Applications programmer: job description

Applications programmer: job description

Applications programmers are responsible for designing and modifying computer applications. They also implement their systems and offer training and support.
Applications programming is a good base for a career in systems analysis. Many graduates begin their careers as programmers and move into analysis once they have gained some experience.

What does an applications programmer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Applications programmers write code for software applications (or ‘apps’). These can be developed for different operating systems, such as Windows, Mac, Android or Chrome. They can also be written for a particular platform, such as a computer, smartphone or tablet.

Many programmers choose to specialise in a particular area such as office programs, educational software or entertainment software. For larger applications, programmers may work in a team to complete different aspects of the system. Other tasks include:

  • researching and examining current systems
  • talking to users to find out their requirements
  • deciding what functions the application should perform
  • writing appropriate code to ensure that the application performs its functions effectively
  • testing the application and correcting any problems that arise
  • agreeing proposals
  • writing software and operating manuals
  • making appropriate modifications to existing applications, including updates and repairs

Applications programmers may also be responsible for user training, support and feedback. The job can involve some pressure to meet deadlines at times, when extra hours may be required.

In this profession, it’s a good idea to keep up with the latest technological developments. You can do this by consulting appropriate journals, manuals and websites.

Typical employers of applications programmers

  • Telecommunications companies
  • Engineering companies
  • Computer companies
  • Service industries
  • Information technology or software consultancy firms
  • Commercial and industrial organisations
  • The Civil Service
  • Banks and accountancy firms
  • Charities

Jobs are advertised online, by careers services and recruitment agencies, in local and national newspapers and in relevant publications such as TARGETjobs IT & Technology, Computer Weekly and their online equivalents.

Self-employment via contract and consultancy work is possible for programmers with several years’ experience.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes in this career for both school leavers and university graduates and those with higher national diplomas (HNDs).

Training is normally provided to newly employed graduates and those with a HND, but computer literacy and familiarity with programming languages and general software are usually essential. Consequently, employers often prefer graduates with a degree or HND in an appropriate subject such as IT, computer science, software engineering, maths or physics. For graduates without a relevant qualification, a postgraduate IT or computing-based course can be beneficial. Alternatively, there are many part-time programming and computing short courses available.

It is sometimes possible to enter this profession without a degree or a higher national diploma (HND). To find out more about getting into IT and technology via a school leaver route, visit the IT and technology section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.

Relevant work experience in a company’s IT department or at a school can be advantageous. Industrial placements, summer internships and university or college projects are also beneficial.

Key skills for applications programmers

  • Competence in more than one programming language (eg C, C++, Java and Python)
  • Creativity
  • A meticulous and logical mind
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Communication skills
  • The ability to work in a team
  • Attention to detail
  • The ability to understand clients’ needs

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