Computer Programmer

Computer programmers create, modify and test the forms, scripts and code that tell the computer what to do. They serve as the link between the operator and the computer. The work of computer programmers is both demanding and rewarding. There has been a massive increase in online studies for this career.

In general terms, they are people who write programs for specific purposes or needs, whether it is to create a virtual reality game, a database system, control machinery or to program a company’s telephone system.

These programs are detailed instructions which list the specifications that the computer must follow to solve a problem or handle information in a logical order. Systems analysts provide the specifications for a particular task. Programmers write the programs and translate them into a computer language such as VISUAL BASIC, DELPHI, Pascal, Cobol, Java, Oracle, Informix, C and C++, to name but a few. The sequence of instructions is carefully entered on the keyboard and checked to make sure that they are correct and that they will produce the desired information. If errors occur, the program is changed and rechecked until the desired results are produced. Computer programmers works closely with systems analysts to produce programs based on the specifications derived from the needs of the client.

The work of computer programmers involves researching and documenting computer users’ requirements; analysing the objectives and problems specified by the systems analyst; and determining what steps need to be taken and in what order, then translating these steps into computer language commands. They test programs and software applications and then “debug” them. They also need to document what the programs do and how they do it, by preparing user manuals and help screens.

Computer programmers may specialise in a number of different areas:

Network programmers work with vendor networking languages to support the implementation or modification of network configurations

Database programmers are involved in the development of programs to suit the access to and maintenance of databases

Analyst programmers design and analyse clients’ needs and create complex design structures for translation into a programming language

Multimedia programmers are involved with systems, applications and programming issues. This includes conversion between platforms and the initial writing of code for incorporation of text, graphics, video, animation, digital / analogue photographs, audio and 2/3D modelling.

Systems software programmers write, maintain and update programs that control the overall functioning of computers

In addition to the degrees and diplomas listed below, programmers can acquire a certificate offered by most FET colleges, e.g. False Bay, Elangeni, Boland. Northlink, Cape Town, SW Gauteng.

Most large computer firms have their own training departments where intensive in-service training courses are offered and trainees have the opportunity to work on the firm’s own computers. A number of private firms also offer training courses.

Personal Requirements

  • the ability to think logically and analytically
  • the ability to pay close attention to detail
  • the flexibility and adaptability required to manage change effectively
  • the ability to work independently, in teams and as group facilitators
  • excellent oral and written communication skills including the ability to express ideas and solutions in clear, understandable language and to deliver presentations to groups
  • the interpersonal skills required to maintain good working relationships with clients and vendors
  • enjoy analysing business problems and finding innovative solutions
  • enjoy taking responsibility for projects that require planning, decision-making and coordinating the work of others

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics (if you intend studying IT degree at university)
Recommended subjects: Information Technology.

  • If you intend studying a degree or a diploma in IT at university then you need a matric with a Bachelor's pass or a Diploma pass.
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university.
  • There are alternative routes into IT which do not require a Bachelor’s or a Diploma pass and which do not require Mathematics.

What to Study

Degree: BSc Computer Science or Information Systems or Information Technology as major, or a BCom. degree with information systems - RU, UCT, UWC, NMMU, UFS, Wits, US, UP, UNISA, UKZN. UZ, UFH, NWU, Monash.

Diploma: Relevant diplomas are offered by most universities of technology and some private colleges - CUT, DUT, TUT, VUT, UJ, CPUT, UNISA

It is essential to continuously upgrade knowledge because systems and security threats are constantly changing.


  • government and provincial departments
  • large computer companies
  • research organisations
  • large business and industrial organisations
  • insurance companies
  • educational institutions and libraries
  • transport enterprises
  • mining companies
  • any company or business using computer systems and networks
  • a skilled and entrepreneurial computer programmer can start his or her own business.

Further Information

Computer Society of SA 
ICT House
546 16th Road
Constantia Park [Unit No.3]
Tel: (011) 315-1319

ISETT (Information Systems Electronics & Telecommunication Technologies)
The Boulevard Office Park, Block F
Ground floor, Searle Street
Woodstock, 7925 
Tel: (011) 207-2600

Programmes by Study Institutions

What do computer programmers do

Computer Programming, Innovation, and Inclusivity

TEDX - Computer Programming is for Everyone

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