Although computer programmers are employed throughout the United States, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that about 38 percent of computer programmers work in California, Texas, New York, Illinois, and Florida. Opportunities are best in large cities and suburbs where business and industry are active. Programmers who develop graphics for software applications work for software manufacturers, many of which are headquartered in central California and the Pacific Northwest. Programmers who adapt and tailor the software to meet specific needs of clients are employed around the country by the end users.
Agencies, called job shops, employ programmers on short-term contracts. Self-employed graphics programmers can also work as consultants to small companies that cannot afford to employ full-time programmers.
Counselors and professors should be able to keep you informed of companies hiring computer programmers, including graphics programmers. Large manufacturing companies and software firms that employ many computer programmers send recruiters to universities with computer science departments, usually working cooperatively with the guidance and placement departments. Guidance departments can also tell you about any firms offering work-study programs and internships, which are excellent ways to gain training and experience in graphics programming. As employers become increasingly selective about new hires and seek to hold down the costs of in-house training, internships in computer programming are a great opportunity not only for on-the-job experience but also for a possible position after graduation from college.
Other possible sources of entry-level jobs are the numerous placement agencies that specialize in the field of computers. These agencies often advertise in major newspapers, technical journals, and computer magazines. They can also help match programmers to temporary jobs as more firms lower their personnel costs and hire freelance programmers to meet their needs. Programmers can also find out about new job opportunities by attending computer graphics conferences and networking with their professional peers. Some job openings are advertised in newspapers or online.
The computer industry experiences high turnover, as large numbers of programmers and other employees change companies and/or specialties. Some programmers leave their positions to accept higher paying jobs with other firms, while others leave to start their own consulting companies. These extremely mobile conditions offer many opportunities both for job seekers and for those looking for career advancement.
In most companies, especially larger firms, advancement depends on an employee's experience and length of service. Beginning programmers might work alone on simple assignments after some initial instruction or on a team with more experienced programmers. Either way, beginning programmers generally must work under close supervision.
Because technology changes so rapidly, programmers must continuously update their training by taking courses sponsored by their employers or software vendors. For skilled workers who keep up to date with the latest technology, the prospects for advancement are good. In large organizations, they can be promoted to lead programmer and given supervisory responsibilities. Graphics programmers might be promoted to programmer-analysts, systems analysts, or to managerial positions. As employers increasingly contract out programming jobs, more opportunities should arise for experienced programmers with expertise in specific areas to work as consultants. With additional education, programmers can also become software engineers and developers.
Tips for Entry
Read publications such as Computer Graphics World (http://www.cgw.com) to learn more about trends in the industry and potential employers.
Visit the following Web sites for job listings:
Attend the ACM SIGGRAPH conference (https://www.siggraph.org/conference-and-events/annual-conferences) and other industry events to network and to interview for jobs.
Join professional associations such as the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities. The ACM has Special Interest Groups in Programming Languages, Software Engineering, and other fields of interest to graphics programmers.
Read ACM Career News at https://www.acm.org/articles/careernews to keep up to date on career trends and get advice on the job-search.