19 Programming Skills to Start (or Grow) Your Career

Monica J. WhiteMonica J. White | 9 minute read | September 1, 2022
19 Programming Skills to Start (or Grow) Your Career

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Few expertise are as widely applicable as programming. No matter where your interests lie, and no matter what industry you want to work in, the need for programmers is real and widespread. 

But not all programmers are compensated equally. According to Indeed, programmers can make anywhere from $83,000 to $275,000 a year. Oftentimes, the difference between someone making $80,000 a year and someone making double that isn’t experience or education—it’s about programming skills. And if you’re on the outside looking in, it can be difficult to know which programming skills will help you reach that upper-level salary range. 

That’s why we’ve created this guide. Below, we’ll detail the most important technical and soft skills that programmers need (and that recruiters want to see) so that you can launch a lucrative programming career. 

Ready? Then let’s get started. 

What Skills Make a Great Programmer?

Programming skills

Source: Denva

A great programmer should be able to create, optimize, and maintain software. This includes fundamental knowledge of computing, fluency in a programming language, and excellent debugging and problem-solving skills.

Essential Technical Skills for a Programming Career

If you’re looking to launch a programming career, you’ll need to possess the following skills: 

Strong Command of a Programming Language

In order to tell a computer what you want it to do, you’ll need to learn a programming language. Different kinds of tasks and industries use different languages, so the kind of programming job you want will influence the languages you need to learn. 

Although it’s common for a programmer to gain experience in multiple languages over the years, most will stick to one dominant language. Here are some common languages:

Python

Python is a high-level, general-purpose programming language often used in data science, data analysis, systems tools, and system administration. 

Java

Java is a general-purpose language that is often used in developing desktop and mobile applications as well as big data processing. 

C++

An extension to the C programming language, C++ is often used for performance-critical applications, video games, and systems programming. 

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PHP

This is a general-purpose scripting language used by front-end and back-end web developers.

SQL

SQL is a standardized programming language used in data management.

R

R is a programming language designed for statistical computing and graphics.

Proficiency in Algorithms and Data Structures

programming skills- data structure

Source: Geek for Geeks

Programming is all about working smart, and being proficient in algorithms and data structures is essential to this. Algorithms provide a predetermined structure that helps programmers approach a problem and craft a solution. Data structures refer to the way data is laid out in the memory of a computer. Different data structures are designed for various purposes, such as the insertion of data versus reading data. 

Experience With Development Frameworks

Frameworks are most frequently used by web developers, but all programmers should be familiar with these frameworks: 

Django

Django is a high-level, Python-based framework used for the efficient construction of websites.

Node.js

This is an open-source, back-end JavaScript environment used for event-driven servers. 

Angular

This is a typescript-based framework used for building web applications. 

Bootstrap

Bootstrap is a CSS framework used for mobile app development.

Rails

This is a server-side framework written in Ruby and used for web applications. 

Vue

Vue is a front-end JavaScript framework used for building UI on websites. 

Familiarity With Database Systems

Database systems refer to different ways to store data and are particularly important for those working in data science, data analysis, and backend development. 

Ability To Debug Code

programming skills- debug code

Debugging code is an essential and unavoidable task for any programmer in any industry. It refers to the act of finding and understanding the cause of broken behavior within the software, while bug fixing is the act of finding the solution. 

Time spent debugging will help a programmer improve their skill in the language they are working in, as it allows them to learn the intricacies of the language that produce unexpected results. 

It’s hard to create a bug artificially, so to gain experience in this area, it’s best to create your own complex projects and tackle the bugs that will inevitably pop up. Another option is to contribute to bug fixes on open-source projects. 

Understanding of Network Protocols and Security Issues

programming skills- network protocols

Security issues are especially important for backend developers to be aware of, as their role includes interacting with and storing user data and passwords. 

Programmers in many other industries can also benefit from having basic cybersecurity skills. For instance, even a video player could have security flaws that could lead to malicious video files which can exploit those weaknesses and gain access to a user’s system. 

Network protocols are the rules for communication between devices on the same network. Knowledge of network protocols is important for programmers working on a network service (such as cloud file hosting) or for those involved in a company’s internal network tooling.

Source: Medium

Computational and Mathematical Ability

Saying that computational and mathematical skills are essential to programmers is a point of contention within the programming community, as some value these skills more than others. However, mathematics and statistics are undoubtedly helpful if you’re a programmer working in the fields of data science, machine learning, or artificial intelligence.

Machine Learning

Source: Towards Data Science

If you are interested in the fields of data science and AI, then skills in machine learning are highly beneficial. However, this specialization is not essential for front-end developers, UI designers, and other programmers. 

Cloud Computing

programming skills- cloud computing
Source: Medium

Cloud computing refers to using cloud-based solutions to store data, as opposed to local physical servers. This area is relevant to back-end engineers and cloud specialists who play an active role in managing big data and its storage. 

Related Read: How Do You Become a Cloud Engineer?

Soft Skills Essential for a Programming Career

Programmers often work at large companies and contribute to huge projects which include working with many departments and other programmers. In order to facilitate collaboration between teams, programmers need to possess the following soft skills:

Logical Reasoning and Objectivity

Logical reasoning is often associated with programming and can help a developer find their way to the crux of a problem and craft the simplest, cleanest solutions. However, depending on the industry, there are many other factors that can take precedence over logical reasoning. In UI/UX design, for example, aesthetic considerations can sometimes take precedence. 

Problem-Solving

Problem solving

Problem-solving skills are extremely important for a programmer. They will help you during debugging sessions and help you translate abstract requests and complaints from colleagues or clients into tangible problems and workable solutions. 

Organization and Time Management

Many programmers in a wide variety of industries will need to work with tight deadlines that require good organization and time management skills.

Teamwork and Collaboration

Teamwork and collaboration

Teamwork and collaboration are extremely important, as while different teams within a company will work on various features or projects, they will inevitably use or rely on code owned by other teams. To keep things running smoothly, it’s important for a programmer to know how to collaborate with other technical and non-technical colleagues. 

“Out-of-the-Box” Thinking

Sometimes, the algorithms at hand won’t be a good fit for the project you’re working on. At times like this, it can be highly advantageous to think outside of the box and find a new way to tackle the problem. 

Analytical Mindset

An analytical mindset (or critical thinking skills) refers to the ability to critically assess information, rather than taking it at face value. For example, if someone comes to you because a feature isn’t working even though they did everything right, should you immediately assume it is broken? It could be that the user simply made a mistake without realizing it. 

Communication

Similar to teamwork, communication is an essential skill for programmers. No programmer works in isolation; there will always be other people affected by your work. 

An Eye for Quality and Detail

An eye for quality and detail won’t just help you write cleaner code. It’ll also help you debug problems if (and when) they do arise. 

Flexibility

Flexibility is something you need to have as a programmer. Requirements change, misunderstandings happen, and you will inevitably have to change your code for some reason or another. Being open to these changes and quick to begin working on new requests is an important element of collaboration and teamwork.

Self-Driven 

Having a passion for your job, a desire to progress your career, and pride in your work are the building blocks of a self-driven individual. Demonstrating such passions through your actions will both increase your value as an employee and help your career progress. 

How To Develop the Essential Programming Skills

Now that we’ve spoken all about the skills you need to have, let’s have a look into how you can develop them. 

Look Online for Resources

Online resources are a goldmine of expertise and information just waiting to be found. 

Blogs

Better programming blogs
Source: Medium

The internet is full of people who want to share their expertise. Blogs are an easy and convenient way to keep up to date on your industry and learn interesting things that you might not think to research yourself. 

YouTube Videos

programming skills- YouTube Videos
Source: YouTube

There are many kinds of information you can get from YouTube when it comes to programming. From tutorials on basic programming concepts to reviews of new tools or day-in-the-life videos of your dream role. 

Tutorials

programming skills- tutorials

If you’re looking for easy-to-follow classes or tutorials when you’re trying something new, YouTube is the place to go. When you’re not in familiar territory and need a little more than straight-up documentation, the step-by-step visual guides on YouTube can be a great help.

Attend a Certified Course or a Bootcamp

programming skills- springboard bootcamp

Whether you’re a complete beginner, self-taught, or a college graduate, everyone can benefit from extra training and extra certification for your resume. 

A great way to learn to code is to attend an online course or bootcamp. These hands-on bootcamps will get you really ready to jump into the professional world of programming. 

Use a Code Editor and/or a REPL (Read-Eval-Print Loop) To Write and Test Code

There are easy-to-use platforms designed to get newbies writing code, creating coding projects, and using fundamental programming concepts as early as possible in their education. These services support multiple languages, can be used in-browser, and include features that allow you to collaborate with others in real-time. 

Check Out Some Online Coding Challenges or Games

Programming is a creative profession, and having fun with it can help you learn as well as help you develop passions and specializations that will come in useful during your career. Events like the yearly Advent of Code or programming games by Zachtronics are a great place to start.

Take Up Volunteer Work

The internet is full of open source projects of every genre imaginable. Getting involved with these can help you gain experience and practice, and learn new things as well. 

Get Involved With the Community

As we’ve mentioned, collaboration skills are important for programmers, and it’s never too early to start developing these skills. Finding like-minded individuals to talk with, work with, and learn from is an opportunity not to be missed out on. 

Online Forums and Coding Communities

Check out Subreddits, Discord servers, and Slack communities both on general coding subjects and niche specializations that you’re interested in. 

Conferences and Meet-Ups

Conferences and meet-ups can be held both online and in person, so check out what is going on near you, or what’s relevant to your interests. These events can provide great networking opportunities, too, which is another skill that’s worth developing from the start.

Hackathons

Source: Devpost

Hackathons, Hack Days, or Code Fests are social events in which a group of coders come together to create a new project in a short amount of time. They happen online and in person and are aimed at varying skill levels. 

FAQs About Programming Skills

We’ve got answers to your most frequently asked questions. 

Which Programming Language Should You Start With?

This depends on your goals. For those interested in web development, HTML and CSS are good places to start. For budding data experts, SQL and Python would be beneficial. If you want to get into game development, C++ is the way to go. 

What Programming Skills Should You Include on Your Resume?

All of your skills! Skills gained from your professional experience are, of course, essential. However, since programming is a creative profession, you can also list projects that you pursue for fun. Always back up everything you can with real projects and examples in your portfolio

Can You Become a Programmer Without a Degree?

In the past, it has been the norm for people to enter the programming profession after gaining a degree. However, it is not a hard requirement. There are other ways to get an education, such as online courses and bootcamps, and a strong portfolio can showcase that you have all the skills needed. 

Since you’re here…
No one wakes up knowing how to code – they learn how to code. Tens of thousands of students have successfully learned with our courses, like our Software Engineering Bootcamp. If you’re a total newbie, our Software Engineering Career Track Prep Course will be a perfect fit. Let’s do this!

Monica J. White

About Monica J. White

Monica is a journalist with a lifelong interest in technology, from PC hardware to software and programming. She first started writing over ten years ago and has made a career out of it. Now, her focus is centered around technology and explaining complex concepts to a broader audience.