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Career Spotlight: Computer Programmer

Career Spotlight: Computer Programmer

September 24, 2007

If you’re considering becoming a computer programmer, or just want an idea of how programmers interface with IT, the first step is to understand the job definition: Computer programmers convert project specifications and statements of problems and procedures to detailed logical flow charts for coding into computer language. They develop and write computer programs to store, locate, and retrieve specific documents, data, and information. They may program web sites.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
Computers and Electronics – Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming. English Language – Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar. Mathematics – Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications. Design – Knowledge of design techniques, tools, and principles involved in production of precision technical plans, blueprints, drawings, and models. Engineering and Technology – Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.

Skills Needed
Programming – Writing computer programs for various purposes. Critical Thinking – Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems. Complex Problem Solving – Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions. Active Learning – Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making. Reading Comprehension – Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents. Abilities: Information Ordering – The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations). Deductive Reasoning – The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense. Near Vision – The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer). Oral Comprehension – The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences. Written Comprehension – The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing. Written Expression – The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.

Tasks and Activities
Assign, coordinate, and review work and activities of programming personnel. Collaborate with computer manufacturers and other users to develop new programming methods. Compile and write documentation of program development and subsequent revisions, inserting comments in the coded instructions so others can understand the program. Conduct trial runs of programs and software applications to be sure they will produce the desired information and that the instructions are correct. Consult with and assist computer operators or system analysts to define and resolve problems in running computer programs. Consult with managerial, engineering, and technical personnel to clarify program intent, identify problems, and suggest changes. Correct errors by making appropriate changes and rechecking the program to ensure that the desired results are produced. Investigate whether networks, workstations, the central processing unit of the system, or peripheral equipment are responding to a program’s instructions. Perform or direct revision, repair, or expansion of existing programs to increase operating efficiency or adapt to new requirements. Perform systems analysis and programming tasks to maintain and control the use of computer systems software as a systems programmer. Prepare detailed workflow charts and diagrams that describe input, output, and logical operation, and convert them into a series of instructions coded in a computer language. Train subordinates in programming and program coding. Write or contribute to instructions or manuals to guide end users. Write, analyze, review, and rewrite programs, using workflow chart and diagram, and applying knowledge of computer capabilities, subject matter, and symbolic logic. Write, update, and maintain computer programs or software packages to handle specific jobs such as tracking inventory, storing or retrieving data, or controlling other equipment.

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Generalized Work Activities
Interacting With Computers – Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information. Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work – Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work. Making Decisions and Solving Problems – Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems. Getting Information – Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources. Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge – Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.

Detailed Work Activities
adjust computer operation system analyze workflow assist co-workers with software problems communicate technical information configure computers in industrial or manufacturing setting consult with customers concerning needs consult with managerial or supervisory personnel design computer hardware or software interface design computer programs or programming tools develop computer performance standards develop mathematical or computer languages develop or maintain databases develop records management system develop tables depicting data direct and coordinate activities of workers or staff distinguish details in graphic arts material encode equations for processing evaluate computer system user requests or requirements follow data security procedures follow data storage procedures identify color or balance implement computer system changes install computer programs maintain client-server database maintain or repair computers or related equipment monitor computer operation prepare instruction manuals prepare technical reports or related documentation prepare workflow chart program computers for electronic engineering applications program computers for management analysis applications program computers for medical applications program computers for social science applications program computers using existing software program mainframe computer provide customer service provide technical computer training provide technical support to computer users recommend software or hardware purchases resolve computer program operational problems resolve symbolic formulations in data processing applications revise or correct errors in computer programs, software, or systems supervise programming personnel test computer programs or systems test data communications hardware or software use computer application flow charts use computer graphics design software use computer programming language use computers to enter, access or retrieve data use creativity in graphics use differential equations in computer programming use geographical information system (GIS) software use graphic arts techniques use interpersonal communication techniques use knowledge of mainframe computers use object-oriented computer programming techniques use project management techniques use relational database software use spreadsheet software use structural analysis techniques to analyze computer systems use word processing or desktop publishing software write computer software, programs, or code write documentation for computer programming

Tools and Technology
Computer servers – Computer servers Desktop computers – Desktop computers Mainframe computers – Mainframe computers, Mainframe operating systems Technology: Compiler and decompiler software – Code generator software, Command interpreters, Compiler, Decompiler, Incremental compiler software Data base management system software – CAST SQL Builder, Computer Associates integrated data management system CA-IDMS, Data definition language DDL, Data manipulation language DML, IBM DB2 Development environment software – A programming language APL, AWK, Activity based costing ABC, Ada, Adobe PostScript Object or component oriented development software – BETA, Borland Delphi, C++, Categorical abstract machine language CAML, Common extended self-containing prolog CESP Web platform development software – Cascading Style Sheets CSS, Hypertext markup language HTML, Java server pages JSP, JavaScript, Macromedia ColdFusion Education and Training

Most Common Educational/Training Level: Bachelor’s degree

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