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What is Computer Programming?

By DeVry University

The information presented here is true and accurate as of the date of publication. DeVry’s programmatic offerings and their accreditations are subject to change. Please refer to the current academic catalog for details.


February 23, 2024

9 min read


In today’s interconnected Internet of Things (IoT) world, we’ve come to rely on technology for many things in our daily routines, from working, shopping, socializing, navigating, investing and just about anything else you can think of. Tasks that once could only be performed on a desktop computer are now being done effortlessly on a variety of mobile devices, with a remarkable ability to share images and data in real time. We can thank computer programming and the tech innovators who were bold enough to ask “what if” when it comes to making all this a reality, and as they think up and develop the next batch of innovations. 


But what is computer programming? In this article, we will make a detailed examination of the discipline, discussing what computer programmers do, the job outlook in this corner of tech, some of the skills required to be a computer programmer and how to go about preparing to pursue a career in computer programming. We have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get started.

Computer Programming: What is it?

The world runs on computers, and the computers run on programs. For computers to be useful in doing the work we humans demand, they need to be programmed. Computer programming is the process of writing instructions for a device or system to perform certain tasks or solve problems. The task at hand could be as simple as creating a web page, or as complex as writing an entirely new software program.

Computer programming is a broad information technology discipline involving programming on the front end (the type of programming that is user-facing) and the back end (programming that is not seen by the user but is essential for doing things like pulling information, implementing security procedures or backing up memory) for applications, databases and systems.

What Do Programmers Do?

Using a variety of programming (or coding) languages, computer programmers write the code that make applications function. Programmers work closely with software engineers and developers who create plans for the applications. Their work is a continuous process of developing, testing and fixing programs so they work as intended. When they are written well, computer programs function quickly and efficiently. Some programmers specialize in certain types of applications, such as those designed to run on mobile devices or in the realm of software as a service (SaaS).

What is computer programming in relation to software development, and how is the computer programmer’s job different from a software developer’s? The roles are certainly interrelated, but there are some important differences. Both IT professionals write, test and debug code, but the software developer has a broader scope of responsibility that involves understanding the user’s needs, determining how an application can meet those needs and functioning as a project manager to steer the project through various critical development stages. A developer also typically only works on the design and planning phases of a project. While sometimes these titles may be used interchangeably, the specific responsibilities for both roles may vary depending on the size of the organization they work for, its size, and the scope and complexity of the projects they undertake.

Computer Programming Technical Skills

To be effective in their careers and perform the tasks demanded of them, computer programmers need a medley of skills:

Programming languages

Coding is the primary task of programmers, so they should be proficient in several different programming languages, including Python, JavaScript and C++, and understand how and when to use each of them.

Software development

Programmers play an important technical role in software development, so it’s important for them to have a complete understanding of the development process, which involves identifying, designing and implementing software requirements.

Data structures and algorithms

Computer programmers need to be familiar with the use of algorithms to search, organize and retrieve information in data structures, formats for organizing, processing, retrieving and storing data for efficient access.


Programmers may write, test and implement code for new databases. They routinely use programming languages to coordinate, maintain and update information in databases like Oracle and MySQL.

Computer Programming Soft skills

The programmer’s toolbox must also contain a set of essential soft skills, which are also called workplace skills, that enable them to collaborate with team members and perform various non-technical tasks.


Strong communication skills enable computer programmers to collaborate effectively with team members, explain technical concepts or conditions to stakeholders and colleagues, and communicate in jargon-free terms that make the technical stuff understandable for people with non-technical backgrounds.

Multitasking and organization

Multitasking and organizational skills go hand-in-hand, enabling programmers to work on multiple projects concurrently, solve problems as they arise, keep it all organized and manage project resources.

Attention to detail

Programmers must also maintain a highly focused attention to detail as they write accurate and usable code, avoiding the mistakes that can make projects fall behind schedule and go over budget.

Computer Programming Degree Options

Here at DeVry and our Keller Graduate School of Management, we offer an array of certificate and degree programs related to computer programming and software development. If you’re preparing to pursue a career that involves computer programming, it’s important to know your options. Whether you’re preparing to pursue your first job or hoping to pursue a mid-level or management role, you can tailor your educational experience by choosing the program and specialization that best aligns with your career goals.

At the undergraduate level, our certificate and degree programs are a great example of the variety we offer. Our online Undergraduate Certificate in Programming Essentials can provide exposure to essential coding concepts and help you learn how to write code and create applications using programming languages like Python. This certificate program can also help prepare you to pursue relevant certifications like CompTIA Linux+, CompTIA IT Fundamentals and the PCEP™ Certified Entry-Level Python Programmer certification.

When you enroll in our Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Information Systems, you can add to your degree to match your education to your career goals and interests by choosing one of 7 different degree specializations: Computer Forensics, Software Programming, Cyber Security Programming, Web Development and Administration, Database Management, Web Game Programming and Information Systems Security.

At the graduate level, prepare to pursue IT management roles with our Master’s Degree in Information Systems Management with the options to specialize in Data Administration and Management, Information Security or Project Management.1 In our Master’s Degree in Information Technology Management program, you can choose an emphasis on either Data Administration and Management or Information Security.

How to Become a Computer Programmer

As in any other career path, it’s important to begin your journey with a step-by-step plan that starts with practical goal setting. Everyone’s journey is a bit different, but these steps can serve as a general guideline for milestones you may hit along the way:

Identify your career goals

In the goal setting stage of your journey, it’s helpful to learn all you can about various computer programming roles and find a few that spark your interest. Take a look at online job listings to find roles you’re interested in and read the descriptions. Pay attention to the details that are listed like education, industry certifications, technical skills and other competencies and plan your education and professional development so that you can start working toward meeting those requirements.

Pursue your education

At this foundational stage of your journey, you will choose the certificate or degree program that best fits the career goals you’ve laid out. As we discussed in the previous section, DeVry offers a range of programs and specializations that can help you align your education with your ambitions. Although every employer will have different hiring requirements, the Bureau of labor Statistics (BLS) states that computer programmers typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer and information technology or a related field, but some employers may hire workers with other degrees or those with experience in specific programming languages. It’s also possible to gain experience through an internship.

Our DeVry admissions team can help you determine the best educational path for you based on your career goals and walk you through our admissions process. As a DeVry student, a variety of support services and resources like academic advising, financial assistance and career services are designed to help you succeed.

Familiarize yourself with programming languages

As a programmer, you will be expected to be proficient in several coding languages, and to know which language is the most suitable for the functionality of the application you’re helping to develop. Widely used programming languages like Python, C#, SQL, JavaScript and HTML each have their place in programming, in applications that include data analysis, scientific research, web-based development, games and mobile apps, desktop and browser-based applications, and communicating with databases.

Find an entry-level position

As you near completion of your undergraduate education, you should be doing several things to secure an entry-level position.

To put your best foot forward and gain the attention of recruiters and hiring managers, be sure to develop a strong resume, and consider building an online portfolio that showcases your programming skills.

During this time, you should also pursue entry-level tech certifications like CompTIA IT Fundamentals and CompTIA Linux+ to verify your skills in basic information technology and the Linux operating system, which is a favorite of programmers.

Expand your skill set and grow your career

The learning doesn’t stop after you’ve completed your education and landed your first job in computer programming. The rapid pace of technological advancements will require you to stay up to date with industry trends, best practices and new technologies. If you’ve earned certifications, you may have to make a commitment to the continuing education requirements for those credentials and periodically recertify. You also may want to acquire new certifications to qualify for new roles as you move along in your career. By continually learning, expanding your skills and following industry trends, you’ll be positioning yourself for potential career advancement and contributing to the development and effectiveness of any organization you work for.

Explore Computer Programming at DeVry

If you’re interested in joining the IT professionals who are programming the next generation of applications and systems, DeVry can help you take the first step on your path. With a range of IT and programming-focused technology certificates and degrees, we can help you develop many of the skills required to prepare to pursue a number of careers in this industry.

Even if you have no prior IT industry experience, our online Undergraduate Certificate in Programming Essentials can be a great option to begin your journey toward a computer programming career.

Our 6 academic sessions per year allow you to start when you’re ready, finishing on a regular or accelerated schedule that meets your personal and professional goals.

Scholarships and grants may be available and can help make your DeVry education more affordable.2

1The Master of Information Systems Management, when completed with a concentration in project management, is accredited by the Global Accreditation Center for Project Management Education Programs (GAC) of the Project Management Institute. More information is available via GAC logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc. Enrollment and Graduation Data - GAC Student Achievement Results - Available for all DeVry and Keller's GAC accredited programs.

2Students may participate in only one DeVry University-based scholarship, grant or group tuition benefit program at a time. Those who qualify for more than one program will be presumed to accept the program with the highest reduction in by- session cost. Students who qualify for and prefer a different tuition benefit program must confirm, in writing, the alternate program in which they wish to participate prior to starting classes at DeVry. Scholarship and grant terms and eligibility conditions are subject to change. Scholarships are available to those who apply and qualify. Click here for more information.

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