What Is Computer Programming?

Rear view of computer programmers working at office

Almost everything in our world relies on computers in some way. As human society evolves, computers must also be able to perform increasingly complex tasks. For one example, powerful financial institutions use computers to control most of the money in the world. For another, most modern cities rely on computers to keep their infrastructure running smoothly.

So, what is computer programming and how does it all happen? How do computers know what they are supposed to do and how to react when you use them? Those things all happen as a result of computer programming, which raises an interesting question: Why is it important to think about the programming language to use for any given application? Let's learn a bit more about computer programming and software development, and what you need to know about earning a degree in this field.

The Importance of Understanding Computer Programming

The simplest way to explain computer programming is that it is a way of providing instructions to computers. These instructions tell the computer how to react and what it should do next. Computer programming takes the form of code, and a person who earns a computer programming or software development degree will be taught how to code in order to get a computer to perform tasks. 

Everything we see on our computers, including software, webpages, images, databases or even simple documents, was created by a computer programmer using code. Computer programming is both technical and analytical. Coding in technical languages requires precision, but it is also a creative process that requires the computer programmer to consider the needs and preferences of the end user.

What Is Code and What Are Programming Languages?

Before you earn your degree, code may look like meaningless lines of numbers, letters and symbols. However, as you earn your programming or development degree, you will learn how to read code — and how to write your own.

Every line of code is written in one of numerous programming languages. Most computer programmers know several computer programming languages. The top programming languages include:

  • Java
  • C Language
  • C++
  • Python
  • JavaScript
  • Ruby

When it is time to decide which programming language to learn, you will usually follow the sequence provided in your degree program. However, learning additional programming languages may make you more marketable in the field and increase your chances of landing a job.1 Knowing which programming language to learn is not necessarily straightforward. It will vary based on what task you want to achieve or what problem you want to resolve through code.

Some languages are easier to learn than others, and some are used more widely. Knowing a range of mainstream programming languages — as well as a few of the lesser-known ones — may prove valuable as you develop your programming capabilities and problem-solving skills.

There are many factors to consider when deciding which programming language to use for any given project. Some questions that programmers may consider include the following:

  • Is there sufficient support (e.g., vendor support) for any particular language?
  • What type of environment (e.g., web or mobile app) does the project fall into?
  • Does the language need to be adaptable to new hardware?
  • What specific requirements are there for tools or features?

What Are Front-End and Back-End Computer Programmers?

A front-end developer works with code to create what users can see and interact with. They focus on how websites and applications look and how the user experiences them.

A back-end web developer is a computer programmer who ensures that the website or app behaves the way that it should. The functions of back-end code are rarely visible to users. Instead, back-end development may include tasks such as creating databases to store information (e.g., customer details), or building out how the app will interact with different servers.

Both front-end and back-end web development are critical components of computer programming, and both are included in standard computer programming curricula. However, what you choose to focus on is up to you and your interests. Technical skills as well as creativity are required for both front-end and back-end programming. For example, front-end developers may need a sharp eye for things like design and color, whereas back-end developers must create ways to share and store information.

Computer programmers who work primarily on front-end development may focus on different computing and coding languages than back-end developers. Common coding languages for front-end development include HTML, JavaScript and CSS. These languages allow the computer programmer to easily determine how images are positioned and sized. They also take into consideration text aesthetics. A front-end developer also ensures that content is usable across many different devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Common back-end development languages include PHP, Ruby and Python. Back-end developers use such code to keep websites and applications running smoothly. These languages also help back-end developers ensure that users can have safe and secure interactions online.

Why Is Computer Programming Important?

Computer programming is hugely influential in modern life, but exactly why is programming important? Take a look around you and consider how many of the things you see have been affected by programming. Smartphones, web-connected ovens, TV streaming services, medical equipment and on and on — there is no shortage of modern devices that require the work of computer programmers.

Why Is It Important To Know About Computer Programming?

If you are thinking about earning your computer programming or software development degree, you will need to know about programming languages, classes, functions and commands that enable you to create applications, software or other programs. Furthermore, you will likely need to create programs that work on various operating systems, such as iOS or Android. Those programs have different functions and classes, which means they rely on different programming languages.

Every digital application — on the web, on your laptop, on your smartphone, and everywhere else — was created by a computer programmer. Some of the languages used to build these applications share many similarities, while others are as different as English and Japanese. Furthermore, they may be intended for different purposes; some languages create user-friendly visual environments that are easy to navigate, while others enable critical processes that run invisibly in the background. Learning a variety of computer programming languages can help make you a more versatile computer programmer.

What Is the Future Impact of Computer Programming?

Why is computer programming important for the future? Technology production is an essential part of an evolving world. This means that computer programming is important for our future as a global society. Graduates with computer programming or development degrees can help shape this future by automating processes, collecting data, analyzing information and sharing knowledge to continuously innovate and improve upon existing processes.

This means that, while computer programming is important today, it may be even more impactful in the future as computer programmers across the world work to learn new ways of communicating with machines and computers. Earning your computer programming or software development degree now means you can be part of that research and testing to develop functions that can help society.

Why Should You Get a Computer Programming or Software Development Degree?

Earning a degree in either computer programming or software development can be an investment in your future career path. Computer programming has uses in nearly every field, including the arts, science, healthcare, finance and even nonprofit work. 

With the continued expansion of artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, consumer electronics and computer and network security, there is an increased need for software developers. In fact, an estimated 162,900 openings for software developers, quality assurance analysts and testers are projected each year, on average, from 2021 to 2031.2  

If you enjoy technical and logical work that also has a creative spin to it, then working in computer programming or software development may be a great career choice for you. Join us at Grand Canyon University today and earn your Bachelor of Science in Software Development to get started as a front-end or back-end developer. To learn more about this degree program, fill out the form on this page.

1 SabriNath. (2023). Why learning multiple programming languages can help you thrive in your career. Code and Hack. 

2 COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 and 2021 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is effective September 2022, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers, retrieved on March 8, 2023.


Approved by the assistant dean of the College of Science, Engineering and Technology on July 17, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.