Beginner’s Guide to Coding
Coding used to be reserved for the smart kids who were teaching themselves how to code on the class computer rather than playing kickball during recess. Coding was for people like Steve Wozniak, who built the first personal computer and was a co-founder at Apple, who now have products in nearly every household in America.
Thanks to Steve and other innovators, technology has come such a long way that coding is one of the fastest-growing careers in the world. Not only are there options now for kids to get started in coding at a young age, but it’s one of the best educational paths for young people to land a high-paying job without even needing a 4-year college education. So, what exactly is coding? And what’s the best path to start a coding career?
What is coding?
Coding at its most basic definition is “The act of writing code that is compiled to form programs, that can be executed by a computer, and has a specific function or set of functions.” This is a very broad definition because explaining coding in more depth will depend on the type of coding we’re talking about.
There are a number of different ‘programming languages’ that interact with different computers/systems, and different types of coders use completely different languages and functions. For instance, a software developer who builds websites, is doing a very different type of coding than an aerospace engineer who is changing satellite orbits via their code. But they are both using code.
So, before diving headfirst into a coding program and taking that first step toward your coding career, you should think about what kind of coding career you are interested in, and work backward to find a program that will help you reach your goals.
Why Learn to Code?
As mentioned above, coding is one of the fastest-growing careers in the world, thanks to the ever-expanding technology industry. There is also more opportunity today than ever to learn coding through online schools, trade schools, subscription curriculum, and my personal favorite educational route for coders, coding school. So, not only is there more opportunity to learn at a variety of costs and paces for different skill levels, but there is great and growing job opportunity and security.
Learning how to code can set you up to land a job at some of the biggest and best companies in the world, with a high salary and great benefits. Certain coding educational paths can get you security clearance if you go on to work for NASA or certain government agencies that need coders with a specific skill set. Coding can also open up an opportunity to work for start-up companies and, if you apply wisely, might land you equity in a start-up.
Or, coding skills can help you build out the company that you always dreamed of starting yourself. You’ll have the skills to build your own website, and maybe even a new technology that might make you rich one day. The possibilities are endless for coders, and new opportunities are being created every day.
Step 1: Decide what kind of coding you want to learn.
The easiest way to make this decision would be to decide what your dream coding job is. If you know exactly what you want to do, whether it be a web-developer for Apple, an aerospace engineer for NASA, a general software developer for a start-up or marketing company, or one of many, many other options. But not everyone knows exactly what they want to do, in fact, most people don’t. Click here to get matched with a program that fits your needs!
Another thing to think about in picking a path is what coding skills you would like to have in your current job/everyday life. In other words, if you don’t end up following a coding career path, what could you learn that you could still put to use? Do you send a lot of emails throughout the day and wish you could write a code that would send emails for you? Do you have a hobby that you want to turn into a side hustle and build a website for?
You should also consider how much time, energy, and money you have to commit to your education. If you don’t have much of any, but you are determined to change your career course and learn coding, maybe you should start with learning the foundations, get an entry-level job in the industry, and then continue to add to your portfolio of skills. If you have more time and money, perhaps a full-stack coding school program is your best course of action.
Step 2: Choose your coding language(s).
Java: It is hard to give a brief description of the applications of Java, because it is so widely used in today’s World. It’s also, in the opinion of many programmers, one of the easiest languages to learn. According to Oracle, 3 billion devices across the World run Java, with a large variety of use cases. Java is used in the backend of many e-commerce websites to process orders, it’s used in almost all Android apps in one form or another, it’s used by financial companies to run electronic trading systems, and certain games like Minecraft were built using Java. In other words, adding Java to your portfolio will give you options.
Python: Python, like Java, is a very versatile language that has a number of different use cases. Python is used in academia and research for data analysis, and is a key language in web apps and the internet of things. Some of the biggest web-app companies in the world use Python, such as Google, YouTube, Instagram, Spotify, and Reddit. Python is also already proving its importance to the future by allowing for the rise of new technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. If you follow the path toward a career in coding, chances are you’ll have to learn Python eventually.
HTML: HTML is often considered the beginner language for coders, because it is perhaps the quickest to learn, and is simple in application as well. HTML is key to front-end web development, and is used for marking up text for the computer to understand. If you go to a random website on the internet, the words you are seeing is determined by the HTML code.
CSS: CSS is used right alongside HTML on the front-end of website building. Where HTML allows you to say what you want on your web page, CSS code gives the style and format to the content on your site. Many beginners start with HTML as it is a great intro to coding, but it is probably necessary to learn CSS along with it in order to be able to implement your new-found HTML skills.
Ruby: Ruby, and/or Ruby on Rails, has gained popularity in the last decade because it allows the user to smoothly integrate aspects of front-end and back-end development. For instance, it makes combining bits of HTML and CSS coding on the front-end with Java on the back-end for a smooth transition and fully functional site. Ruby is becoming increasingly more necessary as a fundamental language for full-stack developers.
These are just a few of the many programming languages out there, but reading through these options should give you an idea of how these different languages can be applied in the real world, and perhaps where you need to start in order to master the coding skills you desire.
Step 3: Get Educated.
Once you have determined what it is you want to do with a coding education, and decided what languages you need to learn, then it’s time to learn. There are a number of different educational paths for coders, including boot camps and online subscription curriculum, all the way to software engineering degrees from traditional Universities. But there are obviously different costs and time commitments associated with different options, as well as different benefits for graduates.
To go to a traditional University for a software engineering degree, you have to pay high tuition costs, and commit 4 years, give or take, to getting your degree. The benefit to a degree is it is undisputable by employers, and will give you a higher chance to get hired in the industry. Online subscription curriculum like Codeacademy are the best options in terms of price and time commitment, but they don’t give you any visibility in the job market.
Coding School is the best of both worlds. Though its more expensive than subscription courses, it is much more affordable than traditional Universities, and many coding schools have lots of options to help pay for student tuition through financial aid and government grants. Plus, graduating from a coding school with a certificate gives you some clout in a job interview, as coding schools are getting more and more recognition as legitimate sources for coding education. To take it a step further, many coding schools help graduates through the hiring process and boast very high success rates for graduates getting jobs.
Step 4: Boost your resume.
Depending on your education, and how quickly you develop your skills, you may be able to skip Step 4, and go straight to Step 5. But for most of you, it’s going to take a little more time before you’ll be working at high-level jobs for the NASAs, Googles, and Amazons of the World. And that’s OK. Once you’ve gotten your education and you’re ready to get some job experience, apply to some entry-level positions and get yourself into the industry.
If you end up going to Coding School, many will help you find and apply to jobs that you have a good chance of landing with your new skill set. From there, you can continue to gain experience in the field, and add programming languages to your portfolio, to eventually be ready for Step 5.
Step 5: Apply to your dream job.
Now that you’ve built up some job experience, and you’ve expanded your skillset, it’s time to fulfill your dreams. Some people might get hired into their dream jobs just a few years after setting out on a path toward a coding career. Others might take much longer. But all of you will have the opportunity to do what you want, and work for companies you’ve always dreamt of working for, if you get the right education, get some job experience in the field, and continue to expand your skills.
Step 6: Don’t give up.
For those of you that take longer to develop your skills, and need more time in entry-level positions before you’re ready to move up, don’t worry. And definitely don’t give up. Coding jobs are becoming more widely available and will continue to evolve as time goes on, so there is no time constraint to becoming a coder right now. There is always time to continue your education and set yourself up to get hired at your dream job.
Top 5 Highest Paying Coding Careers Right Now
If you have no idea where you want to end up in your future coding career, you just know you want to learn coding because you can get paid, then the below careers might inform your decisions. These are currently the Top 5 highest paying careers for coders:
1. Big Data Engineer (Salary Range: $110,000 – $180,000)
In 2019, the highest paying job for coders goes to Big Data Engineers. Because Technology companies are so focused and reliant on data, they are always looking for and willing to pay high prices for data engineers that are skillful in organizing and analyzing data, to help them gain insight and make informed decisions. Big Data Engineers build structures to house data effectively for big companies. To get hired as a Big Data Engineer, there are a number of stacks, languages, and databases you must know and be able to use with high-level proficiency. These include, but are not limited to, Hadoop stacks like SPARK and Hive, big data querying tools like Pig and Impala, databases such as HBase, Cassandra and MongoDB, and more.
2. Data Scientist (Salary Range: $100,000 – $170,000)
Big surprise that Data Scientists fall in right behind Big Data Engineers, as they sort of go hand in hand. While Big Data Engineers create and manage the systems that companies use to gather, organize, and analyze data at the macro level, Data Scientists have more of a micro-focus on the data. Data Scientists are important to find some of the more minor trends within data sets and help specific teams within a larger company make informed decisions. Some skills you’ll need to become a Data Scientist include: having a good understanding of general data analytics and machine learning, familiarity with R, Python and their data frameworks, as well as other languages depending on the company and project you work on.
3. Information Systems Security Manager (Salary Range: $105,000 – $120,000)
We know that data is majorly important to the World’s largest companies, so it makes sense that security for this data is the second most important thing behind the two positions that have to do with utilizing data for themselves. It makes sense, money first, protecting people’s information second, even though we all wish it was the opposite. Information Systems Security Managers (Security Engineers) are the bodyguards for the systems that Data Engineers create to house user data. They ensure that that data remains safe behind the walls of their systems, and doesn’t get out, via leaks or hacks. Information Systems Security Managers need to be proficient in computer architecture and networking, as well as have on-the-job experience as this position uses more interpreting and working with other’s code than most coding positions, and doesn’t have as much direct applicability as other positions do with specific languages.
4. Data Architect (Salary Range: $50,000 – $118,000)
Data Architects are essentially Data Scientists with a more macro focus. Some Data Engineers, depending on the company, fulfill the role of a Data Architect. Other companies make use of all three. In that system, Data Engineers’ sole focus is to build and manage the systems that collect and house the data, Data Architects analyze the data on a large scale, and Data Scientists analyze the data with more specific lenses. To be a Data Architect, you must be proficient in practical statistics and data modeling, have an understanding of the major databases and be able to communicate their findings with others.
5. Data Security Analyst (Salary Range: $50,000 – $115,000)
Data Security Analysts are different than Information Systems Security Managers as they are not expected to build solutions. Analysts find the possible problems with database systems and identify these possible issues, and communicate their findings to the Security Engineers who build the solutions to the problems. To be a Data Security Analyst, you have to have a general knowledge of computer security and have a knowledge of various data modeling algorithms and databases.
What to do next?
Having coding skills is a great asset in today’s technologically advanced world, and a coding career can provide you stability and security that you never thought possible. A coding education might be the best investment you can make for your future. Click here to find the right coding school for you!