I am a programmer, but not professionally. I do have apps on the Google Play Store, but it's mainly a hobby (and I don't earn much at all; about a few cents a month).

I'm sure there must be a word for this type of job (i.e. a non-professional job done mainly as a hobby), but I don't know what it is.

  • 1
    How about Dabbler? One who takes part in an activity casually. Mar 23, 2016 at 6:15
  • @NagarajanShanmuganathan Possibly, but it doesn't suggest that they partly do it as a non-professional pursuit.
    – Dog Lover
    Mar 23, 2016 at 6:17
  • Are you looking for avocation?
    – deadrat
    Mar 23, 2016 at 6:19
  • 1
    Hobby Programmer is a long-established word
    – R.S.
    Mar 23, 2016 at 6:21
  • 1
    Any reason you don't want to simply call it a hobby? Mar 23, 2016 at 8:33

9 Answers 9


I think hobby itself would do just fine. Hobbyists work at their craft when it’s fun and convenient, but don’t make the necessary commitment needed to get to the professional level.

"Selling apps on Play Store is my hobby".

So you may be a "hobbyist programmer ". Some people actually hate that name.

a hobbyist programmer is somebody who spends 10 or more hours a month programming, but is not paid primarily to be a programmer.

What you're describing may also be a sideline career.

An activity done in addition to one’s main job, especially to earn extra income

[As modifier]: a sideline career as a stand-up comic

"He founded the fast-food company as a sideline to his petrol station"

  • 1
    This is the closest answer so far, and I like the link to the article - very interesting. Though I think it is a bit stuck-up to be offended by such a neutral term as "hobbyist programmer"! It's what I call myself.
    – Dog Lover
    Mar 23, 2016 at 8:16
  • 1
    @DogLover I'm actually a hobbyist photographer/musician, myself. My professional skills are in civil engineering and project management.
    – NVZ
    Mar 23, 2016 at 9:16
  • Oh, really? I'm a hobbyist photographer too, albeit to a much lesser extent.
    – Dog Lover
    Mar 23, 2016 at 10:59
  • I like your answer but with one remark: "don't make the necessary commitment needed to get to the professional level". That is often, but not always true. There are people who can do professional grade things as a hobby. Just one example: Friend of mine, as a hobby, restores leaded-glass windows. He is considered an expert in that field, but because there isn't enough work to make a living in that business his day-job is being a safety-inspector/advisor working in the oil industry.
    – Tonny
    Mar 23, 2016 at 13:01

You might consider avocation, which means a hobby, from the Latin a(b) (away) + vocare (to call), i.e, something that calls one away from the profession or occupation at which one makes a living. There is no implication that you necessarily are a beginner or are unaccomplished at your avocation, just that it's a sideline.

  • The nice thing about avocation is that it evokes contrast to vocation, so "it's not my day job" is obvious. Mar 23, 2016 at 19:40
  • This seems to work nicely.
    – Dog Lover
    Mar 25, 2016 at 23:37

I think you are looking for amateur:

  • One who engages in an art, science, study, or athletic activity as a pastime rather than as a profession.



  • you should probably define yourself a "programmer", the fact that you do it professionally or not is not related to the competence you have developed.
  • +1 I see what you're getting at, but if you use it in the phrase amateur programmer it sounds like you're saying that you are a beginner/mediocre programmer.
    – Dog Lover
    Mar 23, 2016 at 6:09
  • @DogLover - Probably "dilettante" is closer to the definition of "beginner/mediocre non-professional." The alternative is "non-professional programmer".
    – user66974
    Mar 23, 2016 at 6:13
  • +1 I like to tinker with code at times, and I know the ABCs. I wouldn't call myself a programmer, but, amateur definitely works in my case.
    – NVZ
    Mar 23, 2016 at 14:11
  • This is one of those things where the original meaning of a word would be perfect, but that meaning is so overshadowed by later understandings (initially misunderstandings!) that it’s difficult to use in its original sense without explaining. The only place you tend to still see amateur used in its original sense is in the names of sports leagues where professionals are not allowed (e.g. an Amateur Cup would not allow a pro to compete, to keep things fair for the amateurs who also have to maintain a day job).
    – KRyan
    Mar 23, 2016 at 15:04

You might consider, pastime

An activity that occupies one's spare time pleasantly: Sailing is her favorite pastime.

[Middle English passe tyme, translation of French passe temps : passer, to pass + temps, time.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary

  • 1
    This is just a synonym for hobby.
    – stannius
    Mar 23, 2016 at 15:18

A slightly dated expression, but one I still use is a labour of love.

  • @NVZ Yes I think you will be understood.
    – WS2
    Mar 23, 2016 at 23:48

An “amateur”

An amateur is when you enjoy doing something (and are particularly good at it) as a hobby (for fun not money) instead of doing it professionally (get paid to do it).


Dilettante fits the bill nicely:

a ​person who is or ​seems to be ​interested in a ​subject, but whose ​understanding of it is not very ​deep or ​serious (Cambridge)

...especially if you are emphasising the non-professional aspect.

  • 2
    I don't think it does fit nicely as I do have considerable knowledge of programming. I meant non-professional as in I am not employed, etc.
    – Dog Lover
    Mar 23, 2016 at 8:13
  • 1
    @DogLover "If you're really good at something, never do it for free." - The Joker
    – NVZ
    Mar 23, 2016 at 9:14

If you're not amateur level (which would be correct world, implying that you do something just for the love of it, but also has a negative tone), you may use

craftsman - someone who is skilled at a craft, but doesn't necessarily has to have it as a (current) job.

-> Software Craftsmanship


Enthusiast - a person who is very interested in a particular activity or subject.

  • I presume you mean 'enthusiasm' as the question asks about the activity not the person.
    – Chenmunka
    Mar 23, 2016 at 13:03
  • Hi jim, your answer has been flagged as low-quality, possibly because it's too short or not detailed enough. As @Chenmunka pointed out, the question was asking for a word describing the activity, not the person. Also, I would recommend that you include a dictionary definition of enthusiasm to support your assertion that it fits OP's needs. - From Review Mar 23, 2016 at 15:06
  • @Chenmunka OP asks for what the 'job' is called, not an activity. "Programming enthusiast" is a good suggestion for this request.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Mar 31, 2016 at 15:43

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