involving programming essentially want high-tech problem solvers.
You'll need to look at how technology can solve real life business problems to make the organisation more efficient and more productive by developing, testing and implementing IT solutions.
So, what will I actually be doing?
It's a detailed process, usually project-based. Once an area for improvement has been flagged up, you'll be expected to work closely with analysts and management to understand more about the problem and the expected outcome before translating these requirements into detailed technical specifications.
Once the specs are approved you can get busy writing the code, or adapting existing codes and testing the system to make sure there are no glitches in it.
The last, important part of the process is to document the project so there is a detailed record to use for future reference.
As a programmer you'll find yourself working as part of a close knit team, although you might own smaller projects alone.
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The nitty gritty
Programmers usually work a 40 hour week - 9am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday.
Most of your work will be desk-based but at various critical implementation stages of projects, particularly the testing stage, you may be more mobile as you travel round to make sure all is going to plan.
It is a rapidly expanding industry so there are loads of opportunities. Businesses in all sectors rely heavily on technology to improve their performance and if you have web-based programming skills you'll be in hot demand.
Once you have qualified you could specialise in a technical hands-on role or move into team management. As you get more experienced you can apply your knowledge to become an IT consultant.
Other development opportunities include becoming a lecturer, trainer or to go self-employed and work as a contractor.
Money, money, money
The average starting salary is approximately £23,000, rising to nearer £40,000 with experience. The most senior programmers can earn in excess of £50,000.
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The good points...
Unless you are working on an important project that's on deadline you'll enjoy a good work/life balance.
Starting salaries are pretty healthy too, as a reward for the fact that you'll need to be well qualified.
...and the bad
You'll need to be extremely patient and be good with people as you may get constant phone calls asking how the project is coming along. How very annoying.
Is there study involved?
Entry criteria are quite specific. To find a job as a programmer, you'll probably need a degree, relevant work experience and vocational skills to equip them for the job.
This means you'll need to work in IT, perhaps on the helpdesk, to get a good grounding in the industry and to build up your skills before looking for a role as a programmer.
You'll also need to take some specific qualifications before you'll get a look in, as it is essential you are confident using new web-based technologies as well as old programming languages like C++ and Visual Basic.
There is a huge list of courses out there, including BTECs in Computer Studies or IT, SQAs in IT, NVQs and SVQs and specialist IT, computer and programming degrees.
You can find out more about which courses will help you on your mission to become a programmer from The British Computer Society (www.bcs.org) or specialist training websites like Learndirect.co.uk.
Younger applicants might be able to learn the ropes and get qualified by joining an apprenticeship scheme. Visit www.apprenticeships.org.uk for more details.
You'll get a new starter induction which will familiarise you with the company, its systems and procedures. Your employer should encourage you to go on courses which keep your skills and qualifications fresh.
As mentioned above there are IT courses a plenty out there.
OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?
It goes without saying that you'll need some IT skills to get started as a programmer. You'll need to:
- Have a good understanding of IT so you can quickly learn about new IT packages and techniques
- Have good communications skills
- Enjoy problem solving
- Be able to work as an individual and as part of a team
- Be able to work to tight deadlines
- Work in a logical manner
- Demonstrate good attention to detail