Blog Learners Career path options for programmers.

Career path options for programmers.

Becoming a programmer is a very smart career choice. Not only are software developers well paid, but there is also ample opportunity for career growth. Whether you love being heads down and digging into the code all day, or working with others to structure a project, there is a programming career path for you.

Starting out in programming

Most people starting out in programming begin their careers as interns or entry-level software engineers. The daily work starts slower, with lots of time for ramping up and learning involved. Typically, new programmers will be tasked with fixing small bugs and getting to know the code base.

As developers get more seasoned, they are trusted with more feature work and code that might touch the production, customer-facing code base. Eventually, software engineers will be asked to write tech specs, make design decisions, and lead projects. Once ample ability is shown in those three areas, programmers are typically promoted to senior developers.

Choosing a specialization

Once programmers start looking into becoming senior developers, it’s a good idea to think about specialization. There are a few ways this can look and it often depends on the organization. 

Front End vs. Back End vs. Full Stack

For one, some people choose to specialize in an area of code: front-end, back-end, or full stack. Front-end development involves implementing designs of an app or webpage and is usually directly interacted with by the user. Back-end development deals more with how data and processes move within a system. Full stack development is a combination of the two. A programmer who chooses to be a full-stack developer will likely have a breadth of skills across coding disciplines, while front-end or back-end developers will have more in-depth skills in one area.

Tech Topics

Specializations can also include specific technical topics within software development. Some common ones are data, security, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence (AI). While basic coding skills are shared between all of the specializations, each one requires separate learning of best practices, algorithms, software tools, and more. 

Management vs. Individual Contribution

Some people love individual contribution and will choose to be staff-level engineers at their place of work for the span of their careers. This option is good for people who love to code, design system architecture and problem-solve. While individual contributors often work on teams of engineers, when they sit down to code, they often do so alone.

Other people decide to take the management route instead of individual contribution. For some, this means becoming an engineering manager. Engineering managers use their experience as engineers to help support teams of developers in their careers and through working on projects. Others who choose to be managers decide to become project managers. Though being a developer is not a requirement to becoming a project manager, it can be a useful skill in planning out and executing big projects. Most people who go into management instead of individual contribution work by leading teams and spend much less time coding.

Start your career as a programmer today

If you’re interested in learning how to code, or choosing a specialization to dive deeper, there’s no time like the present to get started. Udacity offers fully remote, self-paced courses developed by industry leaders. Nanodegree program offerings range from basic coding skills in a selected programming language to in-depth classes on cybersecurity, data science, autonomous systems, and more.


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