ programming language is a widely used coding language. Programmers use C++ to create computer programs and packaged software products.7
  • Ruby: Ruby is a completely object-oriented scripting language that is used for simulations, 3D modeling and managing and tracking information. This programming language is commonly used in web app development, computer networking, robotics and system administration and security.8

Did you know that CTU also offers Master of Computer Science and Doctor of Computer Science programs? To learn more about our offerings, explore CTU’s full selection of engineering and computer science degree programs today.

1 The Editors of Encyclopaedia Brittanica, “Computer Program—Definition & Facts,”, (visited 10/21/2022).
2 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Computer Programmers,” at (visited 10/21/2022).
3 Resources for Learning Java,, (visited 10/21/2022).
4 Dynamic Typing, MDN Web Docs Glossary, MDN WebDocs moz://a, (visited 10/26/2022).
5 Computer Programmer,, (visited 10/21/2022).
6 Guide to Programming Languages—Python,, (visited 10/26/2022).
7 Guide to Programming Languages—C++,, (visited 10/21/2022).
8 Guide to Programming Language—Ruby/Ruby on Rails,, (visited 10/5/2021).

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