You’ve heard tons about coding and know that it has to do with computers and how they process the information we see. However, you may not have much more than this vague understanding of the concept. Don’t feel bad. Many people don’t really understand it, though we all depend on the fundamentals of code each and every day. It’s such an important aspect of the technological landscape that, according to Fortune, former President Obama unveiled an initiative called “Computer Science for All” that has been backed by and invested in by big names, including the Turner Broadcasting Network. This movement is one that mirrors that of our nation’s schools that have been emphasizing the value of technology, computer science, engineering, and other STEM-related topics. Read on to discover what computer code is and why it is of such importance in today’s society.
What Coding Is
Coding is basically the computer language used to develop apps, websites, and software. Without it, we’d have none of the most popular technology we’ve come to rely on such as Facebook, our smartphones, the browser we choose to view our favorite blogs, or even the blogs themselves. It all runs on code.
How Coding Works
To put it very simply, the code is what tells your computer what to do. To go a bit deeper, computers don’t understand words. They only understand the concepts of on and off. The capabilities of a computer are guided by on and off switches, or transistors. Binary code represents these on and off transistors as the digits 1 and 0. An infinite number of combinations of these codes make your computer work. In order to make binary code manageable, computer programming languages were formed. These languages each serve different purposes, but they all allow programmers to translate important commands into binary code.
Each computer application needs a properly written code to know what to do. Most software has thousands to billions of lines of coded text and numbers. The code gives computers a step-by-step guide on how to function. Computers speed through reading the code to execute every online and offline task. In today’s digital world, everything from mobile phones to smart TVs and cars run using coded software. For example, the code might tell the computer to input an image and make it spin. Creating flawless code is essential to avoid 404 error pop-ups and software crashes. Debugging code is always the final step to reveal and fix coding issues.
Is Learning to Code Difficult?
Coding isn’t that hard for tech-savvy people who patiently put in the time and effort to learn. Coding gets an unnecessarily bad reputation from people who weren’t persistent enough to practice. The easiest coding languages only involve a few hundred terms and rules to remember. That’s a tiny sliver in comparison to learning a spoken foreign language. Once the easier languages are mastered, it’s relatively simple to learn other ways to code. Many programming languages use similar methods to code and debug computer applications.
Beginners starting to code must possess certain skills to be successful. Having strong attention to detail to pour over long lines of coded text is imperative. New coders need abstract thinking skills to visualize what written code will become. Novices must have problem-solving skills to persist against challenges without letting frustration win. Intuitive logical reasoning skills help coders correctly conclude why a code isn’t working right. Good writing skills are critical to creating code that appropriately conveys the intended message. Technology skills are also an obvious requirement for coders to fearlessly work with computer programs.
Popular Coding Languages to Learn
- HTML – HTML, or hypertext markup language, is the standard way of coding web pages to showcase electronic information. Founded by Tim Berners-Lee in 1990, HTML is used to format the content, pictures, and videos featured online. HTML tells the internet browser how to display websites for an optimal user experience.
- Java – Java is an object-oriented coding language created by Sun Microsystems in 1995. Java has English-based commands used to create applications for a single computer or whole server and tiny applets for websites. Java is a popular favorite for programming mobile apps and video games, especially on Android operating systems.
- Python – Python is a server-side web and software development language started by Guido van Rossum in 1991. Python has a simple, English-like syntax to script back-end actions for applications, user interfaces, and operating systems that work well. Many platforms, including Google and NASA’s Integrated Planning System, use Python.
- CSS – CSS, or cascading style sheets, is a coding language used to specify a website’s style. Developed by Håkon Wium Lie in 1994, CSS tells internet browsers each page’s layout, background color, font size, cursor shape, and more. Crafting and maintaining solid CSS code is crucial for websites to have aesthetic appeal.
- C Language – C Language is a simple, low-level coding type initiated in 1972 by Bell Labs to build the UNIX system. Perhaps the easiest language, C has just 32 basic keywords used for scripting embedded systems, network drivers, and artificial intelligence. C language is versatile to get computer hardware communicating.
- C++ – C++ is another object-oriented programming language that expands on C to execute higher-level computer tasks. Released in 1983 by Bjarne Stroustrup, C++ organizes and stores info in bundles for more complex programs. Adobe, Microsoft Office, Amazon, and Mozilla software utilizes C++ for fast processing.
- PHP – PHP, or hypertext processor, is a coding language for web development founded in 1994 by Rasmus Lerdorf. PHP is widely used for server scripting with HTML to piece together dynamic website content. WordPress, an open-source online platform that accounts for 20 percent of websites and blogs, is notably written with PHP.
- SQL – SQL, or structured query language, is a domain-specific coding type that streams information into a database. First introduced by IBM researchers in 1974, SQL has simple syntax to run back-end web databases. SQL is used by most businesses to load, retrieve, and analyze text or numbers in their servers.
Ways to Learn How to Code
People looking to become proficient in coding for a long-term career may want a college degree. Most coding-related tech careers require at least a baccalaureate. Bachelor’s degrees require 120 education credits beyond a high school diploma or GED certificate. Find an accredited, four-year college with a slew of coding courses. Computer science majors typically get the best in-depth understanding of various programming languages. Other viable majors include information technology, computer information systems, information science, data science, web development, software engineering, and computer engineering. For careers that don’t demand a bachelor’s, consider attending a community college or technical school. Associate’s degrees in computer science and programming take only two years to complete 60 course credits.
However, paying for 24-48 months of a college education isn’t the only way to learn to code. Many of the best coders are self-taught. The internet is packed with free and paid online tutorials to master the science of coding. Great platforms, such as Coursera, Codecademy, EdX, Khan Academy, and Udacity, offer online coding classes that cost $0. Games like Minecraft, Robocode, and Lightbot teach coding skills. Free code editors, including Notepad++, Sublime Text, Bluefish, and Visual Studio Code, help beginners learn. Attending a coding boot camp can also be effective. Bootcamps are short-term, intensive training workshops available online or in person. Bootcamp providers like the Flatiron School, App Academy, Codesmith, and Wyncode usually charge a fee for three to 12 months of coding education. STEM summer camps can teach kids how to code before high school graduation too.
Careers Where Learning to Code is Helpful
According to Reader’s Digest, nearly 50 percent of jobs paying at least $58,000 require some coding skills. It’s estimated that 7 million annual U.S. job openings require knowing how to code. Competency with coding is America’s most desired job skill. Many people assume coding experts can only succeed as computer programmers. A programmer does write code to create functional software that executes tasks perfectly. Nonetheless, learning to code is helpful for hundreds of careers in wide-ranging sectors from medicine to education and finance. Here are some in-demand careers that prioritize candidates with coding abilities.
- Database Administrator – Database administrators use coding to create secure data storage files and backups. Database administrators frequently use SQL and C or C++ to fine-tune database systems for authorized access. By 2028, the employment of database administrators will increase quickly by 9 percent for 127,400 new jobs. Database administrators enjoy a mean annual wage of $89,050.
- Web Developer – Web developers are coding gurus who design the content, graphics, audio, and video features for internet sites. Web developers generally use HTML, CSS, and Java to publish top-performing websites that drive abundant online traffic. The number of web developers will surpass 181,400 by 2028 for 13 percent growth. Web developers are compensated with an $82,370 average salary.
- Applications Developer – Applications developers are the creative coders behind the software that runs on computers, tablets, phones, smart TVs, and wearable tech. Applications developers use coding languages from Ruby to Scala to fill app stores with downloadable software. The hiring of applications developers will soar by 26 percent for 241,500 positions. Applications developers bring home mean income of $108,080.
- Health Informatics Specialist – Health informatics specialists design database systems for collecting, storing, and accessing patient records. Health informatics specialists know basic coding languages to develop functional, confidential EHR software for electronic recordkeeping. Faster-than-average growth of 11 percent is projected for health informatics through 2028. Health informatics specialists reap a median salary of $88,625.
- Instructional Designer – Instructional designers in today’s digital age must know coding to develop an engaging curriculum for K-16 students to learn. Instructional designers code with C, PHP, Java, and others to create interactive course teaching materials. Instructional designers will experience 6 percent growth to 193,000 total jobs. Instructional designers earn an average yearly paycheck of $69,180.
- Digital Marketing Manager – Digital marketing managers with coding skills can elevate their advertising campaigns to attract better business sales. Digital marketing managers use the internet as their medium for reaching potential customers with traffic to well-coded websites. The job outlook for digital marketing managers shows an 8 percent uptick for 20,900 new openings. Digital marketing managers have mean profits of $149,200.
The benefits of learning to code are actually quite vast. No longer do we live in a time when only tech professionals are using this useful language. Being able to utilize the commands of code yourself will enable you to have more control of the technology on which you depend.
For example, whether it’s for personal or professional use, more and more people are writing blogs and creating websites to share their message or skills with the world. Being able to understand basic code would allow you to make tweaks to the design of your site without having to pay a webmaster to do it for you or to wait for someone from IT to take care of the ticket you submitted ages ago. Knowledge of code can take you even further if you decide to pursue it. Some in-depth study will provide you with the skills to build a website to your own specifications and to fit your desired needs.
If you find you have a passion for technology and a talent for navigating the in-depth nature of computer languages, you could go on to become a professional coder and work for a tech company or even start your own business venture or launch a best-selling idea. The job market is opening up for technologically savvy professionals who have marketable skills in coding.
Related Ranking: Top 50 Bachelor’s in Computer Science Degree Programs