The Top 5 Computer Science Skills To Become a Professional Programmer

You do not need an arsenal of computer science skills to be a professional programmer or start a career in computer science. Although developer job listings make it seem like you must know entire learn stacks, SQL, and every other technology, that could not be further from the truth.

Below, we’ll address five technical and soft skills that can turn anyone into a professional programmer. Read on to learn more. 

1. Programming Language

The best programming language to become a professional developer depends on the career path you want to pursue. If you are new to programming, Python is a popular choice because it is used in several applications and is useful in data analysis.

layer "There is no comparison in terms of online documentation, user community, ease-of-learning, and general capabilities of Python."

“In my mind, there is no comparison in terms of online documentation, user community, ease-of-learning, and general capabilities of Python,” said Dr. Clayton Miller, assistant professor for the School of Design and Environment’s Department of Building at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

But for those interested in front-end web development, you will likely need to start with HTML, CSS, and Javascript to build interactive web pages and applications.

2. Git

Many tech companies use Git, an open-source version control system, as part of their workflow. Developers often use Git to collaboratively work on projects and track changes. If you are a professional programmer, it is highly likely that you will encounter Git, which is why it is important to familiarize yourself with a few important skills such as creating repositories, cloning, and the command line. 

3. Teamwork

Many projects are often too large to be handled by one person and require the skill sets of many different types of programmers. Working as a professional programmer (generally) requires you to work with other developers, product managers, and quality assurance professionals. That’s why to be a better team player you should develop communication skills. 

layer "Competencies such as people management, communication, and problem solving are what will get you to the next level to your career."

"Many of our students tell us that they wished they paid more attention to communication and similar competencies earlier in their career," said Bringi Dev, Professor of Practice & Chairperson, Centre for Management Communication at Indian Institute of Management Bangalore. "While domain and technical expertise have gotten them where they are, they find that the rules of the game have changed, and that they need a new set of competencies to move forward. Competencies such as people management, communication, and problem solving are what will get you to the next level to your career." 

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layer The ability to succinctly explain complex business ideas to a wide range of audiences is key to advancing your career and building better relations with your team. Explore hundreds of free communication courses and programs on edX.

4. Debugging

An underestimated technical skill in computer programming is checking and resolving mistakes in your code, otherwise known as debugging. 

layer "Working through your code line by line and explaining what it does to another person can be a very effective way of deepening your understanding of your code."

“There are many tools and techniques for debugging,” said Dr. Katrina Falkner at the School of Computer Science at the University of Adelaide. “[An] effective method for debugging is to simply talk through your code. Working through your code line by line and explaining what it does to another person can be a very effective way of deepening your understanding of your code. Following this technique helps you identify whether your code matches your intended algorithm. It is often when you reach a section of your code that you can’t easily explain that you have found your bug.” 

5. Time Management

Programmers are expected to deliver multiple projects by a fixed deadline. This requires excellent time management and project management skills. One of the best ways to stay on top of your work is time blocking. 

Time blocking involves breaking up your day into chunks of time. Each chunk of time is then devoted to a singular task. With time blocking, you can sharpen your focus on a particular item and keep track of time spent. 

Do You Need a Computer Science Degree to Become a Programmer?

You do not need a computer science bachelor's degree or a master’s degree or significant work experience to become a programmer. What’s more important is the ability to continually upskill and learn new technologies. 

“There are a lot of people who work in software who are already aware they need to stay up to date on their skills, working alongside people who didn’t major in computer science and want to transition into computer science, working along with the same people who don’t want to transition into computer science but understand the importance it can have to what their career is,” said David Joyner, Senior Research Associate at the College of Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology and instructor of several fundamental computer science courses.

Kickstart Your Learning With Computer Science Courses and Programs

Whether you’re just starting out or have been a computer scientist for years, join millions of edX learners in committing to keeping your skills up to date and take advantage of all the opportunities this field has to offer. From foundational courses to advanced degrees, take computer science coursework at edX.

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