PERL Programmer Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a PERL programmer? Get real job descriptions, career outlooks and salary information to see if becoming a PERL programmer seems right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a PERL Programmer

PERL programmers write code in the PERL programming language for software applications. In addition, they test and de-bug programs to make sure they work properly. See some pros and cons of working as a PERL programmer to find out if it seems like the right career choice for you.

Pros of a Career in PERL Programming
Higher-than-average earnings - median annual salary for computer programmers was almost $78,000 in 2014*
Since PERL is an open source language, system software and training are free**
Associate degree plus expertise and experience may be adequate qualifications for some jobs*
Widely accessible troubleshooting support for PERL from online community**

Cons of a Career in PERL Programming
Lower job growth than other computer-related occupations - employment expected to increase 8% between 2012 and 2022, which is about the average among U.S. jobs*
Must follow and continually learn new updates in technology (in this case the PERL language)*
PERL may not be ideal for some purposes or applications, potentially limiting job prospects and qualification**
No standardized qualifications or certifications for PERL expertise**
No official paid technical support source due to PERL's open source nature**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PERL.org.

Career Information

PERL is a programming language used to create computer programs and applications - PERL programmers are computer programmers that specialize in that particular language. PERL is an open source language, which means it was developed and is maintained by an informal community rather than any paid governmental or corporate entity. That means you can learn about it free of charge, as PERL's system software and training materials are freely available on the web, but it also means there is no official, financially compensated point of contact for support or certification.

Job Duties

Computer programmers are responsible for writing code that tells computers how to run and display programs. As a programmer, you'll translate programs designed by software engineers and developers (in some cases these functions overlap and programmers do this design work too) into this code to make the program run, as well as test and troubleshoot the coded product to make sure it works as intended. If it does not, you'll locate and fix the error until the program operates correctly. There are numerous specialized languages used to program code in this way; PERL programmers do this work in the PERL language.

PERL programmers often work in offices, though by its nature their work can usually be done remotely at a computer. As with many information technology (IT) occupations, this job may involve working as a team with other IT professionals to ensure the smooth running of the technological interfaces of a company or organization.

Salary Information and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for computer programmers in 2014 was approximately $78,000. Wages can vary widely in the IT field according to qualifications and experience - the majority of computer programmers in 2014 earned between $44,000 and $128,000 annually.

Job growth for computer programmers is projected to be 8% between 2012 and 2022. This is less than many other IT jobs due to the trend of hiring programmers in other parts of the world where wages are often lower. This tendency is prominent in programming since the work can easily be done remotely. However, 8% is around the average predicted job growth for all jobs in the country, so employers are expected to continue to employ U.S.-based programmers as well.

What Is Required?

Writing code is very concentrated work, involving acute attention to precision and immersion in a very detailed and specific orientation. It's important that you have the capacity to concentrate in this kind of context in order to do this job successfully. Communication skills are also necessary for programmers; not only do many IT jobs and projects involve teamwork, but you will work especially closely with software developers and will need to listen to discern the vision of the program they've designed as well as effectively communicate any issues that come up and what you need to help correct them.

In some cases, an associate degree coupled with experience and expertise in PERL may be sufficient qualifications for employment. However, some employers do require programmers to have a bachelor's degree, usually in computer science or a related field.

Job Postings from Actual Employers

Even if 'PERL' is in the job title, many employers want programmers to have experience in more than one language. Though your specialty as a PERL programmer is PERL, you will also want to understand the basic logic of programming architecture both so that you can learn another language quickly if needed and also so that you can more easily learn PERL's continual updates even after you've mastered its present form. Following are a few job postings from March 2012 to help you get a feel for what employers are looking for:

  • An Oregon-based IT company searched for a part-time hire to produce PERL code in a team atmosphere, often under deadlines. A bachelor's degree was strongly desired, and familiarity with languages (such as Ruby) in addition to PERL was preferred.
  • A technology firm in Tennessee called for a programmer to create and maintain a variety of applications. The job called for at least three years of experience with PERL and indicated a preference for additional PHP experience.
  • A Kansas software company advertised for a candidate to produce new applications and update current ones using PERL and other programming languages. The ad asked for a college degree and three or more years of PERL and other programming experience.

How to Stand out in the Field

While PERL may be the language a certain company uses for most of its programming, there are some things for which PERL isn't ideal - knowing languages other than PERL even when it's your specialty, therefore, can give you an important advantage when it comes to getting a job. Experience with languages such as PHP, Javascript and SQL are often desired by employers in addition to expertise in PERL.

A college degree, especially a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field, can also make you stand out. Bachelor's degree programs teach students the basic principles of programming so they may more easily learn and understand new languages and updates, which is a big plus in programming work. Lastly, work experience is the go-to qualification in the IT world, so completing an internship, for example, can give you an edge over other candidates.

Other Jobs to Consider

If you don't feel being a PERL programmer is right for you, you might want to consider some other IT jobs, such as database administrator or network administrator. A database administrator analyzes the data storage and presentation needs of a company and creates, updates, consolidates and maintains corresponding databases. A bachelor's degree is often called for, and the median annual salary as of 2011 was around $75,000 according to the BLS.

Network and systems administrators assess an organization's network requirements and oversee the development, implementation and maintenance of its networks or systems. Like many IT jobs, this position requires effective communication skills, as you may be called upon to provide training to colleagues, including those with little or no IT experience. According to the BLS, network and systems administrators should see a 28% job growth between 2010 and 2020.

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