Embracing the technological revolution: launching a career in computer programming

With our modern, globalised world so heavily reliant on data and technology, it is now almost impossible to comprehend the impact its absence would have on our lives. The prevalence of data and technology is advancing at an unprecedented speed and scale, fundamentally transforming the ways in which we live and work.

Supporting our increasingly automated lives and lifestyles through data collection, information analysis and knowledge sharing – in an effort to continuously advance and innovate upon existing processes and structures – is of strategic importance.

The UK digital skills shortage

The UK suffers from a critical digital skills shortage. Reports from a number of sources – including the latest report from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) – reveal that:

  • almost 20% of UK companies have a skills vacancy, with 14.1% reporting a lack of digital know-how
  • 66% of digital leaders in the UK are unable to keep up with changes due to a lack of talent
  • the UK tech industry is facing its greatest shortages in cybersecurity, data architecture, and big data and data analysis
  • only 11% of tech leaders believe the UK is currently capable of competing on a global scale
  • data analysis is the fastest-growing skills clustering in tech, set to expand by 33% over the next five years
  • 80% of digital leaders feel retention is more difficult post-pandemic due to shifting employee priorities

Evidently, there is a stark need for individuals with the skills and fundamentals necessary to harness technology’s potential, using it to guide, improve and provide insights into today’s global business environments. Millions are being invested to encourage more people to train for roles which require skills such as coding, data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity.

Digital skills are considered vital to post-pandemic economic recovery; in competitive, crowded marketplaces, evidence and data are key to guiding decision-making and business efforts. For those considering a career in computer science – whether in big data, web development, application development, programming, or any number of other fields – there has never been a better time to get involved.

Computer programming as a career

Depending on the role, industry and specialism, programmers can expect to undertake a wide-ranging array of tasks. For example:

  • designing, developing and testing software
  • debugging, to ensure that operating systems meet industry standards and are secure, reliable and perform as required
  • integrating systems and software
  • working alongside designers and other stakeholders to plan software engineering efforts
  • training end-users
  • analysing algorithms
  • scripting and writing code in different languages

The applications for this specialist skill set are vast – and the skills are required in almost every industry and sector. Individuals can work across, for example, websites and web applications, mobile and tablet applications, data structures and video games. Most of us will be familiar with the global, household names of Microsoft, Google and IBM – titans of the computing and technology industry. However, the technological skills and expertise gained from a computer science degree can open doors to careers in any number of businesses and sectors.

Potential career paths and roles could include:

  • computer programmer
  • software application developer
  • front-end/back-end web developer
  • computer systems engineer
  • database administrator
  • computer systems analyst
  • software quality assurance engineer
  • business intelligence analyst
  • network system administrator
  • data analyst

It’s a lucrative business. The current average salary for a programmer in the UK is £57,500 – a figure that can be well-exceeded with further experience and specialisation. It’s also a career with longevity; while computer programming is of paramount importance today, as the data and digital landscape continues to evolve, it’s only going to be even more important in the future.

What skills are needed as a computer programmer?

In the role of a programmer, it’s essential to combine creativity with the more technical and analytical elements of information systems. It’s a skilled discipline which requires artistry, science, mathematics and logic.

Indeed list a number of the more common skills required by computer programmers:

  • Proficiency with programming languages and syntax: While JavaScript is currently the most commonly used programming language, there are also many others, including Python, HTML/CSS, SQL, C++, Java, and PHP. Learning at least two computer programming languages will help to boost employability. Most programmers choose their area of computing specialism and then focus on the most appropriate language for that field.
  • Learning concepts and applying them to other problems: Take the example of CSS, where styles that are applied to a top-level webpage are then cascaded to other elements on this page. By understanding how programming concepts can be translated elsewhere, multiple issues can be resolved more efficiently.
  • Solid knowledge of mathematics: For the most part, programming relies on an understanding of mathematics that goes beyond the basics. Possessing solid working knowledge of arithmetic and algebra underpins many aspects of programming proficiency.
  • Problem-solving abilities: Code is often written and developed in order to create a solution to a problem. As such, having the capabilities to identify and solve problems in the most efficient way possible is a key skill for those working in programming.
  • Communication and written skills: Demonstrating how certain processes and results are produced – for example, stakeholders who may have limited or no programming and technical knowledge – is often a necessary part of the role. The ability to coherently communicate work is vital.

For those interested in developing their skill set, there exist a wealth of interactive, online courses and certifications to get started. Typical entry requirements include an undergraduate/bachelor’s degree.

Launch a new, fulfilling career in information technology and programming

Kickstart your career in the computing sector with the University of York’s online MSc Computer Science with Data Analytics programme – designed for those without a background in computer science.

This flexible course offers you in-depth knowledge and skills – including data mining and analytics, software development, machine learning and computational thinking – which will help you to excel in a wide variety of technological careers. You’ll also become proficient in a number of programming languages, all available to start from beginner’s level. Your studies will be supported by our experts, and you’ll graduate with a wide array of practical, specialist tools and know-how – ready to capitalise on the current skills shortage.